Posts Tagged ‘Lever-action’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Brett Latimer is the Big Shot of the Week on Pyramyd Air’s facebook page.
Today’s report was influenced by blog reader Kevin, who suggested that I use some of the old articles I’ve written in the past. Well, I’m always open to something that makes my life easier, plus I’ve had access to some of the most unusual airguns in the world over the years. So, today, we’ll take a look at one of them.
I wrote this article in 1999, and I’m not changing anything in it — apart from making some corrections to spelling, grammar and punctuation. It was originally published in Airgun Revue 4.
Someone said they wanted to see how Tom wrote in the old days. Well, here we go!
Erma’s ELG 10 was a single-shot underlever spring gun, though it looked like a western repeater.
There are never enough models to satisfy the curiosity of collectors of very finely made airguns. They struggle along, first discovering 10-meter guns, then German sporting models and finally coming to rest with the finer British guns like the Webley Mark III or the BSA Improved Model D underlever. And that’s where many believe the road ends. Unless they want to branch out into tinplate and cast iron toy guns, they think they’ve seen it all. But they have not yet turned over all the rocks. Not until they own an Erma ELG 10 will their collections be complete.
To look at it, the Erma is a curiosity. You find yourself looking for the plastic parts or where to put the CO2 powerlet. Your eye tells you the gun is solidly built, but your doubting airgunner’s mind tells you it can’t be as nice as it seems. It looks too much like a Daisy model 1894. You keep waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under you, and it never is. The ELG 10 is exactly what it looks like — an extremely high-grade spring air rifle built from all wood and metal, in the best Winchester tradition. In fact, the Winchesters of today should be made so well!
The gun came to the United States in the late 1970s through the Beeman company, where they were sold for a short time. Their retail price of over $300 was what killed them, coming as it did at a time when R1 rifles sold for the same money. The ELG 10 is a low-powered plinking rifle, and few people were willing to shell out big bucks to buy something that couldn’t even keep up with a Diana model 27. Never mind the fact that they produced the same power as the FWB 300 target rifle, which was selling for twice as much. The Erma simply looked too much like a toy; and until you hold one in your hands and realize what it is, there’s no sale.
There was an article in American Airgunner in 1991 about the Erma that spawned some desire for the gun. After that, people were placing ads to buy one in Airgun Ads and elsewhere. I even had the strategy of watching the Gun List ads for Erma firearms, hoping that one would mistakenly pop up. It’s a habit I haven’t shaken to this day.
My first ELG 10 came from Airgun Ads, and I paid plenty for it — $550, as I recall. It came with a Beeman box and was in pristine cosmetic condition, but the power seemed low. The gun was shooting lightweight Hobby pellets only in the low 400s. Knowing that Erma is not primarily an airgun maker, I reasoned that the gun might well have leather seals; so, I lubricated mine with Beeman’s Chamber Oil and saw the velocity jump up to the mid-600s…where it belonged. Despite what the article in American Airgunner said about the gun growing tired over time, all it usually takes to rejuvenate one is a little oil on the seal. I still don’t know if the seal is leather or not, but the gun responds to oil as though it is.
As luck would have it, after paying so much for that first one, I stumbled across a SECOND Erma just two weeks later. This one was in a local gun store, where they were asking $175. I bought it, figuring I could average the cost of the two guns and realize two good bargains. It, too, was shooting in the 400s until a shot of chamber oil fixed things.
Although the rifle is short, at just 37.75 inches, it’s a handful. It weighs six full pounds, and never does your hand touch anything except wood and metal. It’s as accurate at 10 meters as a Diana model 27, which validates the integral scope rails machined into the top of the receiver. Although the iron sights are quite nice, the Erma is the perfect gun on which to mount a small scope, like Beeman’s SS3 or SS1.
Firing behavior is a quick forward jump with a small but noticeable spring vibration. It comes at the end of a 6 lb., 12 oz. trigger-pull that’s crisp but definitely not light. Part of that extra weight is safety engineering, no doubt, because this rifle is loaded with it.
The gun is cocked by swinging the finger lever all the way forward. Although it looks like a lever-action firearm, the cocking lever is really much longer than just the finger lever because it has to provide some mechanical advantage.
The finger lever is part of a longer underlever that retracts a sliding compression chamber, opening the way for loading the breech.
This is not a gun you hold up to your shoulder and just flick the lever with one hand. No, indeed. You dismount it and work the lever with one hand while restraining the rifle with the other hand and your leg. Not that it is hard to cock, for it isn’t. It cocks with about the same 17 lbs. of effort as the FWB 124 breakbarrel rifle, but it’s not a job for one hand, alone.
As the gun is cocked, the sliding compression chamber retracts, just like on a TX 200 or HW 77. As it retracts, a clicking ratchet catches the chamber at intervals, so there is little possibility of an accident should your cocking hand slip.
When the chamber is all the way to the rear, there’s access to the rear of the barrel for a pellet to be inserted. It’s a tight fit, but elevating the muzzle helps you balance the pellet on your thumb until you make contact with the barrel. All the while, the sliding chamber is retained by an anti-beartrap mechanism to keep you from chopping off your digits.
The compression chamber is retracted, leaving lots of room to load the gun. The slot at the bottom is for clearance for the cocking linkage.
The cocking cycle is completed by returning the lever to the starting position. To shoot, upward pressure must be maintained on the finger lever, just like so many lever-action firearms. There’s also a safety behind the receiver, profiled to look something like the hammer on a firearm. It’s not automatic, but you can put it on at any time. The way it functions is very strange. Instead of blocking or disconnecting the trigger, it simply pushes a steel bar straight down through the bottom tang, where it props the finger lever from being squeezed closed. Thus, they use one safety device to force engagement of a second device. It works fine, which says a lot for the Erma engineers’ confidence in their design.
So, the gun is bristling with safeties! That means you cannot decock it. Once cocked, a pellet must be fired. Also, it means that a slot had to be cut in the bottom of the outer receiver to allow for travel of the link that connects the sliding compression chamber to the cocking lever. Unfortunately, the slot looks exactly like the ones in the cheap Chinese sidelevers that were formed from stamped sheet metal stock. Nothing on the ELG is cheap, but this one feature does give that impression.
The manual safety looks a little like the hammer. All it does is block the lever from closing completely — so the gun cannot fire.
The gun is cocked and the safety is off.
Push down on the safety button and the safety is on.
Another very neat feature of the gun is the full-length cleaning rod that’s stored in the “magazine” tube under the barrel. Simply unscrew the cap of the tube, located under the muzzle, and the rod can be dumped out. A cloth mop for the end of the rod serves to wedge it inside the tube without rattling. Of course, there’s no need to clean the bore of the gun for any reason, but it is a nice touch just the same.
The cleaning rod lives in the tube under the barrel. The cleaning mop keeps the barrel from rattling.
The iron sights are simple but effective. The rear is a notch with a sliding elevator, and the front is a hooded square post. It’s no problem to get on target at the ranges this gun is made for — say 5 to 25 yards. Windage adjustments are possible by drifting the rear sight in its dovetail. As we indicated, most people will probably mount a short scope or just use the sights the way they come from the factory because part of the gun’s charm is its fast handling and “plinkability.”
The rear sight is a simple elevator for elevation. Windage comes from drifting the sight in its dovetail.
The butt and forearm are made from beech, stained a dark red on all the guns I’ve seen. They fit as well as any firearm wood made after WWII. The buttplate is blued metal, reminiscent of Winchesters from decades ago.
Throughout this article, the word metal has been used without further explanation. The gun is not entirely made of steel. That would add at least a pound of weight, if not more, and it isn’t necessary. The receiver is made from tough aircraft-spec aluminum, while the functional parts and the barrel are made of high-grade steel. Everything is finished the same, so there is no way of telling what’s what unless you go over the whole thing with a magnet.
The Erma ELG 10 is going nowhere but up in price. Even in Europe, where more were sold, it was never a mainstream airgun. So, sitting around waiting for the market to go flat is a hopeless cause. If you want one, better get it now because it will only cost more later.
RETURN TO THE PRESENT
That article was interesting for me, as I hope it was for all of you. I want to thank Kevin for putting me onto this idea. Edith did it when I was sick, but I just never thought it could work in anything except an emergency. But since I don’t own an Erma ELG 10 any more, I guess this is as close as I will get to one, so we might as well enjoy it for what it is.
Regarding my prediction on the price continuing to rise in the future, it actually did keep increasing until around 2008. When the economy stalled, the prices for vintage airguns like this one all took a dive. Only in recent years have they shown any signs of increasing again, and I would have to say that the price is pretty well where it was in 1999 — around $550-650, depending on condition and if it has a box.
Resurrecting this old article was fun, and I think we’ll do it again as several of you have requested.
by B.B. Pelletier
BSOTW winner Kyle Ioffrida shows off his home shootin’ range…much of it built with recycled materials.
I must love you guys — I really must. Otherwise how could you explain me going to the trouble of mounting a Daisy model 300 telescope on my Red Ryder just for this test? I can’t explain it any other way.
Was it hard?
No — adjusting the valves on a V-12 Ferrari is hard. This went beyond hard.
Okay, I’m exaggerating, but it wasn’t easy switching over the scope from my 1936-model Daisy No. 25 pump gun to the Red Ryder. After I did, though, I realized that the mount on the No. 25 has always been wrong. It was really a Red Ryder mount — based on there being two screw holes in the mount base instead of just one. The No. 25 doesn’t have a screw hole at the top of the receiver like the Red Ryder.
But crying time is over. What have we got with the 300 telescope? Well, for starters, I think we need to consider the history of the scope. When the model 300 was first brought to market, rifle scopes looked a lot different than they do today. And the 300 attempts to follow the lines of the day, being long and slender, as well as having its adjustments built into the mounts rather than the scope.
It clamps tight to the “barrel” (the sheetmetal outer tube of the gun) in front, and has the facility of angling both up and down on a trunnion contained in the front mount. That is needed because the rear mount is a cam that adjusts the scope’s elevation. No windage adjustment is possible, though the whole scope can be shifted slightly right or left on the gun, then clamped down again.
It’s not a scope!
Technically, the model 300 is a tube sight rather than a scope, but I’m sure Daisy didn’t intend little boys to think of it that way. It has only one plastic “lens” in front, where the objective bell is, and nothing at the eyepiece. There’s no magnification, but inside the tube is a post for sighting. You sight in so the BB strikes the point where the top of the post rests on the target. As long as the scope is on left and right, you should do at least as well as with the open sights. Having used a thin post front sight recently with great success, I have high hopes for this one.
