Archive for March 2012
by B.B. Pelletier
BSOTW winner Chris LeGate holding his .22-cal. Benjamin Marauder mounted with a Leapers 3-9×40AO scope with illuminated reticle. He also got a tin of JSB TEST Sampler pellets and an Air Venturi hand pump.
I’m going to combine velocity and accuracy testing for the Daisy Red Ryder, because I want to do a third report with the Daisy model 300 scope mounted. After examining the mount on my 1936 No. 25 that has that scope, I see it has the same base as the Red Ryder. So, the switch should be easy.
My Red Ryder hasn’t been shot in a great many months — perhaps over a year, so I expected to find the leather piston seal dry. But it wasn’t. I got that telltale wisp of smoke that told me the seal is still full of oil. However, I wanted to test the gun both before and after oiling, so that’s what I did.
I used the pellet/BB trap that was given to me by Jim Contos at last year’s Malverne airgun show (don’t forget, it’s coming up next month on April 27 and 28). It’s full of duct seal; but because I would be shooting BBs at low velocity and didn’t want any to bounce back off the lead already in the trap, I put a half-pound smear of fresh duct seal over what was already in the trap. I’ve now got between 5,000 and 10,000 shots on this trap, and it’s holding up fine. For those who need to build an inexpensive yet rugged trap for both BBs and pellets, click here for instructions on how to make one.
I shot Daisy zinc-plated BBs for all tests you’ll read today. Before the gun was oiled, it gave an average of 302 f.p.s. The spread went from a low of 290 to a high of 306 f.p.s. At the average velocity, the 5.1-grain BBs produced 1.03 foot-pounds at the muzzle.
I removed the shot tube and dumped out all the BBs. Newer BB guns have a hole on the side of the barrel jacket for oil, but older ones like this one don’t. You must remove the shot tube and drop the oil straight down the open end of the barrel jacket, where it can soak into the leather piston seal.
I used 3-in-One oil for this job. At the low velocity the Red Ryder generates, common household oil is fine for oiling the piston seal. There’s no danger of a detonation, and you can use enough oil to really soak that seal. I used 12 drops just to see what would happen.
After the gun was oiled, the velocity was no higher than before. The average now was just 300 f.p.s., but the total velocity spread tightened just a bit, from 16 f.p.s. before oiling to 11 f.p.s. after. The spread went from 293 to 304 f.p.s.
So oiling made little difference. As I noted, the presence of a wisp of smoke after every shot alerted me to the fact that the gun had all the oil it required.
I set up a 15-foot range, because that’s the standard distance for guns like this Red Ryder. The aim point was a Shoot-N-C black paster, peeled off a 3-inch bullseye card. It’s ever-so-slightly larger than a U.S. nickel coin, and I wanted to follow Mel Gibson’s advice from the movie The Patriot, “Aim small. Miss small.”
I shot offhand, and the first group is larger than it should be because I didn’t apply myself on every shot. I didn’t expect much accuracy from this BB gun, so I let a couple shots wander more than they should. The resulting 10-shot group measures 1.597 inches between centers. But within that group, there’s a cluster of five holes that measures 0.453 inches between centers. That encouraged me to knuckle down and give it my best effort on a second try.
The second group measures 1.483 inches between centers, so not a lot better than the first. It looks better because the shots seem to all be in a big cluster, but the measurements tell a different story.
Notice, though, that the BBs seem to go to the same place in both groups. This gun wants to shoot slightly above and to the left of the aim point with the 6 o’clock hold I’m using. Remember these sights are not adjustable, but I can use Kentucky windage to move the point of impact around a little. I think this gun is the kind that a little boy would soon learn to shoot, and before long he would be doing impossible things with it at close range.
This test turned out differently than expected. I thought the Red Ryder might get up as fast as 350 f.p.s. after a good oiling, but that didn’t happen. And I thought the accuracy would be a lot worse than what you see here.
We’re not done yet, because in the next installment I’ll mount the Daisy model 300 scope and shoot some more groups for you. I’ll also give you photos of this unique scope and mount that seems to copy the old buffalo hunter scopes of the 19th century. Til then!
by B.B. Pelletier
I’ve been meaning to write this report for a long time, and when we recently had a heated discussion about the rifle, I knew the time had come. This will probably be a longer report, because the AirForce Talon SS isn’t just one air rifle — it’s a whole shooting system!
The Talon SS was the very first air rifle to intentionally use a shrouded barrel to quiet the muzzle report. Ten-meter target rifles had been doing it unintentionally for years; but when John McCaslin, the owner of AirForce and designer of the rifle, put the SS together, he intentionally used the shroud technology for that purpose. Today, it’s hard to find an air rifle that isn’t shrouded, so it’s difficult to keep in mind that the whole movement to shroud began as recently as one decade ago.
The Talon SS is a single-shot precharged pneumatic rifle with a shrouded 12-inch Lothar Walther barrel. The frame extends several inches beyond the end of the barrel, and a special end cap strips off much of the energized compressed air that leaves the muzzle. The report of the gun is muffled, though it’s not as quiet as some silenced guns. I always tell people that a shot on high power sounds like hands clapping once.
