Archive for August 2008

What kind of a nut would shoot 85 yards with an air pistol? You’re about to find out.

On the surface of it, Calvin Lewis of Lakeland Florida seems like a regular guy. Forty-one years old, married, a couple of kids, he works as a quality control manager for a construction company.
But Lewis has a secret: he suffers from a rare, incurable disease: airgunitis fanaticus. He is, in fact, a beady-eyed, unrepentant airgun enthusiast. “I’ve been into airguns my whole life,” he says. But about eight years ago, the enthusiasm ramped up significantly – he started building his own airguns.

Starting with a Crosman 2240, he added a 12-inch high pressure tube, a Quackenbush .25 cal round beech, modified bolt, Lothar Walther .22 barrel, and a Foster quick fill fitting. Lewis now has several barrels for the gun, as well as several grips and stocks, so that it can be changed from a pistol to carbine and back again in fairly short order. The gun uses a one-piece Crosman 262 hammer assembly with a stronger spring.

Since Lewis is a quality control guy and no dummy, he’s also taken all precautions to make sure that the finished gun is safe: the valve has been secured, and so has the end cap and Foster fitting. The tubing has been hydro tested to 5,000 psi to make sure that it won’t burst. Lewis understands that the compressed air inside a precharged pneumatic airgun represents an enormous amount of potential energy, and he doesn’t want it getting loose without permission.

In the .22 pistol configuration, Lewis’ airgun launches JSB Exact 16 gr. pellets at right around 650 fps average.

Here's Lewis' pistol of choice for going to extremes.

When Lewis first heard about the UJ Challenge, he was intrigued. He printed off the target, and shooting from a rest, managed to hit the target 3 shots out of 5 at 50 yards with JSB pellets. He tried again and hit the can 4 times. Switching to Kodiak pellets, once again he connected 4 out of 5 times. Pretty good shooting.

Now here’s where things get a little crazy. When Lewis read “The UJ Challenge – Part II,” in which I suggested reducing the size of the target and shooting at it again, he thought: “Why bother with that? I’ve got the room (he can shoot to 105 yards), I’ll just stick the can out farther.”

The home range of Calvin Lewis where he proved you can hit a soda at 85 yards with an air pistol.

And so he did. Lewis put the can target out at 85 yards. The first time, he hit the can 3 times out of 5. Amazing. Just shows what can happen when you go to extremes.

While I was interviewing Lewis, he was telling me how hot and windy it can get in his part of Florida. I felt sympathy for him, sweltering in the blazing sun, sweat rolling down his face, paying his dues to the gods of accuracy. . . but Lewis had one more surprise for me.

He was shooting from indoors . . . from a rest in his computer room . . . his air conditioned computer room . . . launching pellets off a rickety TV table with a pillow on top . . . probably with a nice cool drink handy. It’s hard to feel sorry about shooting conditions like that, but it’s easy to admire the results.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

- Jock Elliott

Dynamic non-lead pellets work very well in some airguns.

A while back, I mentioned the good luck I had trying Dynamic SN-1 non-lead pellets in my Beeman R7 air rifle and RWS P5 pistol. A while later, I had the opportunity to chronograph the SN-1 pellets shot out of the P5 pistol, and I found that they were averaging 532 fps and varying no more than 2 fps from shot to shot! When you realize that the P5 is a spring-piston pistol, all of a sudden the light bulb comes on that this is truly astounding consistency.

Emboldened by this success, I decided to try the Dynamic SN-1 and TM-1 pellets in my recoilless RWS 54 .177 rifle. I set up the range in my yard at 39 yards (the farthest distance I can safely shoot at home). Shooting from a rest, I banged off a few shots with Crosman Premier Heavies (CPH, nominally 10.5 grain), the pellet that had produced the best accuracy with this rifle in the past. Then I shot the TM-1 pellets (9.5 grain) and the SN-1 pellets (7.95 grain).

Measuring the groups, I found the three different pellets produced very similar results. The groups from the CPH and TM-1 pellets measured 25/32”, while the group from the SN-1 pellets measured 26/32”. When I chronographed the three pellets from the same rifle a few days later, I got the following results. CPH: high 813 fps, low 798, average 804. SN-1: high 989, low982, average, 986. TM-1: high 835, low 825, average 832.

Okay, I thought, how will Dynamic pellets work in another of my favorite guns, a Steroid Sheridan Blue Streak? I shot groups at 13 and 25 yards with both JSB .20 pellets (the pellet that the Steroid ‘Dan “likes”) and Dynamic SPC-5 and got very similar accuracy results at both distances. When I got to the chronograph, I forgot to bring the JSB .20 caliber pellets (shame on me), but here are the results I got. At eight pumps, the Steroid Sheridan was sending Benjamin .20 cylindrical pellets (14.3 grain) downrange at 672 fps average (high 677, low 669). It was launching .20 Crosman premiers (14.3 grain) at 673 fps average (677 high, low 671). And it was blasting the SPC-5 pellets (12 grain) through the traps at 721 fps average (high 724, low 717).

I got excellent accuracy from the Dynamic pellets in my R7 rifle, P5 pistol, RWS 54 rifle and Sheridan Blue Streak, but not every airgun shoots them well. I got just awful accuracy shooting SN-1 pellets in my FWB 150 match rifle, and, oddly, the same thing happened with my modern vintage Sheridan Silver Streak.

From my small experiment, I conclude that some air rifles and pistols will shoot the Dynamic non-lead pellets very well, producing good velocity and higher penetration than lead pellets. While they are more expensive than conventional lead pellets, compared to match grade rimfire ammunition, the Dynamic pellets are a downright bargain and worth experimenting with.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

I’m not quite sure why, but I have a special fondness for multi-stroke pneumatic airguns. They remind me, in a way, of muzzle-loader black powder rifles and pistols. Each shot takes time; you have to work for it. That builds a kind of deliberateness into the whole shooting experience that you don’t get with cock-‘em-and-shoot-‘em or semiautomatic airguns.

When you get right down to it, multi-stroke pneumatic airguns (also known as MSPs or pumpers) have a whole lot going for them:

  • They’re self-contained – no pumps, tanks or powerlets required. All you need is the airgun and some pellets.

  • The power and velocity can be varied with the number of pumps (usually 2 or 3 to 8) – the more you pump, the faster the pellet goes down range.
  • They’re virtually recoilless – that means they are easy to shoot well and not fussy at all about how you hold them or rest them. Just point and shoot.
  • They tend to be very reliable – What’s not to like about that?

  • They also tend to be very consistent –MSPs deliver nearly constant velocities shot after shot when pumped to the same number of strokes.

  • They can be left pumped-up all day without fear of damage – this is particularly handy if you are intent on defending the bird feeder or the garden.

True, you have to keep pumping them up and they can be a little loud when pumped to the maximum number of strokes, but on balance, it’s not surprising that MSPs have a substantial group of devoted fans in the airgunning community.

The HB17 and HB22 are classic pumper pistols.

Recently, I’ve been enjoying a pair of MSP pistols: the Benjamin HB17 and the Benjamin HB22. Outwardly, the two pistols are identical: both weigh two-and-a-half pounds, stretch 12.25 inches overall, are single-shot bolt action, and are made of metal (including a brass barrel) and American hardwood. The only difference between the two is that one is .177 caliber (the HB17), and the other is .22. With 8 pumps in them, the HB17 will launch pellets a little over 500 fps, and the HB22 will propel them a bit more than 400 fps. The thing I really, really like about these pistols is that they are incredibly solidly built. They feel like they will last generations with moderate care.

To get the most out of either pistol, I’ve discovered a couple of tricks. First, lubricate the gun before you shoot it the first time. The manual recommends Crosman Pellgunoil, but you could use some light machine oil or non-detergent 20 or 30 weight motor oil. Put a drop of oil at each spot recommended in the owner’s manual. This will help considerably, since the guns are shipped nearly bone-dry in their factory packaging. And give your pistol a little lubrication before each shooting session.

Second, when you’re pumping the HB17 or HB22, the key is to make sure that you don’t grip the forend so that the heel of your pumping hand is over the trigger guard.

Notice that when I try to pump the pistol this way, the heel of my hand hits the trigger guard.

If you do, you’ll whack the heel of your hand on the trigger guard with every stroke, and this becomes very annoying very quickly. Instead, grab the forend so that the heel of your hand rests on it just forward of the trigger guard.
But if I move my hand forward, toward the muzzle, the heel of my hand just clears the trigger guard, and it is much more comfortable to pump.

Wrap your other hand around the barrel and the trigger guard so the heel of your hand is resting on the breech. Open the forend all the way, then return it to its original position by driving your two hands together. When the pumping stroke nears completion, you’ll be able to wrap the fingers of your forend hand around the barrel to help finish the stroke.

As you finish the stroke, you can wrap your fingers around the barrel to provide additional assistance.

Finally, recognize that these air pistols will break in. The HB22 has been in my possession for several months more than the HB17, and the older gun pumps and shoots smoother.

Til next time,

Aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott

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Well, it started as a simple enough idea: try to invent a game for air pistols that would be both fun and challenging. With a little bit of luck it would hit the sweet spot: just tough enough to be fun, and not so difficult as to be maddeningly frustrating.

Inspired by Roger Clouser’s 1,000-yard pistol exploits, I proposed the Uncle Jock Air Pistol Challenge, which required shooting at a 12-oz beverage can (or a paper target the size of a 12-oz beverage can) at a distance of 50 yards.

The response, I must say, has been gratifying. Many airgunners have taken on the UJ Challenge, succeeded at hitting the can, and had fun in the process.

Jeremy from Bahama, North Carolina, was the first shooter to step to the line. Surprisingly, he decided he could clobber the can with an unscoped Beeman p-1 pistol, and he did, too!

The UJ Challenge's first victim.

Here’s Jeremy’s range.

That light colored box against the far post is Jeremy's target holder.

Kevin in Maryland gave it a go with his Crosman 2540.

Russ S. succeeded using a modded 2240 pistol. The gun is a 2240 with the Crosman steel breech, 11.5 inch barrel, red dot sight, power adjuster, and home built “debouncer”. Ammo was .22 cal. RWS Superdomes at 590fps. He shot from the Creedmoor position at a measured 50 yards.

Clearly those Superdomes can do some damage at 50 yards.

Lee in Virginia also succeeded, with a Jim Ayers modded 2240, connecting with .22 Kodiaks. He says he never shot the gun past 30 yards before the UJ Challenge.

Ian took up the Challenge with a modified 1377 pumper converted to .22 caliber, power mod, and other goodies.

Don Mathisen gave it a rip with his IZH46M fitted with a Sportsman 3-9, benchrested. He put 18/22 shots inside the can. Impressive!

Don Mathisen did some impressive shooting with his IZH46M.

Cecil Coale from Fairview, Texas, emailed me with his results. He shot this target with his model 2300 from the Crosman Custom Shop. It has the long steel breech, 10.1 inch Lothar Walther match barrel and a fixed “super sear.”

Cecil Coale did well with his Crosman 2300.

Here’s Cecil’s pistol of choice.

In addition, there were people who were reporting their results with the UJ Challenge on various forums throughout the airgunning community. Apparently, lots of folks are having fun with the UJ Challenge, and it makes me grin!

So, are you ready for Part II of the UJ Challenge? Here it is: print the UJ Challenge target at 75% and shoot it again at 50 yards. Before you get thinking: “well that shouldn’t be too bad,” let me point out a couple of things. First, at 100%, the dimensions of the soda can target are roughly 4 inches by 2.25 inches. That works out to 9 square inches of target area. But when you print at 75%, the dimensions shrink to 3 inches x 1.69 inches, which is 5.1 square inches of target area, about 57% of the original.

Give it a try, and let me know how you do!

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott