Archive for June 2012
by B.B. Pelletier
Tyrone Nerdin’ Daye is this week’s BSOTW. He says this about his winning image: “My beautiful daughter Kailee with her Ruger Mark I. I think she’s a big shot!”
Today I want to talk about the deals that exist in airgunning. I see them all the time and try to alert you whenever there are several guns of the same model to be had. I did that several weeks ago when I reported on the TS-45 sidelever rifle that Randy Mitchell was selling at the Malvern airgun show. That was a new-old-stock Chinese air rifle that Randy was selling for a mere $20.
I’ve been writing about airguns since 1994, and I’ve seen quite a few similar deals come and go. No doubt, there will be more in the future. The time to act is when the deal is available; because once I announce it, people swoop in.
Many years ago, when Edith and I were publishing The Airgun Letter, a pawn shop in South Carolina bought a container of East German air rifles. Among the thousands of guns they got were many Haenel models 310, 311 and 312 target rifles. They priced them to sell, and that’s what happened. I helped them spread the word about these beauties for several years, and today most of the thousands of these models that are circulating in the U.S. originated from this single source.
When someone wants more gun than they have the money to buy, I’ll often suggest they consider buying used. Buying used is a tough call, because you don’t know what you don’t know. If you get to see and hold the gun, like at a garage sale or a gun show, then at least the general external condition can be assessed. But only at special events can you also shoot the gun. Even then, shooting doesn’t tell you everything. It may show the gun is accurate, but seldom do you have the benefits of a chronograph to tell you the real health of the powerplant.
Why am I talking about buying used? Several reasons, really. If you follow my recommendation, you won’t be exposed to very much risk at all and often will be protected better than by buying a brand new model.
Safety with certain private dealers
The No. 1 reason you can buy used airguns safely is that there are certain dealers whose reputations are sterling. They will never knowingly sell a gun without full disclosure, and they’ve been doing this so long that their disclosure sometimes sounds like an IRS audit report. They’re overly critical of their own guns, pointing out each and every flaw, including those so small you would miss them unless they drew your attention to them.
Sometimes, these people are the way they are because that’s how they were raised. Other times, they’ve become this way through many years of dealing in airguns. They’ve run into their share of overly picky customers who obsessed over the most minor flaws to the point that they never wanted to experience such post-sale criticism again. So, they became anal in their quest to point out flaws in the guns they sell.
If you’re new to airgunning, the best place to find this kind of dealer is by doing business on the Airgun Classified ads that are part of the Yellow Forum. They have a Board of Inquiry (BOI) that has an honest history of many transactions — both buying and selling — that each person has done on that website. Unlike eBay, where the Feedback Forum is structured to be politically correct and almost forces a top rating for every transaction, the Board of Inquiry is quite honest and the contents can be trusted. If you see a lot of great remarks, you can bet that seller is someone with whom you want to do business.
I buy on the Yellow Forum Classified ads with confidence, knowing that not only will the item be as good as described, the entire transaction will go smoothly. If for any reason there’s a problem, these top-rated dealers will bend over backwards to make things right. And if they tell me that the gun will shoot Crosman Premier Lites at 934 f.p.s., on average, that’s what it will do.
As you read more about airguns and start recognizing certain names as reliable private dealers, you can start to trade with them at any time. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that Vince, Jim in Pittsburgh, Kevin Lentz and Tom Strayhorn are all good guys you can trust. There are probably many others I haven’t named, as well; but if you read the comments, you’ll soon be able to draw your own conclusions.
Watch for closeout sales and refurbs
The next tip is to watch the websites of your favorite airgun retailers for closeout sales and refurbished guns. Here are several prime examples.
Many years ago, Pyramyd Air sold HW55 rifles. They sold pretty quickly except for one model. The HW55 Champ had a short stock for youth shooters. Though the barreled action was exactly the same size as all the other HW55s, for some reason, buyers avoided the Champ. As a result, Pyramyd Air had a couple Champs left over for a long time after the other 55s had all been sold.
When the FWB 124 finally closed out in the 1990s, many dealers had new-old-stock rifles they couldn’t sell. For a couple years, there was an ongoing sale of brand-new guns that are highly sought-after today; but at that tim, they were simply the end of a long and successful run. While that doesn’t qualify as a used gun, anymore than the HW55 Champs I just mentioned, both guns were incredible buys at the time.
From time to time, Pyramyd Air has refurbished airguns for sale. You find a link to them on the home page in the left navigation column under the title Pre-owned products. Some of these are customer returns and others are just guns that the Pyramyd Air photographer unpacked to take pictures for the website. Still others are special deals on refurbished guns that have gone through an overhaul process, either at Pyramyd Air or at the original manufacturer’s plant. There are great savings on these pages, and they’re usually backed by the same warranty Pyramyd Air offers with all new guns.
Watch for blems
When they first brought the rifle out, Pyramyd Air inspected every Air Venturi Bronco they sold. As far as I know, they still do. So, when they found a number of guns that had blemishes from the stock finishing process, they passed incredible savings along to the customer.
What to avoid
The sad thing is that the advice I’m about to give will never be read by those who need it the most, because they don’t read this blog. Avoid buying guns from “dealers” who sell through airgun forums by continually touting their own guns and modifications — sometimes trashing similar guns and modifications by others. These guys are mostly hobby dealers who think they can make a killing with their wonderful work, and they’re turning out dangerous and substandard airguns left and right.
Some of these guys are predators and others are just stupid and don’t know the damage they’re doing. Either way, I would avoid doing business with them. If they were any good, they would have good reputations on major websites and wouldn’t have to toot their own horns in dark corners.
I would avoid a selloff of a recently “latest and greatest” model gun. This happens when someone who doesn’t know anything about airguns convinces an airgun manufacturer to make a certain model to their specifications. You’ll read about it in several places on the web, but never on this blog and probably never in print. The dealer is writing his own reviews or he’s getting his friends to write reviews for him, and the gun has flaws that aren’t obvious but they should be. The guns will all be delivering velocities that readers of this blog know are impossible to achieve. They’re almost always spring guns, though there have been a few CO2 guns that fit this description.
What to look for is an overly powerful airgun that delivers unbelievable accuracy. Invariably, the caliber will be .177, and the gun will be a breakbarrel. When you see this, walk away!
When the word of their true quality and performance spreads at the grassroots level (i.e., emails and chat forums), all sales will stop and the dealer will have to sell off the remainder of his inventory at reduced prices. This is almost never a bargain and should be avoided at all cost.
A variation on this theme is when an airgun manufacturer is bought out by an investment firm that, again, knows nothing about airguns. They will build the same overly powerful models described above, and they’ll do it in the cheapest possible way. Once the guns hit the market, the word will spread rapidly, and at some point there will have to be a grand closeout sale. Unless you buy one for a laugh, I wouldn’t waste the money, no matter what the savings. These guns often have barrels without rifling, or are missing key parts. In the end, when all the rats jump ship, what’s left to sell isn’t worth buying.
One last thing to avoid is when a manufacturer takes an airgun model that has earned a wonderful name over the years and they cheapen it to milk out the last few dollars. I was appalled when I saw this happen the first few times, until it dawned on me that this is a new way of doing business. It’s an actual and intentional plan some businesspeople use to make money. Now, I treat it like the deception it is, and I try to warn shooters if I can.
This has been a brief look at the underbelly of the airgun market. I doubt I’ve addressed every important issue, but that’s what the weekend is for.
by B.B. Pelletier
Wow! Today’s test is as different as any I’ve done! This air pistol surprised me completely, with results I’ve never before seen from any airgun.
The Colt 1911 Special Combat pistol shoots BBs, so a velocity test is going to be pretty humdrum. There are a limited number of different BBs to try, and they aren’t going to give fantastically different results like lead pellets do. So, usually a velocity test with a BB gun is a no-brainer for me. Shoot and record the numbers — plain and simple. But not today.
Both single-action and double-action
This pistol fires in both the single-action and double-action modes. For you newcomers, single-action is where the trigger performs the single functon of releasing the hammer to fire the gun. You have to manually cock the hammer before each shot — the trigger doesn’t do it.
Double-action, in contrast, is where the trigger both cocks the hammer and releases it, all in one smooth pull. So you just keep on pulling the trigger. As long as there’s ammunition, the gun keeps on firing.
Because the trigger is doing more for double-action, it’s always harder to pull in that mode than it is for single-action. So a semiautomatic pistol that has single-action operation will normally have the very best trigger possible. If a gun functions in either single- or double-action like most revolvers, the single-action mode will give the best trigger-pull. The double-action mode is reserved for when you want to fire a lot of rounds very fast.
There’s more to it than that, of course. Some semiautomatic pistols such as the Beretta M92/M9 fire either single- or double-action; but when they fire, the slide comes back and cocks the gun for the next shot. These guns are quick to fire the first shot, since you can carry them with a round chambered and just pull the trigger to get them started. They also have the advantage of switching over to single-action once they begin firing.
At any rate, when I have a CO2 pistol that’s both single- and double-action, I test it for velocity both ways. That often gives results that favor the velocity on one or the other of the two modes. But this gun was vastly different. It varies by about 100 feet per second greater velocity in the single-action mode. And there’s even more to report, so read my results carefully.
I started out shooting the pistol with Daisy zinc-plated BBs in the single-action mode. The gun is rated to shoot at 400 f.p.s., so I expected something in that neighborhood; with BBs, there isn’t much variation between brands. So, I was surprised to see the first shot on a fresh CO2 cartridge register only 205 f.p.s. But sometimes pneumatics and CO2 guns need to “wake up” when they first start shooting after a rest, so I kept on shooting and watching the chronograph. The next shot went 203 f.p.s., but the one after that went 334, then 345, then 366 f.p.s. That last shot was as high as the pistol wanted to go.
My first good string of shots on single-action averaged 363 f.p.s., with a low of 360 and a high of 375 f.p.s. That’s good consistency, after the valve had woken up. I figured shooting the gun on double-action would give similar numbers. Guess again!
On double-action with the same Daisy zinc-plated BBs, the velocity averaged 252 f.p.s. The low was 224 and the high was 280 f.p.s. What a spread, and what a difference from single-action. Next, I shot two more shots single-action to see what had happened, if anything. They went 337 and 321 f.p.s., respectively. The gun was shooting slower, but it was still much faster in the single-action mode.
I then tried the RWS Match BBs that Pyramyd Air doesn’t carry. I’ve found them as accurate and precise as Daisy BBs, and sometimes they give slightly different results. This time in single-action, they averaged 319 f.p.s. with a spread from 280 to 344 f.p.s. In double-action, they averaged 240 f.p.s. with a spread from 227 to 250 f.p.s. And shooting single-action immediately following the double-action string gave me two shots at 324 and 302 f.p.s., respectively.
