Archive for February 2009

The HW75 is good looking, well built, and great fun to shoot.

Ever since I saw my first Beeman catalog some years ago, there has been one pistol that has tickled my curiosity: the HW75 (formerly called the Beeman P2).

Stretching 11 inches from end to end and weighing about two-and-one-third pounds, the HW75 looks very much like the HW45/Beeman P1. Both these pistols resemble a 1911 Colt automatic on steroids. I have shot the HW45/P1 many times, and it has the peculiar recoil of a spring-piston pistol. If you are accustomed to shooting single-stroke pneumatic pistols, the action of the HW45/P1 may drive you nuts. (Or like me, you may find that after a while it is an acquired taste and a whole lot of fun.)

But the HW75, which (according to Beeman literature) was originally designed as a prototype when the P1 was being developed, has a single-stroke pneumatic powerplant in a frame that is as robust as that of the P1. What would that be like to shoot? I didn’t know, but I really wanted to find out. I tried a couple of times to get my hands on one, but no luck. As the years rolled by, I had opportunities to shoot lots of different pistols: the Daisy 747, the Gamo Compact (both single-stroke pneumatics), several different variations on the P1, several different CO2 pistols, but no HW75.

HW75s apparently were rare birds. They didn’t hang around long. As soon as dealers got them in stock, they would sell out, and a waiting list would build up for the next shipment. If a writer (namely me) wanted to borrow one, there didn’t seem to be an extra one available for a field trip to El Rancho Elliott.

Recently, though, the good folks at Airguns of Arizona sent me an HW75. Finally, I would get a chance to play with one! But (wouldn’t you know it) there was a catch: AoA had already sold my test gun, so it was up to me to do my thing and return the aforementioned HW75 with All Due Haste.

My first impression of the HW75 is that it is amazingly well built. All the parts except the grips are made of metal and nicely finished in matte black. The wrap-around wooden grips are ambidextrous, are stippled on the lower half, and have a slight palm shelf on either side. The overall effect is that the HW75 is both solid and refined.

Getting ready to shoot the HW75 is straightforward. At the left of the hammer at the rear of the pistol is a thumb tab. Press it in fully and at the same time grasp the grooves on either side of the receiver just forward of the rear sight and lift upward. The top half of the receiver (including the rear sight but not the hammer) will now rotate all the way forward. Load a pellet in the rear of the barrel and return the top half of the receiver to its original position. As you do so, you will be compressing air in the single-stroke pneumatic powerplant.

The final step (besides flicking off the safety) is to cock the hammer by pulling it back. Next, ease the first stage out of the trigger, squeeze lightly, and POP! a pellet goes downrange. Velocities will likely be around 400 fps, depending upon the weight of the pellet. The adjustable trigger is really, really nice (light and crisp) and fairly begs the shooter to see how accurate he or she can be with the HW75.

The HW75 is equipped with a black metal blade front sight and black metal notch rear sight. For those who want to mount a scope or a red dot, there are grooves on front half of the HW75’s receiver that can accommodate airgun scope rings.

The bottom line is that the HW75 is an incredibly well built single-stroke pneumatic pistol that shoots like a house afire and looks like it should last a very long time. No wonder they are sold out so often.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

I’ve had the grumps lately. Evil Queen Winter has seized Upstate New York in her cruel grip. The other morning, it was minus six degrees. One of the guys who checks into the Commuter Assistance Network I run workday mornings on Ham radio reported that it was -28F at his house 40 miles north. Criminy!

Icicles are hanging from the gutters. The oil furnace has been beavering away ceaselessly in the basement, and whenever I notice its labors (which is often), I picture an OPEC prince smiling blissfully as he cruises in the new Rolls Royce that I personally helped to purchase for him. A week ago, I took a spectacular pratfall while blowing snow. Fortunately, I was able to use my secret Aikido shout: Awwwwwwwwwww, nuts! (Hey, I don’t go to the dojo twice a week for nothing.)

