G12 Colt 1911, Beretta 92 019

Back in the very late 1800s and early 1900s, the US Army had a problem. From 1899 to 1902, US Soldiers were fighting the Philippine-American War, and this involved facing Moro tribal insurgents who are alleged to have rendered themselves insensible to pain through a combination of body binding with leather, narcotics, and religious ritual.

When the Moro charged, they just kept on coming, and the soldiers’ .38 caliber service revolvers were not adequate to deterring the Moros. According to the Internet sources I have read, the Army tried reverting to the .45 caliber single-action Colt revolver. The heavier bullet was effective, but the single-action Colt simply wasn’t fast enough. A higher rate of fire was needed.

Enter John Moses Browning, prolific firearm inventor. In addition to a lever action rifle, a pump action shotgun, a machine gun, and an automatic rifle, Browning invented the M1911 semi-automatic magazine-fed pistol, which served as the standard-issue sidearm for the US Armed Forces from 1911 to 1985. This pistol has an illustrious history and is still widely used by military, law enforcement, firearms competitors, and private citizens throughout the world.

Recently, the good folks at www.airgunsofarizona.com sent me the Colt 1911 WWII Commemorative Edition air pistol. It is a limited edition model, with just 500 made. I was immediately struck by the appearance of the box for the WWII Commemorative. At first glance, it looks like an ancient corrugated cardboard box that has been lying neglected in some warehouse for decades – stained by the dirt, dust and grease of not being disturbed for years. In short, the box looks like it might have been made during World War II and somehow “fell through the cracks” until now. Closer inspection reveals that the box actually has the shiny finish of modern printing, but nevertheless, it is a very cool effect.

G12 Colt 1911, Beretta 92 022

Open the box, and the appearance of the pistol is even more striking: as the antiques folks put it, it has been “distressed,” given an aged look that suggests the pistol you are holding is a veteran of World War II. Normally I am not much of a fan of “faux” this or faux that, but in this case I am more than willing to make an exception. Whoever at Umerex designed this commemorative pistol did a really nice job, and it absolutely looks the part. I think would be interesting to put one of these in front of a 1911 firearms enthusiast and see how long it takes them to figure out that this is a modern replica and an air pistol at that.

G12 Colt 1911, Beretta 92 020

The WWII Commemorative stretches 8.5 inches from end to end and weighs two pounds, one ounce. The frame is metal and the grips are wood. Press the magazine release button and a magazine that holds a 12-gram CO2 cartridge and 20 BBs drops out of the pistol grip. The pistol features a full blow-back slide, a slide release latch, a manual safety on the left side, a functioning grip safety at the back of the pistol grip, non-adjustable front and rear sights, a lanyard loop, and a working hammer.

G12 Colt 1911, Beretta 92 021

To ready the Commemorative for shooting, release the magazine and turn the cartridge piercing screw counter-clockwise with the allen wrench that is provided. Slide a CO2 cartridge into the magazine and slide the magazine back into the pistol grip. Now turn the cartridge piercing screw clockwise until the CO2 cartridge is pierced and stops hissing. Eject the magazine again and slide the BB follower down until it locks. Load up to 20 BBs into the magazine through the loading port, press the BB follower to unlock it and re-insert the magazine into the pistol grip.

Now, here’s the really cool part: as the last step before shooting, you have to “rack the slide” – pull the slide back so that it cocks the hammer. Take aim at your target, and a mere 2 lbs. 4.8 oz. of pressure on the trigger will send the shot downrange. As it does so, the Commemorative emits a “pop,” and the slide blows back, cocking the hammer for the next shot, just like the real deal. When the last shot is fired, the slide locks in the back position, just like the real deal.

The Commemorative launches BBs at around 300 fps. That’s not enough to punch a hole in a tin can at 10 feet, but it is enough to bounce the can around pretty well. I can imagine setting up a backyard practical shooting course and having a whale of a lot of fun with this interesting commemorative pistol.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

Recently, as research for a story in ShootingSports USA, I had the opportunity to interview several of the shooters who won their classes at the Northeast Regional Field Target Championship held at Crosman Corporation, July 10, 11 and 12.

There were several unusual stories, and one that certainly caught my attention was that of John Tyler of Yardley, PA. He won the Hunter PCP class, which the most hotly contested with some 44 registered shooters.

A couple of things really struck me about John’s effort. The first is that he was shooting a somewhat unusual air rifle. He was shooting a Benjamin Marauder in .177 equipped with a hammer de-bounce device and with a forestock that has been shortened by several inches. The underside of the buttstock has been removed which took off about a pound of wood. Because he is shooting in the hunter class, which allows the use of shooting sticks, the stock has a notch at the end of the forestock to fit the shooting sticks.

In the photo below are two of John’s Marauders. He won with the one on the bottom.

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What really sets John’s Marauder apart is that, having been tuned by Chris Helm, it shoots hot, sending 8.44 grain Air Arms pellets downrange at 1,010 feet per second, for around 19.8 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. Now, if you have been reading this blog for a while or paying attention to various on-line forums, you know that conventional wisdom has it that you really don’t want your air rifle launching pellets at more than 930-950 fps, because higher than that will likely produce inaccuracy. Tyler’s Marauder apparently has not gotten the news. It shoots very accurately at that power level and delivers about 50 shots at that power level per fill.

John tells me that his M-rod shoots flat from 22-45 yards and that additional power really helped him to punch through high winds and torrential rain on the second day of the Northeast Regional Field Target Championship. While most shooters shot significantly worse on the second day, John shot the same score both days, although he feels he should have done better on the first day.

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The second unusual aspect of Tyler’s effort was his use of a radio-controlled truck to help him confirm his “scope dope” on the sight-in day. Walking a target holder out yard-by-yard to make sure that his scope is set up properly could be very interruptive to other shooters, since the rangemaster would have to call a cold line each time John wanted to move his target. So he mounted a sign holder on the back of his radio control truck and uses that the move the target as needed without interrupting the other shooters. At the Northeast Regional, he positioned himself at the far end of the sight in range and inched the truck out yard by yard as he sighted in and made sure that all was well with his scope.

John tells me that there is a very small printed sign on the back of the radio controlled truck that says, “If you shoot me, you’ll have to deal with my owner.”

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

G12 Chiappa FAS 604 004-001

My first thought when I opened the case for the 6004 FAS by Chiappa Firearms was, “Wow, this is a nice air pistol.”

And, indeed, it is. I’ve been reviewing air rifles and air pistols for a while now, and everything about the Chiappa 6004 says to me: “This is a serious air pistol, made by people who are serious about quality.

The 6004 comes in two models, the standard, which has an ambidextrous walnut grip, and the match, which has a match-style grip with adjustable palm shelf. Other than the grips, I believe the single-stroke pneumatic powerplants for both models are identical. Airguns of Arizona sent me the standard model for test.

G12 Chiappa FAS 604 006

The 6004 stretches 11 inches from end to end and weighs just two pounds. At the extreme aft end of the pistol is an ambidextrous walnut grip that I found extremely comfortable. It seems to grip my hand with a small shelf at the top of the grip and another at the bottom. There are sculpted finger indentations which seemed to fit me “just right,” and the finger indentations and the back of the grip (where the palm wraps around) is stippled for easier gripping.

Forward of the pistol grip, the lower part of the receiver forms a black metal guard around a black metal trigger that is adjustable for trigger weight and position and pull. Plastic must be some sort of dirty word at the Chiappa factory in Italy, because I couldn’t find a scrap of it anywhere on the 6004, with the exception of a tiny o-ring at the breech end of the barrel.

Underneath the receiver, you’ll find the caliber, “Made in Italy,” and a serial number, all inscribed in white lettering. On either side of the receiver, also in white lettering, you’ll find 6004 FAS by Chiappa Firearms. There is a pin, secured by e-clips, for a pivot point at the extreme forward end of the lower receiver. Above that is the upper receiver, which has an inset opening for the muzzle and, above that, a blade-type front sight that can be swapped out if needed or desired.

G12 Chiappa FAS 604 007

At the extreme aft end of the upper receiver is a micro-adjustable notch-type rear sight with knobs for adjusting windage and elevation. On the left side of the upper receiver, just forward of the rear sight is a latch for releasing the upper receiver for loading and cocking.

That’s all there is to the 6004. The fit and finish are excellent, and everything smacks of quality. The only addition that I would make to the 6004 would be the inclusion of a small dovetail on the top of the upper receiver so that a red dot or scope could be added if the shooter desires.

