Archive for September 2012
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
As I was doing the barrel-bending report, I was thinking about what got me to a place where I needed to know how to bend an airgun barrel. Why? Because I bought a used airgun — that’s why!
I’ve often given people the advice to buy a used airgun if their budget won’t support a good new one. Today, I’d like to expand on that thought a little.
Why buy more guns?
We shooters buy guns for the same reason some women buy clothes — to improve our lives. In the case of shooters, the belief is the next gun you get will be the one that actually shoots well. It couldn’t be you who’s inaccurate, so it must be the gun — right? Maybe you don’t think that way, but I sure do.
The funny thing is that it sometimes happens that the next gun you get really is accurate! All it takes is one time in 10 and you’re as hooked as a Pavlovian dog. Gun shows become huge opportunities for you to find the guns that can shoot.
Other side of the coin
But there’s another way to look at it. Why would anyone ever sell an accurate gun? Doesn’t it stand to reason that they’ll have tried the gun they want to sell you and found it wanting? If you think about this very much, you’ll never again buy anything used.
My way of thinking
I think of it another way. Sometimes, guns become available when the original owner has no more use for them, as in — they left the building. But that isn’t the only thing that happens. Maybe I own ten 10-meter target rifles and discover that on my best day I can only ever shoot three of them at the same time. So, I decide to thin the herd. You might think that I would keep the most accurate guns and sell the rest, but that’s not always how it works. I might be keeping what I keep for other reasons, like the condition or sentimentality. I might actually sell the most accurate guns I have and keep the ones I think are the prettiest. Or something like that.
The seller may not know what he has
I find that many times a seller really has no idea how a certain gun shoots because he hasn’t taken the time to shoot it. This happens a lot with dealers who have large inventories of airguns. You and I are envious of their racks of fine airguns, but the truth of the matter is that, to them, it’s more of a business and way less personal. I know many airgun dealers who have never tried their guns before selling them; or if they have, it was just to see if they worked. You can tell when a guy hands you a tin of inappropriate pellets to test a certain airgun that he has no interest in it whatsoever. But if he tells you which head size shoots best and how deep to seat each pellet, you can be sure he knows exactly what he’s selling.
Some sellers want you to be pleased!
This is a difficult concept for some people to embrace, but there are really people in the world who want you to be happy after doing business with them. They’ll sell you an accurate airgun and be glad that you bought it. If you buy a gun from them, it’s important to give them feedback after you shoot it because your satisfaction is what motivates them.
The previous owner may have missed something
This is the hope that springs eternal in every buyer’s breast — that the fellow who owned this gun before you missed something — something that you will find and then the sun will come out and the flowers will dance and the young girls will look at you with adoring eyes! Well, maybe not all that, but at least you’ll have found out something he didn’t know that will let you shoot your new gun better than he ever did. And it does happen. For example, the former owner may have been a cheapskate who only bought pellets on sale at Wal-Mart. You get the gun and start feeding it JSBs taken from fur-lined tins and voilá! It begins to shoot! You’ve uncovered the secret of the Incas and can turn any bargain airgun into a World Cup contender — pocketa, pocketa, pocketa.
The gun is already broken-in
Most used guns have already been though the break-in cycle. This is a double-edged sword, though, because I’ve bought some guns that were so broken-in they were broken, altogether! That can happen. It happens most often when the guns in question are hot-rods to begin with. The guns that are like old tractors (i.e., strong, relatively slow, overbuilt, etc.) will seldom be found completely inoperable. I once bought an FWB 124 Sport for $35. That’s the cheap one, and it was rusty and had worn, chipped wood finish and was generally disgusting to look at. It was the kind of airgun that requires a tetanus shot just to hold. But being a 124, it was also overbuilt, so another $35 worth of replacement parts and the gun was shooting like new again. It still looked like a throwaway, but it put pellet upon pellet downrange.
But the Super Dragon-Fire Zombie-Killer EXtreme that some guy discounts $50 because he’s owned it for three months is the gun I would avoid. The owner has already discovered his rifle takes too much effort to cock and cannot hit a target in the compass quadrant where the muzzle is pointing. That gun is the two-year-old baseball card collection, or last year’s Hummel decorative plate! It will continue to drop in value until it hits the rising tide of inflation, and from that point on will be worth ten cents on the original dollar paid.
Buy what you like
The longer I’m in airguns, the more I find that everyone has an opinion, and although many of them are mistaken, they don’t know it, for they simply refuse to see things my way. That’s good because it leaves room for me and for the good stuff. And I also find that my tastes change over time. So this year I may be hyped on 10-meter guns, but next year it’s tuned springers and the year after that I’m over on the dark side. As long as I can remain out of phase with most of you, there’s room for all of us in the boat!
Oh, and I suppose after rambling on like this I should end with something concrete. I bought the El Gamo 68 used and loved it. I bought the Crosman 160 used; and after I cleaned it up, it shot like a house afire! And just this past Saturday, I bought a Taiyo Juki Junior CO2 rifle at a gun show for a very good price. It doesn’t hold gas and some fool had stuffed two darts up the bore; but after I get it sorted out and resealed, I’ll have yet another wonderful used airgun!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today, I’ll apply what I learned about bending an airgun barrel to a real problem. As I said in several earlier posts, I have a BSF S70 breakbarrel that came to me with a peep sight installed but no open sights. BSF rifles aren’t common in the U.S., so finding a correct rear sight would take some time; but more importantly, I like the peep sight that’s on the gun. It was one that Air Rifle Headquarters sold as an optional sight, but the owner of this rifle removed the original sights and didn’t replace them when he sold the gun. So, all I have is the peep.
When I tried to sight in the rifle, I discovered that it was shooting 2-3/4-inches high at 10 meters, which would put it even higher at 25 yards. Either the front sight had to be raised (because the peep was adjusted as low as it will go), or the barrel had to be bent. Since the front sight is dovetailed into the barrel, I decided to bend the barrel. That was two years ago. Since then I’ve been researching ways to bend barrels and thinking about the equipment needed to do the job.
This report has already documented the simple fixture I constructed, and you can read how it worked in the earlier parts. Now, I’m going to bend the barrel of this pristine collectible air rifle so I can shoot it and hit what I’m aiming at.
The barrel-bending fixture is quite simple to set up. It uses a c-clamp to apply steady pressure on the barrel and a ratchet wrench turns the clamp slowly, so the bend is under complete control.
This was the final bend. This barrel is softer than the first one, but it springs back when the tension is released.
The S70 didn’t fit the fixture the same as the first rifle did. I had to make some adjustments, but there’s enough flexibility built in to allow that. As I started the bend, I noticed right away that this barrel was bending much easier than the other one had.
Remember what I said about metallurgy of the various airgun barrels? I said that you should treat each new barrel as though you were bending a barrel for the first time. That was good advice for this job, because the S70 required a lot less pressure to bend. So I went slow.
The beauty of this fixture is that you can take the rifle out and shoot it after each bend. So that’s what I did. Let me show you the first target, which explains how the work went. I shot the same JSB Exact 8.4-grain pellets as were used when the gun was first fired.
This target documents all the work that was done. It is explained in the text below. The group below the bull is the final 5 shots, 3 of which are in one hole under the number 5. The one at the lower left was fired before I was ready but didn’t bother me.
I knew the rifle was shooting high, and I had the former target that told me how high. So, I first bent the barrel a little then shot the rifle to see what had happened. The first shot after the first bend was still high, but the point of impact had dropped over a quarter-inch. That told me the S70 barrel was bending very easy.
I bent the barrel a second time and put another pellet in the same hole as the first. Then, I bent it once again (three bends so far), and the third shot was the same height but to the right of the first two. Obviously, I had to be more aggressive.
The fourth bend was more aggressive, and the shot that followed dropped into the black bullseye for the first time. Next, I bent the barrel more aggressively, again, and the shot dropped to almost the middle of the red center.
Bend six was even a little more aggressive, and the shot dropped a little more and went to the right. Bend seven was about the same as six, and that shot went into the same hole as shot six had.
Now I knew the barrel needed a lot more pressure to go as far as I wanted. So, bend eight was the most aggressive of all. It’s the one pictured in the photo above. The shot that followed was below the aim point for the first time, which was what I was after. Four more shots were in the same area, though one of them went off before I was ready and struck the target low and to the left. From this result, I knew I was done bending the barrel.
It was time to sight in the rifle with the adjustments on the Williams peep sight that was on the gun. This was the first time since that rifle first got the peep sight back in the 1970s that it’s been able to shoot to the point of aim at 10 meters!
The sight-in took a long time because the peep sight adjusts in very fine increments. But I managed to walk the pellets up the target until the final one was at the correct height. Now it was time to verify that the gun still shot well. I have the original target for comparison.
As you can see, the rifle shoots as well as before. All that’s been done is adjust the point of impact so the sights can be used at close range.
The Williams sight has a number of screws that are used to lock the sight in position, once it has been sighted in. They all have to be loose to adjust the sight; and when you tighten them at the end, they can make the POI move just a little. You have to check your work after you think the sight is locked down.
So, the fixture I made works for real-world applications, too. It doesn’t take up much space, and I’ll keep it around for any jobs that might arise in the future.
Bending an airgun barrel isn’t something to do lightly; but if you have to do it, it’s nice to know the job can be done with a minimum of tools and time. Today’s project took a total of 45 minutes, which includes bending, shooting and sighting-in the gun at the end of the job.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This is a subject that is dear to a lot of experienced shooters and a turnoff to younger shooters. Peep sights are a blessing to those who have discovered how easy they are to use, but they are avoided by shooters who aren’t familiar with them. The common misconception is that a peep sight is somehow more complex than a traditional open notch rear sight, but the truth is that the peep sight is actually simpler and faster to use than the open notch.
With an open notch sight, you have to align the rear notch with the front post. There can be several different variations of how it works, such as post and bead or squared-off front post, but the process of using them is the same for all of them. The rear element and front element must be aligned, then held against the target in a certain location (i.e., 6 o’clock hold or center hold).
With a peep sight, you don’t do that. You just look through the rear hole and align the front sight element only against the target. Your eye uses the peephole to adjust your vision by forcing your pupil to adjust for the best depth of vision. It’s an unconscious and automatic response to looking through the small peephole; and, if you allow your eye to do its job instead of fighting it, your brain will help you obtain a more precise sight picture than with open sights.
There are shooters with remarkable vision who can sight with open notch sights extremely well. But if you don’t have great vision, and by that I mean if your vision is average or worse, the peep sight should work better for you. But that’s only for those who don’t fight the rear sight and just look through it.
Today, I want to address something that I’ve seen discussed a lot on the internet, and that’s the size of the peephole. I see that many people feel the hole must be large or they cannot use it. Indeed, I’ve seen several peeps that have been drilled out by their owners. The fact is that there are good reasons for both large and small peep holes.
Large holes allow more light to pass through; and, when used, they acquire the target faster. They’re used on American military arms like the M16, the Krag, the 03-A3 Springfield, the M1 Carbine, the Garand and many others. They’re also found on slug guns used for deer in brushy forest hunting situations where speed is more important than precision.
The M1 Garand peep is about average size for a battle sight.
The 03-A3 sight adjusted for windage as well as elevation. Not all of them did. I can shoot MOA with this sight.
The M1 Carbine peep was a rough and ready sight. The rifle wasn’t that accurate, so the sight didn’t need to be precision.
The battle sight in this No. 4 Enfield is huge. When the sight standard flips up there is a hole less than half this size. It adjusts only for elevation.
Can such large holes be precise? Yes, they can. I have shown you at least one one-inch five-shot group shot with my 03-A3 Springfield at 100 yards. But the norm would be a larger group. Even the Garand would shoot about a two-inch group at 100 yards on most days. Your goal with a large peep is minute-of-bad-guy.
One secret I’ve learned about using a large peep hole with greater precision is to hold the sight away from my eye. The farther back I place my sighting eye, the more precision I get from a large hole. I didn’t invent that idea; I learned it while shooting the Buffington peep sight on my Trapdoor Springfield that was made in 1875 (the rifle, only — the sight didn’t come about until 1884). The Buffington sight puts the rear peep hole about 14 inches from the sighting eye, and the hole is not that large. You would look at it and imagine that you could never use such a sight, but the truth is that when there’s enough daylight that peep gives precision that rivals the finest tang target sights found on target single-shot rifles. The reason is because of how far the hole is from your eye.
Col. Buffington designed this rear sight that combines a peep (several, actually) and a notch. It can be used for long-range precision fire. A great many buffalo fell to this sight on this rifle.
A small peephole passes less light and forces you to hold your sighting eye closer to the hole to see the sight picture. Many sights with small holes also have some kind of flexible shade to shield the sighting eye from light that’s not coming through the peep hole, thus sharpening the sight picture noticeably.
The precision FWB peep sight has a large rubber light shade to keep the sighting eye in the dark.
Crosman mounted their version of a Mossberg S331 peep sight on the 160 target rifle. This sight, alone, is worth at least $75 today. Notice how small the hole is. That’s what’s needed for precision.
Small peepholes take longer to use but provide a more precise sight picture. Use them when fractions of an inch are important, such as when target shooting or when hunting game at longer ranges such as 400 to 600 yards.
This is Ballard’s mid-range peep sight mounted on the tang of my Ballard rifle. My eye is so close to the hole that I push the sight forward when the rifle recoils.
The secret to using a small peephole is to get as close to the hole as you can. Do this even with recoiling rifles. My Ballard, for example, is in caliber .38-55 and kicks about like a 30-30, yet I put my eye less than an inch from the peephole. I have to because it’s so small that I couldn’t use it if I was much farther back. When the rifle fires, my forehead always folds the sight forward as the recoil brings the gun back. That’s how I know I’m using the sight to its best ability. Of course, if the sight doesn’t move when you hit it, you don’t want to do this!
When my FWB 300S target air rifle comes back in recoil (the action moves in the stock to cancel the feeling of recoil) the rubber eyepiece always pushes against my eye. That’s how I know I’m sighting correctly . It works okay on that rifle, but my HW55CM comes back a little too aggressively, and I’m more cautious about holding that sight close to my eye.
Use BOTH eyes!
It is of paramount importance to keep BOTH eyes open when using a peep sight. If you close the non-sighting eye, the peephole will also close up. It’ll do so variably, depending on how much you’re squinting to close the other eye, and the result is you no longer have a round hole to look through. I told you about the man who was shooting the M1 Garand a couple weeks ago and was closing his off eye. He was getting 12-inch groups at 100 yards from a rifle that was probably capable of groups one-sixth that size.
If you want to see how this works, take a piece of card stock and poke a hole in it. Look through the hole with both eyes open (one eye looking through the hole and the other eye just open). Then, as you’re looking through the hole, close your non-sighting eye and watch what happens. The hole seems to close up! That’s what you are doing when you close your non-sighting eye while using a peep sight.
Peep sights are an advancement over open sights. They don’t work for everyone, because those with severe eye problems often have trouble using them. But the majority of people can use a peep sight and obtain better accuracy with less time spent if they don’t fight the sight. They’ve been used on all American military battle rifles since 1884; and though the move is now toward optical sights, a peep will probably remain as the backup sight for some time.
If you’ve never tried a peep sight, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. Use this report as a primer for learning how to use the sight and see if it doesn’t give you greater accuracy with less work.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
In August, my friend Mac and I were invited by Leapers to tour their plant for an article I’m writing for the November color issue of Shotgun News. We were invited by the owners, David and Tina Ding. Today I would like to give you a brief glimpse of what we saw.
As most of you regular readers know, Leapers imports all their optics from various plants in Asia — mainly from China and Taiwan. They have very strong associations with those plants, so the products are made to Leapers’ specifications, and not just bought from a generic list the way some optics are. And you also know that Leapers owns the UTG brand name that stands for Under The Gun, which is another large grouping of scopes and optics.
Until recently, Leapers also made all the CenterPoint scopes for Crosman. That association has ended, so in the future the CenterPoint scopes will look different from the Leapers scopes, and they will probably have different features.
What I was not prepared for was the size of Leapers’ manufacturing operation right there in Livonia, Michigan. In the shadow of Detroit that once ruled the world of automobiles and is now a cliché for urban decay, Leapers thrives in 104,000 square feet of bustling manufacturing, sales, design and promotion.
They begin each day at 8:30, with a managers’ meeting to review the business of the previous day and to address the current day’s schedule. Over 30 managers from all parts of the company except manufacturing (their meeting was held at 7) gather in a large conference room and conduct the most efficient business meeting Mac and I have ever witnessed! They covered their agenda with all departments reporting, plus a prototype scope being examined by every manager in less than 20 minutes.
Here’s one highlight of the meeting. The operations manager announced that two 40-foot containers were scheduled to arrive that morning, and he needed a team to unload them. When I tell you how that went I’m sure there will be some disbelief.
We got to watch the product developers go through their evaluation process with a new crossbow scope. They wanted to get at least 100 minutes of angle adjustment in each direction, so they rigged a test instrument to measure the angles. When we saw the scope, it went off the scale more than two times in all directions, which means they’re getting at least 160 minutes of angle adjustment…and probably a lot more.
The Leapers culture
I guess I should cut to the chase and tell you what’s different about Leapers. The short of it is that they’re organized. Not organized like a manufacturer — more like the crew on a nuclear submarine!
When the day’s scheduled shipment arrived I watched a trained team of people from all over the company unload cartons from two 40-foot containers in under two hours! If they keep the drivers who delivered the container longer than two hours, there’s an extra charge. So, the operations manager has trained teams how to unload containers in the most efficient way possible. Not only that, but they also pack the outbound shipments as they pull the cartons from the containers.
As the cartons came out, they were piled on pallets that were bound for the warehouse. Some went to outbound shipments that were transported directly to the outbound shipment side of the house
Toward the end of the day, we saw another outpouring of people into the warehouse to pack and ship the day’s transactions. These employees came from all over the office, including the owners, and everybody pitched in. Each team of packers had one picker, one checker who compared the packing list to the items to be shipped, using a scanner to track each item. A second person then double-checked the shipment and packed it into a box, which another person boxed, packed and sealed.
Everyone in the company gets involved in the packing and shipping of products, so they all develop a feel for the products. Even the sales team and the design engineers were getting their hands dirty! That’s how they get to know the products and can speak about them intelligently. This duty rotates through the office, and everyone gets at least one day a week on the shipping line.
The main business
As an airgunner, I think of scopes when I think of Leapers, but that’s not what they make in the U.S. They were making parts fort ARs, AKs, SKSs and other popular military rifles. The AR business is strong enough by itself; but for the imports, American law has given them a boost by requiring 10 out of 20 designated key partss on every semiautomatic gun to be made in the USA. The law is called 922R, and it stands for the obscure section of code that specifies which parts are key and what constitutes a legal imported semiautomatic rifle. Leapers makes these parts and sells them to various importers to turn their products into legal weapons. It’s a business that has tremendous potential, and it keeps Leapers expanding all the time.
Mac and I saw the entire manufacturing operation, from raw extrusions to finished products. This all took place in their spotless plant, where you could quite literally eat off the floor. They rely on huge CNC machining centers, and three new ones had just been installed…with another batch due shortly.
Off the main plant floor are rooms for quality control, a general machine shop, laser engraving and general finishing. The main floor is still very open, and they plan to fill it with more machining centers to allow the production capacity to continue to grow. As I said…if you buy an AKM in the U.S., today, there’s a good chance it’ll have parts made by Leapers to ensure that it meets the legal requirements for key U.S. parts. Two items I see in their catalog that I will definitely buy are a cover for an SKS that includes a Picatinny rail and a built-in cartridge deflector and a slip-on 2-inch stock extension buttpad to extend the pull length to conventional rifle dimensions.
This report is just a brief glimpse of all that we saw in our tour. The entire report will be in the November 20, 2012, color edition of Shotgun News.
David Ding told me at the NRA Show this year that he wants to make optics in the United States. When I asked why, he said, “For quality control. We can’t have someone halfway around the world making these products and us being on the receiving end of a very long supply chain.”
I’ve been asking for a scope that has an internal bubble level built in, and they’re very close to delivering one. A prototype was due within a few weeks, so I expect to see it at the 2013 SHOT Show. But that’s only the beginning. David and I discussed many ideas for other scopes American shooters would like to see. Just imagine if you had the ear of Redfield or Weaver, back when they were making scopes in this country! Leapers means business, and I have no doubt they’ll be grinding lenses and manufacturing their own optics within a few years.
Leapers is one of the very few companies that’s open to new ideas. They’re in tune with their customers and are always trying to better their products. We saw evidence of that everywhere, and we heard it in the ideas they shared with us. I can’t tell you everything they told us, but I can say this is one company to watch!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
It’s accuracy day for the IZH 60 Target Pro and this is the big test that everyone has been waiting for. And there are a couple of things that have to be cleared up, too. So let’s get started.
Cosmoline in the bore
Blog reader chasblock mentioned finding Cosmoline in the bore of his rifle and asked if I would take a look at the test gun’s bore. I don’t think he really meant Cosmoline, which is a range of military long-term metal storage lubricants. He probably just meant excess grease or oil. At any rate, I ran a patch through the bore, and it came out dry. There was some anti-oxidant compound on it, but no oil or grease. So, that’s one down.
Front sight element not centered
Then, we had a discussion about the front sight element not being centered in the globe and wondered if that wouldn’t that throw you off. Or at least wouldn’t it be annoying? Well, I shot 82 shots in this test and the front sight position was a non-issue for me. Once I had the black 10-meter bull centered in the front aperture, I forgot about everything else. But I’m posting a photo of a Winchester model 94 front sight so you can see that this is a very common phenomenon, and it isn’t troublesome in the slightest.
Rear sight doesn’t adjust low enough
Another issue that was raised is that the rear sight doesn’t adjust low enough to get on target at 10 meters. I didn’t find this to be a problem, as you will see. I also found the rear sight to adjust very positively in all directions without any backlash. So, that’s now laid to rest.
I was told by the folks at Pyramyd Air that the IZH 60 Target Pro can put 10 pellets into a quarter-inch at 10 meters. The gun they sent to me to test had a 5-shot group of H&N Baracudas with it. It was fired into a Shoot-N-C paster, so measuring is difficult, but as near as I can tell, it measures 0.268 inches between centers, so even these 5 shots grouped larger than a quarter-inch, though not by much. But we expect a 10-shot group to be 40 percent larger when the same pellet is used.
The rifle was shot from a rested position at 10 meters. The targets were standard 10-meter rifle targets, and they fit well inside the front aperture. It was very easy to hold on target with this rifle. I laid the stock on the back of my hand that was resting on a sandbag.
The trigger-pull is single-stage and vague as to the let-off point, but it’s light enough to work very well in this rested position. The rifle is very light, but it didn’t seem to move around as much as I’d feared it would.
The first target I shot was with the H&N Baracudas. It took me several shots to get on target because the sight adjustments work backwards of U.S. adjustments. Turn the windage knob in (to the left) to move the pellet to the right, and so on.
The first group of 10 Baracudas measures 0.546 inches between centers. It was larger than expected, but not too bad for the first group.
As you can see from the pellets I had chosen to use, I expected to shoot a lot in this test, so I thought I would speed things up by firing 5 shots and then seeing if it was worth firing 5 more. The next pellet up was the RWS Hobby that sometimes surprises us with great accuracy. This wasn’t one of those times, however, because the first 5 pellets made a group that measures 0.482 inches between centers. No sense finishing that one!
Five RWS Hobbys made this 0.482-inch group. No sense finishing it.
Next, I tried the RWS R10 Match Pistol pellet that I thought might be the most accurate in this rifle. It wasn’t, as 5 made a group measuring 0.452 inches. Once more, no sense going on. So I stopped at 5 and moved on.
Five RWS R10 Match Pistol pellets made this 0.452-inch group. No sense finishing it, either.
Then, I tried the H&N Match Pistol pellet. Something was different with this pellet, because the rifle recoiled noticeably less. It was easy to feel, and I could follow-through much better because the sights remained on target after the shot. The feeling was so good that I didn’t check the target after 5, but went all the way to 10 shots before looking. The 10-shot group measures 0.391 inches between centers and was the tightest group (10 shots!) to this point in the test! It’s not a quarter-inch, but it’s a very good group, nonetheless.
Ten H&N Pistol Match pellets made this 0.391-inch group. This pellet felt like it made the rifle recoil a lot less, so I finished the group without checking.
Next, I tried the JSB Exact RS pellet that often surprises us. This is a domed pellet, so it can’t be used in a formal match (impossible to score), but most shooters won’t care about that. Ten pellets made a group measuring 0.284 inches between centers. It’s a nice, round group, and it’s the best 10-shot group the test rifle shot all day!
Ten JSB Exact RS pellets made this 0.284-inch group. This pellet also felt like it made the rifle recoil a lot less, so once again I finished the group without checking. This is the best 10-shot group of the test.
This pellet shoots so well that I shot a second group with it. That one didn’t turn out as good, at 0.502 inches between centers. Perhaps I was tiring out?
I then turned to H&N Finale Match pistol pellets, which I thought would be better than the Match Pistol pellets. Alas, that wasn’t the case. Ten of them made a huge 0.675 inch group, which turned out to be the second largest of the entire test..
Then I tried five RWS Superdomes, but when I looked at the group they made I stopped. It measures 0.646 inches between centers, so no point in continuing.
By this point in the test, I knew how the rifle shot. I was also very accustomed to the trigger. So, I thought I’d try another group of Baracudas — just to see if I could improve things from the first time. Ten went into a group measuring 0.702 inches, which was larger than the first group.
By this point I knew I was tired. But was that the cause of the group sizes? Was I no longer able to lay them all in the same hole? To see, I grabbed my FWB 300S, which is the most accurate 10-meter rifle I own. I put 10 RWS R10 pistol pellets into a last group that measured 0.135 inches. That’s for 10 shots. So it wasn’t me!
The IZH 60 shot about as well as I remembered. It certainly cannot group 10 shots in a quarter-inch at 10 meters in anything other than a chance encounter. So, there’s a hat to be eaten!
On the other hand, for what it costs, the rifle is reasonably accurate and the target sights make it even easier to shoot well. I don’t think it can out-shoot a Bronco, but it’s certainly worth considering for informal target shooting.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
In almost every field of mature consumer technology, there’s a sense that the science and achievement have gone as far as they possibly can. The days of innovation are over and, from this time forth, all new models will be repaints and reskins of what’s gone before. So it is with airguns.
So the question must be asked, “Is this all there is for airguns?”
Today, I’m going to try to hopefully restore your faith that airgun technology still has new frontiers to be explored. There are still new things yet to come; we haven’t opened the last of our presents, yet. In fact, in my opinion, there’s more that lies ahead of us than all that’s happened so far.
I periodically give new ideas to several companies just to gauge how quick they are to grasp the possibilities. Often, they give lip-service to ideas that sound like they want to advance the technology; but in over 95 percent of the cases, my ideas remain unexplored. In the few cases that do get developed, over half veer sharply off-course during development and end up as hopeless failures. In terms of what’s possible, I think there are a thousand acres of fertile land lying before us and, at present, we only have a hoe — or at best a rototiller — to work the soil.
Some folks may think we’ve gone as far as we can go with springers because we’ve hit the maximum velocity barrier. They think that nothing is left for airgun companies, short of reskinning existing models and coming up with new buzzword names and bizzare camo paint patterns for the stocks! But they’re missing the boat. No one yet has built a spring rifle that is easy to cock, yet produces over 20 foot-pounds. I’m talking about a rifle that cocks with 20 lbs. of force, and delivers a medium-weight .22-caliber pellet out the spout at 850 f.p.s.
Can it be done? Of course! I’ve even given the concept of how to do it to one company, where it’s currently lying on the floor, getting trampled by engineers who are busy designing great new ways to encapsulate 30 foot-pounds into ever less-expensive envelopes.
How about a spring gun that can put 10 pellets into a dime at 30 yards? We know that’s possible because there are several such rifles already in existence. The FWB 124 is one, and the TX200 is another. But the bulk of the new models coming out today are hard-pressed to keep 10 shots inside an inch-and-a-half at that distance. We’ve explored the very way to make a rifle shoot that well here in this blog, yet we keep getting new spring guns that are designed as exercise machines, rather than for shooting. If you want to know how to make a spring gun more accurate, refer to this blog report.
Surely, we’ve seen the ultimate in PCP possibilities? The answer is “Yes,” if by ultimate we mean finding out how much the market is willing to bear in terms of cost. But there are places the PCP technology has yet to go. How inexpensive can a gun of reasonable quality be? Can we make a PCP that can sell for $150 and still return a reasonable profit? I think it’s possible. Maybe not under the existing manufacturing paradigm; but if a new process of building was created at the same time as the design, then, yes, I think it could be done.
But, the marketeers all shrink from such thoughts. Where’s the profit in a low-cost air rifle? A century ago, a man asked the same thing about automobiles. He took the average price for an entry-level car from over $800 to under $400 inside of 15 years. In the process, he created the world’s first vertically integrated manufacturing plant and also put humanity on wheels. I’m speaking of Ford, of course. I understand he was able to make a few dollars along the way.
Leapers will bring out a scope with an internal bubble level in a few months. That’s an idea that’s been bubbling along for years, pun intended. Such scopes were hand-made in the 1990s and Sun Optics makes them today, but their models don’t achieve their rated magnifying levels. Leapers has worked on this idea for several years, and they’re close to bringing a quality optic to market. The bubble level will end the problem of canting, which is extremely important to accuracy for airgunners.
Are we finished with optics? Never! There are still so many things to be done. Where is that great air pistol scope, for example? And where’s that scope base that makes mounting a scope easy? Benjamin uses Weaver bases on many of their springers, which is a step in the right direction. We need more of that.
When Leapers made the drooper mount bases for Diana rifles, they solved a decades-long problem for airgunners. However, they did even more than that. They focused Diana’s attention on the problem and the need to end the drooping barrel problem. If airgun barrels didn’t droop, drooper mounts wouldn’t be required. The Diana 350 Magnum proves that it’s possible to make breakbarrels that don’t droop.
What about a simple, foolproof scope-mounting system? Where’s that? When the market supports people paying money to have their scopes mounted by someone else, you know there’s room for improvement.
There’s plenty of room in the world of open sights for improvement. For starters, how about a muzzlebrake that incorporates a front sight post, or even a selection of front sight elements that can be folded out of sight and stored when you want to mount a scope? Wouldn’t that be welcomed by a lot of shooters?
While the technology has advanced in so many areas, the one place it has actually gone in retrograde is the trigger. There were better triggers in the 1880s than exist today. We still rely on the simple sear with a small contact area, when there’s a universe of mechanical possibilities yet to be explored. An over-center geometry that collapses when pushed past center is just one way to build a reliable adjustable trigger. And people make so much of triggers that I’m certain there would be a small but profitable market for a single-set or double-set trigger as an upgrade on certain premium airguns.
Chiappa figured out that if the barrel of their Rhino revolver was lower, the perceived muzzle jump would be less. We need air pistols that do the same.
Hunting is growing fast these days, and everyone who goes afield knows the value of a sling. There’s certainly a market for a easy-to-use sling swivel attachment that could be conveniently installed on an air rifle. Mossberg had them in the 1940s, but nobody ever looks to the past to find the things we need now.
Things to avoid
While thinking of the things we need, there are some things that must be avoided….
More power in spring guns
The horsepower race among smallbore spring-piston airguns has painted several companies into the corner. They can’t find enough adjectives to describe their next new magnum gun. What they fail to realize is that the parade has already passed by the power race. The max velocity possible is well-known and now shooters are looking for a gun with adequate power that can also hit what they shoot at. I’ll agree that the uneducated buyers don’t understand this yet, but the moment they get saddled with a jackhammer that takes 50 lbs. to cock and removes their fillings when it fires…they will. They’ll also leave airgunning, never to return!
Higher fill pressure
The usefulness of higher fill pressures has peaked and gone past the optimum, into the weeds of excessive pressure that offers no benefit. We thought that 3,000 psi was necessary until Tim McMurray and Crosman showed us different with the USFT and Benjamin Discovery rifles, respectively. Going higher than 3,000 psi is the marketing kiss of death, because nothing in this nation supports such pressure.
Scopes of higher magnification
I used to shoot field target, and we thought the higher-powered scopes were necessary for success. We thought that because we wanted to be able to see blades of grass at 55 yards, so we could focus on them and be able to determine range. When the magnification passed 40x, the scopes started getting darker because the optics inside couldn’t support that great power. And we were unwilling to pay the $2,000 required to buy the kind of optics that could. Instead of chasing magnification or objective lens size, what the optics companies need to do is come up with an erector tube that doesn’t float when it gets too high or right in its adjustment.
These are just a few of my thoughts. I think there has never been greater opportunity for new airguns than right now. There’s an established base of educated shooters who understand airguns well enough to accept a good new gun and make it profitable for the builder. In that respect, we’re much better off than we were a decade ago. But are the airgun makers in the same position? Only time will tell.