I have owned two others of this model scope, and on one of them I had a reproduction of the original rubber eyepiece that really makes the scope look right. Someone reproduced a couple hundred of those rubber eyepieces a few decades ago, and they’re now valuable additions to the scopes that have them. But it’s still easy to use the scope without the eyepiece.
The scope is 18 inches long and has a tube diameter of 0.984 inches, so call it one inch. The tube is made of folded sheet steel — the same as the gun, and it’s blued in the same way. It adjusts only for elevation, using a clever captive cam arrangement on the rear mount that raises and lowers the rear of the scope. As mentioned previously, the front mount has a trunnion, so moving the scope up and down doesn’t put a strain on the tube.
And how does it work?
I shot the same course as the first time, but using the scope instead of the open sights. It looked like I was getting more precision this way, but the results on the target don’t bear that out. Out of five 10-shot targets, the best I was able to do at 15 feet was 10 into a group measuring 1.163 inches between centers. That was offhand.
The average group was closer to 1.30 inches this time. That would make the scope about equal to the open sights. The only advantage I can see is a clearer sight picture.
I wondered how well I was shooting this day, so I brought out my Daisy Avanti 499 Champion to use as a check against the Red Ryder. But I used the same Daisy zinc-plated BBs instead of the Avanti Precision Ground shot that’s made especially for the 499. So both BB guns were on an equal footing.
The 499’s trigger is very long and creepy, but it’s much lighter than the Red Ryder trigger, and the gun felt easier to shoot, as a result. This time, 10 BBs went into 0.429 inches, which will easily fit inside a dime.
Daisy’s Red Ryder is certainly an iconic BB gun. It has been in existence since 1939 and is still Daisy’s strongest seller. It’s not a target gun by any means, but a shooter can bond with it like few other airguns.
by B.B. Pelletier
BSOTW winner Chris LeGate holding his .22-cal. Benjamin Marauder mounted with a Leapers 3-9×40AO scope with illuminated reticle. He also got a tin of JSB TEST Sampler pellets and an Air Venturi hand pump.
I’m going to combine velocity and accuracy testing for the Daisy Red Ryder, because I want to do a third report with the Daisy model 300 scope mounted. After examining the mount on my 1936 No. 25 that has that scope, I see it has the same base as the Red Ryder. So, the switch should be easy.
My Red Ryder hasn’t been shot in a great many months — perhaps over a year, so I expected to find the leather piston seal dry. But it wasn’t. I got that telltale wisp of smoke that told me the seal is still full of oil. However, I wanted to test the gun both before and after oiling, so that’s what I did.
I used the pellet/BB trap that was given to me by Jim Contos at last year’s Malverne airgun show (don’t forget, it’s coming up next month on April 27 and 28). It’s full of duct seal; but because I would be shooting BBs at low velocity and didn’t want any to bounce back off the lead already in the trap, I put a half-pound smear of fresh duct seal over what was already in the trap. I’ve now got between 5,000 and 10,000 shots on this trap, and it’s holding up fine. For those who need to build an inexpensive yet rugged trap for both BBs and pellets, click here for instructions on how to make one.
I shot Daisy zinc-plated BBs for all tests you’ll read today. Before the gun was oiled, it gave an average of 302 f.p.s. The spread went from a low of 290 to a high of 306 f.p.s. At the average velocity, the 5.1-grain BBs produced 1.03 foot-pounds at the muzzle.
I removed the shot tube and dumped out all the BBs. Newer BB guns have a hole on the side of the barrel jacket for oil, but older ones like this one don’t. You must remove the shot tube and drop the oil straight down the open end of the barrel jacket, where it can soak into the leather piston seal.
I used 3-in-One oil for this job. At the low velocity the Red Ryder generates, common household oil is fine for oiling the piston seal. There’s no danger of a detonation, and you can use enough oil to really soak that seal. I used 12 drops just to see what would happen.
After the gun was oiled, the velocity was no higher than before. The average now was just 300 f.p.s., but the total velocity spread tightened just a bit, from 16 f.p.s. before oiling to 11 f.p.s. after. The spread went from 293 to 304 f.p.s.
So oiling made little difference. As I noted, the presence of a wisp of smoke after every shot alerted me to the fact that the gun had all the oil it required.
I set up a 15-foot range, because that’s the standard distance for guns like this Red Ryder. The aim point was a Shoot-N-C black paster, peeled off a 3-inch bullseye card. It’s ever-so-slightly larger than a U.S. nickel coin, and I wanted to follow Mel Gibson’s advice from the movie The Patriot, “Aim small. Miss small.”
I shot offhand, and the first group is larger than it should be because I didn’t apply myself on every shot. I didn’t expect much accuracy from this BB gun, so I let a couple shots wander more than they should. The resulting 10-shot group measures 1.597 inches between centers. But within that group, there’s a cluster of five holes that measures 0.453 inches between centers. That encouraged me to knuckle down and give it my best effort on a second try.
The second group measures 1.483 inches between centers, so not a lot better than the first. It looks better because the shots seem to all be in a big cluster, but the measurements tell a different story.
Notice, though, that the BBs seem to go to the same place in both groups. This gun wants to shoot slightly above and to the left of the aim point with the 6 o’clock hold I’m using. Remember these sights are not adjustable, but I can use Kentucky windage to move the point of impact around a little. I think this gun is the kind that a little boy would soon learn to shoot, and before long he would be doing impossible things with it at close range.