The rifle is sold in all four smallbore calibers — .177, .20, .22 and .25. Because the barrel can be changed by the owner in about five minutes, each rifle is capable of being any caliber and also any of three barrel lengths — 12 inches, 18 inches or 24 inches. This is the only air rifle with that kind of flexibility. But only the 12-inch barrel has the benefit of a shroud.
On the left side of the frame, a power adjustment wheel allows the shooter to adjust the rifle’s power across a broad spectrum. I will test my factory-stock SS for you to demonstrate the range, so we’ll look at that in the velocity test. But the power adjustment is somewhat confusing to new owners.
The knurled wheel has numbers that align with a white index line on the right side. The Allen screw head in the slotted window to the right of the power wheel moves along a scale of numbers. These numbers are put there so the owner can return to certain settings. They do not indicate the same power level from rifle to rifle, because each rifle is different. But new owners often think that if someone else’s SS is doing well at a setting of 8.13 (the Allen screw on the number 8 and the power wheel indexed at the number 13), their rifle should do the same. It doesn’t work that way, because this isn’t a measuring device — it’s a memory marker for each separate gun. While the guns all perform similarly, each is also unique; and the power adjuster has to be set for just that gun.
The trigger is two-stage and not adjustable. It typically breaks at between 2.5 and 3.5 lbs. in a new gun, and it usually has a little bit of creep in the second stage. This is another place where people get confused. The trigger in an AirForce rifle is a fairly complex set of parts that each affects the others. Some parts are case-hardened to a specific depth, so no polishing or stoning is recommended. All parts that move are coated with a dry-film molybdenum disulphide compound that bonds with the metal; and over time the trigger becomes both lighter and smoother in operation — not unlike the triggers in BSF spring rifles.
Leave the trigger alone and after a few thousand shots it will be perfectly crisp and light. But try to work on it, and you can ruin the gun in minutes — plus void the warranty. It was my experience with the AirForce triggers that cautioned me to leave the National Match trigger in my AR-15 alone. I know it will break in to be exactly what the spec states.
Along with the trigger comes an automatic safety. It sits in front of the trigger and is pushed forward to release. It’s a formed stiff wire that is often too stiff to push off with the trigger finger when the gun is new, but like the rest of the trigger, it breaks in and can be easily pushed off with the back of the trigger finger once the gun has broken in. At the LASSO shoot a couple weeks ago, Greg, the new shooter from Austin, Texas, borrowed a new Condor from the AirForce booth, and I noticed that the safety was as light and smooth as mine, so some safeties may be lighter from the start.
Style and construction
AirForce rifles are all styled with a black rifle look. They are based on an aluminum frame that houses the action and barrel. Only the air reservoir, which also serves as the butt, is separate. There are two frame sizes. The AirForce Talon has a short frame, and both the SS and Condor have a long frame. The Condor has a longer carry handle than the SS, but otherwise the two frames are identical. Because of that, the SS can easily accept the optional 24-inch barrel, which effectively doubles the gun’s power with the same amount of air. I will explain more about that in a future report, but it’s one advantage you get from a shooting system, rather than a single rifle whose caliber and barrel length cannot be changed.
The frame has long 11mm dovetails along its upper and lower surfaces, as well as the top of the carry handle. As a result, the rifle can accept all manner of accessories like lasers, scopes, night vision, tactical flashlights, sling swivels, bipods and much more. It’s like a Christmas tree that’s ready to accept any and all ornaments you desire.
The construction of the rifle lends itself to manufacture by a CNC center rather than more costly human labor. As a result, AirForce is able to keep up with the thousands of orders they fill each year. They still have a workforce, of course, but they do the jobs for which machines are not adapted and those jobs requiring skills.
The finish has been a black anodizing since the beginning, but a couple years ago AirForce started offering guns in other colors — red and blue. They’re keeping their options open for other colors, though at present black still seems to be most in demand.
There are parts of the gun that are not made of metal. The trigger shoe, bolt, power adjuster wheel and a few other parts are made from modern synthetics. The material for each part was chosen for its performance and not for manufacturing economy. As the airgun world learned from the Logun S16, an all-steel air rifle can also be a boat anchor when the weight gets to be too much. That isn’t a problem with the Talon SS, which weighs just 5.25 lbs.
The light weight is coupled with a cocking effort of just 4 lbs., making the SS a breeze to carry and shoot. Because the weight is low, a larger, heavier scope does not weigh down the rifle like it would many PCPs, so the SS can accept a scope that’s up to its long-range capabilities. I personally find a 4-16x scope to be about ideal for both the SS as it comes from the factory and also when I install the longer barrel and double the power. The AirForce 4-16×50 scope is a perfect match for both the SS and the Condor.
I maintain that the .22 caliber is best for the Talon SS, given its power potential. In factory trim, you can expect it to develop 23-25 foot-pounds maximum with accurate pellets. That can be boosted to 40-45 foot-pounds when the 24-inch barrel is added. Of course, any of the four smallbore calibers will work well with the rifle, and the beauty is that you don’t have to choose. Start with one caliber and add the others as you feel so inclined. The rifle I’ll be testing for you in this report will be a .22 caliber.
