Archive for November 2008

With the gift giving holidays soon to be upon us, here is what I hope is a word in due season.

If there is one thing that the folks at Airguns of Arizona, every dedicated airgunner, and I are serious about, it’s safety. None of us wants to see anyone get hurt with an airgun, and that goes double for kids.

I realize that most of the folks who read this blog already know what follows, but I also know that chances are good that you know someone who could benefit from this information.

So here are some things that every parent needs to know before his or her child gets involved with shooting an airgun:

Airguns are not toys. They are real air rifles and air pistols and can cause injury, destruction of property and even death if not handled properly. Your child needs to understand there is a very large difference between an airgun and a toy gun. It’s like the difference between a toy car and a real car.

Always observe the number one rule of airgun safety: never, ever point your airgun at anything you don’t want to see a hole in. That means you don’t point your airgun at another person, any animal (except for hunting) or someone else’s property. It also means that when the airgun is not aimed at an appropriate target, it should be pointed in a safe direction, such as at the ground.

If you have any doubt at all that your children will observe Rule One, you need to supervise them while they are shooting. You know your children and their level of responsibility and maturity. If you are not positive that they will always handle the airgun safely, supervise them, no matter how old they are.

(Note well: this also applies to any friends or playmates who may be on scene. For example, I have absolute confidence in my son’s commitment to safe airgun handling, but some of his friends have poor impulse control, and I would not allow them to shoot without my direct personal supervision.)

Supervision means being close enough to control or redirect the airgun if it is pointed in an unsafe direction. It only takes a moment for a child to turn while squeezing the trigger. Be close enough to prevent that from happening – no more than an arm’s length away.

Make sure that everyone wears eye protection while shooting.

Maintain control of the airgun when it is not being used, including at the beginning and end of each shooting session. Don’t load it and leave it unattended. Store your airgun, unloaded, where it cannot be used by curious youngsters or unauthorized persons. Store the ammunition separately.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott

Where I live in upstate New York, this is the time of year when the window of opportunity for 50-yard airgun testing begins to close, at least for me. The days are shortening; the weather is cold and damp; and once the serious snow flies, I won’t be able to get to get to the 50-yard range at the gun club at all. Once that happens, the longest range that I can conveniently manage at home is about 39 yards. (Besides, I rarely do my best work when my teeth are chattering.)

But every once in a while in November, we get a nice warm day like last Friday (November 14, 2008). As the temperature headed toward 60, I called my friend Dick Johnson (an excellent centerfire benchrest competitor). We agree to meet at the range at 2 pm. He brought his Oehler printing chronometer and his “professional” bench rests, and I brought three .22 air rifles.

The first, which I won’t mention here until I get some more time to sort it out, didn’t do so hot. The second was an RWS54 in .22. It turned in entirely worthy performance, and I will be writing about it here in a future blog. But the big surprise of the day was the Benjamin Discovery in .22.

The Discovery delivers worthy performance for a surprisingly modest price.

The Discovery is Crosman Corporation’s inexpensive pre-charged pneumatic air rifle. By inexpensive, I mean it can be purchased with a pump for less than $400, and without a pump for less than $250.

Weighing just 5 lbs 2 oz and stretching 39 inches end to end, the Discovery is a bolt-action, single-shot rifle that is available in either .177 or .22. It has the capability to run off either compressed air or CO2. You can fill it with compressed air from a hand pump or tank or with CO2 from a paintball tank using an optional filler hose. In addition, the Discovery is a low-pressure PCP, which means you have to fill it only to 2,000 psi, not 3,000 psi or higher, as is common with other pre-charged pneumatic air rifles.

After mounting a Leaper 6-24 x 56 scope and sighting it in, I pumped the Discovery up to 2,000 psi and settled it onto the rests. I tried 5-shot groups with Discovery .22 hollow points, Dynamic SN-2 pellets, and JSB Jumbo Express Exacts and got mediocre results. Admittedly by this point in the afternoon, conditions were deteriorating. A front was moving into the area; the wind was gusting intermittently; the temperature was beginning to drop; and the sun was dropping toward the horizon.

Then I switched to .22 Crosman Premiers, and magic happened. Five shots landed in a group measuring 1 inch edge to edge (that works out to .78 inch ctc). After the first two shots, there was a lull in the wind. The next three shots really got my attention: they created a single hole in the target measuring .375 edge to edge. That’s .155 ctc. Not too shabby.

Shot at 50 yards, the first two shots are just above the quarter. The last three shots are just below the center circle.

Considering that this was an absolutely box-stock, unmodified, factory fresh .22 Discovery, I am very impressed with the results.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

- Jock Elliott

Hang around airgunners for long, and pretty soon you’ll discover they all have stories – stories about spectacularly improbable shots that worked, shots that failed in strange and unusual ways, and times when they were in the zone and everything seemed to work just right.

In the Spirit of Quigley – Part II,” I related how I twice dropped a field target at 54 yards with a Beeman R1 fitted with a globe front sight and a peep rear sight. I was fortunate to have a fast air rifle and some very good ballistic information from Steve Woodward, AKA “Steve from NC.”

A Tale of Desperate Measures, Whistling Lead, and a Sneering Bird,” tells how, with the help of an FX Typhoon loaned to me by Airguns of Arizona, I won the New York State Hunter Class Field Target Championship, but the real story for me that day was trying to knock down a target with a 3/8” kill zone at 22 yards. Here again I was fortunate – darned fortunate – because it turns out that I had zeroed the Typhoon at almost the same distance as the #@$% bird target.

But the most spectacular shot – a real “God likes me” moment – was one I have never related before in print or on the web (as far as I can remember). The scene was a field target match at Westfield, Massachusetts, a couple of years ago. I was shooting my Beeman R1 fitted with front globe sight and rear peep sight in the Hunter Class. It was a warm, comfortable day, and my brother-in-law Kyle and I were having a good time. On this day at Westfield, we were shooting two or three targets per lane, over ten lanes, with two shots for each target, for a grand total of 40 or 50 shots for the match.

Things were going pretty well . . . I was knocking down more targets than I was missing. While I certainly wasn’t “cleaning” the course, I was feeling pretty good. We worked our way from lane to lane until about halfway or perhaps two-thirds of the way through the match we arrived at this one particular lane . . .

Now, to really get a feel for what happened next, you need to understand a couple of things. First, when I am shooting my R1 with the globe sight and peep sight on it, I scan each lane with binoculars so I can locate the targets and determine the size and location of the kill zone on each of them. The second thing you need to know is that the folks at Westfield neaten up and repaint targets as needed before each match. That way, the kill zones, painted in a bright, contrasting color, are clearly visible against the bodies of the targets. But once you get halfway through match, the kill zones are splattered with lead from pellets and so is the face of the target immediately around the kill zone. After a while, it becomes increasingly difficult to figure out where the kill zone is, even through a scope.

So I start scanning for the targets, and after a while I find one up in a tree around 30 yards away. The entire center portion of the target is gray with splattered lead, and I really have to work to find the kill zone. When I finally identify it, I can’t believe it: it’s only about the diameter of my little finger. (I later found out the target was 32 yards and the kill zone was a half-inch.)

Just as I was thinking “I’ll never be able to find the kill zone without a scope,” I noticed that the target had a reducer plate. The reducer plate bolts to the face of the target and makes the kill zone smaller, and while the target was smeared with lead, I could see clearly two bolt heads that were used to hold the reducer plate in place. If I could triangulate on the kill zone from the two bolt heads, that might work.

So I cocked the R1, loaded a pellet, and walked the front sight to the right of the left hand bolt head and down a bit from the right hand bolt head. I squeezed the trigger, the R1 went “SNAP!” and the target dropped. I pulled the reset string, popped the target upright, and tried again. I missed, so maybe I just got lucky with the first shot.

Frankly, I don’t remember the rest of the shots that I took that day. But I do remember dropping that half-inch target at over 30 yards with metallic sights. Even if I missed the second time, it still felt pretty good.

So now it’s your turn – you are cordially invited to share the shots over which you have bragging rights or your other strange and unusual airgunning stories.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

- Jock Elliott

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There is something that I really like about target air pistols. Maybe it is the sheer joy of spending a few hours on an afternoon doing nothing more productive than trying to put some pellets through the 10 ring.

The HW97 MkIII delivers excellent accuracy in a handsome package.

The Gamo Compact is an entry-level target air pistol. Weighing a just under 2 pounds, it stretches 12.6 inches from end to end, and delivers a wealth of goodies for a very reasonable price.

Let’s take a walk around the Compact and see what I mean. The first thing you notice about the Compact is the anatomically sculptured right-hand walnut grip with adjustable palm shelf. To the best of my knowledge, the Compact is the only entry level pistol that comes standard with such a grip.

Just forward of the grip underneath compact is the trigger guard, it – and the rest of the receiver and upper unit of the pistol, is made of an engineering plastic. The sides of receiver are reinforced with metal straps that are also part of the cocking mechanism. Unlike some plastic air pistols that I have shot, I have seen no flexing of the plastic while cocking or shooting the Compact.

Inside the trigger guard is the trigger. The first stage of the trigger is adjustable for travel, and the trigger blade can be swiveled to match the shooter’s finger. The manual says the second stage of the trigger is set by the factory at 750 grams, and it is not adjustable. Like many target pistols, the Gamo Compact does not have a safety. Once it is cocked and loaded, it is always live and ready to shoot.

At the front end of the Compact, on top of the upper assembly is the blade front sight. Just below is the muzzle, which is recessed into the plastic upper assembly. Along the top of the upper assembly is a wide plastic ridge. While the ridge is not a dovetail, I have successfully used it to clamp red dot sights to the Compact.

At the rear of the upper assembly is the rear sight, which – like virtually all target sights – is adjustable for elevation and windage. What sets the Compact’s rear sight apart is that the width of the rear sighting notch is also adjustable, simply by turning a screw on the left-hand side of the sight. As far as I know, this is the only entry-level target air pistol that offers such an adjustment, and I find it really handy for matching the sight picture to varying lighting conditions.

Underneath the rear sight, at the extreme aft end of the receiver, is a rectangular gray plastic button. To get the Compact ready to shoot, depress the gray plastic button. This releases the upper assembly which can then pivot forward. With the upper assembly fully extended, insert a pellet into the back end of the barrel. Now return the upper assembly to its original position so it latches. This cocks the single-stroke pneumatic action and requires about 21 pounds of effort.

Now you’re good to go. Take aim at the target, ease the first stage out of the trigger, and squeeze a bit more. The Compact gives a muted pop and launches medium weight pellets down range in the mid-300 fps. I find the trigger to be pleasingly crisp.

The Compact is not a powerful pistol. I wouldn’t use it for hunting anything bigger than hornets (or perhaps mice at very close range). But it is quite accurate. The factory says it will deliver .20” groups CTC at 10 yards. I seem to recall a test in IHMSA news in which a fellow achieved nearly the same size groups at 20 yards indoors under windless conditions.

In the end, I find the Gamo Compact an entirely worthy air pistol that I enjoy shooting very much.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

- Jock Elliott