Posts Tagged ‘semiauto’
by B.B. Pelletier
Redemption is a powerful experience, because it comes only after suffering and anguish. Redemption is what I longed for with the Nelson Lewis combination gun and with my Ballard rifle. Today, however, I’m going to talk about another redemption — that of the Winchester M14 dual-ammo rifle.
In Part 1, we learned that this rifle is nearly all plastic — which for many, including me, is a put-off. We also learned that it uses two 12-gram CO2 cartridges instead of one, and that assaulted the the miser in all of us. Accuracy is the only thing that would make it worth the extra cost.
When we looked at the velocity in Part 2, we discovered that the rifle does not begin to achieve the advertised velocity of 700 f.p.s. That’s not a bad thing, except it leaves us disappointed from unrealized expectations. The velocity should prove high enough, though, as long as the rifle is accurate — which brings us to today’s test. Part 3 — accuracy day.
The Winchester M14 is both a BB gun and a pellet rifle, so I had to test the accuracy of both types of projectiles. BBs get tested at the standard 5 meters (just over 16 feet) distance, while pellets were shot at 10 meters. And each target got 8 shots instead of 10 because of the capacity of the circular clip at either end of the stick magazine. Trying to load just two more of anything in one of these clips is annoying and troublesome at the least.
So, it was BBs first, as they’re shot at the closer distance. I shot the rifle using Daisy zinc-plated BBs offhand at 16.5 feet.
I left the sights as they came out of the box. With a 6 o’clock hold, the first BB struck the target at the exact aim point, so I stopped checking and fired 7 more shots. This rifle is super-easy to shoot, as there’s nothing to do but pull the trigger. The cocking and advancement of the cylinder are all taken care of by the gun. And as light as the rifle is, it’s easy to hold it on target for all 8 shots.
After the clip was empty, I walked up to the target to see the results, which is when the word “redemption” came into my thoughts. The group is very round and measures 0.532 inches between centers! This is a group I might shoot with a Daisy 499 Champion — the world’s most accurate BB gun. I’ve never shot a group this small with any other long BB gun, that I can remember.
What if it was just a fluke? What if the next 8 BBs went into a group twice the size? Only one way to find out. I shot a second group. This time, it was positively fun — as the confidence of an accurate gun poured over me! I adjusted the rear peep up three clicks and shot again.
The second group was easier to shoot because I now knew the gun was accurate. I only hoped I could repeat what had been done before. Alas, that didn’t happen, as the second group was smaller than the first. Eight shots went into a group measuring 0.472 inches!
Here’s a BB gun that rivals the most accurate BB gun ever made! And this one has M14 sights that encourage target shooting. Look at the center of the second group. It’s just a little higher than group one, which is exactly how the sights were adjusted.
Now I moved back to 10 meters where I could shoot pellets from a rest. Again all the groups will have 8 pellets because of the mag capacity. The rifle was rested on a sandbag positioned under the forearm just in front of the magazine that hangs down. Although this rifle is very light, I found it to be very steady in the rested position, and the trigger-pull did not disturb the aim point.
The first pellet I tried was that champion of lower-powered spring guns — the JSB Exact RS that Kevin turned me on to. It struck the target higher than the BBs, but did not group very well. Eight pellets made a group measuring 1.384 inches between centers. That’s not good for 10 meters.
I followed the JSB pellet with our new friend — the H&N Baracuda Green that we’re learning to love. As light as it is, I wondered if it might be suited to the lower power this rifle generates. Apparently it is, because 8 of them went into a tight group that measured 0.739 inches. This is only 10 meters; but if you look at this group, I’m sure you’ll see the potential the rifle promises.
Next up were some H&N Match Pistol pellets. I chose them for no special reason, other than I am trying to mix up the pellets I usually test with. They printed a group that measures 0.694 inches between centers — so just a little smaller than the Baracuda Greens. The rifle just keeps on doing better!
The final pellet I tried was an RWS R10 Match Pistol pellet. This pellet is among the best target pellets I have available, and I wanted to see what it could do in this rifle. The 8-shot group measures 0.722 inches across, so it’s between the Baracuda Greens and the H&N Match Pistol pellets.
Do you notice we have three groups that are very similar in size? I think the rifle is capable of this level of accuracy all day long, and perhaps there’s another pellet I haven’t tried that’s even better. The gun shoots easily and very much resembles a fine target rifle when I shoot it. The sights are easy to see, and very crisp, plus they seem to adjust with precision.