How the rifle comes
One of the things a reader had confused when we talked about the Talon SS a few weeks back was that the rifle can be ordered with or without a fill clamp. He’d purchased a used gun and didn’t get to see it as it comes from the factory, so I’ll show that here.
The Talon SS comes in a cardboard box with fitted foam inserts holding the rifle and air tank, a DVD of the owner’s manual, a paper owner’s manual, AirForce catalog and warranty card. If it was ordered, the fill clamp also comes in the box. The section containing the rifle has been brightened to show the dark gun more clearly.
The rifle is sold with or without a fill clamp so people buying multiple rifles don’t have to continue to pay for parts they don’t need. Many owners of AirForce rifles own more than one gun. I own three, and I think blog reader twotalon’s handle speaks for itself. So, AirForce made it easier to buy the rifle in the configuration that you need, rather than paying for parts you already have.
I have a special fill adapter that’s much simpler than the AirForce fill clamp and works better with the carbon fiber tank I use to fill the gun. I’ll show it to you in a future report.
This is where I’ll end this report, though there are several more general topics to address. I’ll cover them as we encounter them during the extended test. I’ll even show you how easy it is to replace barrels when I switch from the 12-inch barrel to the 24-inch barrel. Please ask your questions as we go, and I’ll try to answer them in the body of the reports that follow.
by B.B. Pelletier
Let’s look at the velocity of my .177-caliber TX200 Mark III. My gun is more than a decade old, and it didn’t always perform like it does today. When it was new, it was 60-70 f.p.s. slower than what you’ll see today; but as I shot it over time, the rifle broke in and became faster. This gun is still in its original factory tune. It hasn’t been shot that much — perhaps 2,000 shots or so since new. I was no longer competing with a spring-piston rifle in field target when I got this one, so it sat around a lot. In fact, I think most of its life has been spent in tests like this one.
In the description in Part 1, I forgot to mention that the pistol grip of the stock is shaped for either right or left hands. You must buy the specific stock you need. It has a swell that fills your palm as you hold the rifle, and Air Arms made the grip fit well for most shooters. The grip is very vertical, which is perfect for a target-type trigger because it allows the best control over the trigger-pull.
I also didn’t mention the latch that holds the underlever. I have seen everything from a complicated spring-loaded catch that has to be pulled back or pushed forward to release the lever, to a friction fit that can wear out and drop the lever at the wrong time. The TX200 has a spring-loaded ball bearing that holds the underlever tight, yet releases it easily when you pinch between the barrel and lever with your fingers. It is the best underlever latch I’ve seen. The only thing better is using over-center geometry to eliminate the need for the latch altogether.
My TX200 cocks with 34 lbs. of effort. Cocking is smooth, and the three detents that hold the sliding compression chamber don’t start catching until the last part of the cocking arc. The rifle is agreeably quiet when cocked, yet also reasonably safe from a beartrap accident, where the sear slips and the compression chamber slams forward on fingers that are loading pellets.
Another thing I’ve been adamant about is the superb trigger on the TX. In Part, 1 I showed a schematic of the trigger and the adjustment screws. I have mine set for a long first stage (which I like), and a second stage that releases at 9 OUNCES! I believe Paul Watts is able to tune a Rekord trigger this light, but not too many other people are. And all I did with this one was adjust the stage one and stage two trigger screws! It was nothing special.
There’s also a trigger-pull weight adjustment screw located behind the trigger blade. You can lower or increase the trigger-pull weight with this screw, though the limits on both ends are finite. However, look again at what I have been able to achieve and see if that isn’t what you want.
Jerry, how about taking a stab at adjusting your trigger and telling us what you discover?
The first pellet I tried was the Beeman Kodiak that weighs 10.2 grains. They average 842 f.p.s. with a 10 f.p.s. spread from 837 to 847. At the average velocity, they generate 16.06 foot-pounds. I felt a slight buzzing at the end of the shot cycle, which is very unusual for this rifle, so I think these may be a bit too heavy for the powerplant. They’re very accurate, however.
Next, I tested the time-honored Crosman Premier 7.9-grain domed pellet. They averaged 958 f.p.s., with a spread from 952 to 967 f.p.s. The shot cycle smoothed out with these, and they felt great! At the average velocity, they generate 16.1 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
The final pellet I tried was the 8.4-grain JSB Exact. They fit the breech loosely and also varied a lot in size (from the feel at loading). They averaged 918 f.p.s., but the spread went from 897 to 929 f.p.s. Compared to the other two pellets, that’s large. At the average velocity, this pellet generates 15.72 foot-pounds at the muzzle.
My rifle is stronger!
This is hard to believe, but my rifle is even stronger than it was the last time I tested it in 2006. Then, it shot Premier Lites at an average 933 f.p.s., with a 19 f.p.s. spread and delivering 15.27 foot-pounds. It’s increased 0.80 foot-pounds over the past six years — mostly while lying dormant in my closet! But it’s not going to be dormant for long, because we’re going to see at least one accuracy test — and maybe two — from this air rifle.
As I mentioned in Part 1, one of our new readers — Jerry — recently bought a TX200 MK III. I saw it at the LASSO big bore shoot, and Jerry let me shoot it. The rifle is gorgeous, and today Jerry has been kind enough to submit a couple pictures to show us what he received. He bought the walnut stock on the advice of many, both for the looks and for the lighter weight. Here, now, is Jerry’s new rifle.
I said in Part 1 that the barrel is nine inches long. That was a mistake. It’s just over 13 inches — a fact I confirmed by measuring mine. The TX200 Hunter Carbine has the shorter barrel. I tested one of those and didn’t care for the extra effort it takes to cock because the underlever is shorter than the one on the standard TX200. But the Hunter Carbine develops the same power as the larger rifle.
I’m going to mount my best scope on the rifle for the next test. Hoo-boy!
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, I’ll document the build of the AR-15 lower receiver that was required for the test of the Crosman MAR177 upper. This was a fascinating and somewhat scary project, because I was venturing into waters that, for me, are uncharted. On one hand, I know that the AR-15 is a popular firearm, so I expected to find all the information I needed to build the lower receiver on the internet. On the other hand, how good that info might be was completely unknown. I was scared because it has been over 30 years since I have had an AR apart, and even then it was only to clean the rifle after firing. I never had to build one.
After seeing my level of expertise with woodworking (the ill-fated Bronco article in which I destroyed the stock to mount a peep sight), you might feel some concern for my abilities as a gunsmith. Fear not. I used to make a nice part-time income from tuning single-action Colts, and I’ve tightened and accurized several M1911A1 pistols with demonstrably good results. Though I’m no craftsman, I can gunsmith metal parts when I need to.
It’s not that hard!
I needn’t have worried. The lower receiver of an AR-15/M16 is a very uncomplicated design and goes together without a lot of trouble. You do have to take some care with certain parts, as the receiver is made of aluminum and will break if handled improperly. Besides that and a couple small springs that fight to escape, there’s really nothing that’s too difficult if you take your time.
Step one was to photograph the parts that Rock River sent for the lower receiver. This soon proved invaluable when one of the smallest parts went missing for several minutes during the assembly. When I got to the place where I needed the part, a wee-teeny pin called a bolt catch buffer, but couldn’t find it, I assumed that Rock River had failed to send it. That infuriated me, because how was I supposed to know I needed one, since this was my first lower to build? This was the greatest fear I had about building this lower receiver.
I searched everywhere, even to the point of getting down on the kitchen floor (yes, I actually did do all the work on the kitchen table), where I found a small black beetle about the same size. He was dead, plus he didn’t have the same internal dimensions as the part I was searching for, so I kept looking. I even called Edith in on the hunt, since she has a better record for finding escaped parts.
After a while, I was certain Rock River had omitted the part from the kit they sent, so I checked the photo I had taken earlier of all the parts, and there it was. I had it when I took the picture, but not now, when I needed it. I then started putting all the parts back into their plastic baggie, thinking the build would be delayed until I got another part. And that’s when the part I needed fell out of another hollow part that was ever-so-slightly larger!
I had found a great website with step-by-step photos of the assembly, so everything was straightforward to a certain point. I was warned that certain small springs would try their best to escape, so I made a cloth-cushioned backstop to catch them when they flew. It was used about five times, so the warnings were well worth heeding. I also swept some small parts off the cloth work surface with the cuffs of my shirt, but fortunately Edith’s better eyes found them right away.
And then things came to a halt. I had ordered the National Match trigger and the internet instructions I was following were for the single-stage standard trigger. The parts I had didn’t match the instructions. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate any specific instructions for installing a Rock River National Match trigger online, and Rock River had only sent instructions for a person swapping a trigger in a lower that was already built up. At this point, I was on my own. Fortunately, this trigger/hammer combination installs on the only two pins that fit through the lower receiver, so it’s hard to mistake where they go. And the National Match trigger incorporates the disconnector — a part that’s separate and installed separately on the standard trigger. That caused me to stop and ponder a few more minutes, wondering if I was missing yet another part. But I used to write manuals for the Army and have seen inconsistencies like this before, so I figured it out after a short breather.
The Rock River Arms National Match hammer (left) and trigger. The instructions failed to note that the disconnector is part of the trigger assembly and doesn’t look like the one for a standard trigger. The hammer spring was also installed backwards, but proved simple to switch once the problem was identified.
Rock River had installed the trigger and hammer springs on those parts when they sent the kit, but unfortunately they got the hammer spring on backwards. So, there was another short delay while I figured that out. In the end, though, everything worked out fine and the lower receiver went together easily.
Once the lower receiver was completed, I installed the A2 buttstock I’d purchased, and that completed the project. The Rock River buttstock is colored medium gray, but they advised that a wipedown with a oily cloth would deepen the color. In time, it will turn to a matching black.
I suppose I spent about three hours doing what might take 30 minutes for someone who’s familiar with the process. The proof of the project was that the trigger and hammer work as they should, and the safety is finctional. And never dry-fire an AR lower without an upper installed, because the hammer will crack the receiver’s walls.
With the lower receiver complete and functioning as it should, it was now the moment of truth. Would the Crosman MAR177 fit properly and function on what I’d just built?
Anyone who has ever learned to clean an M16 or AR-15 knows how the upper fits to the lower. Two captive pins at the front and rear of the lower hold the two assemblies together. When you clean the gun, you typically only remove one of the pins so the lower hinges away from the upper. That gives you access to the bolt carrier and all the parts that require attention. Connecting the lower I’d just built with Crosman’s upper took about 30 seconds. The hammer was already cocked, so I pulled the trigger — and nothing happened!
Once again, I had butterflies in my stomach. Since I’m not that familiar with the AR guns, I wondered what might have gone wrong. Then I remembered my time at the range on Media Day in January, when I first got to shoot the MAR177. It has to be cocked by pulling back on the charging handle! Once I did that the gun functioned as it should! Now, I am ready to test the MAR177.
If you look closely, you’ll see where the MAR177 differs from a regular AR. For starters, there’s an air reservoir underneath the barrel. And the shiny silver thing at the end of the forearm is the side of the built-in pressure gauge. The rifle operates on 3,000 psi pressure and looks easy to fill from a hand pump. As small as the reservoir is, it shouldn’t take too much effort.
The muzzle has an air compensator to strip off the high-pressure air turbulence for better accuracy. What looks like an AR magazine is a solid metal slug for additional weight. The MAR177 comes with a 10-shot magazine (a single-shot tray is optional, but Crosman sent me one to test) taken from the .177 Benjamin Marauder. The carry handle is split at the bottomfor easier loading. The forward assist on the right side of the receiver is just a casting; it does nothing.
The selector switch is attached to the lower receiver, so of course it’s standard. It is right where your thumb expects it to be if you’re right-handed, and after 35 years I had no problem remembering what to do without looking. Of course, an AR-15 is semiautomatic, only, so there are just two positions — Safe and Fire. If you want to rock-and-roll, you have to raise your right hand and swear the oath.
The rifle weighs 9.5 lbs. on the nose when set up as shown. That’s a hair less than a Garand and a touch more than an 03A3 Springfield. Under the rules, a two-stage National Match trigger is allowed to break at between 4.5 and 5 lbs. and here’s how mine went. The first measured shot, which was about the tenth shot since assembly, measured 6 lbs., 9 ozs. As I kept measuring shot after shot, the pull weight kept decreasing until it hit the 5-lb. level. There, it stabilized — and that’s where it’s breaking now. I will lube the sear contact points with some good moly grease and expect the pull weight to drop by a couple more ounces as the rifle gets used more.
The trigger is completely crisp on stage two — as a National Match trigger should be. It works well with the weight of the rifle, and I expect to have more to say about it when I start accuracy testing.
Notice that the pistol grip I chose is a conventional one. You can get all kinds of wonderful grips for your AR, but this is the one you must use in a match — so I went with it.
I’ll try the 10-shot magazine, but right now I have the single-shot tray installed so I can switch from one pellet to another as I learn the gun. The way I shoot airgun matches, I would probably keep the single-shot tray installed, but the magazine could be used, as well, by those who prefer it.
There’s much more to tell you about the MAR177, but I’m going to do that as we progress through the other parts of this report. When I left the Army in 1982, I never thought I would have one of these in my hands again, but Crosman has made the impossible happen.
by B.B. Pelletier
Blog reader J was alert and noticed that I had not yet done the accuracy test of the Crosman 2100B multi-pump. I was astonished to find that he was right, so today we’re going to look at it. But before we do, I want to show you something I did at the range last week. Some of you who have been reading for a long time will remember that over a year ago I was suffering from eye problems. It turns out that my diabetes had dehydrated me so much that my eyesight was affected. And it took a long time for the situation to correct itself. I wondered if I would ever be able to shoot with open sights again.
This past Thursday, I was out at the range testing several firearms and airguns and a friend of mine happened to bring his Remington RangeMaster model 37 .22 rimfire target rifle for me to try. The model 37 was Remington’s equivalent to Winchester’s model 52 target rifle until the model 40X was created, and it (the model 37) has the reputation of being incredibly accurate. My friend can no longer use open sights and is scoping all the rifles he intends to keep. But this one is a rifle he has owned for decades but never shot. It still has the factory non-optical target sights.
The Lyman 17A front globe has a post-and-bead like target shooters used back in the 1930s and earlier. You put the post at the 6 o’clock spot on the bull. With good eyes, this kind of sight is considered second only to a properly sized aperture front sight out to 200 yards, and world records have been set with it. But notice I said, “With good eyes.”
I shot it at 50 yards with Winchester Super-X high-speed ammo, which is hardly target ammo! When I saw the group made with five shots I was ecstatic, because it proves that I can still see good enough to use open sights. I stopped at only five shots because who wants to ruin a group like that? However, after an involved trade with my friend, I ensured many more years of shooting this 37, and eventually I will shoot 10-shot groups. That’s important for today’s report, because the Crosman 2100B has a square post-and-notch sight, and the front has a bright green fiberoptic bead.
