Posts Tagged ‘artillery hold’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
While I was at the courthouse awaiting jury selection the other day, I was reading a favorite gun book, Yours Truly Harvey Donaldson, edited by David R. Wolfe and published in 1980 by Wolfe Publishing Company, Prescott, Arizona. In the book, Wolfe assembles letters and articles written by Harvey Donaldson, one of America’s top shooters, and cartridge developers. He is best-known for his .219 Donaldson Wasp cartridge, but he actually worked on dozens of different centerfire cartridges over the 89 years of his fruitful life. And he was a schuetzen shooter on top of all of that. Schuetzen rifles are single-shot rifles with incredibly accurate barrels that shoot lead bullets at low velocities. They typically shoot at 100 and 200 yards, either offhand or rested on a bench. The best of them have been known to put 10 bullets into a group that measures under one-half inch at 200 yards, which is a challenge that’s difficult to equal with modern arms today.
So, Donaldson knew how to shoot. And that’s the connection to today’s report. I read a paragraph that Donaldson wrote for an article that appeared in American Rifleman magazine in May 1936 – Rest Shooting and Schuetzen Loading:
“The secret of fine rest shooting is to hold the rifle so it will be free to recoil in the same way for each shot. I like to have my rifle come straight back, and when I see the crosshairs rise toward 12 o’clock in a straight line above the bull, I know that all is well and I can expect a good group. If the shooter will carefully perfect his holding so as to get this effect, the matter of making small groups will come much easier.”
That’s a good description of the goals of the artillery hold airgunners use, with one exception. Donaldson describes firearms that, while their bullets don’t travel very fast (never over 1,400 f.p.s.), still leave the muzzle before the major vibrations and movement of the gun begins. With a spring-piston airgun, the heavy steel piston has already jumped forward violently and then come to a sudden stop before the pellet begins to move. Vibrations in the gun have already started well before the pellet leaves the bore, which is why airgunners have to take this special hold even farther than Donaldson describes.
Important point — please read and understand!
Remember this — Donaldson was talking about firearms when he described his hold. So, the basic tenets of the artillery hold apply to firearms as well as to airguns. I have known that all along, but I haven’t harped on it because it really doesn’t matter to most shooters. A hold like this is only important to those who want the absolute last bit of accuracy potential from their firearms. Some of our blog readers who have competed with firearms, like Victor, understand the importance of hold consistency without my saying anything. They might call it something else, like follow-through perhaps, but we’re speaking about the same thing. For the rest of the shooters who are just plinking with a .22 rimfire or shooting anything offhand, it wasn’t important that I drill down to the absolute bottom bedrock fundamentals of shooting to explain my points. Either they understood it without me commenting or it wasn’t important.
But I’m going on record today and saying that an artillery-like hold, or at least a repeatable hold that allows the firearm to recoil in the same way every time, does have a positive influence on the accuracy of a firearm as well as a spring-piston airgun. And I’m also going to say that the artillery hold has a positive effect on other types of airgun powerplants — including the precharged pneumatic (PCP).
It’s still true that a PCP is much easier to shoot accurately than a spring-piston gun, but only with a proper hold will any PCP be capable of delivering its full accuracy potential. Because PCPs do not vibrate very much, nor do they recoil, the benefit of a consistent hold gets lost in the noise. Most good PCPs shoot very well regardless of how they’re held.
What is special about the artillery hold?
Okay, we know that the consistency of the hold is important to accuracy. But is the artillery hold different than what Donaldson describes in the passage above? Yes, it is. Donaldson rested his schuetzen rifles front and rear. The barrel of his rifle rested on the forward rest and the buttstock rested on the rear rest. There’s foam rubber between the barrel and the rest, but my point is that Donaldson does not rest the rifle on its forearm.
To be honest, there are photos showing benchrest rifles rested on their forearms, too, so it can be done either way, but the barrel rest was by far the more common in these older times.
Donaldson shown with a rested schuetzen rifle in the 1930s. The barrel is resting on foam rubber on the front rest. Photo from the book, Yours Truly, Harvey Donaldson, Wolfe Publishing, 1980.