Even worse, there has been very little airgun shooting going on here at El Rancho Elliott. I’ve thought about putting on every piece of clothing I own, strapping on my field target harness and going out to shoot some groups, but my Better Half, who is very supportive of my airgunning, has indicated in no uncertain terms that she does not want to find me “froze to a tree.” Just to get to the spot where I usually hang my pellet trap would probably take a dogsled and team, and I’m pretty sure our two dachshunds aren’t up to it.

Maybe 'There ain't no cure for the summertime blues,' but the P1 in .20 cal will cure the winter grumps.

So I’ve been cranky, at least, until a couple of days ago. A package showed up from Airguns of Arizona, and in it was a Beeman P1 pistol in .20 caliber. Now, for some time I owned a P1 in .177, and I have shot the P11 in .22, but I had never tried a P1 in .20. Over the years I’ve been messing with airguns, I’ve learned that a change in caliber can make a substantial difference in how an airgun feels when it is fired, so my curiosity was definitely piqued.

The Beeman P1 looks like a Colt 45 automatic on steroids. A spring-piston air pistol, it measures 11 inches from end to end and weighs 2.5 pounds. Except for the grips and the sights (we’ll get to them in just a bit), the whole thing is solidly built of metal. It’s like plastic was some sort of dirty word when it came to designing the P1. The grips are made of wood and are checkered to provide a very secure grip, and it’s my understanding that the grip frame on the P1 is designed so that any after market grips designed for the Colt 45 auto will also fit the P1.

I'll admit this isn't a great photo, but it shows pretty well how visible the new P1 sights are.

One major change to the P1 in the sample Airguns of Arizona sent me – small in dimensions but big in impact – is the redesign of the sights. Previously, the P1 had a black metal blade front sight and a black metal notch rear sight, and sometimes they were difficult to see. But now the front sight has been enhanced with a red fiber optic dot and the rear sight has been improved with two yellow fiber optic dots – one on either side of the rear notch. In my view, this is a Big Deal. The sight picture has been greatly improved; just put the red dot between the two yellow dots, put the combo on the target, and you’re good to go. This is an excellent improvement, and I give it a big Thumbs Up.

Finally, one day when the temperatures darted above 32F, I dashed outside with the .20 cal. P1 and put a few shots down range. I didn’t attempt to do critical accuracy testing, but I simply wanted to see how the shot cycle felt. Bottom line: it feels really good. My sense is that the shot cycle of the .20 P1 is very similar to the .22 P11, which is the younger brother of the P1. It feels smoother and less harsh than the .177 P1, and I really enjoyed shooting it. The .20 cal P1 launches 14.3 gr. Crosman Premiers at 396 fps average and Dynamic SPC5 12.0 gr pellets at 449 fps average.

One thing is for sure – the P1 in .20 will cure the wintertime grumps, and I think that any P1 shooter will agree that the new sights are a big improvement.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

My Dad called television “an optimist’s dream” – because “you keep hoping something good will come on.” That was back in the day when programs were in black-and-white; there were only three channels, and if you wanted to change the station, you had to get up, cross the room, and turn the channel selector.

Now, my local cable provider offers literally hundreds of channels, and people still complain that “there’s nothing on.”

Well, if you are an airgunner with even a passing interest in hunting and long range accuracy, I have good news: you really owe it to yourself to check out a copy of Cliff Tharp’s Airgun Hunting the California Ground Squirrel.

Airgun Hunting the California Ground Squirrel is both informative and entertaining.

This DVD provides exactly what the title implies: over 70 minutes of footage of hunting California ground squirrels with air rifles. Tharp shot, narrated and edited the entire production and did an entirely creditable job that is both entertaining and informative.

I give full points to Tharp for starting the video with a section on “Know the Law,” which includes cautions to know the laws in your area that apply to hunting with airguns, know which species may be legally hunted with airguns in your area, have the appropriate license(s), and to remember that you are responsible for the lawful use of your airgun. The introduction also contains a warning that California ground squirrels are vermin that may carry diseases that can be harmful or fatal to humans, so handling them may be hazardous to your health. This is essential information that anyone who views the video and who might be inspired to go and do likewise needs to have.

What happens next, though is pure magic. Tharp stands in front of the camera and introduces us to the fun of hunting ground squirrels with air rifles. Most of the footage is devoted to shots of pellets taking down ground squirrels, followed by a slow motion repeat of the same shot. Tharp provides a voice-over commentary about the shot in question, often including the yardage and any difficulties (such as high wind) in making the shot. As Tharp puts it: “There are about 260 or so squirrels on the DVD that can attest to the effectiveness of air rifles all the way out to just about 100 yards.”

At irregular intervals, Tharp drops into the video for an on-camera discussion of guns, tanks, equipment and so forth. Tharp’s folksy, friendly style is both fun and educational. By the time he is done, it makes me want to try ground squirrel hunting too!

Tharp tells me that all of the shots on the video were taken with PCP air rifles with a video camera mounted on top of the scope. (Apparently, he couldn’t get good shots mounting the camera in a similar fashion on a spring-piston airgun, although it mentions springers as suitable for hunting ground squireels.) The result is that the footage has a kind of “you are there” immediacy that draws me, at least, right into the action.

I communicated with Tharp via email and telephone, and one of the interesting things he said was, “I don’t make a big deal of it in the video, but 99% of the shots you see in it were made with the DYNAMIC PCP 2 pellets. They work especially well in my FX built guns. The ranch that I do most of my hunting on has a complete ban on lead ammo, including airgun pellets.” That’s good to know.

The bottom line is that if you enjoy hunting videos, I can highly recommend Airgun Hunting the California Ground Squirrel. And if you have a shooting buddy who sneers at airguns, give him a copy of this video. It might just prove to be a real eye-opener for him.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

So what do you need to participate in the fascinating sport of field target?

The FWB P70 Field Target is a serious open class competition rifle.

First, an air rifle. There are two main classes of field target air rifles: piston class, which includes all spring-piston or gas-ram powered air rifle (which is characterized by the whiplash recoil generated by the powerplant), and open class, which includes all other powerplants, but generally means pre-charged pneumatic air rifles. A typical piston class rifle would be the HW97, while a representative open class FT rifle is the FWB P70FT. Some field target clubs also shoot hunter class, in which you can shoot either springers or PCPs, but are generally limited to 12X scopes. By all means, check with your local club regarding their rules.

Most field target competitors use scopes on their rifles. Serious piston and open class shooters generally go for high power scopes (sometimes as much as 50X). They focus the scope to determine the range to the target and then either (A) adjust the elevation knob on their scope to compensate for the pellet drop at that range or (B) use a mil-dot reticle and select the appropriate dot on the reticle for that range. Hunter class competitors are usually not allowed to adjust the elevation turret on their scopes but they are allowed to use mil-dot reticles. Occasionally some nut (like me) will shoot field target with non-magnifying target sights, but that is extremely rare.

You’ll also need a supply of the pellets that produce the best accuracy in your air rifle, enough for warm-up on the sight-in range and for shooting the match. You can keep the pellets in the tin they came in, but some shooters use a special pellet pouch.

Since most of the shots in field target are usually taken from a sitting position, another useful thing to have is something to sit on. Most competitors use a bum bag, but you can use an old pillow or boat cushion to keep you off the ground and more comfortable.

To shoot field target, you don’t have to go out and buy a brand new rig. Instead, you can participate with whatever airgun you have. The key thing is to go out, try it, and have some fun. My rule of thumb is that whatever range you can consistently shoot 1-inch groups is the range (and closer) at which you’ll be able to knock down at least some targets. (For match winning accuracy, Larry Durham estimated some years ago that you need to be able to keep all your shots within a 7/8” circle at 50 yards in the PCP class and within 1-1/16 inch at 50 yards for the springer class.)

If you don’t have a suitable air rifle, some field target clubs even have loaner air rifles that they may let you use during a match.

Gamo's Squirrel Field Target is great fun to play with in the back yard.

There’s nothing like shooting in a real field target match (because of the camaraderie of shooting on a squad with other field target shooters), but if you would like to get a preview of what this sport is like, buy yourself a field target or two, put them up in your backyard, and experience the thrill of knocking some targets down.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott