Archive for June 2008

If you want to blame someone for what follows, let’s start with Roger Clouser. He writes from time to time for Precision Shooting magazine. A few years ago, he wrote an article about 1,000-yard pistol shooting. No, that’s not a typo – one thousand yards with a pistol. He was shooting at a big mesquite stump or something, but he was hitting it, at least some of the time with (if I remember correctly) a Freedom Arms .44.

When I first read the article, I thought “That’s just plain crazy,” but it got me to thinking . . . just how far could you really shoot with an air pistol and actually hit something? It’s an interesting question that I turned over in my mind for a while and then told the guys in the back room of my brain to work on quietly until they had something to show me.

About three weeks ago, I was taking a shower when one of the back room guys knocked on the door of my consciousness with an idea that walks the line between backyard plinking and high accuracy shooting.

I call it the Uncle Jock Air Pistol Challenge – or UJ for short – and it should prove to be both challenging and fun.

Here’s what you need:

· An air pistol
· Some pellets
· A 12-oz beverage can
· 50 yards of space

The rest is dead easy: set up the beverage can (or download the paper target below) at 50 yards, try to hit it with your air pistol, and report your results here with full details.

Frankly, I don’t know how this will develop – because I haven’t tried it yet – but here are some that I think are likely to happen. The guys who have one of those cool, scoped, precharged pistols like the FX Ranchero are going to find this pretty easy: figure out the trajectory, rest the pistol, put the crosshairs on the target, and punch holes in the can. The folks who are shooting air pistols used often in IHMSA silhouette – like the IZH 46M or the Crosman 2300S – are going to have a more challenging time.

I suspect that the shooters who will really go nuts are the ones that take on the UJ with low-powered but accurate air pistols like the Daisy 747 or the Gamo Compact. They’re going to need optimal conditions to make the shot, I think. Finally, it’s my belief that the shooters with spring-piston air pistols such as the RWS P5 or the Beeman P1 or P11 will have the toughest time of all. But still, there are a few shooters out there who are geniuses at managing the recoil from these pistols, and they might do very well.

Oh yeah, one other thing: you’re not restricted to your shooting position. You can shoot from a rest, from Creedmoor position, standing, sitting . . . whatever floats your boat. Just be sure to make a note of what position you shot from.

The bottom line is that nobody knows how the UJ will turn out. It might be incredibly fun. It could be incredibly challenging. With a little bit of luck, it will be both.

Now take your air pistol and go shoot this target at 50 yards.

Oh, yeah — if you’d prefer to shoot at paper, you can download the official UJ Challenge target right here:

Give it a try, and report back here . . . I look forward to your results.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

The Beeman R7 is a classic air rifle well loved by many airgunners.

When I first began to get interested in adult precision airguns nearly 10 years ago, I remember reading a quote from an airgunner who said, in effect, “Of all the airguns I own, the Beeman R7 would be the last one I would sell.”

At the time, I didn’t really “get” what he was saying, but now that I’ve owned an R7 for a few years, I understand what he meant completely. The R7 is a true classic, an air rifle that just about all airgunners love.

Here’s why — the R7 is a relatively small and light air rifle that generates around 6 fp of energy (the same energy level usually found in Olympic match air rifles). The R7 measures a hair over 40 inches from end to end and weighs 6.1 pounds. The upshot is that there is roughly one pound of weight per foot-pound of energy, and that makes the R7 extremely easy to shoot well.

(An aside: there are two versions of the R7, one in .177 cal., the other in .20 cal. I have experience only with the .177 version. A casual survey of some of my shooting friends indicates you can’t believe the 700 fps velocity figure that Beeman puts out for the .177 version; most untuned R7s shoot in the high 500s, say, 560-590 fps, with “normal” weight pellets.)

To get the R7 ready for shooting, you crank the barrel down until it latches (it takes less than 20 pounds of cocking effort), stuff a pellet into the breech, return the barrel to its original position, click off the safety, and you’re good to go. The R7 is equipped with Weihrauch’s famous two-stage Rekord trigger which is very crisp and nicely adjustable.

My experience – and that of many R7 shooters I’ve spoken to – is that the R7 is remarkably UN-finicky about how you shoot it. You can hold it loosely or hold it tight; shoot it off a rest or from a sitting position. Whatever you do, it seems, the R7 shoots well. One shooter I met said, “Why do I pull my R7 tight into my shoulder like a powder-burning rifle? Because I can!”

And there is a whole lot you can do with an R7, like shoot field target or defend the birdfeeder. My brother-in-law won the Hunter Class at a Field Target match while shooting an R7. He beat me, and I was shooting another R7, and so was the fellow who took fourth place. We’ve spent many happy hours doing high-accuracy plinking with our R7s.

Recently Greg at Airguns of Arizona asked me to try some Dynamic SN-1 non-toxic “air bullets.” “I think you’ll like them,” he said. “We’ve had very good luck with them.”

Frankly, I had my doubts. I had tried some ultra-light non-lead pellets previously and while they were very fast (nearly 100 fps faster than CPLs in my R7), the accuracy was dreadful at anything beyond close range.