As I shot this rifle I thought of blog reader Matt61 and his new Garand. Here’s an apartment-sized airgun that he could use to keep his skills sharpened for those days when he can’t get out to the range with the large firearm.
I was also reminded of when I was a youngster, shooting the NRA’s beginner training course. There’s virtually no resemblance between this rifle and the Winchester 52, but the shooting experience seems so similar that it’s scary. I understand why all those customer reviews have praised the accuracy so highly, and also why they’ve forgiven the plastic and light weight for the most part. The Winchester M14 has redeemed itself in my eyes!
The last word
I used the Winchester Airgun Target Cube to stop the BBs and pellets fired in this test. Because this rifle shoots faster than 350 f.p.s., the cube was turned to the side for higher-velocity rounds. As before, the cube caught all BBs and pellets with no mess and nothing got through. I will continue to report on the performance of this cube backstop as I use it in future tests, with an eye to discovering just what it will take.
by B.B. Pelletier
Let’s test the velocity of the Winchester M14 dual-ammo rifle. Of course, I’ll test it with both BBs and lead pellets. This rifle is a semiautomatic 8-shot repeater powered by 2 CO2 cartridges. Someone made a comment that referred to the rifle having blowback action, but I want to clear that up — it doesn’t. Yes, the action operates by CO2 power and really is semiautomatic; but no — there’s no sensation of blowback, and nothing moves when the rifle fires.
You do have to pull the “bolt” back to cock the rifle before the first shot. It’s not really a bolt — just a plastic cover to hide the metal internal parts of the firing mechanism. But the act of pulling it back is realistic.
The stick mag has an 8-shot rotary clip on each end. After firing 8 shots, you pop it out and reverse it for another 8. Then, you must reload the magazine. I see no reason why you can’t carry additional loaded magazines, as long as you take some care to keep them clean. They do have moving parts that affect their function, so these parts have to be able to move or the gun will jam.
I tested the rifle with Daisy zinc-plated BBs first, and discovered that the rotary clips have a magnet inside to hold the BBs in place. Because the chambers in the clips are for .177 pellets, they’re too large for BBs — which are .173-caliber. But the magnets securely hold the BBs in place.
BBs averaged 560 f.p.s. and ranged from a low of 546 to a high of 580 f.p.s. That’s a pretty broad spread for a CO2 gun. It’s also 140 f.p.s. slower than the advertised top velocity of 700 f.p.s., which surprised me, because the BBs are very light and are possibly the fastest projectiles this gun can shoot. This BB weighs 5.1 grains and generates 3.55 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, on average.
The stick mag dropped out of position two times during the test, which entailed just over 40 shots. I’ll chalk that up to my not seating it correctly for now, but it’s something I plan to watch as the test progresses. I note that there’s a click deep inside the gun that must be heard to know the magazine is seated correctly.
The first pellet I tried was the JSB Exact RS. As light as this domed pellet is, I felt it would compliment the power of this airgun well.
This 7.33-grain lead pellet averaged 519 f.p.s. and ranged from a low of 507 to a high of 542 f.p.s. At the average velocity, it generated 4.39 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
Next, I loaded RWS Hobby pellets. At just seven grains, I expected them to be the velocity champs among the pellets, but they turned in a disappointing average of 491 f.p.s. The spread, however, ranged from a low of 443 f.p.s. to a high of 532 f.p.s., indicating the gun was running out of gas. This was after fewer than 30 shots had been fired! Well, it’s possible that I shot it more times while writing Part 1 and just didn’t remember it.
I installed two new CO2 cartridges; and as the old ones were expelled, they both lost a lot of gas. The rifle was not firing at this point, so a lot of gas was being wasted. I kept track of each shot these new cartridges gave, so I could report the total shot count.
With the new cartridges in place Hobbys gave an average 549 f.p.s. The spread, though, was still very large, extending from a low of 507 to a high of 592. Since the first four shots also expelled a cloud of CO2 vapor, I know they were artificially higher than the average, which was more in the 520 f.p.s. region.
I don’t know what to make of these velocity numbers. Clearly, Hobbys were all over the place, depending on how new the CO2 cartridge was. I would guess their average is really closer to 520 f.p.s., which would give them an average muzzle energy of 4.2 foot-pounds.