What’s special about the artillery hold is that we don’t normally rest the rifle directly on sandbags or other rests. Instead, we rest it on our hands, which are placed on the rest. The flesh of the hand cushions the rifle in some unique way that even sand cannot. There are some gel-filled pads that seem to work as well as the hand; but when you examine them, you find that they feel quite a lot like the flesh of your hand. There’s something about the consistency that a spring-piston air rifle needs in order to have repeatable recoil and vibration patterns.
What you rest the rifle on is important, but so is where you rest it. I often have to try sliding my off hand back and forth under the stock, from the triggerguard to out as far as I can hold it — searching for a point where the rifle responds the same with every shot. Sometimes, I never do find the right place, and then I resort to resting the stock on the backs of my fingers and even directly on the sandbag. I don’t use the backs of the fingers unless absolutely necessary because it often hurts. And the number of airguns that can be rested directly on a sandbag and still shoot well is very small, although the TX 200 is one that can.
The point of this report is that the artillery hold is nothing new, and I didn’t invent it. It was already very old when I picked a quirky name for it, so airgunners would remember it and be able to talk about it. This hold is one of the fundamental tools in a good shooter’s kit. You can ignore it, but do so knowing what you’re giving up — because this is the “secret” to shooting a recoiling spring-piston air rifle well.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today, blog reader Paul Hudson shares his Theoben Crusader rifle with us. The Crusader is not as well-known in the U.S. as some other Theoben models, so this will be an interesting report.
If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email us.
With its walnut stock, the Theoben Crusader is a large, handsome airgun.
The Theoben Crusader is a high-power breakbarrel airgun, identical in size and performance to the Beeman R1. Its stablemate, the Theoben Eliminator, seems to get far more press since it’s one of the most powerful breakbarrel airguns available. That power comes with a high price — a cocking effort of 50+ lbs. — that most shooters are not willing to endure for very long. The Crusader, on the other hand, is far easier to cock and is a more practical airgun. Based on the used guns I’ve seen for sale, either the Crusader sales are much lower or people tend to keep them. Few are seen on the usual airgun sales sites or at airgun shows.
The Crusader is a high-quality spring-piston rifle.
Measuring a full four feet in length and weighing 8 lbs., 3 oz. unscoped, the Crusader is a large airgun. Mine is .177 caliber; but .20, .22, and .25 calibers are also available. The Lothar Walther barrel is 16 inches long, and a muzzlebrake is standard equipment (.22-caliber Crusaders have an Anschütz barrel). There are no baffles in the muzzlebrake. No open sights are supplied by the factory, making an optical sight a necessity. My rifle has a right-hand walnut stock, but an ambidextrous stock can be had from the factory as a no-cost option. The pressed checkering does give enough grip to be functional. A very good non-slip recoil pad keeps the rifle in place. No plastic parts are used on the rifle.
The metal work on the Crusader is first-rate, with a high polish that’s typical of many British airguns, and the wood-to-metal fit is excellent. Allen-head screws are used throughout the gun except for one screw that secures the triggerguard.
Behind that screw, a Schrader valve allows the owner to change the air pressure in the gas spring. Note the thumb rest in the stock.
A gas spring
Like all Theoben springers, the Crusader uses a gas spring, not a metal spring. Cocking is butter-smooth and requires 38 lbs. of effort. The piston includes a sliding weight that reduces piston bounce and felt recoil. A Schrader valve at the rear of the receiver allows the pressure in the gas spring assembly to be adjusted to vary the power of the gun. Upon firing there’s no spring twang or vibration, just a quick snap. The sound level is moderate. And, due to the size of the gun and careful tuning, the felt recoil is mild for the power level.
The lower bolt is pinched between the breech block and the locking wedge to prevent vertical barrel movement. Note the taper at the rear of the barrel to make pellets easier to seat.