Next, I tried my custom .17 HM2 that this same friend made for me on a Mossberg 44 US action. This rifle has a Leapers scope, so there’s an even better chance of hitting the target. This time, five shots went into 0.266 inches at the same 50 yards. I was on fire! Unfortunately, I haven’t yet mounted the scope on the FWB 300S, so I didn’t have that to test, but everything I shot that day went where I wanted. Since I couldn’t see the group through my scope, I knew it was a small one. And, once again, I chickened out after 5 shots. If I were reporting on the guns and shooting for the record, I would have shot 10 shots with each gun.
Five shots in 0.266 inches at 50 yards with a scope. Not that much better than open sights. It looks better because the .17-caliber bullet is smaller, but the actual size of the group isn’t that much less than the first group.
On to today’s test
I decided to begin shooting pellets with the 2100 at 10 meters. That way, if the rifle proved somewhat inaccurate, I could still keep them inside the trap. The 2100 has a .177 rifled barrel, so pellets should be more accurate than the steel BBs it also shoots. Since this is a Crosman rifle, what better to begin than with 7.9-grain Crosman Premier 7.9-grain domes?
The first thing I did was oil the pump head with several drops of Crosman Pellgunoil. I did that for the velocity test, as well; but since it’s impossible to overdo this step and it does ensure the best compression, I did it again.
I decided on 5 pumps for this test because the velocity test showed that was enough to get all pellets into the 500 f.p.s. range. At 10 meters, that’s all you need for good results. So, this test was very easy on me.
A new way of loading
Many owners may already have discovered what I am about to share; but while I was shooting the Premiers, I discovered a foolproof way of loading them. The loading port on the side of the rifle is too small for most adult fingers, and until now I’ve found it difficult to load the pellet so the head points forward. But during this test, I accidentally discovered that I could drop in a pellet in any attitude and simply elevate the muzzle of the rifle with the receiver rotated to the left so the loading port is angled up. The pellet would then try to right itself at the bottom of the loading channel; and, if it wasn’t aligned, all I had to do was push it forward slightly with the cocking handle and then pull the handle back and the pellet would align itself every time. I tried this with the JSB Exact RS pellets, as well, but they got stuck and didn’t align as easily as the Premier lites. I can’t wait to try this method on my old Crosman 2200.
Sights are okay, but not great
I found the sights easy to acquire and very sharp and crisp, but the method of adjustment leaves a lot to chance. I never did get the group shooting where I wanted it. Also, though I elevated the rear sight nearly all the way, it was still just hitting at the point of aim at 10 meters. Forget about shooting longer distances unless you learn how to hold the front post above the top of the rear notch. But the sights are not important, because this will not be the last test of this rifle. Just like the M4-177 rifle I tested last year, I found the 2100B was far more accurate than the price indicated! In a word, it was phenomenal — which is why I told you about the state of my eyes in the beginning of the report.
Next, I tried the JSB Exact RS pellet. I was expecting to see a similar group, which is why what I got surprised me so much.
What a difference! Crosman could use this as an ad testimonial for Premiers, if they wanted. We all know that the JSB Exact RS is a premium pellet; but in this rifle, the Premier lite is the clear and obvious choice. I already demonstrated that my eyes are up to the task, so there’s nothing to blame in this case but the pellet.
After testing two pellet brands, I switched to Crosman Copperhead BBs and fired 10 from a standing supported position at 22 feet. If the group was small, I would then try other brands of BBs, but as you will see that wasn’t necessary.
Ten Crosman Copperhead BBs went into this 2.219-inch group at 22 feet. This demonstrated that it wasn’t worth pursuing BBs any further. My photo inadvertently cropped off a BB hole on the right of the group. It’s on the 5-ring, as it ends on the right margin.
This rifle is deadly accurate with Crosman Premiers and not very good with BBs. I wouldn’t even bother with BBs in the 2100 anymore because I have a host of BB pistols that will out-shoot it. But with Premier lives, it’s a different story.
The 2100B has earned the right to a special 25-yard test with a scope sight. That will come in Part 4, and I charge blog reader J with making sure I don’t forget to do it!
by B.B. Pelletier
BSOTW winner Adrian Cataldo Beltrán shoots his .22-caliber Benjamin in his backyard.
“Between the dark and the daylight,
As the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the children’s hour.”
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Sit back and enjoy your hot cocoa, kiddies, because this is it! This is the airgun that probably started it all for many of you, and darned near all of you ought to know it by name — I don’t care where you’re from. Coke, Levis and the Daisy Red Ryder are the DNA of America.
We’re older and sadder now — having matured through some of the same flaws and foibles that older societies had to endure. But the name Red Ryder still rings a happy bell in the backs of our minds. It reminds us of the poem that promises “…somewhere the sun is shining.”
What is a Red Ryder?
Asking what a Red Ryder is, is like asking which Elvis you liked best — skinny or fat. The truth is, there wasn’t just one Red Ryder — there were many. The first gun (and it’s a gun for certain, because it isn’t rifled) was Daisy’s No. 111, Model 40 — first made in 1939. It had a copper-plated “golden” band around the front of the wooden forearm and the barrel, a saddle ring on the left side with a genuine leather thong tied through it and a Red Ryder brand burned into the left side of the stock. There are numerous variations of this early model, and the very first one also had a cast-iron cocking lever.
If you’re an old guy like me, you can still remember that those early Red Ryders were very difficult to cock, because they still used the heavy wire mainsprings from the earlier guns. Over the years, the gauge of the wire was thinned to help kids cock their guns and also to slow down those steel BBs that really could put your eye out. So, if the cocking on your gun seems stiff, it’s an early one.
World War II
Daisy played a large and patriotic part in World War II, including the grandson of the founder becoming one of the first pilots to break the speed of sound during a test flight of a P38 Lightning over England (in a steep dive). So, production of the Red Ryder halted in 1942 and resumed again in 1946.
My Red Ryder is a variation from 1947. It has a blued steel finish and a plastic forearm, with a wooden buttstock that carries the Red Ryder brand. The cocking lever is cast aluminum and painted black. Within a few more years, Daisy would start electrostatically painting the entire gun, so I feel fortunate to have the model I do. I know my gun is from 1947 because it came in the Model 311 Red Ryder set, which also included a scope, a cork tube and a steel target holder — all packed in a large brown cardboard box. There’s a later gun that has all the same features as this one; but since the set stopped being produced in 1950 and the later gun didn’t begin production until 1952, I know I have what the Blue Book of Airguns calls Variant 5.
The sights are fixed. Even though the No. 25 slide-action (pump) gun had adjustable front and rear sights in 1913, the Red Ryder lasted for more than a decade before it got them. You just had to learn where to hold to hit your target.
In 1955, Daisy introduced an interim Red Ryder based on the Model 94. It was a painted gun with plastic stock and forearm and painted logos on the frame. Of course, the plastic stock couldn’t be branded with a hot die (branding iron), so the logo was cut into the mold and the resulting lines were painted gold on the stock. It had a leather buttpad called a boot that was removable, and I believe this is the only leather buttpad on any Red Ryder. This model was short-lived and died out in 1962. As far as I can tell, the No. 111 Model 40 was produced right alongside this one; so for a time, Daisy actually had two Red Ryders in their lineup.
In 1972, the Red Ryder model changed to the Model 1938. It was very similar to the earlier gun, but there were manufacturing changes made to speed up production and adaptations to new ways of building BB guns. Plastic buttstocks that had been on the guns since the 1950s were applied interchangeably with wood stocks and even walnut stocks from time to time.
The Lightning Loader ends
The Lightning Loader is the separate tube under what looks like the barrel. It’s where the BBs are loaded. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch Ralphie load his new Red Ryder on Christmas morning in the classic movie A Christmas Story. But in the movie, Ralphie has to “cheat” the loading scene, because his Red Ryder is really a model 1938B, which doesn’t have a real Lightning Loader. Instead, it has a plastic door that’s opened to dump BBs into the outer tube — what looks like the barrel to most folks. The tube under the barrel is entirely cosmetic.
The 1938B is the Red Ryder of today, and the look has changed a little. We’re back to a wood stock and forearm, and the Red Ryder brand is back on the stock. It’s easy to burn in a brand when the stock is wood, and wood is what the customers want, so Daisy’s accommodating them. Blued steel comes back from time to time, but I don’t think we’ll see it on anything more than a special commemorative gun in the future. The electrostatic paint Daisy uses is far more durable than chemical bluing anyway. If you take care of the gun, the finish will outlast the original owner.
The BB gun I’ll be testing for you is my 1947 model — not the current gun. If you’re interested in the current model, we have an excellent two-part review by our own BG_Farmer for you to read. He compared a 1938 model with today’s 1938B, so this look at a No. 111 Model 40 is actually a test of a different airgun.
Yes, they had plastic in 1947. It wasn’t as good as it is today, and many of these old pieces such as this forearm have warped over time. This one is still good, but it looks incongruous with the wood butt.
In fact, the gun I’m showing here is really different from any other Red Ryder, because this one was made specially for the model 311 Red Ryder set mentioned earlier. What sets this gun apart from all others is the presence of the permanent rear mount for the long Daisy Model 300 telescopic sight. That mount attaches with two wood screws. If I remove it from the gun, I have a hole in the comb of the stock where the back of the tang was and the forward screw doesn’t run all the way down to the receiver. In other words, this gun was made this way at the factory. Like it or not, that rear scope mount has to remain in place or I have to seriously bubba the gun to eliminate its presence. Doing that would be like converting the gullwing doors on a Mercedes 300 SL to open to the side! So, this Red Ryder will always look different than the others.
The rear scope mount is built into the BB gun and can’t be removed without making the gun look incomplete. Other Red Ryders don’t have the backstrap seen here, and removing this mount leaves a deep hole in the wood. This is a rare gun since the set it came in was made for only a few years.
One final comment before I end this report. While photographing the BB gun, I noticed that the finish really does look blue — not the black oxide color seen on today’s firearms. It’s well-polished and looks very classy after seeing nothing but modern airguns for a long time. I can see why kids were so outraged when Daisy stopped bluing their BB guns and went to electrostatic paining.
Next time, I’ll check velocity, accuracy and cover a maintenance tip or two.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today is the day we see the accuracy of the Hatsan 125TH air rifle I’m testing. I have a surprise for you, and it isn’t what you expect. Just to review, the rifle comes with a scope that’s best not used. It’s very poor optically. And their mounts are very lightweight, so I didn’t use them today, either. Instead, I mounted my favorite scope, a Hawke 4.5-14×42AO Tactical Sidewinder that I have raved about in other reports. It’s the sharpest scope I have (don’t own it yet, but I expect to), so no one can say the Hatsan rifle didn’t get the best optics.
Hatsan has a scope base that gives you the choice of Weaver or 11mm rings, and the Hawke scope was already mounted in a set of BKL 30mm medium rings with double topstraps. With these butted against the Hatsan’s scope-stop plate, there was no way the scope or rings were going to move under recoil — even the heavy thrust of the 125TH.
After the scope was mounted, I cleaned the bore. And that was when I got the surprise. Even a brand-new brass cleaning brush slipped through the bore with little resistance! I thought for a moment the rifle was a .22 and of course I was using a .177 brush. But no — the rifle I’m testing is a .177. It just has a very large bore. How large? The rifle I’m now testing has the largest bore of any .177 air rifle I’ve ever examined!
I looked through the bore to make sure it’s rifled, and it is. But there are no pellets in my inventory that begin to be large enough to fit this bore — which is why I got the results that I did.
Note from Edith: I asked B.B. if this is so big that it might be .20 caliber. He took a .20-caliber pellet and tried to insert it, but it was too big. So, this is just an oversized .177.
Still a drooper
If you recall, this rifle is a drooper. I knew that, but there are ways to test droopers that don’t compromise the scope. Pick a small aim point located as many inches above the intended impact point as necessary and let that be your aim point for every group. After adjusting things as much as possible, the groups were still landing three inches below the aim point at 25 yards. But if the groups you shoot are tight, you can always replace the rings with a set of droopers afterwards.
The first pellets I tried were Beeman Kodiaks — more to keep them from breaking the sound barrier in my home than for any other reason. I knew from earlier testing that middleweight pellets will go supersonic too easily in this rifle, and every shot will crack like a rimfire!
After I got the sight adjusted, I proceeded to shoot the best group of the day. In fact it was the only complete 10-shot group I fired in this test, because all other pellets scattered so much in the first three shots that it wasn’t worth my time to complete the group.
At 25 yards, 10 Kodiaks made this group that measures 1.336 inches between centers. The pellet at the low right isn’t part of the group. This is similar in size to the best groups made with open sights.
The group is terrible, but it tells me something important that I haven’t noticed until now. Notice that many of the holes are elongated rather than round? These pellets are wobbling as they fly downrange! Some look almost as though they were tumbling when they hit the target. There’s no way they can possibly be accurate when they fly like that, and that’s why I didn’t complete any other groups. Not only were the pellets scattered, many of them also tumbled or wobbled like these. Nothing I shot could ever be accurate in this airgun. When I looked back at the earlier targets from previous tests, I noticed some elongated holes there, too.
The other pellets
At first, I tried to keep the velocity below the sound barrier, so I tried JSB Exact Jumbo 10.2-grain domes and 10.5-grain Crosman Premier heavies. Both wobbled in flight and scattered worst than the Kodiaks. I don’t have the new JSB Exact Heavy 10.34-grain domes, but there’s little reason to think they would have performed differently.
I did try a couple middleweight pellets — just to say I did. Some old Beeman Trophy pellets I had on hand cracked like a .22 long rifle, and they did make a couple round holes, but they also scattered widely and one of them did rip an elongated hole.
On to other, lighter pellets. The H&N Field Target was on the border of supersonic. Some were, others weren’t. But I got more elongated holes with this pellet, as well.
Then I tried RWS Superdomes. I thought their thin skirts might blow out and hug the bore better than the other pellets. But, once again, I got all supersonics and elongated holes. Three shots opened to two inches, and I just stopped shooting.
That is as far as I am going to take the Hatsan 125TH. I’ve shot it with open sights, with the scope and mounts that come with it, and with the best scope available. I’ve checked the screws and cleaned the bore. I’ve tried a range of the best pellets. Nothing seems to help. This rifle I’m testing is simply not going to be more accurate than these tests have already demonstrated.
The bottom line
The Hatsan 125TH is a $200 magnum spring rifle. It has their best trigger, their shock absorber system and their Weaver/11mm scope base. Yet, it also has a barrel that’s so overbore that it doesn’t stabilize any pellet I tried. The trigger is too heavy and doesn’t adjust very far. The rifle cocks hard but gets easier as it breaks in. In the end, though, the test rifle wasn’t accurate. I could forgive everything else if I’d been able to shoot a good group with this air rifle.