I must also note that Hobbys were too large to seat in the chambers of the circular clip easily. I had to use the Air Venturi PellSet to get them into each chamber far enough for the clip to rotate freely. Perhaps, that might explain their erratic behavior.
The next pellet I tested was the Crosman Premier 7.9-grain dome. These averaged 472 f.p.s. in the M14, and the velocity spread went from 457 to 482 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this pellet averaged 3.91 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.
I mentioned in Part 1 that I felt the trigger was close to a military pull. Well, it breaks at an average 6 lbs., 5 oz., so it’s just a little heavier than the standard 5-lb. military pull. The pull is a little creepy, but it’s not bad. I will probably have more to say about it after the accuracy test.
Shots per fill
We’re using two CO2 cartridges in this rifle. So how many shots does that give? I disregarded the early cartridge swap and started counting after the new cartridges were installed.
I got a total of 112 shots before feeling it was necessary to change the cartridge. That’s a good number for everything else this gun does. Let me tell you how it went.
I used mostly JSB Exact RS pellets for this test, so I could see where the power was at any given time. After the first 40 shots, the gun no longer shot above 500 f.p.s. It stayed around 470 until shot 88; but if several shots were fired quickly in a row without giving the gun time to warm up again, the velocity dipped down to almost 400 f.p.s. Stop shooting a minute, though, and it’s back to 470 with the RS pellet.
After shot 88, the rifle dropped below 400 f.p.s. for the first time and started slowing down. If 5 shots were fired rapidly the velocity at the end was only 312 f.p.s. After shot 104, the gun was always in the 300s. I stopped at shot 112 because I felt the gun could jam if I went too much farther. Shot 112 was fired after a minute’s pause and went 335 f.p.s.
Impressions so far
This rifle is turning out to be somewhat different than I thought at the beginning. It isn’t as consistent as I’d hoped. It suffers too much velocity loss from the cooling effect as the gun shoots. That will be expressed as vertical stringing on any targets. The best accuracy will come by pausing a minute between shots.
Accuracy is next. I am very curious as to what we will see.
by B.B. Pelletier
I told you I would review the Winchester M14 dual-ammo rifle as soon as it came in. Well, the package arrived last week and today I’ll begin my report.
This M14 is able to fire both BBs and pellets from its 16-shot magazine. The mag is a long stick with an 8-shot rotating clip on either end. After 8 shots have been fired, the magazine has to be removed and inverted to position the next 8 shots.
The rifle is powered by two 12-gram CO2 cartridges that fit in an assembly that also holds the stick magazine. This entire assembly fits into a fixed box “magazine” that extends down from the bottom of the action and cannot be removed. The bottom of the gas assembly matches the fixed box and lengthens the overall magazine look. A hole in the bottom of the assembly allows the stick mag to be removed when it need to be inverted, and a small button in the fixed box releases just the stick mag.
This photo shows the stick mag protruding from the bottom of the gas assembly and the gas assembly coming out of the bottom of the fixed box that’s attached to the rifle. To remove the charged gas assembly, both a lever and a second button (located below the primary lever) must be pushed. The gas assembly comes out of the gun under pressure, so don’t do this unless it’s necessary!
The fact that the rifle uses two CO2 cartridges concerns me because they’re costly — more so than the pellets. Given the muzzle velocity of an advertised 700 f.p.s., I would expect to get 45-50 shots from a single cartridge, so I’m hoping to see at least 90 shots from this rifle before it’s time to replace the cartridges.
It’s a rifle!
I will cover loading the mag and charging the gun in Part 2. Right now, I want to continue to describe the rifle. First of all — it is, indeed, a rifle. It has a rifled steel barrel that can also tolerate steel BBs, so either ammunition can be safely used. When I do accuracy testing, I’ll test one type of ammo at a time. I don’t want to rush this test because so many readers have indicated an interest.
Lots of plastic
When I first took the rifle from its box, the term “plastic-y” immediately came to mind. Without the gas/magazine assembly installed, the rifle is very lightweight due to a hollow plastic stock and external parts made of mostly plastic. The pull length seems about right, at 13-1/8 inches. And the shape and size of the stock seem the same as the M14 I remember — though I’m remembering something from 43 years ago.
In my opinion, the shape and realism of the airgun trumps the light weight and overly plastic nature. I learned to love the Crosman 1077, once it showed me accuracy that topped many premium European spring rifles. That’s what this Winchester has to do, too.