I was concerned that the pistol seemed to be running out of CO2, so I fired it 20 more shots double-action with no BBs in the magazine, then I fired another shot single-action (with the RWS BBs) that went 321 f.p.s. So, it wasn’t out of gas just yet!
How many shots per cartridge?
At this point in the test there were 63 shots on the cartridge. I fired another 10 blank (no BB) shots double-action and then fired an RWS BB single-action that registered 335 f.p.s. At 84 shots, the gun is still going strong.
I next shot a single Daisy BB on single-action to see if there was still such a difference between the two brands. This one went 327 f.p.s., so both BBs are going about the same speed. The initial string of Daisys was just a little faster for some reason.
I shot another 10 blank shots double-action and then an RWS BB at 327 f.p.s. So, at 96 shots, the CO2 cartridge is still going strong. Then another 10 blank shots, followed by a Daisy BB at 323 f.p.s. That was shot number 107 on the cartridge.
Another 10 blanks shots were fired double-action and then an RWS BB went 331 f.p.s. That was shot 118. Then another 10 blanks, followed by a Daisy BB that failed to register. Then a second Daisy BB went 325 f.p.s. for shot 130. Then another 10 blank shots were followed by shot 141 — an RWS BB at 321 f.p.s.
My gosh — this pistol is starting to remind me of the AirForce Talon SS using the Micro-Meter tank! Another 6 blanks were fired and then the remaining gas spontaneously released from the cartridge. All gas was exhausted, and it was all over. This cartridge had maintained its velocity down to almost the end of the CO2 charge — something I’ve not seen in a long time. For the record, I got a good 140 shots from a single cartridge.
What about the large velocity variation at the beginning of the test? I think we can chalk that up to the gun breaking in. After several hundred shots have been fired, I think the gun will perform more consistently; but I’ll come back in a special test, after we look at accuracy, and rerun the velocity test again.
The double-action trigger-pull broke at an average 10 lbs., 6 oz. of effort. The range went from 9 lbs., 6 oz. to 11 lbs., 5 oz. The faster the trigger was pulled, the lighter it became. The pull effort increases rapidly (stacks) the further back the trigger is pulled.
The single-action pull was a very consistent 3 lbs., 7 oz. The second stage is very apparent (I mean there’s a definite hesitation of the trigger blade at the start of stage two), and there’s just a hint of creep in the second stage.
So far, this ranks as a very interesting BB pistol. The test pistol fell short of the advertised velocity, but delivered a huge number of good shots from a cartridge. I think the way it turned out was better than if the velocity had been higher and the shot count less, because high-velocity in a BB gun is about the worst thing you can have. Given the tendency for BBs to rebound with great speed, you really don’t want them going too fast.
Accuracy testing is next.
by B.B. Pelletier
Before I begin, here’s a followup to yesterday’s blog on the importance of stock length. I discovered, thanks to blog reader Mike, that the No. 4 SMLE has both a long and a short stock. Apparently, when there are complaints that the rifle kicks, the stock is always a short one. I tested that at the range yesterday with a friend of mine. He had a hard-kicking Mark III and, sure enough, it has a short stock. But my No. 4 stock is at least .75 inches longer and feels like a mild 30/30 when shot.
Okay, on to today’s blog.
There’s a lot of interest in this pellet pistol, and I’ve learned a lot more while testing it. Before I did this report I read as many reviews of this Ruger Mark I pellet pistol as I could find — both on this site and on others. I discovered something while doing that. There’s a sharp difference of opinion about the gun that divides around the age and airgun experience of the person writing the review. Those who are either young or have little experience with airguns say the Ruger is hard to cock and not very accurate, but they all praise the power they think it has. But veteran airgunners who own chronographs have learned that the pistol isn’t as powerful as advertised, but it’s easy to cock (very easy for the power, if you use the cocking aid) and also relatively accurate. So, come with me today while I show you what the Ruger can do.
I shot the gun for accuracy at 10 meters, because most of the reviews I read talked about shooting at distances from 25 feet to 10 meters. In the end, 10 meters turned out to be exactly the right distance for the gun.
I shot off a bag rest with both hands holding the pistol out just past the bag, so there was no contact between the bag and the gun. My forearms were resting on the bag. The sights are fiberoptic; but when held at arm’s length, the front sight just fills the rear notch perfectly. It’s possible to get a precise sight picture that can be repeated with every shot.
Trigger and cocking effort
The trigger-pull is very heavy — to the point of being a distraction. Blog reader Victor asked me to report on the trigger-pull and cocking effort after this test; I guess because he wanted to see if there was any change during break-in. After this accuracy test was completed, the gun had a total of about 140 shots on it. The trigger-pull measured 5 lbs., 13 oz., and the cocking effort with the aid installed is 26 lbs. That’s a pound higher for cocking, and the trigger is a half-pound heavier than the last time I checked. Both numbers are probably just due to how they were measured and no real change has occurred.
The nice thing about testing a gun with open sights is that it’s usually on the paper right out of the box, where a scope can be almost anywhere. This pistol was shooting high and left, but it was on the paper at 10 meters. It took a little elevation reduction and a lot of right adjustment to get the pellet to land in the bull. I sighted-in with RWS Hobbys. Then, I shot the first group of 10.
The first group surprised me, but that was when I realized that many of the reviews had been written by new shooters. I say that because the Ruger Mark I is an accurate air pistol when you use the correct holding technique. You hold the pistol firmly but do not try to prevent it from bouncing around in recoil. It’s not as accurate as a Beeman P1 or an RWS LP8, but it’s accurate, nonetheless. But only the experienced pistol shooters will know how to get this pistol to perform its best.
Ten RWS Hobbys grouped in a 1.073-inch group at 10 meters for me. The group is open but also nice and round. It was a lot better than I’d expected.
Following the Hobbys, I was in the right frame of mind for all further shooting. Next up was the JSB Exact RS domed pellet. We know from past experience that this pellet often does well in lower-powered springers, though I don’t think I’ve tried it in a pistol before now.
This time, the RS pellet did very well, indeed. In fact, it was the most accurate pellet of the three I tested. Ten made a group measuring 1.059 inches between centers. Though this group isn’t much smaller than the Hobby group, the smaller holes made by the domes make it appear smaller.
The last pellet I tried was the Gamo Match wadcutter. Sometimes, they surprise me by being the very best pellets in a gun, but this wasn’t one of those times. Ten pellets grouped in 1.595 inches between centers — hardly in the running with the first two pellets.
At this point in the test, my trigger finger was hurting from the weight of the pull, and I was concerned that further shooting would be affected by it. So, I ended the test. It sounds like it shouldn’t have hurt, but the pull is so long that it really does hurt.
The bottom line
If you want a powerful spring pistol at a budget price, I don’t think you can do any better than the Ruger Mark I. It demands good shooting technique and rewards it with decent accuracy. The power is respectable, and the cocking effort is low for the power generated. The trigger is heavy and the sights aren’t perfect, but they do adjust and the pistol does respond to them very well.
Most shooters will like the shape of the grip, which is reminiscent of the Luger. The Ruger Mark I is just about right in the weight and balance department and encourages plinking with its surprising accuracy.
by B.B. Pelletier
There has been a lot of interest in the .22-caliber Hatsan 95 combo breakbarrel I’ve been testing! We have even had people emailing Pyramyd Air directly to ask when Part 3 was coming. Folks, they don’t know any more than you do. If you want to know something about the blog, post your comment on the blog and I’ll answer you here.
The Hatsan 95 represents a departure from the other Hatsan spring rifles I’ve tested so far. It’s sized for a normal adult rather than for a giant, and it doesn’t require the strength of Hercules to cock. I found during the velocity testing that the rifle seems to like heavier pellets, so I tested it with some for accuracy. I tested the rifle with open sights because they seem to be a reasonably set even though they’re fiberoptic.
Before testing the rifle at longer range, I first shot it at just 10 meters. Many of you say this is about as far as you can shoot an airgun in your homes, so today’s test should be very revealing.
The sights are fiberoptic and they don’t glow indoors. So, I used them as normal post-and-notch open sights. Unfortunately, the front bead is too large for the rear notch; but I did find it possible to see the top half of the front bead, and I could guesstimate where the bead was centered. It wasn’t perfect, but it was the best I could do.
Forget looking for aftermarket sights for this air rifle. Air rifle sights these days are mostly proprietary, which means the guns they’re on won’t accept aftermarket sights from another manufacturer, unlike a lot of firearms. Since most shooters will use the scope that comes with this combo package, that presents no problem — but I included it because there are always a few people who want to use open sights.
First up was the Beeman Kodiak that did so well in the velocity test. They put 8 of 10 shots into a round group measuring 0.529 inches between centers, but two other shots opened that to 1.073 inches. I can chalk up those two shots to the imprecise sights, so this group looks promising.
The firing behavior of the Kodiaks is so smooth that I think they have to be considered by anyone who buys a Hatsan 95. Not only do they generate more energy than lighter pellets, they also group well — at least at 10 meters.
Next up was the JSB Exact Jumbo that weighs 15.9 grains. It’s usually a good performer when Kodiaks are, so I gave it a shot. It didn’t disappoint.
At 10 meters, 10 JSB Exact pellets went into a group measuring 0.648 inches — besting the Kodiaks for 10 shots. However, as with the Kodiaks, I see a smaller group inside the main one on the left side. It’s too difficult to measure, but you’ll see it, too.
The last pellet I tried was one I don’t usually test, because I haven’t found it to be very accurate. Others have, though, and I think they must all be shooting them in pneumatics rather than spring guns. The Predator pellet is a premium hollowpoint that has a cone-shaped tip inside the hollow point of the pellet head.
At 10 meters, 10 Predators grouped in 1.548 inches between centers, and the distribution was open enough to show that it was no accident. This pellet is not for the Hatsan 95 and was eliminated from further testing.
When you compare this group to the other two, you can see why I think this pellet isn’t right for the Hatsan 95. A group like that at 10 meters is due to more than just imprecise sights!
Back to 25 yards
Now that I knew this Hatsan could shoot, it was time to back up to 25 yards and give it a go. This is where those sights would come into play; because at 25 yards, the bullseye I was aiming at was the same size as the front sight bead I could only see the top of.
I shot Beeman Kodiaks first, and 10 shots went into a group measuring 3.735 inches. That’s hardly a good group, but you’ll notice that just a single pellet opened up the group to that size. Nine pellets made a group that measures 1.613 inches. While hardly a good group for 25 yards indoors, this is where the front sight comes into question. I’ve shot 5-shot groups at 50 yards that measure a quarter-inch between centers with the best open sights, and I’ve shot 10-shot groups that measure three-quarters of an inch at the same distance with the same sights. Clearly, this group grew because the sights were not clear and not because the rifle is inaccurate.
Next up were the JSB Exacts. These had performed a little better at 10 meters, and I expected to see them out-group the Kodiaks at 25 yards, as well. And they did. Ten pellets went into a group measuring 1.882 inches. You can see the dispersion resulting from the fiberoptic sights, yet this pellet shows a tendency to stay together at this distance. Of course, this group is not acceptable, but it does give me hope that this rifle can shoot.
Where does this leave us?
I believe the Hatsan 95 can shoot, and this test shows that. Next, I’ll mount the scope that came with the combo package and try that at 25 yards.
If you’ve been holding off buying a Hatsan 95 until you saw the results of my test, I would say the wait is over. This air rifle can shoot. It’s a breakbarrel springer, so it needs the artillery hold, but it doesn’t seem to be overly sensitive to the hold. It cocks easily enough for a hunting air rifle, and the firing cycle is smooth if you use heavier pellets.
The trigger is very nice, with just a little creep in stage two. I like the wide blade and the general shape of the blade on this gun.
Next, I’ll test this rifle with the scope it comes with.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, I’ll venture into an area where style and function can clash violently. Also, because every person is built differently, the things I say will not apply equally to all people. That is not to say they are untrue or vague enough to just be opinions; but because of differences in our bodies, each of us will have slightly different needs, and sometimes they won’t even be that slight!
As most countries do, the United States has a rich tradition of fielding infantry rifles with “one size fits none” stocks. I could criticize all of the Mosin Nagants or the K31 Schmidt-Rubin rifle of Switzerland, but I don’t need to look any farther than the dear old M1903A3 that was the last gasp of the famous Springfield rifle used at the start of World War II. The pull of this rifle is a ridiculous 12-3/4 inches in length that guaranteed to sock anyone in the kisser when the big round goes off. As if that weren’t enough, the stock also drops away from your face steeply to get a running start at your cheek when the recoil begins!
Even men of very small stature find the Springfield stock uncomfortably short. The spin doctors at the arsenal dreamed up an excuse: “The stock is designed for men wearing field jackets and winter uniforms.” Ha, ha!
[Parenthetically, I will say that two vintage U.S. battle rifles have had stocks of decent proportions -- the 1917 Enfield (the American Enfield) and the Garand. Both have acceptable pull lengths and good pistol grips. The Enfield's comb is a little low, but overall, it's a rifleman's stock. The Garand is as close to stock perfection as the United States ever came in the 20th century -- in my opinion. That's in spite of having a short pull of 13 inches.]
The Soviets said their Mosin stock had its short pull because “The Soviet Union is comprised of many different countries with soldiers of widely varying stature. The rifle was designed to fit as many different men as possible.” Again — ha, ha!
Why the Swiss skimped on the length of their buttstocks and dropped their combs so low is a mystery to me, because they do not have nearly the problem the Sovs did with ethnic differences. In sharp contrast to the too-short K31, their model 1911 rifle had a stock of more correct proportions.
What these nations really mean is that they build their battle rifles on a budget, and the bean counters thought the savings of an inch or two of wood, spread over millions of stocks, was worth it. Besides, making soldiers miserable is a time-honored right of passage.
Good stock equals reduced recoil
When I bought a German-made Mark V .270 Weatherby Magnum rifle for hunting, I was prepared to be laid low by the recoil. I had recently suffered with a Remington 788 in .308 Winchester caliber that about knocked me flat every time it went off. So, imagine my shock to discover that the Weatherby, with its more powerful belted magnum cartridge, did not kick as hard as the Remington! It actually kicked a lot harder, but the straight lines of the Weatherby stock coupled with the very shallow slant toward the butt kept the comb firmly in contact with my cheek the entire time. The rifle didn’t have the opportunity to get a running start at my face when it went off. I wound up loving the gentle Weatherby that others, who don’t know it, regard as a monster!
I was about 24 years old when this discovery took place, and that was when I started paying attention to the shape and size of rifle stocks. I found that I liked a pull (the distance from the center of the butt to the center of the trigger blade) of 14-3/4 inches, which is a tad longer than most other men my size (5′11″ at the time). I guess my arms and neck were a little longer than the norm for my height.
What I’m trying to tell you is that you may not have the same body dimensions as me, but we will both do better with a stock that is straight versus one that drops low at the toe. And we will also do better with a stock that has the right length of pull for our frames — whatever that may be.
Correct length of pull is hard to measure
There’s an old method of measuring the correct length of pull on a rifle. The butt is rested on the crook of your arm and the trigger is supposed to come about halfway up your index finger when the finger points straight up.
This is the traditional way people measure the correct length of pull on a rifle. It works after a fashion, but only by holding the rifle offhand will you know for sure.
Hooey! This old method is ingrained into most shooters at a tender age, but I find it often doesn’t work. A better way to find the right length of pull is to shoulder the rifle and see how easily your trigger finger finds the trigger blade and your hand finds the pistol grip.
What fits feels good
Blog reader Kevin Lentz once asked me if I’d ever had a rifle whose stock fit me well. He knows that because I test so many different air rifles all the time that chances are that most of them don’t quite fit me. I answered him that my Weatherby was the best-fitting rifle I ever owned, and he understood — because he also owns a Mark V Weatherby in .300 Weatherby Magnum.