Nevertheless, the SN-1 pellets arrived, and I brought them with me the next time I visited my brother-in-law to do some shooting with our R7s. I shot for a while with Crosman Premier Lights (CPLs) and then gave the SN-1 pellets a try. The SN-1s weigh (nominally) 7.95 grains, which is roughly the same as the CPLs. I was shocked to find that, at 50 feet, not only did the SN-1 pellets group very well, they were hitting the same point of impact as the CPLs!

Emboldened by this experiment, I tried the SN-1 pellets in an RWS P5 spring-piston pistol. This time, I did get a point of impact change, but the SN-1s grouped very well, better in fact than the pellet the P5 previously “liked.” Casual experimentation with metal cans indicates that the SN-1 pellets deliver much better penetration than conventional lead pellets.

The bottom line is that I was very pleasantly surprised by the Dynamic SN-1 non-lead pellets and plan further experimentation with them.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott

The following story is true. Some of the names have been changed to protect the hopelessly bewildered.

2:00 am. Someplace in Arizona.

Ring . . . ring . . . ring . . . A groggy voice answers the phone. “Hello?”

“Is this Robert?”

“Uh, yeah . . .”

“Robert Buchanan, the guy who runs Airguns of Arizona?”

“Yeah, that’s me.”

“I just wanted to ask you a question: how do you get the nivelsheave bearings back in the turboencabulator?”

“What are you talking about???”

“Well, you sold me this Zippy-Doo 3000 air rifle . . .”

“Yeah, I remember that.”

“It arrived today, and I was taking it apart to see how it worked, and now I’m having a little trouble getting the nivelsheave bearings back in the turboencabulator.”

“Was there something wrong with the air rifle when it arrived?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t shot it yet.”

“Let me get this straight: you spent nearly two thousand dollars on one of the finest air rifles known to man, you haven’t shot it yet, but you’ve taken it apart, and now you’re having trouble putting it back together again?”

“That’s about right.”

“Well, let me tell you a couple of things. First, you have voided the warranty. Second, you’ll have to send it back to us, we’ll put it back together, and we’ll charge you for the repair.”

“Repair? But that’s so unfair – this is a brand new air rifle!”

“It was until you started taking it apart.”

The story above really happened. When Robert told it to me, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, it was so preposterous. It is, however, a superb example of what not to do with an airgun.

If you are fortunate enough to have a brand new airgun, do not take it apart. You will void the warranty. Airguns of Arizona will charge you a fee to rescue you, and it will be sooooo fair.

Here’s another thing you shouldn’t do with an airgun: do not shoot at resilient spherical objects.

I was shooting with my brother-in-law one Sunday afternoon. We got a little bored and decided to see what would happen if we shot at a “super ball,” one of those really resilient, super bouncy balls. I guess we thought it might explode or something.

With the first shot, nothing happened, except we heard this really weird sound: pah-whaaaaaaaang!

We couldn’t figure out what it was, so we tried again. Pah-whaaaaaaaaang-whack! A spent pellet slammed into the deck just above my brother-in-law’s head. The resilient sphere was returning the pellets directly back at us, and with a good deal of velocity. I’ve also heard of field target shooters getting similar results plinking at tennis balls hung from a tree.

So, don’t take your brand new airgun apart, and don’t shoot at resilient spherical objects.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott

BSA Lightning XL Tactical

Well, I’ve already ‘fessed up that the swoopy good looks and massive moderator on the BSA Lightning XL Tactical make my heart go pitty-pat, but all that stuff is irrelevant if the gun doesn’t shoot well.

Fortunately, (not to keep you in suspense any longer) there’s good news: the XL Tactical shoots like a house afire.

The XL Tactical is a break barrel springer. So to get it ready for shooting, you grab the Massive Moderator (which the factory specifically says can be used as a cocking aid) and crank it down until it latches (cocking effort is about 38 pounds). Slide a pellet into the breech and return the barrel to its original position. The safety does not activate automatically when the XL tactical is cocked, which is fine with me.

The BSA Lightning XL Tactical that Airguns of Arizona sent me was equipped with the Center Point Optics Adventure Class 3-9 x 40 scope. I think it is a good size and weight for the XL Tactical, and I’ve had very good luck with the Center Point scopes. I’ve mounted them on several airguns, including several heavy recoiling springers, and I’ve never had one break.

I have one tiny complaint about this setup, and that’s when you flip open the lens cover on the objective (big) end of the scope, you can’t rotate the objective all the way around to focus it without the lens cover collides with the receiver. The solution is quick and easy; take the cover off when you start shooting and slide it back on when you’re done.

Okay, back to shooting the XL Tactical. Take aim, pull the first stage out of the trigger, squeeze a bit more, the sear trips at about 2 pounds 10 ounces, and the shot goes down range. The XL Tactical launches JSB Exact 8.44 grain pellets at about 785 fps. That’s about 11.6 foot-pounds of energy, but I understand that these rifles tend to gain about .5 fp as they break in. With JSB Exact Express pellets, the rifle generated 12.1 fp of energy.

What’s neat about the XL Tactical is that it shoots like a tuned springer. There is no creaking or spring noise when you cock it, and when the shot is triggered, there is a quick snap with just the teeniest hint of vibration at the very end of the shot cycle. For a box-stock factory springer, this is very impressive, and a whole lot of fun to shoot.

Another note: with its swoopy curves and high-relief cheekpiece, I found the ergonomics of the XL Tactical to be very good. Shooting off a rest in my yard, my cheek was spot-welded to the stock, my eye squarely behind the scope, and the butt nicely snugged into my shoulder.

When the XL Tactical first arrived in April, I couldn’t wait to try it out. I went outside on a blustery 40-degree day and banged off a few shots. At one point I heard a very soft “clunk.” I looked down and found that the plug that goes into the bottom of the pistol grip had fallen out. (It never happened again when I shot the gun on warmer days.) It was easy enough to pop it back into place, but it gave me an idea. The inside of the stock is hollow; maybe it could be used for storing useful stuff.

I saved the best for last: shooting off a bench at 35 yards, the XL Tactical delivered a 5-shot group with JSB Exact pellets that measured just 21/32 inch edge to edge. Do the math, and that works out to just under a half inch ctc.

All in all, if you want a fast, accurate, cool-looking springer, the BSA Lightning XL Tactical delivers the goods.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott

BSA Lightning XL Tactical

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve been curious about the BSA Lightning XL Tactical ever since I laid eyes on it the first time. I mean, who wouldn’t be? This is one cool looking airgun.

First, there’s that highly sculptured synthetic stock, which the BSA factory website describes as “super-durable, all-weather, synthetic stock . . .” and further: “super-tough, totally stable, hi-impact polymer, warm to the touch and completely weatherproof.” All I know is that it has more swoops and curves than your average airgun, and it provokes in me the same kind of visceral reaction as the first time I saw an E-type Jaguar.

If that weren’t enough, at the other end — the business end — of the XL Tactical there’s this great honking Mondo silencer which stretches 10 inches long and is roughly 7/8-inch in diameter. It is truly a colossal silencer. Dare I say it? A Massive Moderator!

One of the things I’ve observed about American airgunners is that they tend to be crazy, mad nuts about silencers. Why? I suspect it is the “forbidden fruit syndrome,” that is, they crave most what they can’t have. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) regulates the possession of silencers for firearms. But here’s the thing: the pertinent Federal regulation is written in such a way that if you have a silencer that could be detached from your airgun and could be attached to a firearm, you must register it and pay a fee to legally possess it. Otherwise, if you are caught with such a silencer without the proper registration, you could be in Deep Trouble.

The BSA Lightning XL Tactical, however, neatly gets around this. Here’s how: the bull barrel silencer, or moderator, as some call it, is permanently attached to the barrel. You can’t remove it without destroying it. As a result, there is no chance of mounting it on a firearm and therefore no chance of running afoul of BATF. (The fact that spring-piston air rifles are generally pretty darned quiet doesn’t enter into it; the bull barrel moderator is just plain visually impressive.)

Let’s take a stroll around the XL Tactical which stretches 37.5 inches overall and weighs 6.6 pounds. At the back end, you’ll find a thick rubber recoil pad. Just ahead of that is a BSA logo molded into the buttstock and a stud below that for mounting a shoulder sling. The buttstock is indented underneath, and the cheek is clearly prominent on the left side of the stock with a nearly sharp edge on the right side.

The forward edge of the pistol grip is nearly vertical, and you’ll find a palm swell and an indentation for resting your thumb on the right side of the stock. There is even an indentation on the right side of the receiver cap that mates with the stock indentation. Moving forward, the trigger guard is molded into the stock. The trigger inside the guard is adjustable for second stage pull weight. There is a screw just aft of the trigger that helps to secure the action in the stock. Moving forward, the forestock has a cocking slot built into it, and there are two screws, one on either side of the stock, that hold the action in the stock.

Moving forward again, you’ll find the bull barrel moderator with another stud for attaching a sling. The moderator, or silencer, allegedly contains high-tech baffles, but I wasn’t able to look inside to see. Moving aft, you’ll discover the breech (this is a break-barrel springer; crank the barrel down to cock the action). Moving back again, there’s a rubber-mounted, anti-shock scope mounting rail with an anti-recoil lug at the aft end. Just below the scope rail, on the right side is a two-position safety lever: push it forward to fire, pull it back to put the XL Tactical on SAFE.

That’s it. The XL Tactical is a very simple air rifle. At the same time, it looks both purposeful and swoopy at the same time. If it doesn’t turn some heads at the range, start checking to see who has a pulse.

But, as the old hotrodder said: “show is one thing; go is another.” In my book, radical looks don’t mean a thing if they aren’t accompanied by worthy performance.

So, how does the XL Tactical shoot? We’ll find out next time.

‘Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott