Archive for August 11th 2008

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.

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