Archive for October 2008

When I got my first serious adult precision air rifle, I naturally wanted to take good care of it. I recalled that back in the days when I shot rimfire a lot, you cleaned the barrel after every shooting session. That was part of being a marksman – maintaining the equipment.

So I was suddenly seized with a wild urge to grab the old rimfire cleaning kit, assemble the metal cleaning rod, fasten the brass brush to the end, douse it in bore cleaner, and have at it.

It’s a good thing I couldn’t figure out where I had stashed my old cleaning kit. Why? Because an uncoated metal rod and/or a metal brush could have damaged the rifling in my airgun’s barrel.

Repeat after me: “I will never use an uncoated metal rod or metal brush to clean my airgun barrel.” Good. Remember that.

Nevertheless, when you first get a new airgun, the urge to clean the barrel is a good one. That’s because there may be grease and oil left in the barrel from the manufacturing process, and if you don’t get it out, it could affect accuracy.

A pull-through is the preferred tool for airgun barrel cleaning.

So here’s what you do: get yourself a flexible boresnake-style cleaner – a pull-through. I can highly recommend the Napier Pull Through Cleaning Kit, which includes a flexible pull-though and instructions.

Run the pull-through down from the muzzle to the breech. Slip a patch that has been moistened with the cleaner-degreaser through the loop in the pull-through and pull the patch from the breech out through the muzzle. (Note: the patch does not have to be dripping with cleaner, damp will work just fine.) Now pull several dry patches through – from breech to muzzle – until the patches come through looking clean or almost clean. Because the patches get crumpled up as they are pulled through the bore, you can reuse them by folding them so the clean areas are outward and pull them through again. If after four or five dry pulls you’re still getting a lot of dark stuff out of the barrel, run another patch with cleaner-degreaser, followed by more clean patches.

If you can’t use a pull-through, then use a synthetic coated rod with cleaner-moistened patches and repeat the procedure as you would with a pull-through. If you are cleaning the barrel of a springer that has been stored for a long time, you may have to use a nylon bristle brush and Beeman’s MP-5 oil to clear oil and grease that has congealed and dried.

How often do you need to clean the barrel of your airgun? The short answer: not often. Unlike firearms, there is no need to clean the barrel after every shooting session. Most competitive airgunners that I know clean their barrels only when they think they may be having an issue with accuracy. Otherwise, they leave it alone. And that would be my recommendation to you.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock

A while back I got a telephone call from an airgunning friend. He was testing a new airgun, and he was frustrated.

“You would think,” he said, “that a gun built by Crosman would shoot at least one Crosman pellet well.”

“No, I don’t think that at all,” I said.

He was astonished that I could have such a thought, and he said so. Clearly, he didn’t understand Elliott’s First Law of Pellet Perversity, which says:

“Any airgun built by any particular airgun manufacturer will rarely, if ever, shoot well with pellets made by that same manufacturer.”

There you have it. The short version of the Law is: if you have a Brand X airgun, it will inevitably shoot Brand Y pellets the best. I’ve been messing around with adult precision airguns for a while now, and I’ve seen the First Law of Pellet Perversity play itself out with creepy consistency time after time.

Now, just in case you are new to adult precision airguns, here’s a thing you need to know: every airgun will “prefer” a particular type of pellet and deliver the most consistent accuracy with that pellet. Sometimes, if you are lucky, an airgun will have two different pellets that it shoots will really good accuracy. To find out which pellet(s) your airguns “likes,” you usually have to try several different kinds of pellets, shooting them for groups at the same distance until a clear winner emerges.

So, how does the First Law of Pellet Perversity play out in real life? Currently, in my gun closet, I have two rifles from Beeman, an R7 and an R1, both in .177. Does either of them work best with a pellet from Beeman? No, of course not! The R7 works well with either Crosman 7.9 grain Premiers (also known as CPLs, for Crosman Premier Lights) or Daisy Maxspeed wadcutters. The R1 prefers CPLs and isn’t happy with anything else.

Also in my gun cabinets, I have two RWS 54 recoilless spring-piston air rifles, one in .177 and the other in .22. Neither of them “likes” pellets from RWS. The 54 in .177 is very happy with 10.5 grain Crosman Premiers (Crosman Premier Heavies, or CPHs), and the .22 version seems very well pleased with JSB .22 Jumbo Express pellets.

None of my Benjamin or Sheridan multi-stroke pneumatic rifles delivers their best accuracy with Crosman, Benjamin, or Sheridan pellets, but boy do they love any pellet made by JSB! I will admit, though, that all of the .20 caliber Sheridans shoot Benjamin cylindrical pellets with decent, but not their best, accuracy. My Steroid Sheridan Blue Streak delivers very good accuracy with non-lead Dynamic SPC-5 pellets while my Sheridan Silver Streak (surprise!) thinks these same pellets are downright indigestible and sprays them all over the place.

Just to keep me on my toes, there are exceptions to the Law. My Crosman Discovery shoots CPLs pretty well, but I have the feeling that somewhere out there is a non-Crosman pellet that will produce even better results. Cliff Tharp, the producer of the “Airgun Hunting the California Ground Squirrel” DVD, tells me that his Discovery shoots best with a Beeman pellet that was discontinued years ago, but he bought up a supply at bargain basement prices when they stopped making them.

The bottom line to this bit of fun is that, to achieve the highest accuracy with your airgun, you’re going to have to test a bunch of different pellets to see which one gives you the best results. And when it turns out that it doesn’t shoot worth a darn pellets from the same company that manufactured the gun, now you know why.

I carefully surveyed the attic in the flashlight’s glare. The squirrel had, indeed, left the building. Good . . . but how was he getting in?

Standing in front of the house, I could see that a small piece of the aluminum on the overhang of the bathroom roof had pulled loose. A few minutes later, with the help of a ladder and my son holding it steady, I could see how the squirrel had managed it. The aluminum was springy. Somehow Mr. Bushytail had discovered he could pull it down a little, slide in, and the aluminum would return nearly all the way to its original position.

Our unwanted furry guest was clearly planning to make a winter of it. Already there was sizable stash of edibles to see him through. I could imagine him chatting up the lady squirrels: “Why don’t you come over, babe . . . I got a heated condo over the Elliott’s bathroom. On Tuesday nights, we can listen to the latest episode of Bones.”

I tacked the aluminum back into place, called the guy who could repair the underlying wood that had rotted, and prayed that my lick-and-a-promise patch job would hold until a “real” repair could be done the following week.

There were no noises in the attic that night, but the following day when I stepped out the front door, headed to the mailbox, I heard a noise overhead. There was Mr. Bushytail, trying to “pick the lock’ on his pad. Clearly he hadn’t taken the hint.

The Beeman P1 has the power to control pests at short range.

I would have to take sterner measures. So I kept the P1 close at hand while attending to my writing chores.

Finally, I caught him part way up the spruce tree by our bird feeder. I flipped on the red dot. The distance was about seven yards. I gripped the pistol tightly with my right hand, pulling it back into the web between my thumb and forefinger. I wrapped the fingers of my left hand over the middle, ring, and little fingers of my trigger hand. (Unlike some folks, who allow springer pistols to freely recoil, I clamp mine in a Ninja Death Grip.)

I extended both arms, so that my arms and chest formed a triangle. I centered the red dot over center mass, eased the first stage out of the trigger, and squeezed a bit more. The P1 bucked in my hands, and the squirrel dropped like a stone. I suspect he was on his way to that Big Oak Forest in the Sky even before he hit the ground.

And since then there have been no more noises in the attic.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Every fall, as the temperatures start to drop, uninvited guests show up at El Rancho Elliott. Mice, in particular, decide it’s oh so much more pleasant inside the walls of our house than outside in the freezing cold.

So when the temperature drops below 40, you can expect to hear the occasional scratching in the walls at our house. We become accustomed to it after a while, and our cat thinks it is high quality entertainment. Sometimes he gets sufficiently motivated to go on the hunt. It’s at this point that you have to be careful, because you never know where you will find a “do it yourself mouse kit” left by our cat as a trophy someplace in the house. I can tell you with absolute certainty that if you happen to be padding barefoot across the kitchen floor in the middle of the night, you really don’t want to step on the remains of kitty’s latest victory.

Anyway, from fall through winter to early spring, odd noises in the Elliott house are simply part of our acoustical landscape. As a result, I thought it unremarkable when my wife announced, “I think there’s something in the ceiling over the upstairs bathroom.”

“It’s probably a mouse,” I said absentmindedly while pecking away at an assignment.

“I think it’s bigger than a mouse,” she said. “Maybe you should come up here and have a listen.”

I trudged upstairs and stuck my head in the bathroom. It sounded like Seal Team Six was conducting close quarter combat drills overhead, complete with Pointy Objects of various sorts.

Outwardly, I tried to sound casual: “Yeah, it sounds bigger than your average mouse. I’ll take a look.” Inwardly, I was flipping out. It sounded waaaaaaay bigger than your average mouse.

Now at this point, you need to understand something about the layout of our house. It’s small cottage with two bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor. At the top of the stairs, there’s a small landing with a bedroom to the right, another to the left, and the bathroom dead ahead. To access the attic, there a small hatch directly over the landing. You push the hatch up, slide it to one side, and then, standing on a chair or stepladder, you can look around the attic.

Standing on a chair, I pushed up through the hatch and shined a flashlight toward the attic above the bathroom. There, just under the edge of the roofline, was the culprit: a squirrel. Not just any squirrel, mind you, but a highly successful squirrel, judging from the plumpness of his physique and his glossy coat.

As I trained the flashlight in his direction, Mr. Bushytail stopped what he was doing. He looked at me. I gave him my best Clint Eastwood “this attic ain’t big enough for both of us” stare and slowly retreated back down through the hatch, pulling the cover in place behind me.

My mind was racing. Clearly this squirrel needed a pneumatically-induced “retirement.” An air rifle would be too cumbersome. Getting it through that 2’ x 2’ hatch with me and then drawing a bead on the squirrel would be laborious and time consuming, but at the same time, I didn’t want to take the chance of wound the squirrel and having it go berserk in the attic.

The Beeman P1.

Finally, I grabbed my red-dot-equipped .177 cal Beeman P1 pistol and loaded it with Gamo Raptor PBA ammo. Even though the distance was less than a dozen feet, I wanted a flat trajectory and excellent penetration. I pushed my way back through the attic hatch and flipped on the flashlight.

The squirrel was gone. Now what?

To be continued.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight!

– Jock Elliott