Posts Tagged ‘accuracy’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This comment came in last week from our new blog reader Jim H, and I wanted to address it right away. It’s a good question for a new airgunner to ask, and it deserves a good answer.
“I’m new to the airgun side of things, so I have a lot of questions but here’s one that is really bugging me. I have read all of the reviews here by Tom and also the blogs over at that “other airgun retailer” written by Jack Elliot. One message that has come through loud and clear is that each gun will tend to like specific pellets and only experience will tell the shooter which one is best. What is the best approach for testing various pellets? Do you pick a velocity that you want to shoot at and then try all the pellets that will get you to that velocity range or do you simply have favorite pellet brands and types that you’ve come to love over the years and that’s what you go with? With the hundreds of pellets available out there, what is the ’short list’ of pellets that a newbie needs to start with?”
Several of you started to answer Jim in the comments section, so my answer comes a little late; but from what I’ve read, I’m telling him things that are pretty different from what all of you told him. He actually asked 2 different questions: 1. What is the best way to test a pellet? and 2. What is a short list of pellets to choose to test airguns? I took my direction for this report from his request for a “short list” for a newbie.
This will not be a very technical report. I’m not going to discuss pellet head sizes or skirt thicknesses, except where it affects the pellets I name. I have a short list for most of the airguns I shoot, and it’s not rigid. But it’s caliber-specific, and there’s also a small powerplant component to it.
Money is no object
I used to focus on the cost of pellets, but that was before discovering that hitting the target is far more important than saving money. If saving money is your principal goal, get a piggybank. I shoot for fun, and hitting the target is where the fun is. It costs no more to be accurate than it does to experiment by chasing the illusion of economy.
I must also say that I have more experience with pellets for rifles than for pistols. So, today we’re just looking at pellets for rifles. Let’s take a look at them.
For .177 rifles my short list is the following pellets:
Crosman Premier lites (brown box) springers and CO2
Crosman Premier heavies (brown box) pneumatics and CO2
JSB Exact RS (up to 12 foot-pounds)
JSB Exact Heavy 10.3-grains
H&N Baracuda and Baracuda Match
Beeman Kodiak and Kodiak Match
That is my short list. There are other pellets that are very accurate, but I find them to be more specific to certain guns. Please remember that this is not a popularity contest. If your favorite pellet didn’t make my list, don’t fret. I try other pellets all the time — these are just the ones I count on.
If you ask me why these pellets are on the list, it’s because they’re the ones that are the most reliably accurate. That’s my only criteria because if you can’t hit the target, nothing else matters.
The .20-caliber list is very short because there aren’t as many reliable pellets made in that caliber. The most reliable one is the Crosman Premier.
Other than that, I would try anything JSB makes, and that’s about it.
The quarter-inch caliber is another one with few good pellets. The two on my list have demonstrated they will deliver in all cases.
Benjamin domed (these have no name, but they are essentially a .25 caliber Premier)
JSB Exact King
I prefer domed pellets to all other shapes. They’re more accurate at long range and penetrate well. Wadcutters are good for distances under 25 yards but not for farther than that.
Pointed pellets, hollowpoints and lead balls
I have no use for pointed pellets of any kind. I’ve never found them to be accurate, and the slight advantage they have in penetration isn’t good if they can’t hit the target. Hollowpoints are a subject that need a blog report of their own. Lead balls are specialized for certain airguns and are not for most air rifles.
Pellets and power
As power goes up, the pellets should generally get heavier. And PCPs tend to do best with heavier pellets. CO2 guns are a lot like PCPs when it comes to pellets, so I consider them to be the same.
Other selection criteria
There are other selection criteria, of course. I’ve found certain pellets to sometimes be surprisingly accurate in certain guns, and that’s enough to keep me trying them in other guns — searching for more miracles. But the lists above are the tried-and-true performers that almost never let me down. That’s why they made my list.
The second question
The other question Jim asked was how to test pellets. I do it by choosing the most accurate rifle I have and shooting 10-shot groups with each pellet in which I’m interested. Do it that way, and pellet testing is easy.
I usually don’t express my opinions this strongly; but when it comes to picking a good pellet, I think it’s too important to let it slide.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
I said I wasn’t going to report on the EyePal Peep Sight Master Kit by itself, but something blog reader Fred said in a comment the other day prompted this. I plan to continue to use both patches and comment on them in other reports, but today I want to focus on the kit. I don’t know if there will be a Part 2 to this report; but just in case, I marked this as Part 1.
Fred’s comment was that he needed his vision to see when he walks. So do I. Why didn’t the EyePal rifle patch bother me? The answer is what I want to talk about today — when you position the patch on your glasses.
You position the EyePal patches differently on your glasses for rifles and pistols. That’s because you look through different parts of your glasses when shooting rifles, as opposed to pistols, and that’s what I want you to see today.
Pistol shooters tend to look more toward the center of their lenses, though I suppose it varies from person to person. Also, how the glasses fit your face will determine where you look through them. But a pistol shooter is looking straight ahead more than a rifle shooter.
When the pistol patch was installed, I had the same problem Fred reported — namely not being able to see well when I walked with my glasses on. The patch was right in the center of my optimum vision and obscured things I needed to see to navigate.
The rifle patch
In contrast, the rifle patch has a smaller peep hole and is color-coded with silver letters so you don’t mistake it with the pistol patch. I’ll talk more about its performance in a moment. For now, I want to concentrate on the placement of both patches and what they do to your vision.
The rifle shooter puts his head to the side of the stock. As a result, he tends to look through the glass lens closer to the edge that’s next to the nose bridge. A right-handed shooter puts the patch close to the left of his lens, and a left-hander does the opposite in the other lens. Also, the patch tends to be placed higher on the lens than when it’s used for pistol shooting, although it doesn’t look like it in these pictures.
With the rifle patch installed, I had no difficulty seeing to walk. The patch is high enough that I can look under it and get around with no problem. But each person is different, and Fred may put his patch at a different place on his glasses than I do. Or he may wear his glasses on his head differently than I do. There are many reasons the patches will go in different places, but the relationship between the rifle and pistol patch locations holds for each shooter.
There can be variables, such as the type of rifle you shoot. A 10-meter target rifle will be held more upright, and the patch will be a little lower, where a benchrest rifle gets the shooter down lower on the stock with the head leaned forward. The patch has to be higher so you can see through the peephole.
Close one eye — the big question
Most shooters close their non-sighting eye to make better sense of the sight picture when using a peep sight. Indeed, the EyePal literature shows the shooter doing this. But target shooters know this is not the way to do it! Closing the off-eye causes the peep hole to grow smaller and distort. The more you squint, the smaller and more distorted it becomes. That will ruin a fine sight picture.
I tried it both ways — the non-sighting eye held open and also with it closed. I found that the EyePal is more tolerant of closing the eye than a standard peep sight. If you continue to squint, there’s a point at which the hole will distort and close up. For the best operation, I found I could close my off-eye and find the sight picture, then open it again and hold the sight picture fine.
I’ll go into more detail when I report the guns I used the EyePal with, but I don’t want to spoil the surprises at this time. For now, let’s just say that the EyePal works for me as intended.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
I’m retesting an airgun that I tested over a year ago. One of our readers called Daisy and said he was getting much better accuracy from his Daisy model 35 multi-pump air rifle than I had gotten in my test, and he asked Daisy if they would look into it. Well, they read the accuracy report (Part 3) and agreed with him that I should have gotten better accuracy than I did. So Joe Murfin, Daisy’s vice president of marketing, called and asked if I would be open to a retest.
Joe told me that Daisy engineers were getting groups of about 1.25 inches to 1.5 inches at 10 meters. I’m sure he meant 5-shot groups, and of course I shoot 10-shot groups; still, his groups were significantly smaller than what I’d gotten from the last gun. My 10-shot groups were in the 2.5-inch to 3-inch range.
I don’t like to retest
Normally, retesting airguns leaves me cold. My philosophy is that I test what users get, and it’s whatever it is. I look at the gun the same way a user would, except that I may know a few more things than the average user and am able to do things most people wouldn’t think to do. That gives the gun a fair test and also educates people who may learn a new trick or two by reading what I’ve done.
I have to admit that over the past year I’ve learned a lot about accuracy with diabolo pellets and the things to look for. More recently, I have become aware of the tremendous accuracy potential of some smoothbore airguns. From that standpoint, a retest of this smoothbore airgun is warranted.
This is not life-saving equipment, and the outcome isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things; but wouldn’t it be nice to know if this $35 airgun is really better than we initially thought? I agreed to retest the gun, and Joe sent one directly from Daisy. Instead of the black stock I had last time, this new gun is finished in camo. Other than that, though, it’s identical to the gun I tested before.
Upon reviewing the last accuracy test, I see I used the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier pellet, RWS Hobby pellet and some vintage Daisy Superior Match Grade pellets I had laying around. At the time, that sounded like a good idea; but after spending more time with the Diana 25 smoothbore in recent months, I think there are some other pellets I ought to try — namely the JSB Exact RS pellet and the RWS Superdome.