This test turned out differently than expected. I thought the Red Ryder might get up as fast as 350 f.p.s. after a good oiling, but that didn’t happen. And I thought the accuracy would be a lot worse than what you see here.
We’re not done yet, because in the next installment I’ll mount the Daisy model 300 scope and shoot some more groups for you. I’ll also give you photos of this unique scope and mount that seems to copy the old buffalo hunter scopes of the 19th century. Til then!
by B.B. Pelletier
BSOTW winner Adrian Cataldo Beltrán shoots his .22-caliber Benjamin in his backyard.
“Between the dark and the daylight,
As the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the children’s hour.”
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Sit back and enjoy your hot cocoa, kiddies, because this is it! This is the airgun that probably started it all for many of you, and darned near all of you ought to know it by name — I don’t care where you’re from. Coke, Levis and the Daisy Red Ryder are the DNA of America.
We’re older and sadder now — having matured through some of the same flaws and foibles that older societies had to endure. But the name Red Ryder still rings a happy bell in the backs of our minds. It reminds us of the poem that promises “…somewhere the sun is shining.”
What is a Red Ryder?
Asking what a Red Ryder is, is like asking which Elvis you liked best — skinny or fat. The truth is, there wasn’t just one Red Ryder — there were many. The first gun (and it’s a gun for certain, because it isn’t rifled) was Daisy’s No. 111, Model 40 — first made in 1939. It had a copper-plated “golden” band around the front of the wooden forearm and the barrel, a saddle ring on the left side with a genuine leather thong tied through it and a Red Ryder brand burned into the left side of the stock. There are numerous variations of this early model, and the very first one also had a cast-iron cocking lever.
If you’re an old guy like me, you can still remember that those early Red Ryders were very difficult to cock, because they still used the heavy wire mainsprings from the earlier guns. Over the years, the gauge of the wire was thinned to help kids cock their guns and also to slow down those steel BBs that really could put your eye out. So, if the cocking on your gun seems stiff, it’s an early one.
World War II
Daisy played a large and patriotic part in World War II, including the grandson of the founder becoming one of the first pilots to break the speed of sound during a test flight of a P38 Lightning over England (in a steep dive). So, production of the Red Ryder halted in 1942 and resumed again in 1946.
My Red Ryder is a variation from 1947. It has a blued steel finish and a plastic forearm, with a wooden buttstock that carries the Red Ryder brand. The cocking lever is cast aluminum and painted black. Within a few more years, Daisy would start electrostatically painting the entire gun, so I feel fortunate to have the model I do. I know my gun is from 1947 because it came in the Model 311 Red Ryder set, which also included a scope, a cork tube and a steel target holder — all packed in a large brown cardboard box. There’s a later gun that has all the same features as this one; but since the set stopped being produced in 1950 and the later gun didn’t begin production until 1952, I know I have what the Blue Book of Airguns calls Variant 5.
The sights are fixed. Even though the No. 25 slide-action (pump) gun had adjustable front and rear sights in 1913, the Red Ryder lasted for more than a decade before it got them. You just had to learn where to hold to hit your target.
In 1955, Daisy introduced an interim Red Ryder based on the Model 94. It was a painted gun with plastic stock and forearm and painted logos on the frame. Of course, the plastic stock couldn’t be branded with a hot die (branding iron), so the logo was cut into the mold and the resulting lines were painted gold on the stock. It had a leather buttpad called a boot that was removable, and I believe this is the only leather buttpad on any Red Ryder. This model was short-lived and died out in 1962. As far as I can tell, the No. 111 Model 40 was produced right alongside this one; so for a time, Daisy actually had two Red Ryders in their lineup.
In 1972, the Red Ryder model changed to the Model 1938. It was very similar to the earlier gun, but there were manufacturing changes made to speed up production and adaptations to new ways of building BB guns. Plastic buttstocks that had been on the guns since the 1950s were applied interchangeably with wood stocks and even walnut stocks from time to time.
The Lightning Loader ends
The Lightning Loader is the separate tube under what looks like the barrel. It’s where the BBs are loaded. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch Ralphie load his new Red Ryder on Christmas morning in the classic movie A Christmas Story. But in the movie, Ralphie has to “cheat” the loading scene, because his Red Ryder is really a model 1938B, which doesn’t have a real Lightning Loader. Instead, it has a plastic door that’s opened to dump BBs into the outer tube — what looks like the barrel to most folks. The tube under the barrel is entirely cosmetic.
The 1938B is the Red Ryder of today, and the look has changed a little. We’re back to a wood stock and forearm, and the Red Ryder brand is back on the stock. It’s easy to burn in a brand when the stock is wood, and wood is what the customers want, so Daisy’s accommodating them. Blued steel comes back from time to time, but I don’t think we’ll see it on anything more than a special commemorative gun in the future. The electrostatic paint Daisy uses is far more durable than chemical bluing anyway. If you take care of the gun, the finish will outlast the original owner.
The BB gun I’ll be testing for you is my 1947 model — not the current gun. If you’re interested in the current model, we have an excellent two-part review by our own BG_Farmer for you to read. He compared a 1938 model with today’s 1938B, so this look at a No. 111 Model 40 is actually a test of a different airgun.
Yes, they had plastic in 1947. It wasn’t as good as it is today, and many of these old pieces such as this forearm have warped over time. This one is still good, but it looks incongruous with the wood butt.
In fact, the gun I’m showing here is really different from any other Red Ryder, because this one was made specially for the model 311 Red Ryder set mentioned earlier. What sets this gun apart from all others is the presence of the permanent rear mount for the long Daisy Model 300 telescopic sight. That mount attaches with two wood screws. If I remove it from the gun, I have a hole in the comb of the stock where the back of the tang was and the forward screw doesn’t run all the way down to the receiver. In other words, this gun was made this way at the factory. Like it or not, that rear scope mount has to remain in place or I have to seriously bubba the gun to eliminate its presence. Doing that would be like converting the gullwing doors on a Mercedes 300 SL to open to the side! So, this Red Ryder will always look different than the others.
The rear scope mount is built into the BB gun and can’t be removed without making the gun look incomplete. Other Red Ryders don’t have the backstrap seen here, and removing this mount leaves a deep hole in the wood. This is a rare gun since the set it came in was made for only a few years.
One final comment before I end this report. While photographing the BB gun, I noticed that the finish really does look blue — not the black oxide color seen on today’s firearms. It’s well-polished and looks very classy after seeing nothing but modern airguns for a long time. I can see why kids were so outraged when Daisy stopped bluing their BB guns and went to electrostatic paining.
Next time, I’ll check velocity, accuracy and cover a maintenance tip or two.
by B.B. Pelletier
Kit Palencar is this week’s Big Shot of the Week.
Today, we’ll complete the test of CB caps against an air rifle to show which is the better gun to use for close-in shooting. There will be a surprise in today’s report, plus I’ll summarize the entire test.
Today’s shooting is all at 10 yards. This is probably where the test should have started rather than finished. Once again, here are the players.
Air rifle — A Talon SS with 24-inch optional .22-caliber barrel and a bloop tube silencer. The rifle is scoped with a Leapers 3-12×44 SWAT scope. It’s shooting the .22-caliber JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellet.
The rimfire rifles are:
1. A Remington 521T target rifle chambered in .22 Long Rifle
2. A Stevens Armory 414 target rifle chambered in .22 Long Rifle
3. A Winchester Winder musket chambered in .22 Short
CCI CB Longs
Aguila Super Colibris
CCI CB Shorts
RWS BB caps
RWS CB caps
Left to right we have the RWS BB cap, RWS CB cap, CCI CB Short, Aguila Super Colibri and CCI CB Long.
Shooting indoors and the sound
I shot this final round indoors, so the relative discharge sounds could be closely monitored. There wasn’t much difference between the air rifle and any of the rimfire rounds except for the two RWS cartridges. Both of them were shot in the Winder musket’s 28-inch barrel and were slightly louder than all the others, with the BB caps being the loudest of all.
At 10 yards, the Talon SS shot all its pellets into a single hole that, until the tenth shot, was just 0.145 inches between centers. Shot 10, however, opened the group to 0.343 inches. You can see it when you look at the group. No excuses, though. I watched the last pellet drop and open the group, yet the hold on that shot was perfect, as it was for all the others.
The Winder musket has proven to be the rimfire star of this test; and at 10 yards, it did what I thought was impossible. It beat the air rifle! Ten CCI CB Shorts tore into a group that measures just 0.258 inches between centers. So, the CB caps beat the air rifle. I wouldn’t have believed this was possible if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes; but, clearly, the fact that the rimfires were shooting with peep sights against the air rifle’s scope did not sway the test that much.
The Winder musket, shooting CCI CB caps, beat the Talon SS at 10 yards.
The Winder was a star at 10 yards. It grouped 10 CCI CB Shorts in 0.258 inches, 10 RWS CB caps in 0.409 inches and 10 RWS BB caps in 1.033 inches.
Even RWS CB caps did well in the Winder at 10 yards.
All of the rimfire rifles shot good groups with CB caps and BB caps at 10 yards. The Remington 521T grouped 10 CCI CB Longs in 0.666 inches and 10 Aguila Super Colibris in 1.119 inches. The Stevens Armory 414 grouped 10 CCI CB Longs in 0.778 inches and 10 Aguila Super Colibris in 1.083 inches.
There was another small surprise during this test. The Stevens Armory 414 out-shot the Remington 521T with Aguila Super Colibris and was nearly as good as the Remington with CCI CB Longs. That tells me that the Stevens is a good-shooting rifle, after all, but maybe it doesn’t stabilize the slow-moving CB bullets well enough for accuracy at longer distances. I’ll come back to that thought in a moment.
Something I didn’t mention before
Blog reader Mike (I think) reminded me that CB caps have a pinch of gunpowder in the case, where BB caps are powered by the primer, alone. In this report, I’ve made it sound like the CB cap is also primer-powered with no powder, but that’s not the case. I took apart a CCI Long cartridge to show you the powder, and I’ve put it next to a CCI Green Tag .22 Long Rifle for comparison.
This goes in the “Don’t try this at home” instructions. At the top is a CCI CB Long pulled apart. Below is a CCI Green Tag Long Rifle cartridge pulled apart.