As far as airguns go, the TX200 fits about as well as a Weatherby. It has a very vertical pistol grip that invites a good hold, and the flat forearm helps stabilize the heavy rifle. The butt drops a bit far, but the TX recoils so soft that it doesn’t matter.
So, where does this leave us? Well, if we know that length of pull and the drop of the stock are important, it seems that we should be able to design stocks that fit us well. Enter the Air Venturi Bronco!
Air Venturi Bronco
Several years ago, I became exasperated by all the air rifles that were near-misses for stock fit, as far as I was concerned. I knew from conversations with other airgunners that what the world really wanted was another Diana 27. But Diana only wanted to make powerful spring rifles that were hard to cock.
The other airgun many shooters wanted was the Beeman R7, but for one-third the current price — the old five-cent cigar thing. There were long debates on this blog about whether this or that HW30 was equivalent to the R7. Remember that?
One day, I was sharing my feelings with the president of Pyramyd Air. I lamented that a company like Mendoza that made accurate barrels and good triggers didn’t have a nice youth airgun we could sell. That was when he told me that they did, indeed, have a youth airgun, but that it was too ugly to sell. I asked him to send me his sample, and a few days later I had it in my hands. It was called the Bronco. [Note from Edith: I always thought Tom made up that name. Now, I find out he didn't. What other things is he taking credit for that are not deserved?] It was exactly what I was looking for, only it had a stock so ugly that you needed a tetanus shot just to hold it!
The Bronco was an RM10-barreled action in a stock that had a huge kidney-shaped cutout in the butt. It was a stock by Salvador Dali that could only exist in an acid-trip fantasy, yet Mendoza had somehow managed to turn it out for real. The pull was just over 10 inches, as I recall.
Remembering the success of the Beeman C1 carbine, I suggested to Pyramyd Air that we have a stockmaker build a Western-style stock and that we make other changes to the powerplant at the same time. I was tasked with getting the stock made, and I found a custom stockmaker to do the work. We produced a stock in American maple that had a strawberry blonde finish and a 14-3/4 inch pull. I fell in love with it; but when we discussed the project at Pyramyd Air, we decided the stock had to be shorter to accommodate older kids and adults, alike. We settled on a 12-3/4-inch pull. The blonde finish was kept, though many people disliked it.
Mendoza took the sample we sent them and produced a gun for us to examine. A couple small changes were made to that prototype, and we were done! The result is the Air Venturi Bronco that you see today.
What’s good about the Bronco is that the comb is high without needing a Monte Carlo profile or a raised cheekpiece. It comes up to the shoulder fast and naturally for most shooters, and the sights are right in line with your eyes when your head is erect. Also, you don’t have to hold your head in a different place to use a scope. That’s the advantage of a straight-line stock that has very little drop at the toe.
The classic stock
Many times, I’ve mentioned the classic stock in the past. What is it? What makes it classic?
A classic stock is one that has a straight comb with no Monte Carlo profile. The stock line is very straight, so the toe doesn’t dip very low. That allows the recoil to be transmitted in a straight line instead of in a downward angle when it first comes back, then it rotates off the shoulder to rise upward and hit your cheek.
A classic stock has a pistol grip in a place where you can grasp it when holding the rifle to your shoulder. Many larger air rifle stocks, such as the one on the Hatsan Torpedo 155, have pistol grips — but their proportions are too large for 95 percent of the population, with the result that the shooter cannot grasp the grip when holding the gun normally. The grip is set too far to the rear and out of reach for most people. A TX200, in contrast, has a pistol grip in exactly the place where most shooters’ hands expect it to be. The result is that the rifle seems to fit better and is easier to hold, even if the shooter isn’t aware of the reasons why.
Perhaps the best example of a classic air rifle stock I can give you is the wood stock that comes on the RWS Diana 34 breakbarrel. There’s no Monte Carlo comb and the pistol grip is in pretty much the right place.
For an even better example of a classic stock done right, you need look no farther than the Ruger M77 rifle. While their pistol grips come back a bit too far, these stocks are about the best ones on today’s market. Sako of Finland is another maker that had a remarkable line of good stocks in decades past; and in recent times, they’ve taken the classic proportions and put them into synthetic stocks. And I must include the iconic Winchester model 70 in the small list of classics.
A classic stock does not have a thumbhole. Instead, the pistol grip is proportioned so well that it feels good in the hand. I personally don’t like thumbhole stocks because they usually prevent my thumb from being placed where I like it. On the whole, I do find that most thumbhole stocks fit better than most non-thumbhole stocks. That’s because most of those stocks without thumbholes are cut with the wrong angles and proportions.
A Western-style stock like the one found on the Bronco and the Walther Lever Action rifle is not a classic rifle stock. The straight wrist isn’t as easy to hold as a well-formed pistol grip. But the Western-style stock does fit more people better, because there are so many classic-cut stocks that miss the mark.
The bottom line
I wrote this article for those new airgunners who are researching airguns to buy right now. The size and shape of the stock plays an important part in how well your gun will fit; and that, in turn, affects how much you enjoy shooting it. Don’t just buy an airgun based on the velocity, because that will lead you astray. Unless the gun also fits you and feels good, it will not do well in your hands.
If you don’t know how different guns feel, you might try visiting a gun store or pawn shop and try a few different rifles for their fit. Your friends may have different guns than you do…so try on some of those to see which ones fit you better. Yes, you can even try firearms and transfer their fit over to air rifles. If you have no other frame of reference, this will at least give you a starting point. And don’t forget to read everything you can about the fit of a good rifle, because this is an area that will never stand out but will make a big difference in how much you like or dislike a particular rifle.
by B.B. Pelletier
John McKinney is this week’s BSOTW. Looks like he’s holding a Benjamin Marauder.
The B25H breakbarrel air rifle looks striking with its bamboo stock.
I know there’s a lot of interest in this air rifle. It came through in the passionate comments made to Part 1. Today, I’ll complete my test of the B25H breakbarrel from Xisico with an accuracy test.
I installed a Leapers Golden Image 4×32 rifle scope in a BKL 1-piece cantilever mount. I used the cantilever (an extension of the scope mount that goes beyond the base) feature of the mount to move the small scope back far enough on the scope tube that it was positioned correctly for my eye.
The scope has fixed parallax set at 100 yards. That may sound bad to those who are familiar with adjustable parallax scopes, but I’ve used scopes with fixed parallax for years and not had a problem with them. Shooting at 25 yards, it’s possible that some accuracy was sacrificed, but not so much that this test was compromised. I’ve shown half-inch 10-shot groups in the past that were shot with 4x fixed parallax scopes, so we know they do work.
Very sensitive to hold
My shooting was done from a rest at 25 yards indoors. I know from experience that most breakbarrels are sensitive to how they’re held, and this one is no different in that respect. The shape of the stock invites a hold with the off hand placed just forward of the triggerguard, where the stock drops down. Holding there makes for a rifle that’s very muzzle heavy and that usually helps the groups. But not this time.
I found that holding it there caused the pellets to walk up and down vertically, though they grouped well left to right. So, I slid my off hand out to the point that it was under the cocking slot. The rifle was now neutrally balanced and sat better in my hands, and the groups tightened. But any slight adjustment of my off hand that was not exactly where it had been for the other shots could throw that particular shot two inches away from the group. That’s not unusual for a powerful breakbarrel like this one, so don’t read it as a condemnation. It’s just a reflection on what hold sensitivity means.
During the velocity test, I’d noticed how smooth Beeman Kodiaks shot, so I used them to sight in the rifle and for the first group. All groups are 10 shots unless otherwise labeled.
The first group of Beeman Kodiaks was not a complete group. I’m showing it here so you can see what I saw when the rifle was rested on my palm placed just forward of the triggerguard. What you see are six shots that landed in a vertical line that was almost straight. They did not land in vertical sequence, however. They landed randomly along the line. They told me that either Kodiaks were not right for this rifle or my hold was wrong. Since the width of the group was very tight, I concluded that the hold was the problem, and for the next bull I changed my hold so my hand was forward, under the cocking slot.
Once I saw how the pellets were stringing vertically, I knew I had to change my hold. So, I slid my off hand forward and shot a second group.
The second group was very revealing. It showed me that Kodiaks were indeed good pellets for this rifle. The hold just needed to be right. And within the fairly round 10-shot group is a much smaller 6-shot group that’s a little vertical but still quite round. That smaller group tells me there’s more accuracy in this rifle than I’ve seen to this point.
The stock screws were then checked, because they seemed to be loose. Upon inspection, I discovered they were. All three screws had to be tightened considerably before I resumed the test.
Next, I tried 7-grain RWS Hobby pellets. I seasoned the bore with five shots that were fired while I rezeroed the scope just a bit. Hobbys were hitting the paper two inches below the Kodiaks because of their higher velocity. However, Hobbys did not group well. I stopped shooting them after fewer than 10 shots showed they were not going to be accurate in the test rifle.
After Hobbys I tried some Crosman Premier 7.9-grain domes. Normally this is a pretty good pellet for a breakbarrel spring-piston air rifle, but not this time! The B25H didn’t like Premier lites at all, even though I seasoned the barrel before starting the group. After four shots went way over one inch, I stopped shooting.
Back to Kodiaks
Since the first group of Kodiaks had been shot with loose stock screws I decided to give them another chance. So I seasoned the bore with five more rounds and then shot the final 10-shot group. Since I didn’t re-zero the scope after the Premiers, the group went low; but it was the best group of the test by a slim margin. Ten pellets went onto a group measuring 0.882 inches between centers.
The best group of the test is this final group of Beeman Kodiaks. It measures 0.882 inches between centers. Like the other good group, there’s a much smaller five-shot group inside the main group that measures 0.41 inches.
For the record, I’d like to note that the smaller group of five shots within this final group are the first five shots fired. Had I stopped there, the group would have been a phenomenal 0.41 inches, but not representative of what I was able to do with this rifle at 25 yards. That’s why I shoot 10-shot groups.
I am surprised by the apparent accuracy of this Chinese breakbarrel. The trigger is still very vague and not up to the task, plus the scope I used probably enlarged all the groups just a little — but the rifle, itself, did pretty good.
I like the smoothness of the powerplant that rivals an RWS Diana 34 in both the shot cycle and smoothness during cocking. The bamboo stock is beautiful, and I wish other brands like Weihrauch would use it on some of their better rifles.
At the end of the day, I’ll give the B25H a gold star for holding its own in a tough test. I think anyone who owns one of these has a rifle worthy of a lifetime of shooting pleasure.
by B.B. Pelletier
Several readers indicated an interest in the Ruger Mark I pellet pistol, and we had one warning to watch the plastic frame for cracks. I’ll do that throughout all testing; but I can say that after today’s shooting, everything is still sound.
One reader commented that his pistol was the worst-dieseling airgun he had even seen. He may have said dieseling, but I think he really meant detonating, given what I see with the test gun. The test gun detonated several times at the beginning of testing, then settled down to just a diesel with every shot. But because of the type of oil or grease the factory used, there was a lot of smoke with every shot.
In this respect, the test pistol acts identical to the B-3 underlevers I tested back in the 1990s. It’s grossly over-lubricated at the factory and will continue to smoke and smell like frying bacon for a long time. As a result of this over-oiling, we have to look at the velocities with a certain skepticism.
Once again, I must report that this pistol cocks easily for its power. It’s definitely meant to be used by an adult male, but you should be able to cock and shoot it several hundred times in one session without a problem. The cocking effort with the cocking aid installed measures just 25 lbs. — BUT — you can easily get a much higher number when measuring this pistol. It’s obvious when cocking that the mainspring isn’t lubricated very much, if at all. So, as the gun is cocked the spring crunches and pops as its coils slip into the piston skirt and over the spring guide. When that happens, the scale can go up above 30 lbs. pretty fast. The secret to cocking the gun with the least pressure is to use all the mechanical advantage that’s available and to cock the gun quickly and smoothly. Don’t hesitate during the cocking stroke, or the mainspring will hang up and the effort required will increase.
A proper lubrication of the powerplant with some spacers to take up what feels like excess space around the mainspring would reduce the cocking effort to exactly 25 lbs. each time. I doubt that it will get any lighter than that, even with extensive break-in, as long as this mainspring remains in the gun.
This gun has a heavy two-stage trigger. The trigger is adjustable for the length of the first-stage pull, but the pull weight cannot be adjusted. The advertised pull weight is 5.5 lbs., and my test pistol averaged 6.7 lbs. over 10 pulls. It does feel as though the trigger is breaking in, so that weight may decrease with use.
While this is a heavy trigger, it isn’t too heavy for good shooting. You want a heavier trigger on a handgun to help control the gun. That’s accomplished when the pistol is drawn into the web of your shooting hand by the force of pulling the trigger. This one goes way beyond what’s required for stability, but not so far as to be excessive.
I started by testing the gun with Crosman Premier 7.9-grain domed pellets. The first shot went 409 f.p.s., then the next five were all above 500, with one going 596 f.p.s. Then, the gun calmed down, again, and shot this pellet at an average 456 f.p.s. This string ranged from 451 to 462 f.p.s., and the pellet produced an average 3.65 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
Next, I tried the RWS Hobby pellet. Although the gun was still smoking on every shot, this time it didn’t seem to detonate as much. It was just dieseling, which is expected, but not detonating.
Hobbys averaged 473 f.p.s. and ranged from 466 to 486 f.p.s. There were no impossible velocities in this string, so I think the gun has calmed down. At the average velocity, this pellet produces an average 3.48 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.
The last pellet I tested was the Beeman Kodiak — a heavy .177 pellet that’s out of profile for use in a pistol of this power. Even though it won’t be used, it’s good to see where the boundaries of the gun lie, and the performance of a heavy pellet is one of the things you have to look at.
Kodiaks averaged 360 f.p.s. and ranged from a low of 348 to a high of 366 f.p.s. Like the other two pellets, they’re reasonably consistent. At the average velocity, they averaged 3.05 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
Umarex advertises this pistol to shoot at two different velocities — 500 f.p.s. shooting lead pellets and 600 f.p.s. shooting high-velocity non-lead pellets. So far, the fastest we’ve seen from lead is one shot at 486 with Hobbys, so I thought that it was important to also test this gun with the high-velocity, lead-free pellets. Shooting 5.2-grain RWS HyperMAX pellets, the pistol averaged 554 f.p.s. with a spread from 542 to 574 f.p.s. That’s an average muzzle energy of 3.54 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
I wondered whether seating the pellets deep in the breech would affect the outcome, so I shot a second string with the pellets seated deep, using the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and PellSet. These pellets really popped into the breech, so the resistance their skirts provided was significant. Set deep, they averaged 567 f.p.s. with a spread from 562 to 573 f.p.s. That’s an average 3.71 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. So, the average speed increased and the spread tightened, even though the maximum velocity did not change.
I read many reviews of this air pistol — both on the Pyramyd Air website as well as other places. Some have compared it to the Beeman P1, the RWS LP8 and the Browning 800 Express. Apparently, they think this pistol is in the same power category as those three, but it isn’t.
For what it is, the Ruger Mark I is a consistent spring-piston air pistol that’s relatively easy to cock and produces reasonable power. The shot-to-shot consistency is very good. When taken as a whole, we must also consider the heavy trigger and the accuracy that hasn’t been tested, yet. It’s too soon to make any pronouncement about whether or not this is a good air pistol. It’s certainly very smoky to shoot and does need the cocking aid. But none of that will matter unless it can also group.
One final thought. One customer review I read said the shooter was grouping from five meters. I will test the pistol at 10 meters unless there’s a compelling reason not to. A pellet pistol with a rifled barrel ought to be able to shoot that far with some level of accuracy if it’s to be considered for anything.