For those readers who are only familiar with the AR-style of rifle, this M14 has a far more conventional feel when you shoulder it. The AR pistol grip that’s too close to the trigger for almost every shooter is replaced with a more conventional pistol grip and reach to the trigger blade. And your cheek will find a nice resting spot on the broad buttstock instead of on some spindly tube. This is a feel I personally prefer.
The action and trigger
The box says this is a “semiautomatic.” And this time they’re right — it really is! Instead of a double-action revolver mechanism in disguise, this M14 really does operate semi-automatically. I don’t know how they managed it, but they put a pretty nice military trigger-pull into this rifle, too. Those two things plus the sights will put it over the top if it’s accurate.
The safety is exactly like the one on an M14, only almost everyone will be able to work this one with their trigger finger! It’s smooth and positive, yet requires very little pressure to move in either direction.
The sights are very correct, and if you’ve never experienced a Garand or M14/M1A, this air rifle provides a cheap way of seeing the same thing. And the rear peep sight is adjustable in both directions, exactly the same as military sights, with one exception. The windage knob on my test rifle is very stiff, and sometimes I have to help it by pushing the sight carrier to the right to free it for an adjustment. I think this will wear in. My fear is that it may also wear out, because all I can see and touch is plastic. I sure hope the detents inside the sight are steel.
Anyone who has ever owned a Garand will love the ease with which the elevation on this Winchester adjusts. Once the sight is where you want it, though, it stays put.
There’s currently no possibility of mounting a scope on this rifle. And don’t try to equate it to a genuine M14 or Garand that can be scoped, because those guns have steel receivers to accept scope base screws. This rifle’s receiver is plastic, so there’s nothing to drill into to mount the base.
Don’t let that bother you, however, because this type of sight was one of the reasons the Garand was celebrated as the finest battle rifle of World War II. It’s easy to use and very precise. If this rifle is accurate, the sights will do nothing but compliment it.
The rifle comes with sling swivels, and I am glad that no sling was provided. I say that because the type of sling that would have been selected is a cheap black nylon strap with toy-like thinness. If you want a sling, get a real one! The sling swivels appear to be well-anchored and look like they will even tolerate a hasty sling hold. Former military will know what that means. The rest of you should look it up on the internet.
The bottom line
Many of you reacted to the realistic look of this gun and asked me to review it. I now have one in my hands and I’ve told you how it feels and looks in person. In spite of the toy-like feel of the gun, the M14 genes carry through strongly, and I can’t wait to shoot it. If it proves as accurate as it looks and feels, this will be a rifle that doesn’t go back to Pyramyd Air!
by B.B. Pelletier
Some announcements before we start:
BSOTW winner Silas McCulfor took this great picture of his sister holding his Beeman Sportsman RS2 model 1073 dual-caliber air rifle.
Get free tickets to the NRA show in St. Louis. If you’re not an NRA member (they get in free) or have family members and friends who aren’t members, Pyramyd air has some free passes for you ($10 value). To get yours, click to send an email request. Limit of 2 tickets per person. Limited supply. First come, first served!
Pyramyd Air is awarding double Bullseye Bucks for each purchase you make from March 15-18, 2012. If you don’t have an account, create one. Then, use that same email address when placing any orders (whether you sign in to your account or not when placing an order). If you already have an account, you’ll get double credit for any orders you place March 15-18…as long as you place them using the same email address as your Bullseye Bucks account (even if you don’t sign in when ordering).
On to today’s blog.
Okay, lads and lassies; settle back while uncle B.B. tells you a nice long story! This report will be a big one because there’s so much to tell.
The Crosman MAR 177 upper is a target precharged pneumatic upper that fits on any standard National Match AR lower (I’ll cover that in a moment) and turns the U.S. M16 service rifle or its civilian-legal semiautomatic counterpart AR-15 into a target air rifle. Those airgunners who own AR rifles can buy the MAR177 right now and have a target PCP that’s ready to go. This report will be a thorough test of that rifle.
But I don’t own an AR-type rifle. And none of my shooting friends do, either. So, I was at a disadvantage when I was asked to report on this unique new air gun.
There have been other air rifles before now that have resembled the AR-15/M16. Crosman just introduced their M4-177 multi-pump rifle that I tested for you at the end of last year, and back in the 1990s they made the much simpler A.I.R. 17 — another multi-pump that was crude but did follow the AR styling. So, the story is not that an AR airgun has been made. The story is that this one is a precision target rifle and should rival some 10-meter rifles.
The AR system
Before I continue, everybody needs to be on the same page. The AR system that the Crosman MAR (modular adaptive rifle) belongs to is comprised of two principal subassemblies — the upper receiver and the lower receiver. The upper receiver contains the barrel, gas system, bolt, sights and operational hardware for the rifle. The Crosman MAR177 is an upper. I will talk a lot about the upper throughout the rest of this report, but let’s look at the lower receiver for a moment.
The lower, as it’s called, is a frame that contains the operational parts, pins and springs for the trigger, selector and safety, magazine catch, as well as the buttstock and buffer assembly. It’s considered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF&E) to be a firearm. It’s the part that has the serial number. You can buy and sell uppers almost anywhere in the U.S. without paperwork, but each lower is classified as a firearm. The fact that this is a modular system with many different uppers — all on one lower — allows you to own many different rifles, all under one registration.
But I didn’t own an AR — so I didn’t have a lower receiver and the MAR177 isn’t sold as a complete rifle, yet. There are plans to build it that way at some time in the future, but for now all you can buy is the upper. I needed to get a lower.
At first, I looked around for just a complete lower receiver to buy used, and they do exist, but as I searched I found that the people who have them don’t always know exactly what they have. For example, the upper and lower attach via two cross pins, and there have been different sizes of pins over the years. Colt made pins that were larger than those made by other manufacturers, so you might get a Colt lower that doesn’t fit the MAR upper. There are bushings to reduce the sizes of the holes in the lower; but since I was doing this from scratch, I didn’t want to begin with a workaround.
I located a brand new Rock River Arms lower receiver that was stripped of all parts. It was just the receiver shell by itself. But there are parts kits to build up such receivers, so I went online and ordered a National Match lower parts kit and an A2 buttstock assembly from Rock River. I would build the receiver myself; and when finished, I would have a complete Rock River lower — not a bad thing to have. Rock River is a good name; one of many you will find if you look. And there are also a few names to avoid — just as there are with airguns.
When I placed the order, though, I failed to notice the fine print at the bottom of the Rock River webpage that said some of the parts were on indefinite backorder. They didn’t specify which parts those were from the hundreds of choices on the page, but sure enough it turned out to be the entire parts kit I needed for this report. That’s because Rock River is currently experiencing a 60-90-day backorder status on their whole rifles, and they certainly aren’t going to sell their parts faster than they can build entire rifles to sell. It makes perfect sense, but only when you know it. And I only found out when I didn’t get the parts I ordered. So, I had a stripped receiver without the parts to complete it.
Once I realized my backorder status, I placed a call to Rock River to see what the expected delivery date would be, and that’s when I learned everything I have just shared with you. I then explained my short publishing deadline to them (a special feature article in the July color issue of Shotgun News) and they bent over backwards to fix the problem — but don’t expect them to do the same for everyone. If you want to build a lower receiver, you had best first pin down a source for parts before doing anything else. So, this test is made possible through the good graces of Rock River Arms, who, before last Wednesday, had never heard of Tom Gaylord.
National Match lower
Now that you know what a lower receiver is, what’s so special about a National Match lower? Simply put, it’s a lower that meets the specifications for the U.S. Service Rifle National Matches held at Camp Perry, Ohio, every year. One of the most important aspects of this specification is the trigger. Standard AR rifles come with single-stage triggers that are barely adequate at their best. But the National Match specification allows for a two-stage trigger that breaks cleanly with no less than 4.5 lbs. of force. There’s a host of additional information available for National Match triggers; but for our discussion, this is sufficient.
I was hardly going to test the MAR177 — a target rifle — with anything less than a good trigger. I say “good” advisedly; because to someone used to a nice match airgun trigger or even a Rekord sporting trigger, these AR triggers are fairly crude — even those that are National Match. But in the sport they’ll be used, the National Match triggers are as good as you’re allowed to have. Testing the new air rifle upper with a stock single-stage trigger would be a crime.
You’ll watch the build
That’s enough about the lower for today. When the parts arrive, I’ll photograph their assembly and describe the experience for you. For now, let’s concentrate on the MAR177 upper from Crosman.
The Modular Adaptive Rifle (MAR) is a .177-caliber target upper that operates on compressed air. It’s a 10-shot repeater with Crosman’s (Benjamin’s) familiar rotary magazine. My test rifle also came with the single-shot tray for loading pellets one at a time. The rifle is not semiautomatic like most ARs. It feeds and cocks via the retraction of the charging handle, so for each shot the handle must be pulled back.
