by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This is the first accuracy report for the .177-caliber Gamo Whisper Fusion IGT air rifle. I shot this test using the open sights at 10 meters from a rest. I did that because I usually don’t have much luck with powerful gas-spring air rifles. They tend to spray their pellets all over the place. And getting a scope mounted and stable can also be a problem, so I wanted a track record for the rifle before I got to any of that.
Smooth Action Trigger
I usually wait until the accuracy test to report on how well the trigger, which in this instance is the Smooth Action Trigger (SAT), performs. The pull weight, measured in part 2, releases at 3 lbs., 12 oz. It’s a 2-stage trigger with a second stage that needs some explanation. Instead of pausing at stage 2 and then breaking cleanly, the trigger on the test rifle — and I must assume on all SAT — pulls through stage 2. You can feel the trigger move, yet there’s no creep. The pull is — well — smooth! And it’s predictable. It’s a different sort of feel from other triggers but not different in a bad way. I don’t think anyone will need to buy an aftermarket trigger when they have a rifle with the SAT installed. Well done, Gamo!
I also thank Gamo for making the safety manual. It does not come on when the rifle is cocked. That makes the shooting progress that much faster and with less for the shooter to do. It’s a small thing, but one that I noticed and must comment on it.
Feel of the rifle
This is a very light air rifle, yet the stock is shaped so your off hand goes to a spot immediately in front of the triggerguard. The rifle is so light that this still gives it a neutral balance, but it hangs right in the hands and feels good on the shoulder. The more-vertical pistol grip has something to do with the good feel, as well.
I did find the stock stinging my cheek with each shot, however. It served as a reminder to hold the rifle even lighter than I was, which is a good thing. Once I did that, there was no more stinging.
I sighted-in the rifle with JSB Exact RS pellets and discovered that the front sight was too high for a 6 o’clock hold on the 10-meter pistol bullseye target I was using. So, I did something I’ve never before tried. I’ll illustrate the sight picture I used.
As you can see, I placed the front bead at the top inside of the bullseye. The bull was so well lit that the bead showed up as black on gray. Maybe this isn’t the best open sight picture, but it seemed to work well enough for this test.
JSB Exact RS
The first pellet I tried was the JSB Exact RS dome. We know it’s often a good pellet — especially in lower-powered air rifles, which the Fusion IGT certainly is not. In this gun, the RS develops 14.32 foot-pounds, which puts it into the medium power group. If you’re a hunter, that’s where you want to be, so long as the rifle is also accurate.
The RS pellet put 10 shots into a nice round group that measured 0.591 inches between centers. While that isn’t a spectacular 10-meter group, it’s good when you consider the novel sight picture I was using. I’ll keep the RS in mind when I back up to 25 yards and mount a scope.
The next pellet I tried was the RWS Superdome. This pellet generates 15.43 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Ten shots made a group measuring 1.332 inches. But it’s the shape of the group that’s really interesting! Five of the pellets landed in a very vertical group, while the other 5 made a beautiful small round group of their own. This target demonstrates why 10-shot groups are better than 5-shot groups because many shooters would just accept those 5 close shots and be done with it. I don’t think the Superdomes are right for this rifle based on all 10 shots.
H&N Baracuda Match
Many shooters think that heavy pellets are bad for spring guns. They’re supposed to damage the coiled steel mainspring. I wonder what they do to a gas spring like this IGT? That’s my way of saying I don’t think pellet weight is that much of a problem in a springer. Baracuda Match pellets average 824 f.p.s., for 16.06 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Impressive power. If they’re also accurate, this will be a good pellet for the rifle.
And, accurate they are! Ten H&N Baracuda Match pellets went into 0.625 inches at 10 meters. That’s a pretty impressive group, considering the strange sight picture I’m using. It’s only slightly larger than the JSB Exact RS group, and I think these pellets have earned a spot in the 25-yard test, as well. I have no idea of why they’re spread out horizontally. When I checked the stock screws, all were tight.
Gamo Raptor PBA
The last pellet I tested was the Gamo Raptor PBA that Gamo uses to get the velocity out of this powerplant. Raptors go an average 1,232 f.p.s. and produce 18.2 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. That’s the best performance I saw from this rifle…alas, they aren’t accurate. Ten made a groups measuring 1.118 inches at 10 meters.
PBA pellets also cracked like .22 long rifle rounds because they broke the sound barrier. The noise, alone, would keep me from shooting them.