What I didn’t do in this test
I didn’t bust my tail trying CB caps in every .22 I have. If I had, no doubt the results might have been a little different; but I doubt there would have been anything earth-shattering. Any reader who has access to a fine .22 rimfire target rifle is welcome to try his or her hand at this test and report the results. I would really love to hear what a Remington 40X or an Anschütz free rifle could do. Until I hear different, I’m thinking these results are fairly representative of what you will see from a .22.
I have formed the following conclusions from the test results.
First, a CB cap in almost any .22 rimfire rifle in good condition can be accurate enough to dispatch pests at 10 yards or less. If you have a squirrel in the attic, a CB cap might be your best solution — especially if you don’t have an air rifle ready to go.
The rifle does have to be sighted-in for CB caps. Though they will be off by only an inch or so at 10 yards, the targets are often small enough that it does matter. Having a scope that has mil-dots so you can easily shift aim points is the best way to compensate for this.
Beyond 10 yards, the CB cap accuracy starts falling off rapidly. The rifle and exact round you choose start mattering. This is not true for air rifles, because one air rifle can be good from 10 yards to 50 yards with just slight changes in the aim point.
At 25 yards, the CB caps become very chancy, and it really matters which rifle and which rounds are selected. In this test, I found that no CB cap/rifle combination was good enough to go all the way to 50 yards. Yet, the air rifle did so with ease and could go even farther.
I’m going to say the CB caps are not stabilized out to 50 yards, because that’s what it looks like from the results. I just don’t think those bullets have enough spin to keep them on track that far out.
CB caps are quiet, but not more than a quiet PCP. When you’re in close confines, they’ll sound louder than you think.
Some rifles are simply not suited to the use of CB caps. I eliminated the Ruger 10/22 from the test after experiencing difficulty loading the caps.
Stuffing those tiny CB caps into the Ruger 10/22’s deep breech is no picnic. I don’t recommend it.
CB caps are expensive; but if you don’t plan to shoot a lot of them, they’re much cheaper than buying an entire air rifle. CB caps are ideal for older .22 rifles that may not have the strength needed for today’s more powerful cartridges.
On the other hand, if you own a quality air rifle like the Talon SS I’ve used in this test, I wouldn’t think of using CB caps in its place. The air rifle is so clearly ahead of the CB caps at all ranges — the results of the 10-yard test notwithstanding — that it simply makes no sense.
Was it worth the effort?
It absolutely was worth all the time spent gathering the data in this test, because now we have some solid performance data as a gauge. No, this may not be the last test anyone ever does, but it’s the first of its type of which I am aware. From now on, when somebody gives you the CB cap excuse for not shooting an airgun, you have something to help you argue your point.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today I will show you what CB caps did at 25 yards. Please remember the thrust of this investigation is to see whether a CB cap can be substituted for a good (read that as a PCP) air rifle. The four things I am interested in are the cost of ammo, accuracy, power and the noise at discharge.
Thus far we have learned that the air rifle is more accurate than the best CB cap at 50 yards. The pellets for that rifle are considerably less expensive than a similar quantity of CB caps and the dischange sound of my Talon SS with its 24-inch optional .22-caliber barrel the way I have it set up (with a bloop tube silencer installed) is as quiet as the quietest CB cap tested. And when I say CB cap, know that I’m also including the RWS BB cap in the list of ammo being tested.
So at 50 yards, you’ll want to choose an accurate precharged air rifle over a CB cap in any .22 rifle. But what about closer? What if the pests you want to shoot are no farther than 25 yards away? Today we will see how CB caps do at that distance, and of course as always, I will shoot the air rifle right with them, so we can keep track of things.
It was so easy to test the air rifle first, because if it is sighted-in at 50 yards, it’s also very close at 25 yards. In fact, my rifle is sighted-in for 25 yards and I have simply tolerated it at 50 yards because the group was close enough to the aim point. The same .22-caliber JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellet was used as at 50 yards.
The Talon SS set the bar pretty high for the rest of the rifles. Ten JSB Exact Jumbo Heavy pellets went into this group measuring 0.436-inches between centers.
CCI CB Longs
Now it was the turn of the CCI CB Long CB caps. The first rifle to fire them was the Remington 521T that proved fairly accurate (for a CB cap) at 50 yards.
Ten CCI CB Longs went into this group measuring 1.83-inches at 25 yards. The Remington 521T did it.
After that, the Stevens 414 Armory stepped up to the plate. As you may recall, it did so poorly with both brands of CB caps at 50 yards that I fired a group of 9 Wolf Match Target rounds, which are regular .22 long rifle target rounds, just to see if the rifle was accurate at all. It was with that ammo, but not with the CB caps.
At 25 yards the 414 was a little better. Ten shots went into a group measuring 2.787 inches across. While that’s not tack-driving accuracy, at least they were all on the paper this time.
Not a killer group, but much better than the performance at 50 yards. Stevens 414 Armory shooting CCI CB Longs in this 2.787-inch group.
Aguila Super Colibri
The next round to be tested was the Super Colibri from Aguila. You may remember that we discovered that the Colibri rounds shoot way too slow for rifles and had to be eliminated from this test, so the Super Colibri is the only Aguila round being tested.
In the Remington 521T they performed adequately. Ten shots went into a group measuring 3.476 inches at 25 yards. While that might be good enough for plinking, no one would ever confuse it as an accurate round for pest elimination.
Not a stellar performance, but the best we did with Aguila Super Colibris at 25 yards. These ten shots made a 3.476-inch group.
Next up was the Stevens Armory 414, and while all ten shots did land on the target paper at 25 yards, they were spread out over 5-7/8-inches. Clearly the Stevens rifle does not like CB caps one bit. I won’t even show the group, because there is nothing to see.
RWS BB and CB caps
At this point the RWS BB caps and CB caps were up, and only one rifle is shooting them — my Winchester Winder musket. I did that because it is chambered for .22 Shorts, so the shorter RWS cases won’t cause as much trouble as they might in a rifle chambered for the .22 Long Rifle round.
The BB cap target I won’t show because the group is too large, and one round landed off the target. It measured about seven inches in all, which makes this round infeasible for use at 25 yards in this rifle. After the test is completed I may go back and try the round in the Remington, just to see if I’m right about the chamber being too long, but right now I’m finished with it at 25 yards.
The RWS CB cap, on the other hand, turned in a 10-shot group that measured 1.792-inches across, making it the best CB cap group at this range thus far. This tells be that the performance of the BB cap in this rifle is probably better than I would see in the Remington, because this rifle just out-shot the Remington’s best 25-yard group. So it is clear that the RWS CB cap is a cartridge to contend with, and also the Winder musket is no slouch in the accuracy department.
Best CB cap target at 25 yards to this point! The Winder musket can shoot and the RWS CB cap is not bad, either. Group measures 1.792-inchs across.
CCI CB Short
Only one cartridge remains — the CCI CB Short. We learned in the velocity test that it is equally powerful as the CB Long and has an identical bullet, so the only significant difference is the Short has a shorter case. It is ideal for rifles chambered for the .22 Short round.
You would think that would make this cartridge very similar to the CB Long, but that’s not how it turned out! When I was done with the string and looked at the target for the first time, I was amazed! The Winder musket has iron target sights, so I couldn’t see the group as it formed, and that was probably a good thing, because look at what it did.
Does this group look a lot like the tight air rifle group at the beginning of the report? It does to me. Ten rounds went into 0.981 inches, with nine of them cutting a group that measures 0.604-inches! That’s pretty amazing.
Obviously I have found a winner with the Winder musket and CCI CB Shorts. They are equally accurate as the air rifle and might be used to pick squirrels off the bird feeder, as long as it isn’t too far away, and the rifle is sighted-in for the cartridge.
Sum up for 25 yards
At 25 yards, some CB caps will work, while others won’t. It seems to rely a lot on the individual rifle at this range. Since I have only tried a couple rifles, I would think the possibilities are wide open for anyone who owns a .22 rimfire.
Let’s remember that these bullets are being powered by priming compound, alone. And it is the priming step that is both the most critical in the production of rimfire ammunition, and also the one most prone to failures. I did have several failures to fire with the Stevens Armory 414, but when I shot .22 Long Rifles there was only a single failure and that one didn’t work after three tries. Perhaps the Armory could use a tuneup, and maybe that is what is behind its poor showings.
The last group shown was the one that really stunned me. I would have bet big money before conducting this test that no CB cap in any rifle would every turn in that kind of performance. Well, that’s why I’m doing this. Now we all know a lot more about what CB caps can and cannot do.
There is one more test to conduct at 10 meters. That’s for those who just want to shoot squirrels in their attic. Then I will sum up all the important lessons this report has revealed.
by B.B. Pelletier
Andrew is hidden among the ferns with his KWA KM4 RIS airsoft rifle.
Today, I’ll finish the accuracy test at 50 yards.
This report is about how .22-caliber CB caps stand up to an air rifle in four areas: cost of ammunition, power, accuracy and sound. To-date, we’ve learned that the air rifle I’m using is just about as powerful as the most powerful CB cap and that it’s as quiet as the quietest CB cap that might be used. One specialty CB cap (the Aguila Colibri) is quieter, but so low powered that it wasn’t used in this test. It’s strictly for .22 handguns.
First, I tested the accuracy of the AirForce Talon SS, which is my control air rifle. It has to endure the same wind and lighting as the CB caps, so the results should not be skewed.
If you’ve been following this report, you know that I’ve been having trouble loading CB caps into the chamber of my Ruger 10/22 — one of three rifles I selected to test the accuracy of CB caps. I chose a 10/22 because I had one (always a good reason) and because I thought it represented what the average guy might use if he wanted to shoot a CB cap. However, that was before I discovered what a royal pain it is to load CB caps into a 10/22! Yes, it can be done and I actually did it many times, but it’s so frustrating that I finally gave up and removed the 10/22 from this test.
Before making that decision, though, I even went to the bother of converting my rifle to the custom configuration with the custom stock and bull barrel from Butler Creek. Then, I rediscovered this nasty fact. So, I bounced that rifle as well before firing the first shot. But that left me with no scoped rifles in .22 rimfire. My Remington 521T has target aperture sights, as does the Winchester Winder musket. I wanted to keep things as even as possible between the firearms and the air rifle that wears a Leapers 3-12×44AO SWAT scope, but it was not to be.
The Winder musket
Another rifle whose accuracy I haven’t yet reported in this test is the Winchester Winder musket. This is a Winchester Low Wall action chambered for .22 Short, and I selected it for two reasons. First, it was made as a target rifle, and as such should be pretty accurate. Second, because it’s chambered for the .22 Short round, it’s perfect for the CCI CB Short cartridge, as well as being better for the ultra-short RWS CB caps and BB caps. Shooting these rounds in a rifle chambered for long rifle ammunition is putting them at a decided disadvantage, because they have to traverse the length of the chamber before encountering the rifling. When doing that, it’s possible the bullets could tip slightly before they engage the rifling.
Though the Winder musket dates from before 1920, it’s still a highly accurate target rifle, as this test showed.
The Winder’s performance was pretty surprising. It out-shot both the Remington 521T target rifle AND the scoped Ruger 10/22. Not by just a little. With CCI CB Shorts, the Winder posted a 2.714-inch 10-shot group! While not in the same class as the air rifle, that’s not bad. It was the tightest group made by any of the CB cap and BB cap ammunition in any rifle at 50 yards.
Not bad for just priming compound at 50 yards! This group of 10 CCI CB Short rounds from the Winder musket measures 2.714 inches across centers.
With RWS CB caps, the Winder put 10 into a group measuring about 3.577 inches. I have to say “about” because one round strayed off the target paper and I wrote a note on the target that it was an inch to the right. The Winder has no lock on the windage adjustment, and I guess I’d rubbed it against the rifle case when pulling it out at the range. That rolled the windage adjustment too far to the right, which put the group in the upper right corner of the target. When I started shooting, the shots were close enough and far enough on the paper that I thought I could get them all on. Since it takes me up to 15 minutes to complete one group, while waiting for the perfect time to shoot, I decided to go with this group as is.
Nine of 10 RWS CB caps made it through this target from the Winder musket. Shot No. 9 just nicked the right edge of the paper. The tenth shot was about an inch to the right of the target paper. Actual group size was about 3.577 inches.
The RWS BB caps performed much differently than the CB caps in the Winder. Only 8 of 10 made it onto the paper, even though this group is well-centered on the target. Again, I have no idea how large the total group is, but the 8 shots I do have are spread out about 7.25 inches.
Adding the Stevens Armory 414 target rifle
I did add a third rifle to the firearm side since the 10/22 was removed. It’s a Stevens Armory 414 target rifle that was popular before World War II. It’s a single-shot lever-action that’s based on the popular Stevens No. 44 action. Mine has an adjustable target tang sight and a very odd front aperture that looks like it should be lethal.
The four rifles used in this test (top to bottom): AirForce Talon SS, Winchester Winder musket, Stevens Armory 414 and Remington 521T.
The front aperture on the Stevens Armory rifle is one of the smallest I’ve ever seen.
Now, it was time to shoot the new rifle at 50 yards with both the Aguila Super Colibri CB caps and the CCI CB Longs. This was done a week ago, and I saved the results for today’s report.
The results are really horrible! The Aguila Super Colibis managed to hit the 10.5″x12″ target paper 3 out of 10 times. For those on the metric system, the target paper measures 268mm by about 350mm! I have no way of knowing for certain what the group size actually is, but let’s conservatively call it a 15-inch group! I’m not going to bother showing you the target paper with three holes.
Next, I tried CCI CB Longs and got somewhat better results, though they’re still nothing spectacular. Ten shots made a group that measures just over 9 inches at 50 yards. At least all the shots were on the paper!
This got me wondering whether this particular rifle is accurate with anything, so I shot a group of 9 Wolf Match Target .22 long rifle cartridges. It would have been 10, but one cartridge failed to fire in three attempts. Rimfires! Naturally, that was the last of that brand of cartridge on hand. The group is small enough (0.978 inches) to indicate that the rifle can shoot, and I still have no idea what the best round for this rifle might be.
Nine Wolf Match Target rounds went into this group, which is under an inch; so, the rifle can shoot with the right ammunition.
Summary for CB caps against air rifles at 50 yards
The Talon SS air rifle with an optional 24-inch, .22-caliber barrel and bloop tube shot groups in the three-quarters to one-and-a-quarter-inch range at 50 yards. This rifle is a proven entity, and this level of performance is not unusual. Since it was shot on the same day as the CB caps, both were shot under the same conditions; so, we can cancel the wind and lighting as factors.
The best performance from the firearms was realized by the CCI CB Shorts shot in the Winder musket, and they made a 10-shot group that was just over 2.70 inches. The Ruger 10/22 that I eliminated because of loading difficulties turned in the second-best group, and the RWS CB caps in the Winder musket were close behind. After that, the group sizes increased very quickly. Most of the rest of the groups were too large to measure because several shots were off the paper and lost.
The bottom line for 50-yard shooting with CB caps is that they cannot keep pace with a good PCP air rifle. There’s something else you have to consider. If you grab a .22 rimfire to shoot just one CB cap, the rifle will not be sighted-in for that round. I spent a lot of time getting my shots on target at 50 yards. When I switched back to standard .22 long rifle ammunition with the Stevens Armory 414, the sights had to be adjusted a lot in both directions.
With an air rifle, you’ll always be on target, provided the rifle is sighted-in. So, just grab the gun, load it and take the shot. At distances as far as 50 yards, this makes all the difference in the world, because Mr. Rat is not going to sit still while you adjust your sights.
I must say that I was surprised by the tightest CB cap groups shot with both the Winder musket and the Remington 521T. I couldn’t have predicted that level of accuracy for them at 50 yards.
Next time, we’ll move in to 25 yards — and I already know the results are going to amaze you.