I shot a preproduction version of the rifle at this year’s SHOT Show on Media Day. But standing on an outdoor firearm range with hundreds of firearms being discharged is not the best place to evaluate a target air rifle. And I couldn’t even evaluate the trigger of the rifle I tested, because it will differ from the trigger I put into my gun. Are you getting a sense of how this modular thing works?
The target pellets exit the muzzle at up to 600 f.p.s., putting them in exactly the same range as most modern 10-meter target rifles. The barrel is from Lothar Walther, which leads me to expect accuracy will be the same as Crosman’s Challenger PCP target rifle.
Unlike airsoft ARs and the two muti-pumps mentioned above, this upper is full weight and will feel like a firearm when mounted on a lower. Therefore, besides being a match rifle, the MAR is also ideal for owners of ARs who want to train with their rifles in their homes under safer range conditions and at a fraction of the cost of even reloaded centerfire ammunition. They can shoot a couple thousand rounds for less than $50 when they use Pyramyd Air’s “Buy three, get the fourth tin free” promotion. So, even when the initial purchase price of $600 for the MAR and the cost of a hand pump is factored in, a serious shooter will get his money back in less than a year and will be training ten times as much with his service rifle.
The MAR operates at pressures between 1,000 psi and 2,900 psi (69 bar and 200 bar, respectively). Crosman says you’ll get up to 120 shots per fill. As the reservoir appears to be the same as the one on their Challenger PCP, I would expect that estimate to be correct.
The gun comes with service-style sights. The rear has two peep sizes, accessed by flipping the post they’re mounted on. And the rear sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation. It’s built into a conventional carry handle, like the rear sight on many ARs. The front sight is a plain post that’s also adjustable for elevation via the same type of detent locking mechanism found on other ARs. You can also remove both sights, and there’s a Mil-Std 1913 Picatinny rail underneath, for those who want to mount optical sights.
There’s a lot to this new rifle, so we’ll see more of it in the reports that follow. And the MAR isn’t the only AR-15 PCP pellet rifle on the market. Anschütz also sells an entire rifle with similar features for around $1,850. So, the MAR177 is even bigger news, because it offers all this value at a fraction of the cost. Figure around $500 if you build a lower like I’m doing. If you already own an AR, there’s no additional cost. Either way, this gun is a bargain!
by B.B. Pelletier
Stevin Cran shoots at a field target match. Edith has asked Pyramyd air’s facebook contact to find out the specifics about the scope as well as the specific Steyr model.
We had this question last week. Three years ago, I wouldn’t have thought of writing it, but then I learned the truth — not everyone understands what the term repeater means. Not even everybody in the gun trade understands it!
This is why I rant about using the correct terms for things like cartridges and bullets. Because if we don’t, along comes someone who thinks bullets and cartridges are the same. So, then, what do they call a bullet? Why, a bullet tip or a bullet head or a bullet nose — as one airgun maker did several years ago. I’ve seen people on TV gun reality shows refer to cartridges as bullets — so you know the practice is widespread.
And it was three years ago when I saw on an airgun retail website a description of a certain airsoft long gun that described it as a bolt-action, single-shot with a 25-round magazine! This was a dealer, mind you! I was flabbergasted until I researched it a bit more and found that many sites were making the same mistake. Apparently, there are lots of people who believe that for something to be a repeater, it must fire every time the trigger is pulled. Anything else is a single-shot, I guess.
Man has wanted to fire more than one shot from his gun since about 30 seconds after recovering from the shock of seeing the first gun fire. And why not? We had repeating crossbows hundreds of years ago. Why shouldn’t firearms also fire more than one shot before needing to be reloaded?
And experiments with repeating firearms go way back in history. There were matchlock guns that used charges in tandem; firing one, then the next one behind it and so on, until all charges in the barrel were fired. The photo below is of a flintlock that has to pre-date 1830, and we know that Bartolomeo Girardoni’s son was killed as he fired one of his father’s repeaters when it exploded and tore of his arm Shortly thereafter, Girardoni turned to airguns and developed his 22-shot repeater (known as the model 1780) for the Austrian Army.
The charges for this flintlock repeater were loaded one on top of the other in a single barrel. The forward lock was fired first, then the one behind it and so on. Heaven help them if they got out of order! They relied on the bullet to stop the gunpowder from burning backward and setting off the other charges. Very dangerous! Photo from “Guns and Rifles of the World,” by Howard L. Blackmore, copyright 1965.
There were several repeaters used during the American Civil War. The most popular was Colt’s repeating revolver — a 6-shot revolver that was popular with both sides. And there were numerous other revolvers, plus a couple of lever-action repeaters from Spencer and Henry.
But when the armies of the world started buying and designing their own repeaters in the 1870s, they made most of them single-shots, as well.
These early military bolt-action repeaters had a lever or switch called a magazine cutoff that prevented the cartridges in the magazine from feeding through the action. The rifles were supposed to function as single-shots in battle until the order was given to throw the switch and turn them into true repeaters. Then they fed cartridges from the magazine until the last cartridge was fired. The brass theorized that this would conserve ammunition. I don’t know what the soldiers thought, but I know what I would have done had I been in their position.
Think this went out of style in the 20th century? Hardly! The U.S. Rifle, Model 1903A3, which entered production in late 1941, still had a magazine cutoff. But long before the soldiers had learned to flip it up to feed from the magazine.
The magazine function is turned ON with the cutoff switch in this position. The rifle now feeds all cartridges as it should.
There was one stylistic reason for retaining the magazine cutoff. The bolt was opened during the drill maneuver known as inspection arm; if the cutoff was set, the bolt never cleared the magazine follower. Therefore, the bolt could rapidly be closed again without pushing down on the follower. That looks and sounds sharp if everybody’s in cadence. Of course, other models of bolt-action rifles solved this same problem by simply grinding a bevel on the back of the follower; so the value of keeping the cutoff is small. Knowing the hidebound U.S. Army, it’s a safe bet they kept it for that reason, alone!
So, what is a repeater?
A repeating gun or airgun is a gun that can be fired more than one time without loading ammunition. And when I say loading, I mean handling ammunition with the hands. So, is a revolver a repeater? You betcha! How about a double-barreled gun? Yes, again. But here we will start an argument, because some double-barrel fans think that repeaters must have mechanisms to manipulate the ammunition. They see double-barreled guns as different because they need no ammunition manipulation mechanism and are shorter and lighter than those guns that have them.
I fall on the side that believes double-barreled guns are repeaters; by the same token, 24-shot volley guns are repeaters. And large revolving cannons (where either the barrels revolve or there’s a huge cylinder containing the cartridges) are also repeaters. In my mind, the Mossberg Brownie pistol is also a repeater, and it’s a four-barreled handgun. The only thing that moves is the firing pin. The same can be said for certain models of double-barreled shotguns.
But the bolt-action rifle that has a magazine is always a repeater. The fact that the bolt must be operated to move the next cartridge from the magazine into the barrel’s breech does not prevent it from being a repeater.
What about a gun that must be loaded singly, but which carries a reserve of cartridges onboard? One example of this would be the Liberator pistol from World War II. It was a primitive weapon that fired as a single-shot but carried extra cartridges inside the hollow butt. In this case, since each cartridge has to be singly loaded into the breech, it’s a single-shot. The quantity of ammunition that comes with the gun doesn’t affect the definition. How each round gets into the breech is what drives the definition.
Think we’re done?
Not even close! As recently as one year ago, I actually had to argue that an airsoft M1911A1 pistol that required the slide to be withdrawn for every shot was a repeater! The other party wanted to call it a single-shot that had a 20-round magazine. It had a spring-piston powerplant, and pulling the slide back cocked the mainspring that drove the piston. It this respect, it’s something like a bolt-action rifle, except the piston is being retracted and the mainspring cocked instead of just the firing pin retracted and its spring cocked while the next round is fed into the chamber. The other party insisted that since this pistol did not feed the plastic BB into a chamber, that was the proof that it was a single-shot. But when I pointed out that the Walther PPK/S BB pistol shoots BBs straight from the top of the magazine and not from the chamber of the barrel, they conceded the point.
Does it matter?
What should it matter whether people know the definition of a repeater? Well, the context is what determines whether it matters. If the news anchor mentions it in a report on television, we’re lucky if they just differentiate between airsoft and firearms (or toy guns and real guns, to use their terminology). They want to call them all weapons, anyway. But for airgunners who are serious about pursuing this hobby, we really should know the fundamental definitions such as this one.