G12 Chiappa FAS 604 011

To ready the 6004 for shooting, press the latch on the left side of the upper receiver in. This releases the upper receiver so that the aft end can pivot up and forward so that the upper and lower are open almost flat. This exposes the breech end of the barrel for loading. Slide a .177 pellet into the aft end of the barrel. Return the upper receiver to its original position – this requires about four pounds of effort – and this pressurizes the action for shooting.

Take aim at your target, ease the first stage out of the trigger. This required 1 lb. 9.2 oz. of effort on the sample that I tested. At 3 lb. 2.5 oz. of pressure, the second stage trips, and the shot goes downrange with a mild “pop.” Depending upon the weight, the 6004 launches pellets up to 400 fps.

With the right pellet, the factory claims accuracy of 0.08 inches center-to-center. That’s plenty good enough for 10-meter competition, air pistol silhouette, and high-precision backyard plinking. Because of its low velocity and low power, the 6004 would not be suitable for pest control, except possible mice or hornets at close range.

Now here’s a surprise: because the 6004 is produced in a modern firearms factory with efficient manufacturing techniques, the price is actually much less than I had expected; the standard model is under $400. That strikes me as a bargain for a pistol that, based on the quality of its construction, promises to deliver decades of shooting fun with occasional replacement of seals.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

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FZ200 Daystate target 001

To ready the Daystate Mk4 iS Target for shooting, remove the cap at the end of the air reservoir and fill the reservoir to 230 BAR with a SCUBA tank or high-pressure pump. Next, load the rifle.

Because this is a target rifle, I didn’t mess with the 10-shot rotary magazine, since my preference would be to load single shots if I were shooting field target with this rifle. Initially I tried loading the Daystate Mk4 iS Target without the benefit of the single-shot tray, but I found this to be enormously fussy and difficult. Fortunately, single shot tray is included with the Daystate Mk4 iS Target. It drops readily into place, is held there by magnets, and makes loading single shots absolutely straightforward. You rotate the bolt up and pull full back, place a pellet headfirst on the tray, and slide the bolt back to its original position.

FZ200 Daystate target 006

It’s at this point that I encountered some of the weirdness that is associated with an electronically controlled rifle. The bolt, it turns out, doesn’t cock anything, so it operates super smoothly and very easily. The electronics do all the cocking of the action within the receiver. As a result, it is possible to trigger shot after shot, without moving the bolt, simply by pulling the trigger if the safety is set on FIRE. Now obviously, if you are not moving the bolt and loading any pellets, you will not be sending pellets downrange with those repeated trigger pulls, but you will be sending compressed air down the barrel, compressed air that could cause damage if in too close proximity to another object. (A fellow on one of the forums, using a different precharged pneumatic rifle, put his finger over the muzzle and pulled the trigger to see if there was any air left in the reservoir. The resulting pellet-less discharged wreaked havoc with his finger, and his next stop was the emergency room.)

When the electronics are turned off, the trigger has a small amount of play and feels as inert as if it were attached to a brick wall. Turn the electronics on, though, and it becomes a thing of wonder. There is a very light, but solid and unmistakable , first stage (which I found impossible to measure with the electronic trigger gauge), and at 7.3 ounces, the very crisp second stage trips, and the shot goes off

Mk4177

On high power, the Daystate Mk4 iS Target launches 10.34 grain JSB .177 pellets at 917 fps average for 19.4 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. On Power 2, it sends the same pellets downrange at 797 fps average for 14.7 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. Accuracy was excellent, as you can see from the target below shot at 32 yards, and the report, thanks to the very efficient valve and control system (which will deliver more than 100 shots per fill on Power 2), was to my ear no louder than an average high-power springer.

FZ200 Daystate target 013-001

In addition, the electronic of the Daystate Mk4 iS Target offer a wide variety of control options for the shooter, including: magazine counter, shot counter, active display pressure, power, lighting, turning magazine counter on and off, single shot mode, and low pressure warning.

To be honest, I didn’t mess with any of these electronic settings. Instead, I contented myself with the pleasure of shooting an astonishingly accurate air rifle.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

FZ200 Daystate target 009-001

I have to get this off my chest right up front: I am not accustomed to air rifles that light up when you switch off the safety. Yet that is precisely what the Daystate Mk4 iS Target does. When you move the rotary safety to the FIRE position, a cheerful little screen just forward of the safety on the left side illuminates with messages such as “115.0BAR” (the pressure within the air reservoir), “Pwr 2” (the power level), “S69” (the number of shots that have been taken; it’s resettable), “73%” (the state of the battery charge), and so on.

FZ200 Daystate target 011

The Daystate Mk4 iS Target, you see, is a target rifle with an electronically controlled heart. It features the Harper patent Mapped Compensated Technology (MCT) electronic firing system, the Harper sling-valve valve, and an air-stripper out at the muzzle end of the barrel. We’ll talk about what all that means in terms of the shooting experience in a bit (probably in Part II), but let me cut to the chase: the Daystate Mk4 iS Target is a bona fide tackdriver and, it is a little unusual to shoot because of the electronics.

FZ200 Daystate target 005

First, let’s take a guided tour of the Daystate Mk4 iS Target. At the extreme aft end of the thumbhole stock, which is covered with a soft rubbery material for better gripping, you’ll find a soft rubber butt pad that can be adjusted vertically. Forward of that, on the right side of the buttstock is a large silver knob that, when loosened, allows the shooter to adjust the height of the cheek piece.

The pistol grip is almost vertical and has finger indentations and textured surfaces on either side. Above that on either side is a shelf for resting your thumb while shooting. Forward of that, the stock material surrounds an adjustable electronic trigger that has an adjustable trigger shoe. Underneath the trigger assembly is a slot where there is a lock that can lock the entire rifle as well as a bolt for attaching the receiver to the stock. The stock can be fitted with a rail underneath and a knee riser for field target.

FZ200 Daystate target 002

Above the extreme forward end of the forestock is the 144 cc air reservoir. There is a black cap on the end that can be removed to reveal a male foster fitting for filling the reservoir with a SCUBA tank or a high pressure pump. A barrel band connects the reservoir to the barrel, and at the muzzle end of the barrel you’ll find an air stripper that strips turbulence from the pellet as it exits the barrel to increase accuracy. The stripper is tune-able to your pellet. By loosening the screw and sliding the unit forward or back you can tune the harmonics and actually improve accuracy for your pellet/power combo.

Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find the black metal receiver, which incorporates a generous breech that can be fitted with a 10-shot rotary magazine or a single-shot tray. On the left side of the receiver is the digital display, and at the extreme aft end of the receiver is a large silver colored bolt handle.

The Daystate Mk4 iS Target stretches just 36.5 inches from end to end and weight 9.5 pounds before a scope is fitted. It is available in .177 or .22 caliber. www.airgunsofarizona.com sent me the .177 version to test.

Next time, we’ll take a look at how the Daystate Mk4 iS Target performs.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

FZ200 FX Bobcat 008

To get the Bobcat ready for shooting, first charge the air reservoir to 200 bar (not quite 3,000 psi) using a SCUBA tank or high pressure pump. Be sure to use the fitting that comes with the Bobcat because it can be difficult to get a grip on a normal (shorter) fill fitting.

Next, load the12-shot rotary magazine. To do that, first, rotate the clear plastic face plate counter-clockwise as far as possible. Now, while holding the face plate in position, flip the magazine over so you’re looking at the back side. You’ll see that a port has opened in the back of the magazine. Load a pellet backwards (tail first) into the port. This will lock the spring and keep the inner wheel from turning. Now, flip the magazine over and load the rest of the pellets by dropping them nose-first into the magazine while rotating the transparent cover so that the hole in it opens each of the pellet “bays.” Once you have filled the magazine, rotate the transparent cover back to its original position.

An aside: The magazine is self-indexing. In other words, the spring inside the magazine causes the inner mechanism to rotate so that the next shot is lined up to be moved into the barrel by the bolt. That’s why you have to rotate the clear plastic face plate; you are, in essence, “winding up” the spring. I mentioned that I actually prefer rotary magazines that are not self-indexing because they have no spring, are easier to load, and there is little to go wrong with them. However, the good folks at www.airgunsofarizona.com pointed out something really important. To wit: if you are going to use a rotary magazine, you have to get it to rotate somehow, which means either a spring built into the magazine or some sort of mechanism to rotate the magazine built into the receiver of the rifle. If a self-indexing magazine has a problem, you just swap magazines, but if the magazine-indexing mechanism that is built into the rifle has a problem, you have to send the entire rifle back for repair.

FZ200 FX Bobcat 002

Now back to our story: Pull the breech lever to the rear of the receiver to move the bolt back. Now slide the magazine into the breech. Push the breech lever forward to move the first pellet out the magazine and into the barrel. Take aim, slide the safety off, and squeeze the trigger. On the sample I tested, it required only 14.2 ounces to take up the first stage, and at l lb 7.7 ounces, the shot goes down range.

On high power, the Bobcat launched the 16 grain JSB Jumbo pellets at an average of 933 fps generating about 30.9 (average) footpounds of energy at the muzzle. The report is a loud pop. On medium power, the same weight pellet cruised downrange at 680 fps, generating 16.4 footpounds of energy, and the report is more subdued. And on low power, the Bobcat averaged 534 fps, for 10.1 fp of energy with a very mild report.

Accuracy was what I have come to expect from FX airguns. At 32 yards, off a casual rest, five JSB pellets fell into a group where all the pellet holes touched each other. It seems to me that the state of the art in precharged air rifles is now very high. It has been quite a while since I have shot a precharged air rifle that did not deliver similar results. They all seem to be wickedly accurate.

The bottom line is that the FX Bobcat is small, easy to handle, relatively quiet at medium and low power, very accurate, and a lot of fun to shoot.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

FZ200 FX Bobcat 001

If you have been reading this blog for any time at all, you know that I like airguns. Airguns deliver potloads of shooting fun in a package that can be shot in a lot of places where discharging a firearm will get you in a world of trouble. Lately, I have been particularly enamored of smaller air rifles that aren’t too long, and are relatively light and easy to handle

The FX Bobcat fills the bill on all counts. A bullpup design, it stretches just 29.5 inches from end to end, weighs just 7.8 pounds before a scope is mounted, and is available in .22 caliber, .25 caliber, or .30 caliber. The factory says the .22 version will generate 30 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle on high power; the .25 caliber version, 46 fp, and the .30 version, 75 fp. The good folks at www.airgunsofarizona.com sent me the .22 version to test.

FZ200 FX Bobcat 004

At the extreme aft end of the Bobcat is a soft rubber butt pad that can be adjusted vertically. It is attached to a one-piece matte black stock that is molded from engineering polymer. Just forward of the butt pad, there is a hole in the stock. It can be accessed from the righthand side and used to store extra magazines. Forward of that on the left side of the stock is another hole which contains a clearly marked air gauge. Forward of that on the bottom of the stock is a male Foster fitting for filling the on-board air reservoir with a SCUBA tank or high pressure pump.

FZ200 FX Bobcat 005

Forward of that is a pistol grip with finger indentations and the trigger guard which surrounds a black metal trigger. Forward of that, the forestock is unadorned except for the extreme forward end, underneath which is a flat spot that looks like it could be set up with a Picatinny rail for mounting accessories. Above the forestock is the air reservoir, and above that, the shrouded smooth twist barrel.

At the end of the barrel is a fitting that can be unscrewed, allowing the attachment of a barrel shroud extension. Moving back on top of the barrel, you’ll find a long dovetail assembly for mounting a scope.

On the left side of the receiver forward of the breech, there is a wheel that allows the power to be set at one of three levels. Just to the rear of that is the breech, into which a rotary magazine is inserted. Aft of that, on the left side, the rear of the receiver is covered with a smooth metal cheek rest. The Bobcat is a decidedly right-handed air rifle.

Just aft of the breech on the right side of the receiver, you’ll find the breech lever and a lever type safety. That’s it.

I liked the fit and finish of the Bobcat. I particularly liked its no-nonsense, all-business looks and smooth matte black finish on the stock.

Next time, we’ll take a look at how the Bobcat shoots.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

 

"Varmint cong" at work at El Rancho Elliott. They are undeniably cute, but they can be very destructive.

“Varmint cong” at work at El Rancho Elliott. They are undeniably cute, but they can be very destructive.

Sometimes the subject for a blog comes from the strangest places. My wife and I were on an outing with her sister and our brother-in-law Kyle. Kyle is my best buddy.

My mechanic had informed methat one of our ancient cars had several problems that, when the inevitable failure came, would be too expensive to fix. So we were talking about cars. Kyle was relating how pleased he was with his Honda van, how reliable it was, and how over the years he had spent relatively little for repairs and maintenance. . . except for “The Great Chipmunk Invasion.”

Kyle and his wife’s house are in an older development that was built perhaps 30 years ago in a vast oak forest. Everywhere you look, there are oak trees and vast quantities of acorns are available every year. So why, exactly, chipmunks would choose to crawl into the innards of Kyle’s Honda van and chew on the plastic that insulates the wires, no one knows. What Kyle and his repair shop know, for a certainty, is that the chipmunks did $800 worth of damage in a very short period of time. In addition, chipmunks or squirrels (Kyle can’t be sure which) also ate several important plastic parts on a lawnmower stored in Kyle’s shed. He related all this to me while were chatting about cars. He also said he had begun a war on chipmunks. He calls them “varmint cong.”

What came next, however, surprised the heck out of me. “You know that pistol you gave me?” Kyle said. I nodded. He was referring to an RWS/Diana 5G springer pistol. It launches 7.9 grain pellets at around 530 fps.

He continued, “Well, the other day I killed five chipmunks with it.”

The RWS 5G pistol when it was temporarily rigged with a red dot.

The RWS 5G pistol when it was temporarily rigged with a red dot.

“Holy smokes,” I said. “How far away were you?” In the back of my mind, I was thinking that he must have been pretty close. The eastern chipmunk is not a large animal. It’s about 5-6 inches long and weighs about 3 ounces. Further, since the RWS 5G is a springer pistol, it has typical springer recoil, which makes it challenging to shoot with high accuracy. Beyond that, the 5G is a difficult pistol to mount a scope on, so Kyle was probably shooting with iron sights.

“I was shooting from the deck,” Kyle said. His deck juts off the second story of his house and offers a commanding view of the back yard. “I got three of them by the shed and two by the woodpile.”

I thought about it for a moment. It has to be a good 30-40 feet from the deck to the shed or the woodpile.

“That’s some good shooting,” I said. “How did you do it?”

“I was shooting two-handed,” Kyle replied. “Sometimes, I rested my hands on the deck railing. The fiber optic sights really helped in lining up the shots.”

Kyle related that he dropped four of the chipmunks instantly. Another was hit but crawled under the shed.

So, if you are wondering if spring-piston air pistols can be used for pest control, under the right circumstances, yes they can!

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

There are two kinds of shooting that I really enjoy: popping away at targets with an airgun and capturing nature and wildlife images with a digital camera. Believe it or not, the two support each other.

Before we get to the specifics of what I mean, let’s grab hold of some basic background information. To wit: people wobble. That’s right; you, me, everybody, wobbles. We don’t notice it most of the time because in most folks it is slight and inconsequential. But if you have ever weighed yourself on a Wii balance board, the results displayed on the screen show the movement of your center of gravity over the balance board, and it’s not a single dot. Instead, it’s a tracing showing movement. We are constantly in motion, you and I, with our muscles continually micro-tweaking our position.

When an airgun shooter wants to shoot offhand – that is, from a standing position – immediately that inherent wobble begins to matter a great deal. Even with iron sights, you find you can’t stay pointed where you want to be: at the exact center of the target. And when you add a scope with magnification to your airgun, the problem appears to be even worse, as the field of view careens back and forth across the face of the target.

Now, here’s the real rub: short of dying, having yourself stuffed with a steel rod up your center, you can’t stop the wobble. Sure, Olympic ten-meter shooters try to control it with special jackets, pants, underwear (no kidding) and shoes, but they still wobble.

The best you can do, as an ordinary (non-Olympic) airgun shooter is to try to control it and deal with it.

Control it. Set your feet at shoulder width, relax and settle into your center of gravity, rest your elbows against your sides, take a breath in and let half of it out, ease the first stage out of the trigger, and take your shot.

Deal with it. In my view (and there certainly are contrary views, so try what I suggest and if it works well for you, use it; otherwise check out some of the contrary views), one of the best ways to deal with the wobble is to get the timing right. Here’s a prime example: some years ago I was shooting a scoped rifle at a field target match. On one of the standing lanes, I was wobbling fiercely, but the wobble was fairly regular, left and right from the center of the target. I realized that if I triggered the shot while I was aimed at the center of the kill zone, I would actually be in the act of moving off the target, but if I triggered the shot while I was at the peak of the wobble to one side, I would actually be in the act of moving back onto the center of the target. So I triggered the shot when I had “wobbled off,” and the target went down.