The barrel pivot setup on the Crusader is a little unusual. Most breakbarrels use a breechblock that’s close to the width of the forks of the receiver. Wide, thin shims may also be present between the breechblock and the receiver forks. The pivot bolt is then tensioned to the point that the lateral barrel movement is constrained. The breechblock on the Crusader has much more side clearance. Belleville washers are used to control the lateral movement. Belleville washers are cone-shaped from the side and are actually considered to be springs. A second bolt behind the pivot bolt mates with a hook on the back of the breechblock. The locking wedge pulls the breechblock tightly against this bolt to control the vertical movement of the barrel. Like many classic Webley rifles, the Crusader takes a bit of a slap to open the barrel for cocking.
The unusually wide breechblock/fork clearance is visible from below the action. (The photo is overexposed, leading to the yellow stock color. This was necessary to bring out the detail within the cocking slot.)
The Evolution trigger of the Crusader and other models has been criticized by some; and given the price of the gun, that may be justified. No creep is felt in the first stage, but the second stage is not as crisp as a Rekord trigger. As the gun came from the factory, the second stage breaks cleanly at 1 lb., 13 oz. The safety blade resides in front of the trigger and automatically sets when the gun is cocked. It can also be manually reset. Overall, I would rate the Crusader trigger as very good, just not quite as good as a Rekord or TX200 unit but not a reason to avoid the gun.
The trigger blade is almost straight; the automatic safety resides in the front of the triggerguard and is pressed forward to fire.
Velocities with the Crusader are similar to what’s found in a Beeman R1, and some lighter pellets in a .177-caliber rifle will go supersonic and ruin the accuracy. I tried a couple H&N Field Target Trophy Green pellets, but they traveled almost 1200 feet per second and missed the bullet trap at 25 yards. Extreme spreads with most pellets were under 20 feet per second, and a few varied by less than 10…very good for a springer.
These are the velocities the Crusader can deliver with the selected pellets.
Many pellets gave 5-shot groups around an inch in size at 25 yards. Several gave very good accuracy, including a few that surprised me. To get the best accuracy shooting from the bench, I had to hold the airgun loosely with my right hand and keep my left hand open. If I let my fingers touch the forearm, I had to make sure I didn’t squeeze the gun at all or the groups would open up. In other words, use the classic artillery hold. You cannot grip this airgun tightly and get good accuracy; it’ll take practice and proper technique to get the best results.
All groups were 5 shots at 25 yards, and the sights were not adjusted for the different pellets. It was interesting to see the difference in the points of impact. Predator Polymags and 8.4-grain JSB Exacts shot especially high in relation to the other pellets. Unfortunately, neither 7.9-grain Crosman Premier lites nor 10.5-grain Premiers heavies did much better than one-inch groups at 25 yards. While that’s not too bad, a number of pellets did far better.
Five H&N Baracuda Hunters made this 0.50-inch group.
Five Predator Polymag pellets made this 0.40-inch group. Good enough for hunting.
Gamo TS-10 surprised me with a 0.45-inch group; but their size seemed a bit inconsistent, and there were some flyers with this pellet.
Skenco Big Boys gave this nice 0.43-inch group. The group is almost twice as wide as tall.
The 13.4-grain JSB Monster also produced a 0.43-inch group.
The Crusader really liked the 8.4-grain JSB Exacts, as this round 0.24-inch group shows.
Best accuracy came from the Beeman Kodiak pellet. This group above is just 0.23 inches.
Adding it all up
Why buy a Crusader? After all, it costs just over $1000, and that price will keep many away. Compared to a Beeman R1, the size and power are identical. The R1 has a better trigger, but the Crusader has a better firing behavior due to the gas spring. The Crusader also has a far nicer stock, better metal finish and includes a factory muzzlebrake. Between my Crusader and my R1, the Crusader shoots more pellets accurately and will shoot slightly smaller groups, probably due to the fine Lothar Walther barrel. Unfortunately, the Crusader is more hold sensitive than my R1.
Both rifles should last a lifetime with proper care. It’s possible to upgrade an R1 with a new stock, a gas spring, muzzlebrake, etc., but you’ll end up spending more than the cost of the Crusader and still do not have the nice metal work. If you can afford it, the Crusader offers very good accuracy in a nicely finished package.
Theoben Production ceases
In October, 2012, Theoben Ltd. in England announced that they were entering liquidation (bankruptcy). It remains to be seen whether another company will take over production rights for Theoben springers.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
I usually have a handle on the gun by the time Part 4 rolls around. But, today, I’m still stymied by the Tech Force M12 breakbarrel. I’ll tell you all I’ve done to make sure this rifle is on the beam; but when I tell you my results, I think you’ll see I’m not there yet.
I discovered in Part 3 that the M12 I’m testing is a big drooper. That means it shoots very low relative to where the scope is looking. For today’s test, I installed a B-Square adjustable scope mount that has a huge downward angle to bring the point of impact back up to the aim point. It worked well enough for the test, so I proceeded to shoot several different types of pellets — trying all kinds of hand holds and even resting the rifle directly on the sandbag.
Here’s a list of the pellets I tried: (10-shot groups with each)
Beeman Kodiak Hollowpoints
Crosman Premier 10.5-grain
Crosman Premier 7.9-grain
JSB Exact RS
JSB Exact 8.4-grain
JSB Exact 10.3-grain
Beeman Trophy (an obsolete domed pellet)
Eley Wasp (an obsolete domed pellet)
With most of these pellets, the rifle teased me with several pellets in the same hole — but a 10-shot group that was 1.5 inches and larger. A couple were all over the place and simply would not group at all. The Hobbys were probably the worst.
Only one pellet put 10 shots into 1.038 inches at 25 yards. Those were RWS Superdomes, and the hold was with my off hand back by the triggerguard, leaving the rifle very muzzle-heavy. The rifle was somewhat twitchy but not overly so.
The encouraging thing about this group is that I didn’t have to use a lot of technique to shoot it. I know it isn’t as tight as others I’ve shot at the same distance, and you’ll compare it to them, but I compared it to the other groups I was getting with this rifle. In that comparison, this was the best one and it was also relatively easy to shoot.
What all did I do?
For the record, here’s a list of all the things I tried to get the M12 to shoot.
Cleaned the barrel
Tightened the stock screws (they were tight)
Installed a drooper mount with a lot of down angle
Tightened the scope mount screws (and they were loose on the B-Square adjustable mount!)
Tried resting the forearm of the rifle:
On my open palm in front of the triggerguard
On my open palm under the cocking slot
Directly on the sandbag
Tried shaking the barrel to test the breech lockup (it is tight)
Tried extra relaxation with the artillery hold — which worked for a few shots, but never more than four
Tried attaching an extra weight to the barrel during each shot (with a large magnet)
So, where are we in this test?
I still think the M12 can shoot because there’s evidence of it wanting to stack its pellets. It might be that this is a rifle that needs more than a thousand shots to break in. I’ve owned a few of those. The Beeman C1 from Webley that I used to own was such a rifle. At first it was a royal beast; but as the shot count passed 2,000, the rifle began smoothing out and transforming into something very delightful to shoot. By 4,000 shots, the trigger was very nice and the gun had no vibration to speak of. It was this very rifle that caused me to give the artillery hold its name, and I wrote the first article I ever wrote about airguns for Dr. Beeman. He didn’t respond to my submission, so I saved it and eventually wrote it up in The Airgun Letter.
I wonder if this M12 needs that kind of break-in? That’s something I haven’t done in a good many years because it takes so much of my time. But it might be interesting to see if the rifle responds to a long-term break-in. I think I’ve certainly shoot 250-300 shots at this point, because I also tested the gun at 10 meters and one time at 25 yards (it wasn’t reported). Maybe I’ll rack up some more shots to see how that affects a longer-term break-in.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Some days, you get the bear — and some days the bear gets you. This was one of those latter days.
For weeks, my Beeman R1 has stood quietly in the corner of my office, awaiting the time when I would remove the Vortek muzzlebrake and shoot tight groups with H&N Baracuda Match pellets. If you recall, in Part 4 I was trying to show how the adjustment of the Vortek muzzlebrake affected the groups, but all my groups were pretty lousy. So, I said I would set the gun aside for awhile and think about it.
Several readers responded with advice to remove the muzzlebrake because the groups looked like some of the pellets were touching the brake on their way out. So, that was what I finally resolved to do — remove the brake and shoot some groups without it. Ha, ha! Man plans, God laughs!
Removing the brake
Sometimes, things are harder than they should be, and this was such a time. The Vortek brake was held on the barrel by three Allen screws. Two of them came off easily, and of course the third one had a stripped head. I tried cutting off the end of the Allen wrench and dressing it flat, so it fit the screw head perfectly, but that was how I discovered that the head was stripped. I drilled a larger hole in the screw and used a tiny easy-out to pull the screw. To my credit, everything worked perfectly and the screw came right out, but I was now about an hour into my test time.
Once the brake was off the barrel, I saw that two of the three screws had managed to miss the aluminum shim inside that protects the finish of the barrel. And now my R1 barrel is scarred at the muzzle. So the Vortek brake will not be going back on this gun! I have another brake that will hide the deep scratches, but for today’s test I left the barrel bare.
There was no indication that any pellets had touched the inside of the muzzlebrake. Still, the brake was off, and now it was time to test.
I was so confident that it would group with the brake off that it never occurred to me there would be a problem. I did check the zero at 12 feet because the brake added a lot of weight to the barrel. The point of impact could have changed a lot, but it didn’t. The pellet was still close enough to the aim point that I knew I could back up to 25 yards and let fly with confidence.
The first pellet fired from 25 yards landed above the one fired at 12 feet, which I expected. The next pellet hit close by the first, but then the trouble started. After 10 shots, I had a vertical line instead of a group. The rifle was stringing its shots up and down. It was also shooting to the right, so I dialed in some left correction and moved to another target.
The next three shots after scope correction gave me a group larger than one inch! The rifle wasn’t shooting like I remembered. Up to this point, I’d experimented with my off hand in a glove. But all I did was confirm that the R1 is a twitchy rifle.
I removed the glove. Then I experimented with the position of my off hand back by the triggerguard and also forward under the cocking slot. The “groups” got no better. I guess pattern would be a more accurate description for what I was shooting.
Tighten the stock screws?
At this point, I checked all the stock screws. They were all tight, but the barrel pivot bolt was somewhat loose, so that was tightened. Then, I returned to shooting
And it came to me! All this time I’d been shooting H&N Baracuda Match pellets. What if my R1 likes another pellet better? I switched to 15.9-grain JSB Exact domes and was sure the problem was solved. It was for the first two shots, and then the rifle went crazy again. Even the JSBs were being thrown all over the place!
Where shall I begin? The first two holes in the white, at 5 o’clock, looked promising, but the third shot through the 10-ring did, also. Too bad they were all with the same hold! As were the final three shots at the bottom of the paper. This “pattern” measures 1.347 inches between centers. I was blowing up!
Frustration sets in
In utter frustration, I rested the rifle directly on the sandbag, thinking I couldn’t really do any worse than I had been. And of course that was when it shot the best it did all day! But the group is still a vertical line, and I know the gun still isn’t responding.
The best group of the session (though hardly a good one) was with the rifle rested directly on the bag. It measures 0.88 inches between centers. How’s that for a slap in the face of “Mr. Artillery Hold”? Something is wrong, and I just haven’t found it yet.
There are some things I’m thinking about. The barrel probably needs cleaning. It’s been several years since I cleaned it. When a gun starts shooting erratically after it’s been doing well, cleaning is always the first thing that should be done.
The scope is a very old one, and maybe it’s malfunctioning. It’s been on many air rifles in the 17 years I’ve owned it. Maybe it’s time to put it out to pasture.
I haven’t tried Crosman Premiers in this rifle, yet. Back when I wrote the R1 book, Premiers were the best pellets in the gun.
The book! That’s right — I wrote a book about the Beeman R1. And, not just any R1; this one! I’m supposed to know how to shoot this rifle!
Like I said at the start — some days the bear eats you. This was one of those days.
My plan is to set the R1 aside for a little while and consider all the things I know about it. Then, I’ll return and test it once again for you. I’m not giving up.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
You’ll notice that I’m signing in differently today. I’ve decided to start using my real name along with my pen name. I’m doing this because some people are confused about who I am, and I don’t want there to be any confusion. From now, I’ll sign in this way. You can refer to me as Tom or B.B., just as you always have, but I’ll always answer as B.B.
Today’s the day we look at how the Vortek adjustable muzzlebrake helps control pellet dispersion for the Beeman R1 air rifle. It has been a very long time since I tested this brake, so I didn’t remember how effective it was. This test was a learning experience for me, too.
At least one reader suggested that I test the brake with all three pellets, but that would have taken much longer than I had for this test. As it was, I wound up shooting seven 10-shot groups that really fatigued me by the time it was over.
I decided to test just one pellet — the H&N Baracuda Match that I said seemed to be the best pellet the last time I shot the gun. The only thing I changed during most of this test was the muzzlebrake. The scope and type of artillery hold stayed the same, except for at the end of the test, which I will explain when we come to it.
I also used the Michael Jackson artillery hold that was recommended by blog reader mikeiniowa. That’s where you wear a glove on your off hand, so the stock can easily slide on your open palm. It’s a bit quirky, and at the end of the test I have to say that it didn’t seem to make a bit of difference, but perhaps it did help me feel the rifle’s weight better. And that did lead to an alteration in my artillery hold, but that’s yet to come.
I added the cotton glove to make the Michael Jackson artillery hold.
The first group was fired with the muzzlebrake set where it was for the Part 3 test. Since I used the same pellets as were in Part 3, I expected to see a group of about the same size. What I did not expect was to see a group that looked exactly like the first group in the last accuracy test, but that’s what happened. This one measured 1.269 inches between the centers of the two widest shots, which is considerably larger than the last test with the same H&N Baracuda Match pellet. Eight of the shots landed in a much tighter group that measured 0.55 inches between centers.
The first group was 10 H&N Baracudas shot with the same muzzlebrake setting that was used in the Part 3 accuracy test. As there were then, there were 8 tight pellets and 2 that strayed from the main group.
Like before, I got 8 shots in a good tight group and 2 that went wide. These were not called fliers, but I did feel that I wasn’t holding the gun good enough, yet.
Then, I screwed in the adjustable weight as far as it would go, which was 16 clicks. This brake adjusts in very large and definite clicks, so it’s easy to know where you are and where you’re going. The next group of 10 shots was fired with the weight adjusted all the way in.
Next, I put 16 clicks of adjustment back into the brake to see if I would get the same results as the first time. This time, no shots strayed from the main group, which measures 0.583 inches between centers. The entire group of 10 shots is close to the size of the 8 tight shots in the first group.
While there’s some degree of repeatability in the two groups shot at the same 16-clicks out position, I didn’t feel confident that I’d seen all the performance the brake had to offer, so I turned it out 4 more clicks — a total of 20 clicks out from the beginning. Then, I shot another group. This time, there was definite group disruption, as not only were the shots scattered more openly, they also grouped into 1.192 inches.
Where does that leave me?
It seemed as though the groups were opening and closing, depending on how far out the weight was adjusted. It also seems that it didn’t take much to make the groups change. But I still was not convinced.
I adjusted the weight in to the point that it had 14 clicks of adjustment, then I shot another group. This time, 9 pellets landed in a reasonably tight group that measures 0.824 inches between centers. But the tenth shot opens that to 1.346 inches — the biggest group thus far and also the largest shot during this entire test. What do I make of that?
The glove tells me my hold is not consistent
It was at this point that I began to feel a difference in my hold from shot to shot. The cotton glove was so slippery on the stock that I was able to feel the shape of the stock like never before. Maybe that’s what the glove is good for? I don’t know, but I went back to 16 clicks of adjustment and shot another group.
This group measures 0.913 inches between centers, but it’s different from the other groups shot on this adjustment setting. First, instead of 8 pellets bunched in one hole, this time there were only six. The other four pellets were not in the main group. The 6 that were, however, were in 0.292 inches!
The second thing I noticed was that this group is not in the same place as the other two groups that have 16 clicks of adjustment. It’s lower on the target for some reason. While shooting this group, I definitely felt the hold was changing slightly. The R1’s stock is rounded near the triggerguard, and part of the time I had the weight pressing deeper into my off hand, while other times it was away from the center of my hand, where it seemed to want to roll to the right. I thought I needed to try one more group, and this time concentrate on centering the weight of the stock in my off hand.
I was also growing fatigued at this point, having fired 60 shots thus far. Each of those shots had taken well over one minute to set up; and as I was shooting, I remembered the person who was incredulous that I said it might take up to five minutes for each shot. Right now, the time was expanding in that direction and I was growing angry, thinking about this conversation. I wondered why anyone who ever shot off a bench did not realize that shots can take this long, when you took the time to ensure everything was perfect before releasing the shot.
And it was that anger that told me I was finished for the day. I’d shot too much. But I still plowed on, convinced that the new hold I had found might be the Holy Grail for this rifle/pellet/brake setting combination.
So, I shot one more target, using this new, weight-centered hold. I felt sure it would give me the tight groups I had been looking for. The weight was still adjusted 16 clicks out, which is the best setting I’ve found with the Baracuda pellet.
At 16 clicks out and concentrating on centering the weight of the gun in my off hand. This group measures 1.151 inches between centers and has two shots outside the main group — again! The central group of 8 shots measures 0.657 inches between centers.
It doesn’t take a graph to show that the rifle performs the same on the same weight adjustment setting. No matter how the hold is modified, the rifle wants to put 8 shots into a smaller group and have two outside shots that stretch the group size considerably.
The bottom line?
I don’t think I have a bottom line for this test, yet. I think Baracuda pellets may not be the best ones to test the gun after all. I also think I shot the gun too long in this session and tired myself out, so the final results (after about the fourth or fifth group) are suspect.
It seems clear that the adjustable brake does work, but I can’t say how well, yet. I’ll set the R1 aside for a while, but I do want to come back to it in a week or so and try it with the 15.9-grain JSB Exact domes. Maybe that’ll give me better results.
by B.B. Pelletier
The Webley Hurricane is a large spring-piston air pistol.
A blog reader requested this report several weeks ago, but I can’t remember who it was. I think he asked for a report on the Tempest; but since the Hurricane is very similar and I have one, that’s what I picked.
I remember very clearly when Webley first brought out the Tempest air pistol. It was 1979, and I was back in the United States, following a 4-year tour with the Army in Germany. I’d just gotten to the point of accepting the Webley Premier Mark II that everyone could see was the beginning of Webley cheapening their pistol designs with (shudder) aluminum. And then they brought out the mostly aluminum Tempest, which had a plastic cover over the front half of the spring cylinder and was finished with PAINT! Well, that certainly got my mind off the Premier Mark II.
I probably vowed never to own one of these plastic airguns, but time passes, airgun newsletters start up and before you know it I’m looking at airguns I wouldn’t have thought of touching without a tetanus shot! I actually owned a Tempest, plus I bought a Hurricane that I still have. As if to poke a finger into my eye, these air pistols not only commit all the sins just mentioned — they also have safeties! A safety on a handgun, for gosh sakes! Well Agatha Christie was exonerated in the end, I guess, because here are two handguns that really do have safety catches. They aren’t the revolvers she wrote about, but I guess that’s still in the works.
All kidding aside (and I’m really not kidding), the Webley Tempest and Hurricane are both wonderful air pistols. Looking back at them from a 21st century perspective, they’re both built better than most of the air pistols available in their price bracket today. These are spring-piston guns that use their barrels to cock their coiled steel mainsprings. The piston then comes back toward the shooter when the gun fires, giving the sensation of a recoiling firearm. And therein lies the problem that drives today’s report.
Because they recoil, these pistols bounce in your hand when they’re fired. Because the spring cylinder is located above the top of your grip, they make the pistol bounce noticeably when they fire. So much so, it seems, that some shooters worry about them — that perhaps their recoil will somehow throw the shot wild.
The fact of the matter is that if you hold the pistol correctly, it won’t throw its shot wild; but if you attempt to control the recoil, you’re in for some trouble.
Let me illustrate. Under the heading of pistols that bounce when fired, the M1911A1 Colt semiautomatic jumps to the head of the list. Not because it’s a hard-recoilling handgun, but because the force of the recoil, which is centered on the breechblock, is located high above the top of the gripping hand. When you fire the gun, the slide comes back above your hand and rocks your grip most noticeably. To those unfamiliar with shooting a 1911, the gun seems to have a very harsh recoil — but that’s only because they do not know how to hold it!
All you have to do is hook the thumb of your shooting hand over the safety switch, and you’ll cancel about 80 percent of this bounce. And when you do, you’ll realize that the pistol no longer kicks very hard. In fact, it’s one of the softest-recoilling pistols around. It’s like an M1 Garand or an M14 that both sound like the end of the world when they fire, but which actually have far less felt recoil than a 1903 Springfield shooting the same cartridge (as the Garand). Oh, the recoil is still there, but it’s masked by its long duration, in effect lessening the sensation of recoil.
On the Tempest and Hurricane, there’s nothing to hook your thumb over, so you do have to tolerate the bouncing recoil at its fullest. It’s not that bad; but if you aren’t expecting it, you’ll definitely notice it. What I’m saying you should do is just tolerate it without trying to control or lessen it in any way. What you’re doing is the pistol version of the artillery hold, and it works for both firearms and air pistols, alike.
I actually shot the pistol on two different days, with day one being used to discover the best pellet. Although I tried only 4 pellets the first day, RWS Hobbys stood out as the best. The next day, when I was interested in the best hold for the gun, that’s what I shot.
One hand or two?
You can do this either way — with a one-hand hold or with two. But since this is a report on how best to hold the Hurricane, I tried it several different ways and got dramatic results. They illustrate what I’ll be saying. All shooting was 10 shots at 10 meters with RWS Hobbys unless otherwise noted.
Don’t use a bag rest directly!
Do not rest a Tempest or Hurricane on a sandbag. When I did, the gun shot 4 inches high at 10 meters. And the shots were so scattered that I stopped shooting after just 4 shots for fear of missing the backstop.
Next, I tried using a two-hand hold with the hands rested directly on the sandbag. It was better than resting the gun directly on the bag, and the point of impact shifted lower, as well. Though this group was tighter than the first one, it still wasn’t what I’d hoped for.
Hands off the bag
Back when I was competing with air pistol, the only way I shot pistols was with one hand. A lot has changed since that time, though, and now I do better using a two-hand hold. However, I wanted to see how the gun shot in just one hand, so I held it that way and rested my arm on the sandbag. In other words, the hand was well in front of the bag and not subject to vibrations from the shot.
Two-hand hold is the best
The final hold I tried was the one that had done well the day before. I held the pistol in two hands that were forward of the sandbag. Both arms were rested on the bag.
No doubt — this is the best hold for the Webley Hurricane. Pistol is held in two hands with both arms resting on the sandbag. Notice, though, that this is a very vertical group. I had the same results the day before.
There’s no doubt that the two-hand hold with both arms resting on the bag is the best hold for this pistol. But the verticality tells me there might be even more to learn about holding a Hurricane.
One thing I found quite interesting about this test was to compare the results to those obtained with the Browning Buck Mark URX just the other day. The Buck Mark gave a much rounder group and was also tighter.
Update on the Winchester Target Cube
As you know, I’m testing the Winchester Airgun Target Cube with as many airguns as possible so I can give you a report about it in a few weeks. The cube now has about 300 shots from guns in both .177 and .22 caliber and ranging from 300 to 700 f.p.s. It has started to leave a residue of small styrofoam particles on the table after every test.
Rather than bore you with more targets from the other pellets I tested, I’ll show you just one target that was shot using Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets. I used the best hold and shot at the same 10 meters for this target. As you will see, it’s pretty poor by comparison.
The Webley Hurricane and Tempest are both recoiling spring-piston air pistols that are reasonably accurate, but they’re not target pistols. They’re both well built by today’s standards and will give generations of good service.