In the last report on the model 35, I wasn’t specific about what number of pumps to use for each shot. There was nothing to go on for this test except my experience with other multi-pumps. I would only be shooting at 10 meters, and high velocity wasn’t necessary. Six pumps sounded good to me, and that’s what I used for every target. If this was a larger, more powerful multi-pump, I might have opted for 5 or even 4 pumps, but the Daisy 35 is pretty small, and 6 sounded about right.
First target revealed loading problems
I shot the first target with JSB Exact RS pellets. They did well for the most part, but 3 shots landed apart from the main group. I was having difficulty loading the gun, and I think I may have loaded several pellets backwards because of how easily they flipped around on their own in the loading trough. I was shooting in a dark place to overcome the fiberoptic open sights and was unable to see the breech when the pellet was loaded. Those 3 stray shots might be explained as loading errors. Before I move on, I should note that the size of this first 10-shot group is close to what Daisy told me to expect from 5 shots at 10 meters.
Nothing to do but shoot another group with the RS pellets — making sure each pellet went into the breech the right way this time. I used a portable spotlight to shine on the breech during loading to see which way the pellets were oriented. I think Daisy could spend a little time fixing this problem because that loading trough is almost too small to work with.
The second group was much better. Ten more JSB Exact RS pellets went into 1.108 inches. This is better than what Daisy told me to expect, and my interest was piqued. How good would this gun get?
The second pellet I tried was the RWS Superdome that so many people love. The first 10 pellets made a 1.119-inch group. It’s actually too close to the second group of RS pellets to see the difference, but that’s what the caliper read when I measured it. And these pellets hit the target in approximately the same place as the JSBs even though they’re heavier.
The second group of Superdomes wasn’t quite as tight as the first. One stray pellet that I hesitate to call a flier landed below the main group, opening it up to 1.243 inches. But that’s still the best that Daisy said to expect from this gun!
But wait –
Well — there you have 4 groups that are all significantly better than any of the groups I got in the last test. The Daisy model 35 can shoot after all — just like our reader said. I wondered if there was any more accuracy beyond what the gun had already delivered. So, I fired a fifth group, this time with JSB RS pellets. Instead of 6 pumps per shot, I gave it the full 10 pumps for each shot. This time, they all landed in 0.76 inches, or as close to three-quarters of an inch as it’s possible to get.
Obviously, using the right pellets made all the difference in the world. That’s a lesson I’ll try not to forget. Even an inexpensive airgun like the Daisy 35 deserves a fair chance to perform its best.
I would love to press the 35 into service as a dart gun, but the tiny breech prevents the loading of darts. I may be able to load them through the muzzle, but you’ll have to wait to find out because I seem to have misplaced my .177-caliber darts. But there’s still 25 yards to test, so you haven’t seen the last of this airgun.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Let’s begin testing the effects of oiling pellets. There are numerous ways to approach this issue, and I have to pick one at a time and limit the test to just that. But I think as long as I’m testing one aspect, I ought to test it thoroughly so someone can’t come back and second-guess me later in the report.
So, today I’ll test with one rifle, and the next time I’ll test with another. What I won’t do is test with each different brand of airgun, just to see what will happen. If a powerful gas spring rifle performs in a certain way, I’ll assume that all powerful gas spring rifles are going to do the same. If the difference between dry pellets and oiled pellets is close, I may do additional testing; but if there’s clear separation, I’ll accept that as the way it works.
What am I testing?
The question that started this experiment was, “How much faster will oiled pellets shoot than those that are not oiled?” One reader has asked me to also test this downrange because he wonders if a thin coat of oil changes the laminar flow of air around a pellet. I may get to that at some point, but for the present I’m just concerned with muzzle velocity because all pellets slow down after they exit the muzzle — oiled or not.
I suppose this needs to be tested in all three powerplant types, but today I’m testing it in a spring-piston powerplant. Today’s gun is a weak powerplant, so next time I’ll test it in a more powerful gun.
I’m using an HW55 SF target rifle to test three pellets. This rifle is a variation of the old HW50 rifle, so it shoots in the 600-650 f.p.s. region with lead pellets.
Since oiled pellets will leave a film in the bore, I tested all pellets dry first, and then tested the oiled pellets afterwards. Before the first test shot with oiled pellets, I fired two pellets to condition the bore. That turned out not to be enough, but I’ll come to that later.
I’ll test the three major pellet shapes in this test. They’re the wadcutter, dome and pointed head. There are other shapes, like hollowpoints, but they’re based on one of these three main shapes, so this is all I’m testing.
How I oil pellets
I oil pellets in the following manner. A foam liner is placed in the bottom of a pellet tin, and 20 drops of Whiscombe Honey are dropped onto the foam. Then, a single layer of pellets is spread on the foam, and the tin is rolled around. I shake the tin lightly to move the pellets around…but not enough to damage them. Whatever oil transfers to the pellet is all the oil it gets. I’ve been doing this for many years and it works well.
The pellets end up with a very light and uniform coat of oil. When I handle them the tips of my fingers become oily, but I can’t see any oil on the pellets. Other people use more oil than I do, but this is what I am testing.
Whiscombe Honey is a mixture of two-thirds Hoppes Gun Oil (not Number 9 bore cleaner!) and one-third STP Engine Treatment, by volume. Shake the mixture until is takes on a light yellow color. It will look like thin honey, hence the name. This mixture should not detonate easily in a spring gun.
Test one — dry pellets
Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets were the domes I tested. The average velocity for dry Premiers was 606 f.p.s., with a low of 577 and a high of 616. So, the spread was 39 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 6.44 foot-pounds.
For wadcutters, I tested Gamo Match pellets. The average for dry pellets was 652 f.p.s., with a low of 640 and a high of 663 f.p.s. The spread was 17 f.p.s. The average energy was 7.14 foot-pounds.
H&N Neue Spitzkugel
The pointed pellet I selected was the H&N Neue Spitzgugel. When shot dry, they averaged 601 f.p.s., with a low of 585 and a high of 620 f.p.s. The spread was 34 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 6.81 foot-pounds at the muzzle.
Now, I shot two oiled pellets through the bore to condition it and began the test.
Oiled Crosman Premiers
Oiled 7.9-grain Premiers averaged 591 f.p.s., but the spread went from a low of 545 to a high of 612 f.p.s. That’s a spread of 67 .p.s. The average energy for oiled pellets was 6.13 foot-pounds. I did notice the pellets were going faster at the end of the shot string, so I thought I might come back to them after testing the other pellets.
Oiled Gamo Match pellets
The oiled wadcutters averaged 658 f.p.s. — a slight gain over the dry pellets. But the real news was the spread, which went from a low of 651 to a high of 663 f.p.s. Instead of a 17 f.p.s. for the dry pellets, the oiled pellets gave a spread of just 12 f.p.s. That’s too close to draw any conclusions, but it’s interesting. The average energy with the oiled pellets was 7.27 foot-pounds. So, with the oiled pellets, the velocity went up — along with the energy — and the shot-to-shot variance went down.
Oiled H&N Neue Spitzkugel
Oiled Spitzkugels averaged 609 f.p.s. — which was a small increase over the same pellet when dry. The average energy was 6.99 foot-pounds. The spread went from 585 to 620 f.p.s, which was identical for the same pellet dry. Velocity and energy were both up slightly from dry pellets, and the shot-to-shot variance remained the same.
By now, it’s obvious that the bore needed more than two shots to condition it, so I retested the oiled Crosman Premiers. The second time the oiled pellets averaged 604 f.p.s., which is just 2 f.p.s. slower than the same pellets dry. But the spread that was 67 f.p.s. on the first test of oiled pellets and 39 f.p.s. with dry Premiers now went from a low of 594 to a high of 613 f.p.s. — a much tighter 19 f.p.s. total. The average energy was 6.40 foot-pounds.
From this test, I observed that these three pellets either remained at the same velocity or increased very slightly from the light oiling I gave them. In two of the three cases, the velocity spread got tighter when the pellets were oiled.
I further observed that it’s necessary to condition a bore with oiled pellets before doing any testing. As a minimum, I would say that 20 oiled pellets should be fired before testing.
These are very small differences from oiling; and although I can’t draw any conclusions yet, I would think that such a small change is not enough to matter. It hardly seems worth doing at this point. However, there’s still a test to be done in a powerful airgun. Until we see those results, I think it’s too soon to say anything for sure.
Although the question that drove this test was how much faster oiling pellets makes them shoot, I think we still have to take accuracy into account before forming any opinions.
And now for something completely different
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by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This report will be lengthy because I want to test several aspects of oiling pellets. For starters, I want to test it with spring guns, PCPs and CO2 guns just to get a complete picture of what, if anything, oiling pellets is doing in each of those powerplants. I’m interested in velocity because of the question that spawned this blog, but accuracy might also be interesting to test.
We received this question in the following form. I will paraphrase, but this is the gist of it, “How much faster do pellets go when they are oiled?” That question came in on one of our social networks and was referred to me for an answer. Well, you know me! Give me a topic and I turn it into a week’s worth of blogs. But this question really begged for the full treatment because there’s so much to cover.
When I got interested in shooting airguns as an adult in the middle 1970s, the question of oiling pellets wasn’t around (as far as I know). In talking with the late Rodney Boyce, I learned that the oiling question really came to a head when PCPs first started being used in the early 1980s. A PCP shoots very dry air, and their barrels are made from steel; so, at the higher velocities, they tend to get leaded bores. Some shooters were also oiling pellets for their spring guns; but a lot of the time they did it because they washed the pellets, thinking the black compound on them was dirt. In fact, it was anti-oxidant to keep the pellets from turning to white dust. Had they just left the pellets alone, they wouldn’t have oxidized.
In defense of the spring-gun guys who washed their pellets, though, some brands did have a lot of lead swarf (flakes of lead from the manufacturing process) inside some of the pellets, and vigorous washing did remove it. But then the pellets needed to be oiled again, or they would quickly oxidize.
Why we oil pellets
We oil pellets for two reasons. The first is to prevent the oxidation of the lead after washing. The second is to reduce the leading of the bore, though this is principally a PCP problem. Other pneumatics either shoot too slowly or they have brass or bronze barrels that do not allow the lead to attach itself, so they do not lead up.
Do oiled pellets shoot faster?
That was the question that started this report. I’ve tested this in the past and found that with a PCP shooting .177 pellets at 850-900 f.p.s., oiled pellets went slower, not faster. But that was just one test, and I don’t want to say what oiling will do for other guns until I do some more testing.
I’ll tell you this — oiling pellets became such a hot topic in the late ’90s that people were swapping their favorite secret formulas on the internet. And I know one UK company that sells an oil for pellets that they still claim gives increased velocity. Well, that’s too good to pass up, so I’ll test some of their oil in this test.
Not just oil
Don’t think that oil is the only thing people put on pellets. I remember lengthy discussions of how to apply a thin even coat of wax on pellets. Then, the topic shifted to what kind of wax to use! One guy went so far as to specify a high-tech boat hull compound called Bo-Shield for his pellets. When he talked about it his eyes got that faraway stare, as though he was transcending the real world and entering the spirit world.
What I will test
The first thing I want to do — have to do, in my mind — is test what the application of oil does to the velocity of pellets. Okay, that opens about 10 worm cans, right there:
What constitutes “an application of oil”? (I have seen paragraphs of instructions telling you how to know if the application of oil has been enough or if you need more.)
Am I testing this on lightweight pellets? Heavy pellets?
Do I test a powerful springer as well as a lower-powered springer?
Do I also test this on a precharged pneumatic?
A powerful PCP and a lower-powered PCP?
What about testing on a CO2 gun?
And on and on….
I think the best approach is to ask the question: Why do we oil pellets and who does it? We know that people who wash pellets also oil them, and we know that PCP users oil them; so that includes all the categories above. I don’t see a need to go to the extremes with this test. I’m not HP White Labs, and this isn’t a burning consumer question. If the findings suggest further testing, I could decide at that point?
What about the possible side effects?
Will oiling a pellet cause extra dieseling? Maybe. Is that what’s behind those flimflam salesmen who claim that oiled pellets go faster than dry pellets? I don’t know for certain; but as long as I’m going down the path, this is something I want to look at. Obviously, we’re talking only about powerful spring guns.
Does oiling affect accuracy?
I don’t know, but it seems we ought to find out. This gives me another excuse to unlimber my R8…so, hurrah!
Have I forgotten anything?
You tell me if I’ve overlooked any test that ought to be conducted. This isn’t a guessing game or a creativity contest, so please tell me only things that really matter to you.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Announcement: Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Month for February is Tyrone Daye. 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.
Tyrone Daye is the Big Shot of the Month on Pyramyd Air’s facebook page.
I’m writing this on the heels of writing several reports that deal with accuracy. One was a test of the Cometa Fusion Premier Star in .22 caliber that I struggled with for many months. Another was the most recent part of the Twist-rate test, which taught me a lesson or two. Just yesterday, I shot a smoothbore Diana 25 that I thought would do well to group 10 pellets in 1.5 inches at 10 meters and was shocked when it grouped 10 pellets in one-third inch!
All the while during these tests, I was thinking about accuracy. What is it and how do I test it, so I’m getting the results I think I am, instead of proving some expectation of mine and missing the boat altogether?
Last week, I made an offhand remark to someone that R. Lee Ermey (Gunny) and I have two different outlooks on accuracy. He’s concerned about hitting a bullseye target at 600 yards with a battle rifle — and believe me, that isn’t an easy thing to do with any rifle. But I said I was concerned with the “ultimate accuracy” of a rifle, if that means anything. What I was trying to say was that my accuracy concerns are how close a certain gun can group 10 shots at a given distance. Ermey wants to hit the target and score high, and I want to put 10 shots into a small group. You might think we’re after the same thing, but we’re not.
I don’t really care where my shots go, as long as they’re all together because I can always adjust the sights to move the group wherever I want. Gunny says he wants to hit the target in the center to get the highest score, because a score is what he is after. A tight 10-shot group that’s out in the white would not be good for him. But it’s fine for me.
I say that if the rifle can group them well, I can always hit the target. But is that true? Perhaps not. Hunters and long-range benchrest shooters both know that if you don’t know how to account for the effects of wind on the bullet in flight, you may have the most accurate rifle and still miss your target. And you can’t get used to 7 different rifles that shoot seven different types of ammunition. You can learn one gun well, which is why we say, “Beware of the man with just one gun — he probably knows how to use it.”
The effects of tiring
During my testing, I often worry if I’m doing my best. At the start of any shooting test, I wonder if I’ve settled down enough to say that my results are the best I can do. Or am I handicapping the gun I’m testing because I’m not yet in the groove?
Later on in the test, I worry about tiring out and becoming sloppy. This is a real concern with some powerful spring guns that are physically very tiring to shoot. That little Diana 25 was a breeze to shoot, because the gun did not fight me at every turn. I just relaxed and shot. And the Talon SS that I shot 120 times in the twist-rate test was so easy to shoot that I never took my face from the gun once a group was started. I just opened the bolt, loaded and shot while looking at the target through the scope all the time. Nothing could have been easier.
The Cometa Fusion, in sharp contrast, required all the hold technique I could muster, and even then it felt twitchy. Forty shots with a gun like that is a hard day’s work. But before we crucify the Fusion or any other powerful springer, there’s something else to consider — accuracy.
If I’m confident that a certain gun with a certain load is going to shoot where I expect it to, the gun can be a Missouri mule to shoot and I don’t care. My 1903A3 Springfield rifle is such a rifle. Its buttstock is too short for me by two inches, and the comb is also too low…so the rifle socks me in the kisser every time I pull the trigger. But it’s so darned accurate that I don’t mind the abuse. As funny as it may seem, I can put up with a lot if a gun will lay them in where they’re supposed to go.
My Ballard rifle is another one that kicks me pretty bad. The stock drops away from the face too much, which gives it a running start when the recoil starts. And I have to have my kisser next to the tang sight to get the best results, so I’m just asking for it. But the rifle does shoot well, and that’s all I really care about. I want it to shoot better, but I will suffer the side effects of recoil in return for what I get.
As pretty as it looks, this 38-55 Ballard kicks pretty hard!
I guess it’s something like a woman giving birth. During the process, she is acutely aware of all that is happening, and things don’t seem that good; but if everything turns out well, she soon forgets what she had to go through. Don’t read that remark to your wife, though, because I think I’ve taken too much license with an analogy.
What about plinking?
Lest you think I’m being too toffee-nosed about shooting, I like to plink as much as the next guy. But I like doing it with a rifle that hits the target every time. I’ve had guns that looked horrible on paper; but when it came time to bounce the Coke can, they could do it every time. Or, hit dirt clods on the berm. Or (shudder) break glass bottles — not that I ever did that. I’m just saying!
A bullet hole two inches from a group at 50 yards brings a frown, but when I’m shooting a Winchester model 61 pump and I hit just under the small dirt clod, the spray of dirt tells me to adjust up. So, I shuck the forearm to load another round and try to disintegrate the clod. I would hate to see what that looks like on paper, but if I know where a certain rifle shoots with a certain cartridge, why, I’m Annie Oakley without the dress!
So — where do the bullets belong?
They belong on target — right? So, why don’t they go there when the gun is known to be accurate? Here’s something to think about. Two guys have a gun battle at 20 feet. Each one empties his gun at the other guy with a total of 31 rounds being expended. And neither party gets a scratch. Yet their guns are both accurate. Why is that? It’s called “buck fever,” though I imagine law enforcement has other terms for it. And it happens all the time.
The more politically correct version is that the youngster on his first hunt cannot place a bullet in the deer’s body, even though he’s demonstrated an ability to do so numerous times. You can’t hit what you want to miss.
Accuracy has little to do with the willingness to discharge a bullet into an animal or person. Some people aren’t bothered by it in the slightest. Wild Bill Hickok was notorious for being able to shoot men. Contrary to myth, he wasn’t always the fastest gun. But he always had the fortitude to do the job, while his opponents did not for various reasons.
So — the good hunter is not necessarily the most accurate shooter, nor is he the shooter with the most accurate gun. Accuracy matters to some extent, but intent is more of a determinant than how ultimately accurate the gun is.
The target shooter may never fill his game ticket, and the good hunter may miss the bull altogether. Don’t confuse accuracy with success or intent.
My brother-in-law believes that accuracy is when the bullet hits the center of the bullseye, and he’s right. But so am I when I believe that a tight group outside the bull is also an aspect of accuracy. Like so many things, your definition of accuracy depends on what you mean and what you intend to do.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Adam Vierra is this week’s Big Shot of the Week on Pyramyd Air’s facebook page.
I wasn’t sure there was going to be a Part 3 to this report. But yesterday, when I read your interest about the airguns with double-set triggers, I decided that it was okay to do one more, and this one will be about set triggers, match triggers and stuff like that.
As it happens, this blog is very timely for me, because this past Wednesday I was at the range shooting several firearms and a new airgun that you’re going to read about in January. One of the firearms I shot was my new Winchester high wall in .219 Zipper Improved. Some of you may remember that was the rifle I recently bought and discovered after the fact that it has a single-set trigger.
The screw that hangs down behind this trigger is the telltale clue that it’s a single-set trigger. You can either pull it the usual way, in which case it breaks at about 3-1/2 lbs., or push the trigger forward after the rifle is cocked. It then breaks at just 6 oz.
Shooting an obsolete caliber like a .219 Zipper Improved is a lot of work because they don’t make ammunition for it. In fact, they never have. This cartridge is called a wildcat because it’s always been necessary for the shooter to make the ammunition from some other cartridge. The .219 Zipper was a standard commercial cartridge at one time and is based on a 30-30 case. The Zipper Improved is based on the standard Zipper case, which means it, too, can be made from a 30-30 case. In fact, that’s how they’re made today.
Here we see a 30-30 (left) and the .219 Zipper Improved that sprang from it.
But my shooting buddy, Otho, discovered that the case dimensions of the now-obsolete but far more recent .225 Winchester are virtually identical to the .219 Zipper Improved. The rim is thinner and a trifle narrower, but it’s close. So, he thought we could make our cases from .225 Winchester cases, which are now being produced in limited quantities.
To make a long story short, the .225 case is so exact that all I have to do is prime it, fill it with powder and put a bullet in the neck. That saves me about 5 minutes of case preparation time for each case (when making them from a 30-30), and I also don’t have to clean my gun after fire-forming the new cases, which is a royal pain. Also, I lose about 40 percent of the formed cases, and I don’t think I’m going to lose any with this new method.
On Wednesday, I was at the range with 20 rounds of .219 Zipper Improved made from new .225 Winchester cases to see if this works. The measurements said it should, but since we’re generating 45,000 psi with every shot, theory and practical application are two different things.
I loaded the cartridges on the light side for safety, and I loaded only 5 with each amount of powder so I wouldn’t have to pull apart dozens of cartridges if they weren’t right. I’d seated the 40-grain bullet out as far as I felt I could and still keep it stable in the case. That’s supposed to improve accuracy — if the bullet doesn’t travel far before engaging the rifling.
The set trigger
Now we come to the subject of this report. My rifle has an aftermarket single-set trigger that releases with 6 oz. of pressure. To me, it feels like nothing. I can barely feel my finger touch the trigger blade when the gun fires. That’s as light as I ever want a trigger to be, and only then if it’s on a target rifle or a varmint rifle like this one. I want to be in position and ready to take the shot before I touch that blade.
So, now you appreciate that everything was perfect for this endeavor. If the loads I cooked up were accurate, nothing should get in the way of the results. Put the crosshairs in the center of the aim point at 100 yards, get stable and touch the trigger — BAM! The deed is done. All you have to do is look through the scope. The bullet should be moving at about 3,600 f.p.s., so the hold isn’t very much of a factor. Just make sure you have your head at the same spot every time so parallax cannot enter into the equation, and you should be good to go.
The first 5 shots included the very first shot after the barrel had been cleaned. That one went almost an inch wide, while the next 4 shots landed in a group that measures 0.51 inches between the centers of the two widest shots.
The rifle was shooting a little high so I adjusted the scope down for the next group.
The next 5 shots were with a powder charge weighing one grain more than the first load. I saw the first bullet from this batch land almost exactly on the vertical line above the center of the aim point, so I proceeded to shoot 4 more shots after it. I couldn’t see these shots through my 10x rifle scope, but the spotting scope revealed a tight cluster next to the first shot. That was worth investigating. We called a cease fire, and I walked down to look at the target. What I saw was amazing. The final 4 shots had landed in a tiny cluster measuring 0.239 inches between center. When the first shot is added, the group opens to 0.444 inches. For me this is a very good group!
Top group is the first 5 shots with the new cases. Bottom group is the second 5 shots, using one grain more powder. The group measures 0.444 inches between centers…and the smaller group of 4 measures 0.239 inches, which is less than a quarter-inch at 100 yards.
But the single thing that made this group possible — other than lucking out and picking the right bullet and the absolute best powder charge on the first time out with these new cartridges (which is at least a thousand-to-one-guess) — was the set trigger. It took me out of the equation, by virtue of making the rifle fire when all things were perfect. Even a heartbeat, which can throw off a bullet by more than an inch at 100 yards, was not an issue because I was using the M-T-M Predator shooting rest that holds the rifle perfectly on target without my help.
And that’s what set triggers do. They allow you to either eliminate the human from the shooting equation; or, conversely, they allow the human to knowingly pull the trigger at the exact instant the sight picture is perfect. That’s called sniping the target, and it’s usually not recommended; but since a set trigger doesn’t move the gun like a standard trigger does when it’s pulled, you get away with it.
So far, I’ve mentioned only the single-set trigger. The double-set trigger is more common and works just as well, if not better. Perhaps the most familiar place to see this kind of trigger is on a muzzleloading rifle, where they were favored over the plain trigger.
Double-set triggers often work like normal triggers if they’re not set. Usually, the rear trigger is pulled to set the front one, though not always. The double-set was very popular on bellows dart rifles in the 1700s and 1800s, and these are the triggers that are famous for being so sensitive that a breath of air can make them fire. I’ve owned several rifles with double-set triggers, including a five-lever trigger made by Aydt that was extremely sensitive. But I’ve never experienced a trigger so light that air, alone, can set it off.
Pull the rear trigger to set the front trigger. The rifle can also be fired by just pulling the front trigger, though the pull will be heavier.
Set triggers and target rifles
Set triggers were once an important part of all target rifles. From the days of chunk shooting, when the rifle was a Kentucky long rifle rested on a log (called a chunk), to the final days of international match shooting at 1,000 yards, the set trigger was as common as the vernier peep sight and spirit level front sight that eliminated cant.
In the sporting world, set triggers were found on many varmint rifles of the past. The double-set was more common than the single-set, but either one can be a blessing when you’re trying to do precise work. In recent years, set triggers have been making a comeback on many factory guns, but they may not be as necessary as they once were due to innovations in replacement sporting triggers. More on that in a moment, but let’s now take a look at set triggers on airguns.
For some reason, set triggers have not been very popular in airgun target shooting. Perhaps this started as a safety rule; but considering the light match rifle triggers now in production, that cannot be the only reason. The fact that set triggers do exist on target air rifles indicates that some people wanted to try them at one time, but the rules were written to exclude them from competition…just like Tyrolean stocks and tube rear sights…and today they’re seen only on vintage guns.
Here’s a prediction: If an airgun manufacturer were to put a nice set trigger in an accurate low- to mid-powered .177-caliber air rifle today, they would have a hit on their hands!
Non-set triggers that are still remarkable
This is for our blog reader GenghisJan, who asked blog reader Kevin how he would compare a set trigger to a match trigger. I believe the big difference is that you must intentionally set the set trigger for it to be light. If you don’t set it, the trigger-pull seems about normal. But a match trigger releases at just one weight, and it’s always light. How many times have I seen people fire a match gun before they were ready, simply because they were unaccustomed to how light the trigger is? It actually takes some learning to operate a match trigger safely, and some people never get it.
A Benjamin Marauder trigger can be adjusted to have a two-stage release where the second stage is light, but also positive. It’s more than the few grams of pressure that a true match trigger needs, but far lighter than most sporting triggers. This is a wonderful compromise in a trigger, to my way of thinking.
In the world of sporting guns, triggers have continued to improve until it’s possible to buy drop-in units today, or sometimes the parts to make a factory trigger as light as a set trigger. There are many manufacturers doing this — companies like Jewell Trigger, which makes sporting triggers that break at mere ounces. They’re a sort of set trigger that’s always set!
But in airguns, the choices are fewer. In the world of spring guns, there’s the Rekord that can be adjusted to release at just ounces of pressure if properly set up, and the Air Arms trigger that’s even more adjustable. There used to be some aftermarket triggers from companies that would drop in certain guns and be even lighter and better than Rekords, but they’re gone from the marketplace.
You’ll find more good triggers in the PCP world because they don’t have to restrain hundreds of pounds of force. And the state-of-the-art 10-meter match rifle trigger is at the top of the heap. With triggers this sensitive, you don’t touch them until you’re safely on target.
What’s it going to be?
I like a set trigger in the right circumstances. And since most of them can be fired without setting, I found them to be ideal for everything. But I’m just starting to experiment with the crop of new and improved replacement triggers that have hit the market. Though they’re less flexible than set triggers, they might be a good modern alternative.
As far as a true target trigger is concerned, the only place for that is on the range. And you have to train with it by dry-firing so you are ready when the time comes.