Evaluation so far
This rifle has plenty of good in its favor. The hold is good, the cocking is light for the power and the trigger is very nice. I’ll withhold my final opinion until I see how it does at 25 yards; but if this was any indication, this could be a best buy.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
I recently said that, with all the new readers of this blog coming from the firearms world, I need to concentrate on the fundamentals. Today will be such a report.
I was at the range on Tuesday and watched a familiar problem play out. Only this time it happened to a firearm owner rather than an airgunner, and I believe that is why it was such a problem. Airgunners are conditioned early that their scopes don’t look where the barrel of the gun points. Not so for firearms shooters. They seem to take it for granted that the barrel is in alignment with the axis of the scope — which is almost never is.
This shooter was experiencing problems getting her .243 Thompson Center Encore sighted in. I was three benches away and here is what I saw. She kept adjusting the scope up and up, and it didn’t want to go as high as she needed it to. She finally got on target, but she was getting 5-shot groups with three close together and two about 4 inches away at 100 yards. This was a rifle that was known to be accurate, and she had already shot a Ruger .204 Encore several times this same day, getting inch-sized groups. So, I knew she could shoot.
I could diagnose this problem in my sleep because I’ve seen it hundreds of times. But do you know what was happening?
The scope was adjusted too high, and the erector tube spring was relaxed, so the erector tube that holds the crosshairs was bouncing around with every shot. Sometimes, it would stay put, and other times it moved. The result was a shifting point of impact.
I saw that her scope was a cheap one. It had two things going against it. First, it had the kind of adjustment knobs that provide no feedback about where you are in the adjustment range. When you adjust the reticle all the way up, you can’t see that you have. Second, because the scope was a cheap one, its erector tube spring was also cheap. That means the useful range of adjustment before the spring relaxes and allows the erector tube to move is quite limited. In short, these scopes get into trouble a lot sooner than scopes that are better made.
A scope adjustment like this gives you no feedback on where the elevation is set. It’s easy to adjust up out of the range where the erector spring holds.
This adjustment knob tells you at a glance (by the vertical index marks) how much elevation is applied. This is a so-called target knob, but there are many scopes whose adjustment knobs have covers and work the same way.
How to check for this problem
My shooting buddy, Otho, was mentoring this lady, and he called me that evening to ask what was happening with her gun. I told him about rifle bores never aligning with receivers or scope bases, and he understood right away because he’s drilled and tapped dozens of vintage rifles to mount scope bases. He knows very well that a rifle bore will seldom line up with the top of the receiver or with the scope mounts.
I walked him through the problem with the scope that I mentioned above. It turned out that the lady’s husband had switched scopes on that rifle and, of course, nobody knew where the current scope was in its range of adjustment. If it had been on a drooper firearm before, it might already have been adjusted high in the elevation range; and what she had to do to get the Encore on target on this day might have pushed the vertical adjustment into oblivion.
I have to stop for a moment and answer a question that is bubbling up in someone’s mind. If the scope can’t be adjusted beyond a certain point without causing problems, why don’t the manufactures limit the adjustment range? Why, indeed?
Why do you suppose automobile speedometers go up to 120 MPH when the cars they are in will only hit 98 on a perfect day going downhill? Because it’s easier that way. They sell more cars that way. Because the companies who manufacture speedometers only make them certain ways, and the car companies have to buy what’s available. Etc.
Oh, don’t you dare tell me speedometers are all digital these days! I know that. I’m making a point, and you know very well what I’m saying.
There is an easy way to check this — to see if I’m right, or if something else has happened. All you have to do is dial the scope’s elevation back down 40-60 clicks and shoot again. Put the aim point on a large piece of target paper with lots of room below it and see where the shots land.
While you’re at it, run the windage adjustment to the left 40-60 clicks, too, because adjusting too far to the right is the same as adjusting too high; and on many scopes, there’s only a single erector tube spring set on a 45-degree angle to both adjustment knobs. If you get a tight group with these shots (regardless of the fact that it’s low and to the left), you know that the erector tube was floating before. The solution is easy.
This shows how an internal erector tube is adjusted. Even though this is an externally adjusted scope, it works the same. The spring is at the 5 o’clock position inside a blued steel button. As either adjustment knob is turned, the spring inside the button compensates, keeping tension on the scope tube at all times.
Fixing the problem
It’s perfectly okay to own and use cheap scopes. I have several of them that work fine. As long as you keep the adjustments in the range where the erector tube spring can do its job, these scopes work fine. When there’s a sight-in problem, raise the rear of the scope enough that the vertical adjustments are closer to their center (from stop-to-stop according to their clicks — not optically centered), so there’s tension on the internal spring.
If you have a gun that shoots to the left, you may also need to adjust the rear of the scope to the right for the same reason. Adjustable scope mounts are the easiest way to do this; though, for small corrections on elevation, shimming under the rear scope ring will also work.
Why do guns always shoot low and to the left?
I don’t know. Why does the doorbell always ring when you’re about to get in the shower? But before some mathematician starts wondering why barrels don’t shoot high and low equally often, let me just say that they don’t. They tend to shoot low far more than random chance would allow. And they also tend to shoot to the left more than they do to the right, although left (and right) is far more unusual than down (or up).
The point of this report is not to convince you to buy expensive scopes. I can’t afford to do that, and you don’t need to, either. What you need to do is understand this problem, which is by far the most common scope problem for both airguns and firearms, alike.
Once you understand it, you won’t condemn every scope, crying, “Scope shift!” when the problem is really one that can be easily solved. And maybe you’ll pay more attention to the adjustment knobs on those bargain scopes in the future and look for ones that give you feedback on where the adjustments are.
One last thought. Scopes that are less expensive will generally have less useful adjustment range in either direction. So keep a close eye on them. As long as the return spring is kept under tension, there’s no reason these scopes shouldn’t work very well.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Update on some reports
Before I begin, here’s an update on a couple reports that you’re waiting for. I went to the outdoor range yesterday to shoot both the Walther LGV Olympia and the new New AirForce Condor SS at 50 yards. When I got there, the breeze was too much for the LGV, but I did try to shoot several groups with the Condor SS. I shot three 10-shot groups, waiting out the winds for every shot; but in the end, there was just too much wind to make the test a fair one.
One good thing did happen, however. I shot a certain .22-caliber heavyweight pellet that I haven’t tested before; and despite the wind, I got fairly good results. I’m going to save the pellet’s name for when I actually do the report, and I’ll also show you the group that I got.
I’m also working on the summary report of the rifling twist-rate test. I have all the data, but it’s taking me some time to make sense of it for you. So, that’s coming, and after that all 3 barrels will get tested at 50 yards, as well.
That’s it for now. Let’s look at today’s report on the Hatsan AT P1 PCP air pistol. I got a .22-caliber gun, and they come in .177 and .25, as well. We know that Hatsan knows how to make good precharged pneumatic airguns, so I’m expecting a lot from this one. I’m testing serial number 011320161.
I will let Edith tell you her first impression of the pistol. To use her words, “Oh, my gosh!” That’s her way of noting that this air pistol is a little large. It’s a little large just like an International Freightliner tractor that’s been turned into a custom pickup truck is a little large when you see it taking up 4 parking spaces at the grocery store!
It’s large, but it is a pistol — not a carbine. If you want a carbine, Hatsan has built one for you. They call it the Hatsan AT P2 PCP air pistol and shoulder stock. The P1 we’re looking at is just a pistol — even if it does weigh 4.5 lbs., or roughly the same as a Colt Walker revolver. When you examine this gun, you can see that it seems to be a PCP rifle that’s been cut down to fit into a pistol stock.
Hatsan rates this pistol at 780 f.p.s. in .22 caliber, so most of you will know without asking that it’s going to be loud. Can’t have a PCP with a barrel this short and a pellet this fast and be otherwise unless there’s a silencer…and this gun doesn’t have one. They also say that there are 35 shots per fill. We’ll test that, of course.
The pistol action sits in a synthetic pistol grip stock. The grip is for right-handed shooters, only, but it isn’t shaped well for my hand. It hits the heel of my shooting hand, pushing the pistol’s muzzle up. There’s also an adjustable palm shelf like target pistols, only this one is very difficult to adjust; and when it becomes as small as it will get, it’s still way too large for my hand. So, I have to rate the ergonomics down a bit.
The metal parts are finished to a matte sheen. The bluing is even over the whole gun. There’s a mix of steel and aluminum parts, all finished matte black; and with the black synthetic stock, the pistol has a very “black gun” look.
The quick-disconnect fill probe is a proprietary size that, fortunately, seems to have male 1/8-inch BSPP threads on the side that connects to the air hose of your tank or hand pump. To charge the gun, the fill probe is inserted in the reservoir fill hole and air is transferred. Fill to 200 bar (2,900 psi). An onboard pressure gauge tells you the state of the air pressure in the reservoir.
The gun is cocked by a sidelever on the left side of the receiver. Cocking also advances the 10-shot circular clip to the next pellet. The circular clip is held in the gun by a brass pin that’s slid forward on the right side of the receiver to remove the clip. The sidelever must be pulled all the way back to get the clip out, for it attaches to a bolt probe that passes through the clip to seat each new pellet in the barrel. This probe has to be retracted or the clip cannot be removed from the gun. A second clip comes inside the plastic gun case that holds the pistol
The 10.4-inch barrel is entirely free-floated, being attached at the breech, alone. The muzzle is threaded and covered by a removable cap.
The sights are fully adjustable for elevation, both in front and at the rear. The rear sight adjusts for windage, too. Both front and rear sight have fiberoptic tubes, and the front sight is not cut square, so precision sighting will be impossible. The gun does have a clever scope base that accepts scope mounts for Weaver or 11mm dovetails. Given the power of the gun, most owners will elect to scope it, I’m sure.
At first glance, there’s a lot to see on this Hatsan pistol. I don’t like all the features, but I haven’t shot the gun, yet. If it shoots well, a lot can be overlooked.
The one thing it has going for it is the price. At $450, it’s one of the least expensive precharged pistols on the market. It’s just $20 more than the TalonP. And the Hatsan is a repeater.
Further testing will determine if the Hatsan AT P1 pistol is a force to be reckoned with.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today is accuracy day with the Gamo P-25 air pistol. I inserted a fresh CO2 cartridge into the gun, loaded both of its 8-shot rotary clips and then slid the magazine into the grip.
I shot the pistol at 10 meters, which seems appropriate for a gun of this type. I shot it rested with a two-hand hold and my arms resting on the sandbag but the pistol free to move.
The pistol has open sights that are not adjustable. They have white dots, both front and rear, but that was cancelled by lighting the target brightly and shooting from a dimly lit place. I used a 6 o’clock hold, and the sights were very sharp and easy to align.
Because each rotary clip holds 8 pellets, I shot 8-shot groups instead of the usual 10. I don’t think it makes a big difference; and when you see the targets, I think you’ll agree.
The P-25 has blowback, so every shot except the first is single-action. I therefore cocked the hammer for that first shot, so all shots were single-action. It’s the most accurate way to shoot any handgun.
RWS Hobby pellets
The first pellets I shot were RWS Hobbys. Because they’re wadcutters, they left good holes in the target paper that were visible from the firing line. The pistol shot Hobbys to the left, as you can see, but the elevation was pretty good. The pistol’s sights are not adjustable, so to move the shots means you have to either aim off or use some Kentucky windage.
The group isn’t very impressive — 8 shots in 2.169 inches at 10 meters. Perhaps one of the other pellets will do better.
Gamo Match pellets
The next 8 pellets I shot were Gamo Match wadcutters. These pellets will sometimes be very accurate in a particular gun, but the P-25 I’m testing isn’t one of them. Eight shots went into 2.894 inches, though 7 of them are in 1.846 inches. Still, neither group size is especially good. They did go to approximately the same point of impact as the RWS Hobbys, however.
Crosman Premier lites
Next, it was time to try some 7.9-grain Crosman Premier lites. These domed pellets are sometimes the very best in certain airguns. And this was one of those times. Eight of them went into 1.624 inches, though they also went way over to the left.
Gamo Raptor PBA
The last pellet I tried was the lead-free Gamo Raptor PBA. We know from the velocity test that these pellets go the fastest in the P-25, but now we’ll see how accurate they are.
And the answer is — not very. Eight PBA pellets made a shotgun-like pattern that measures 4.036 inches between centers. Interestingly, they did tend to group in the center of the target — the only pellet of the 4 tested to do so.
This was one time I found myself hoping for greater accuracy from the test gun because it was so much fun to shoot. The blowback action is quick, crisp and comes as close to the recoil of a .22 rimfire pistol as I think I’ve experienced in an air pistol. Although the trigger is long and full of stops and starts, it’s also light and can become predictable after you learn its quirks.
The lack of adjustable sights means you have to find a pellet that shoots to center and is also accurate. Good luck with that. If Premier lites had shot to the center, they would have made this test end on a higher note. Because it shoots lead pellets from a rifled barrel, I’d hoped for better accuracy than this. Had I seen it, I would have rated this Gamo P-25 a best buy.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Sometimes, you find something works, and you stick with it. Apparently, the title of this report is one such thing. I seem to keep coming up with this title, yet my reports don’t seem to be related. Oh, well, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.
Today’s report is going to sound like a Friday blog, but that isn’t intentional. I just have a couple random things to say, and it’s going to come out that way.
I’ll start with the real reason for today’s report — new airgunners. Five years ago, we also got new airgunners; but back then they came from everywhere — not from one particular place. Some were people wanting to learn the basics of shooting, others were firearm shooters who wanted to try airguns for a change and others were people who had shot airguns in their youth and wanted to see where things had progressed since then.
Today, it’s different. The bulk of our new airgunners are now coming from the firearms side of the shooting sports. They’ve been shooting firearms for a while (some longer than others, obviously), but they admit they’re new to airguns and want to learn. Oh, they were always aware that airguns were out there, but they didn’t give them much thought. That changed when the ammo supplies dried up here in the U.S. These people like to shoot, and they see airguns as a way of doing that without hindrance.
I know this from the comments we’re getting on the blog, plus the number of new readers who are commenting for the first time. I noticed that whenever I write a report about something fundamental, there’s lots of discussion. Five years ago, I got more criticism that I wasn’t reviewing airguns as much as readers expected; but today, I’m getting real questions about the fundamentals of shooting. I think that’s great because we can all stand to learn more about our sport — me included. Just because I write this stuff doesn’t mean I necessarily know any more about it than anybody else. I’m just the guide on this trip — not the destination.
So, I visited a local large sporting goods chain store last Saturday. It’s Academy Sports, for those who know it. And I noticed that their shelves were packed with all kinds of shotgun ammunition, plus a healthy variety of rifle ammo (considering recent times). Looking at things like this is something I do a lot these days to find out where we are in terms of the availability of ammunition.
Then, my eyes fell on several plastic-looking bows. Now, I know next to nothing about bows. I’ve owned them and shot them, but I was never what you would call an archer. So, I’m looking at these plastic bows and let me tell you what I saw. They looked cool! Two were compound bows with pulleys, and one of them was priced at around $45, while the other was a whopping $95! I may not be an archer, but I know that a compound bow should cost several hundred dollars. Yet here were two of them for under a hundred each, and they looked good.
That was when it hit me — for me this experience was just like a firearm shooter looking at a super-powerful breakbarrel spring-piston air rifle from China! I know why those kinds of airguns are not special — I’ve had hundreds of experiences with them and could write a book of warnings about what you get for $129 from a discount sporting goods store. But the firearm shooter who considers them seriously for the first time doesn’t know what he’s looking at. He needs help — just like I needed help with the bows.
These two black plastic bows (each was stapled to a colorful cardboard backer, if that gives you any sense of their quality) looked very cool. So — that is what it must feel like to be a new airgunner and wonder why a Walther LGV Challenger costs so much more than a Winchester 1028 air rifle combo, when, according to the description, it doesn’t shoot nearly as fast, nor does it come with a scope!
I wanted to ask someone right then and there what the differences were between these cheap compound bows and a good one, but I knew that no salesperson in the store could answer that for me. And any customer who might try to help might be as confused as I was — but perhaps 6 months farther along the trail of tears — learning about bows the hard way.
So, I will continue to write about the fundamentals of both airguns and of shooting, along with the detailed tests of airguns…because I know there are many people who need to hear this stuff — and some who should know better also need to hear it again.
A related thought
I’ve been thinking of visiting a new archery store that opened several months ago — just to see what’s new. More specifically, I want to know about new crossbows. I haven’t been in this store yet, but conversations from several archers have led me to believe that perhaps they do not even carry crossbows! Know why? Because people who shoot longbows think very poorly of crossbows.
Is it possible that a retail store — one that has been established for the purpose of succeeding and making its owner money — would not carry a product that most people believe to be in the same realm? After all — both longbow and crossbow have the word “bow” in their names.
Yes, it’s very possible. There may be such an animosity between longbow archers and those who shoot crossbows that the store owner might think he would drive away longbow customers from his store if he carried products from “the dark side.”
I used that term, the dark side, on purpose because that’s the term airgunners use to describe precharged pneumatics (PCP). Although they’re the oldest branch of airguns, those who shoot spring guns feel somehow that PCPs are the newcomers. And they are, if you only look at the modern ones that started in the UK in 1980. But PCPs date all the way back to the mid-1500s, while spring-piston airguns date from around the middle of the 19th century. Precharged pneumatics are, in fact, 300 years older than spring-piston guns, no matter how you feel about them.
My point is not to debate the history of the two powerplants. Rather, it is to point out that a schism exists right in the heart of the shooting sports. More specifically, within the heart of airguns that are only a pimple on the skin of the shooting sports. Arguing about the legitimacy of PCPs versus springers is like two fleas arguing whose dog it is. And, given the current political climate we are suffering in the United States, the dog has just been sprayed for fleas!
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
My Marlin Ballard was made in 1886 and still looks almost new.
Today is for blog readers Kevin, Robert of Arcade and for all airgunners who love more than just airguns. You love the shooting sports, and everything that goes with them.
This is an airgun blog and believe me, today’s report actually does relate to them. This is the ongoing report of a Marlin Ballard rifle I acquired right after I got out of the hospital in 2010. As you can see in the photo above, the rifle is beautiful; but more than that, it touches the lives of all my friends — my late friend Mac, my shooting buddy Otho and Kevin, who often comments on this blog! In fact, Kevin is the one regular blog reader who has actually seen this rifle in person.
Kevin was so taken with this rifle when I originally reported on it that he sent me a gift of the book Ballard — The Great American Single Shot Rifle by John T. Dutcher. But he went way beyond just sending the book. He went to Mr. Dutcher personally with prints of the photos I showed in the first report and spent two hours with the author, examining the rifle through the photos. I was asked to take the rifle apart and photograph all the serial numbers plus various details inside the gun, which I did. From what he sees, Dutcher thinks this is a special-order, factory-made rifle, which is a specific category of Ballard made for high-volume retailers like John Lower of Denver.
I started shooting the rifle almost immediately after getting it, though I’ve always been very careful not to load it too heavy. As well-made as the Ballard action is, the metallurgy is not up to modern standards. So, it gets only reduced loads that develop low pressure and only lead bullets alloyed with a small amount of tin. The way I’m loading the gun, it should hold up for 100,000 rounds or more, only a few of which will be fired by me.
I wrote a couple reports on my early progress, which are in the links listed above. But I stalled out and stopped reporting on the rifle several years ago. Today, I will bring you up to speed with what’s been happening; and, no, I haven’t had a breakthrough in accuracy — yet.
I continued shooting the Ballard with commercial cast bullets, then I purchased a Lee mold and cast some bullets of my own. My bullets did as good as the commercial ones, even though they’re not perfectly round. It’s not uncommon for cast bullets to be out of round by a thousandth of an inch or sometimes more, but it would be better if they weren’t.
Lee bullet molds are inexpensive, but they do make fine bullets.
One thing I tried with the Ballard was loading it like a schuetzen rifle. Schützens are extremely accurate target rifles that held most of the world’s records for groups out to 200 meters until recently. They’re single-shot rifles whose cartridges are loaded one at a time at the range. A schützen shooter sets up his reloading equipment right on the rifle range. His powder measure is set to throw a single charge of powder. If he wants to shoot more than one rifle, he has a powder dropper for each of them, and only a single powder charge is used.
The bullets he has cast and kept in order as they fell from the mold. He doesn’t worry about weighing the bullets because he uses a mold that is so perfect it never varies by more that one-tenth of a grain in weight, as long as he keeps the lead alloy the same. But to guard against any variation, he shoots the bullets as they dropped from the mold…so the alloy will not be that different. And you thought airgunners were anal! Schützen shooters make benchrest shooters look like weasles on caffeine.
They use a single cartridge case that gets fired and reloaded hundreds of times. They file a notch into the edge of the rim of the case, and that cartridge is always loaded into the chamber with the notch pointing straight up so there’s never any variation. The case is never resized because it doesn’t hold the bullet. It’s just filled with powder and a wad and then loaded without a bullet. Because the brass isn’t worked and is always fired in the same chamber, it lasts a very long time!
This simple tool is all you need to load cartridges at the range: A Pope capper-decapper.
The bullet gets loaded into the bore and positioned 1/16 of an inch ahead of the cartridge case, which is loaded after the bullet. A special mechanical bullet seater is used to do this because it’s difficult to push a solid lead bullet into rifling. Airgunners know this because loading solid pellets into a barrel is a nightmare! Only AirForce Airguns designed their barrels to accept solid pellets, and even then, they’re still hard to load.
This is a simple bullet seater. The bullet fits into the mock cartridge on the end of the seater. The seater is then pushed into the breech, and the bullet is pressed directly into the rifling. Higher grade seaters are mechanical with good leverage.
I tried loading my Ballard the schützen way, and I can report the following. Doing it this way, where you reload the cartridge after each shot, slows down your shooting to one shot every five minutes, or so. I suppose you could do it faster, but that’s one of the real benefits of doing it this way. You don’t have to be fast. I can shoot a 10-shot group in the same time another shooter arrives at the range, sets up, goes downrange to put up his targets, shoots several boxes of commercial ammo, retrieves his targets, knocks down, packs up and leaves. It takes us both about an hour; but at the end of it, my heart is beating 55 times a minute and I feel like I’ve been sitting on the veranda drinking a mint julep!
Schützen shooting is relaxing! I enjoy it very much, so I figuratively bit the bullet and bought a top-quality handmade bullet mold from Hoch so I could seat the bullets properly and do it right. That mold was not cheap, and it took about 6 months to be made to my specifications.
A breech-seated bullet has two different sizes to its body. The forward part is sized to ride on top of the rifling lands, and the rear part is exactly as wide as the grooves. When I measured my rifle, I found the lands measured 0.376 inches across (one side of the bore to the other) and the grooves were 0.384 inches across. Those two measurements were what I gave to the mold maker, along with the lead alloy I intended using (40 parts lead to 1 part tin). The mold he sent to me throws a bullet that measures exactly those dimensions, plus it’s uniformly round. Those of you who worry about pellet head sizes know what I’m talking about!
This custom bullet mold from Hoch is a nose-pour design, like Harry Pope used to make. This breech-seated bullet has two base bands that are 0.384″ wide and three nose bands that are 0.376″ wide. The nose bands are supposed to ride on top of the rifling — not be engraved. That makes the bullet easy to seat into the rifling.
But when I went to the range to try my new bullet — IT DIDN’T FIT! The nose was too fat and was being engraved by the rifling, which prevented me from seating the bullet in the barrel with anything short of a hammer. Obviously, I wasn’t going to do that! I pouted instead. I lost interest in the rifle for several months. But I always come back, and this time I remembered what the black powder shooters say: Black powder is better than smokeless when accuracy is on the line.
The bullet from my Lee mold is a little too small for the barrel, but black powder upsets the base. So, I reckoned that might work. I loaded some cartridges with black powder and the Lee bullet and went back to the range. With black powder, I had to clean the bore after every shot, but working with the Nelson Lewis combination gun trained me to do that, so it wasn’t a problem. Alas, these cartridges were no more accurate than the smokeless rounds I’d been shooting. I probably didn’t spend enough time perfecting my loading technique and was getting frustrated. And a frustrated B.B. doesn’t make good decisions.
Over the past 2 years, I’ve shot many targets like these with the Ballard. All have groups around 3 inches at 100 yards.
Over two years have passed since I acquired the rifle, and I was still stuck in the same place. I couldn’t shoot even one of my new bullets from my expensive new mold, and the best I was able to do wasn’t as good as I’ve done with other more mundane rifles shooting lead bullets. If I was a golfer, this would be where I wrap my expensive drivers around trees and take up drinking.
A strange encounter
Then something happened. Just a few months ago I was out at the range for another round of humiliation, and I happened to meet a real schützen shooter. I’d met him there before, but never when I had the Ballard with me. He was putzing around with one of his exotic thundersticks, and we got into a discussion of my frustrations. Well, maybe not a real discussion. Actually it was more like I went over and started sobbing on his shoulder about all my woes. But you get the picture.
He told me about another mold maker — the guy I should have gone to in the first place. Long story short, he sold me on trying another new mold. This one will be ready in 3 weeks, plus he told me all the schützen shooters go to this guy for their molds. I was straight on everything else. I was making my loads with the same equipment and in the same way he was. So, the mold must be the answer. Right? Please tell me I’m right because I’ve spent even more on this new mold than on the last one!
Oh, maybe I should also tell you this. I slugged the bore of the rifle again, to find those critical dimensions for the new mold. And this time I asked my shooting buddy Otho to check my measurements. I’d been two-thousandths off on the first mold, so it was engraving the rifling where it shouldn’t. We not only confirmed that fact, we measured the slug with several different measurement devices this time.
The internal dimensions of the bore are determined by upsetting a lead slug in it so it completely fills all space. Then drive it out and measure it. The grooves measure 0.385″ across and the lands measure 0.374″ across. Two people used different measuring devices to arrive at the same dimensions, so they should be correct.
The moral of the story
I like giving you guys good news. Who doesn’t? But not everything turns out the way we want it to, and there can be a lot of value in reporting the failures, too. I don’t mean so we can go spray-paint the names of the evil airgun manufacturers on overpasses, but so we can better understand this shooting thing we all do.
So, for Kevin and Robert and everyone who’s interested in the rest of the story, that’s what’s been going on with my Ballard. I’ve had visions of showing you impossible half-inch 10-shot groups at 100 yards from this rifle, all the while realizing with bitter irony that my AR-15 — a rifle I’ve publicly criticized for over 40 years — can actually do it. I’m not there yet (with the Ballard). Maybe I never will be, but the pursuit of excellence is what keeps me going. And the days spent with air rifles like the Walther LGV are what keep me sane.
Big Shot of the Month
Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Month is Chris Ennis. He’ll receive a $100 gift card. Congratulations! If you’d like a chance to be the next Big Shot, you can enter on Pyramyd Air’s Facebook page.
Chris Ennis is the Big Shot of the Month on Pyramyd Air’s facebook page.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Walther LGV Olympia was a top-quality 10-meter target rifle from the 1970s.
It’s play time again, today, for this is the day we shoot the Walther LGV Olympia target rifle at 25 yards in preparation for shooting it at 50 yards. This report is a look at the vintage Walther LGV platform as a sporter, rather than the 10-meter target rifle that it is. With Walther bringing out the new LGV models, I thought it would be nice to see how the original LGV did in the same test.
I have no idea which pellet to choose for shooting at 25 yards — to say nothing of shooting twice as far. So, today’s test was nothing beyond my best guess of what might work well. Because I’ll be shooting at a fairly long range with this relatively low-powered spring rifle, I knew the pellets had to be domes. Wadcutters start to fall off in accuracy after 25 yards, and pointed ones aren’t that accurate to begin with. But good domes can be as accurate as good wadcutters, and they hold their accuracy a heck of a lot longer.
I’m shooting 10-shot groups off a rest at 25 yards, using the target sights that belong on the rifle. Ten shots should show which pellet or pellets are the best. I’ll also try each pellet seated flush and seated deep, so there will be 2 groups shot with each pellet.
JSB Exact Express
The JSB Exact Express pellet is a fairly lightweight domed lead pellet that’s new to me. I tried it in the velocity test for the first time and learned that flush-seated pellets leave the muzzle faster than deep-seated pellets. That was the reverse of what 2 other pellets did in that test.
The first 10 shots were with flush-seated pellets. They made a group that measures 0.657 inches between centers; but within that group, there are 8 shots in a 0.257-inch group. What can we say about that? There were no called fliers, and I feel the 2 shots that strayed from the main group did so on their own, without the rifle contributing. I’m looking at the entire group size and ignoring the smaller group-within-a-group. However, this pellet does merit another chance at 50 yards.
Next, I shot another 10 JSB Exact Express pellets, only these were seated deep with the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Seater. This time, the group measured 0.778 inches, and you can clearly see the dispersion of the shots. Deep-seating does not suit this pellet.
The next pellet I tried was the RWS Superdome, which so many shooters love. I had no idea how Superdomes would do in the LGV Olympia, and this test would be the way to find out. First, I shot them seated flush. Ten pellets made a group that measures 0.695 inches between centers. The group was fairly round, which I took to be a good thing, because it means the pellets are fairly evenly distributed.
Next, I shot 10 Superdomes seated deep in the rifling. This time, the group wasn’t as pretty, but it did measure only 0.649 inches, which is slightly better than the flush-seated group. It’s a toss-up between the different seating methods, though deep-seating does seem a trifle better. Perhaps the difference would be greater at 50 yards.
JSB Exact Heavy
The final pellet I tested in the LGV Olympia was the JSB Exact Heavy that I included in the velocity test. We wouldn’t normally select a 10.34-grain pellet for a rifle of the LGV’s limited power; but when you shoot out to long distances, the weight of the pellet is more important than its starting velocity.
The first group was shot with the pellets seated flush. It measures 0.354 inches, making it the best group thus far. This group is also very round, which is another point in its favor. I think I’ve found the best pellet to shoot in this rifle at 50 yards!
I now wondered if could this get any better. The next 10 pellets were shot deep-seated and, alas, the answer was…no. I’d gone as far as I was going in this test. Ten deep-seated Express pellets made a 0.79-inch group.
So, here at the end of the test we have a very clear example of one seating method triumphing over the other. The Express pellets wants to be seated flush in this rifle.
We also have a clear example of one pellet standing apart from the others. The flush-seated Express pellet made a group that was significantly smaller than all the other pellets I tried. That doesn’t mean it’s the best pellet in the LGV — just the best of these 3 that I tested. When I go to the 50-yard range, I need a day with zero wind — and I’ll try the JSB Exact Express first.
You may have noticed that the groups were all below the bullseye. That was with the rear sight cranked up pretty high. There’s still some room for more height; but at 50 yards, I know the gun will be printing its groups low. I’ll have to compensate for that.