So what does this have to do with wildlife photography? A lot, it turns out. When I am shooting wildlife with my Panasonic FZ200 superzoom camera, I am generally shooting at extremely high zoom levels: 24x, 48x, sometimes 96x, and I shoot handheld, standing up. As you might imagine, the image sometimes moves around quite a bit in the viewfinder, so I use the same skills: feet at shoulder width, relax into my center of gravity (if I can manage it in the excitement), take in a breath, and let out half, press the shutter halfway down to lock the autofocus and autoexposure, and take the shot when the timing is right.

Even better, I have found that the more I practice with the camera, it helps my airgun shooting, and the more I practice with the airguns, it helps my wildlife photography. It appears to be a synergistic system, and it sure is fun!

What follows are some photos that I was fortunate enough — using the techniques described in this blog — to capture when my wife and I were walking on Peebles Island near Troy NY. On both days, it was a “God likes me” moment.

On July 24, 2013, I shot this image of the dam on the north side of Peebles Island. (Click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.)

FZ150 Peebles Island 019

My wife, who has extraordinary distance vision, said, “What’s that at the far end of the dam?” At full optical and digital zoom, I saw this:

FZ150 Peebles Island 020

On June 16, 2014, we saw the following:

Due to recent rains, water was pouring over the dam.

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Herons were waiting below the dam.

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One of them caught a fish.

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An eagle scared the heron off the fish.

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He thought about his options for a moment.

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And flew off with his ill-gotten gains.

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Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

You don’t see it talked about much in the airgun forums, but many spring-piston air rifles and air pistols – springers – actually burn some of the lubricants in their compression cylinders during the shot cycle. Don’t worry; it’s a normal thing.

Here’s how G.V. Cardew and G.M. Cardew describe it in their book The Airgun from Trigger to Target: “The combustion phase is the phase in which most high powered sporting spring rifles operate. As the piston comes forward on firing, the temperature of the air in front of it rises with the pressure; this very high temperature causes oil, or any other combustible substance to burn, thereby increasing the pressure further, producing enough energy to drive the pellet up the barrel at a very high velocity.”

Further, they proved that the combustion takes place through an ingenious test that they called “The Nitrogen Experiment.” Starting with a .22 caliber Weihrauch HW35, they stripped it, degreased and rebuilt it with the correct amount of lubrication everywhere. They then fired it through a chronograph until it settled down at 636 fps with a 14.4 grain pellet (12.9 fp of energy at the muzzle).

They then placed the HW35 and a supply of pellets in a long plastic bag and sucked all the air out of it with a vacuum pump, leaving it sitting under vacuum for half an hour to remove all oxygen from within the seals and mechanism. The bag was sealed around the barrel and a rubber bung pressed into the muzzle to prevent oxygen from re-entering the gun. After that, nitrogen, an inert gas that does not support combustion, was blown into the bag to make it a manageable size for shooting the gun. The bung was removed and replaced for each shot, and a number of shots were fired. With the HW35 unable to enter the combustion phase of the shot cycle, the gun managed only 426 fps or 5.8 foot-pounds. The Cardews had proved conclusively that combustion is necessary for the proper operation of a sporting springer.

So, a little bit of lubrication is necessary so that combustion can take place. But what happens when your brand new airgun has a little too much lubrication? Check out the chart below.

WhatIsThis

This is the graph of velocities of an airgun that has too much lubrication and has entered into what the Cardews call the “detonation phase,” or what airgunners generally refer to as “dieseling.” Instead of making normal shot-cycle sounds, the shot goes off with a bang, producing the wild variations in velocity that you see above. Often smoke comes out the barrel and there is a characteristic smell. In severe cases, dieseling can actually bow out the walls of the compression chamber and drive the piston backwards with such force that it kinks the mainspring.

Fortunately, it is usually the case that a handful of shots with extra-heavy pellets will drive the excess lubricant out of the powerplant and settle the airgun back into normal operation. Below is the velocity graph of the same airgun after it was shot enough to settle down.

WeihrauchHW4522

The bottom line: high powered sporting air rifles and air pistols require some combustion of their lubrication to operate properly. But there is such a thing as too much. If you find your air rifle or air pistol dieseling, 5-10 shots with the heaviest pellets you have of the appropriate caliber may help to correct the situation.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott