Like many airgunners, I am fascinated by the movie “Quigley Down Under.” This blog and the next one details where that fascination can lead. Chapter 5 and Chapter 7 In my book “Elliott on Airguns” Chapter 5 – My Quigley Shot, and Chapter 7 – My Quigley Shot – Part II, recount my first attempts at duplicating some of the exploits of Matthew Quigley. What follows is, essentially, the next chapter in the saga. (And if all goes as planned, this September there will be yet another chapter in which you can participate.)
The 2004 Massachusetts State Field Target Championships convinced me that a more powerful air rifle for competition would be a good idea. During the championship there were a couple of long-range shots from my low-power (565 fps, 6 foot-pound) Daisy Valiant where the pellet hit the kill zone cleanly; the paddle rocked back far enough to reveal where the orange paint had not been shot off, yet the target did not fall. (I had been shooting the Valiant because it was so accurate and so easy to shoot well. In fact, I had won my first match ever a short time before while shooting the Valiant.
So I unearthed my big, powerful Beeman R1 in .177 caliber with a large scope from the cabinet and began practicing in my side yard. In my view, the R1 is a classic. It is big, overbuilt, understressed and shoots quite pleasantly right out of the box. I love this gun because it is fast and flat shooting.
But all was not well. Sometimes I could put the pellet where I wanted from a sitting position, but sometimes I couldn’t. It wasn’t the gun. It wasn’t the scope. It was me. My “hold” – that is, the way that I held the rifle and managed its spring-piston recoil – wasn’t consistent, and the results could be seen on the targets. It was depressing.
In a fit of frustration, I removed the big scope from the R1 and mounted a Daisy 5899 Receiver Sight. It clamps to the scope rail with two screws. There is an extra screw (function unknown) included in the box that I ran through a hole in the sight and into one of the scope-stop holes in the R1’s receiver. This would keep recoil from walking the sight off the back of the receiver.
Back in the yard again, after my usual sight-in routine, I sat down and fired several shots with Crosman CPLs at a paper target at 10 meters. Since I was using a peep sight with no magnification at all, I had no idea how I was doing. I simply tried to maintain a consistent sight picture and trigger control. When I inspected the target, I couldn’t believe my eyes: five shots had fallen in a group that measured just 3/8” edge-to-edge. This was the best group ever with this air rifle. Was I on to something?
Even better, the R1 with the peep sight was remarkably hold insensitive. I could hold, cradle, grip or grab the air rifle just about any way that pleased me and still get terrifically consistent accuracy. A thought was beginning to form: maybe … just maybe … I could compete in Hunter Class field target with a peep sight. It was an idea very much in the spirit of Matthew Quigley.
The R1 was launching CPL pellets at a sizzling 931 fps average, generating 15.2 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. I ran the data through a ballistics program and emailed it to Steve Woodward, who is a consulting engineer and ballistics freak. Woodward came back with a stunning pronouncement: “Here’s what you get if the criterion (i.e., vital-zone-radius) is keeping the pellet within 1/4th inch of the line of sight – a point-blank-range extending from 9 to 37.5 yards.” This was amazing: with the peep sight setup, the R1 would be essentially “point and shoot” from 10 to 37 yards.
Back in the yard again, I tried the R1/peep sight combo at 5-yard intervals from 10 to 30 yards. It worked. In fact, it worked like crazy. I was putting better than 50% of my shots in a one-inch circle from a sitting position. There remained, however, one problem to be solved: I wasn’t thrilled with the medium-width flat-topped post in the R1’s hooded front sight. It didn’t lend itself to a sight picture that worked well with the circular kill zones on airgun field targets.
It was a problem, but Matthew Quigley would soon come to my rescue.
To be continued in In the Spirit of Quigley – Part II.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.