Archive for June 2009

There has been a lot of buzz on the Internet lately about the Crosman NPSS (that stands for Nitro Piston Short Stroke) air rifle. Crosman sent me one in .177 caliber (.22 is also available) for review, and I found it pretty interesting in a lot of ways.

The first thing that sets the NPSS apart from the herd is its looks. It has an ambidextrous composite “thumbhole” stock that has a carbon-fiber-look “soft-touch” covering. A digital camo version is also available. Starting at the rear of the NPSS, you’ll find a ventilated soft black rubber butt pad. Moving forward, a soft rubber cheek piece wraps over the comb of the stock and down both sides. Moving forward again, there is a triangular hole in the buttstock that serves as the thumbhole.

The pistol grip has small bumps on either side (as does the forestock) that provide additional gripping surface. Just ahead of the pistol grip, the trigger guard is made of plastic and has a hole toward the rear edge, through which a screwdriver can be inserted for adjusting the length of the trigger’s second stage. The black trigger is made of metal, as is the Gamo-style safety lever (push forward to fire, pull back to safe the action).

Moving forward again, you’ll find the forestock, which has a screw hole on either side for securing the receiver and a slot down the middle on the underside to provide clearance when cocking the break barrel action.

Ahead of the forestock is the barrel, which swells from the breech block into a 7/8-inch matte-black-finished bull barrel. Moving back on the top of the NPSS, you’ll discover the breech block. Move back again, the shiny black metal receiver is fitted with dovetails for mounting a scope and a hole for engaging an anti-recoil pin from a scope mount. The extreme rear of the receiver is covered by a black plastic cap.

Included in the box with the NPSS is a CenterPoint 3-9 x 40 scope and a one-piece scope mount. To mount the scope, of course you have to take the tops off the scope mounts, and when you do, you need to take the smaller allen wrench included with the mount and use it to run the anti-recoil pin down so that it will engage the hole on the receiver. The NPSS weighs 9 lbs, 7 oz with the scope mounted and stretches 43 7/8 inches from end to end.

To cock the NPSS and open the breech for loading, pull the bull barrel down and back until it latches. Cocking requires about 27 pounds of effort, and this is where you’ll encounter the second thing that sets the NPSS apart from the herd: the gas-piston action (sometimes called a gas spring, and which Crosman calls a Nitro Piston) action. Because of the gas-piston action, there is no spring noise during cocking, and the air rifle can be left cocked for extended periods without worry about spring fatigue. Slide a pellet into the breech, return the barrel to its original position, and you’re good to go.

Next time, we’ll shoot the NPSS.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

If you want to get rock-solid steady when you are shooting your air rifle or air pistol, here’s a piece of gear that you ought to know about. Called the Steady Aim Harness, the patent-pending device consists of a comfortable shoulder harness with a wide padded back support and a pair of padded non-slip knee straps. The shooter wears the harness over his clothes, and whenever he needs to make a high-precision shot, he simply sits down, slips the knee straps into place, and leans back. The Steady Aim Harness uses the body’s own weight in tension against the legs to create an amazingly stable and comfortable shooting platform that deploys in just seconds in the field.

Tom Price, inventor of the harness, says, “The military has known for a long time that the sitting position is one of the most stable for precision shooting, but it isn’t always consistently comfortable or stable. The Steady Aim Harness is as comfortable to wear as a fanny pack and nearly as stable to shoot from as a benchrest.”

The Steady Aim Harness is assembled from ballistic nylon straps and engineering grade plastic adjusters and quick release buckles that are fully adjustable to fit a wide range of sizes. An optional waterproof seat cushion, which is part of the Steady Aim Harness system, is available to increase comfort for extended sitting. The Steady Aim Harness and small cushion together weigh just two pounds.

This picture shows your humble correspondent wearing the Steady Aim Harness. The knee loops dangle in front of my thighs.

To get ready to shoot, sit down and drop the knee loops over your knees. It’s as comfortable as sitting in an easy chair. Here I am shooting the Diana LP8 two-handed with my elbows resting on my knees.

This shows me shooting a rifle-scoped pistol Crosman 2300S silhouette air pistol rested in the crook of my arm. The Steady Aim Harness is also useful when you need to do long-term observation of a game area from a seated position.

A number of field target shooters that I know use the Steady Aim Harness to help them shoot their rifles in competition more accurately. My brother-in-law and I both use Steady Aim Harnesses in competition whenever the rules allow. Above is a picture of me shooting an FX Typhoon in field target competition using the Steady Aim Harness.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

My wife, in an act of kindness, ruined me. One day she returned from a trip to Walmart and handed me a videocassette of the movie “Quigley Down Under.” “I thought you might like it,” she said. Little did she know.

It’s the story of Matthew Quigley, a Wyoming rifleman who answers a newspaper ad from an Australian rancher for “The World’s Best Long Distance Marksman.” Quigley shows up down under with a Sharps 45-110 with an extra-long barrel and a tang vernier sight. In his first interview with his would-be employer, Quigley hits a bucket repeatedly at a distance of several hundred yards, shooting offhand with iron sights.

When I saw that scene, something inside me responded: “That’s soooo cool; I wish I could do that.” Then another inner voice chimed in: “Maybe you can.” That, in a nutshell, is when I got ruined.

Roger Clouser, writing in Precision Shooting magazine, figured that Quigley was shooting at a 17.5 inch bucket at a distance of 550 yards. Not having a Sharps 45-110 or, in fact, any place where I might shoot one, I decided to duplicate Quigley’s marksmanship on an airgun scale; that is, shooting at a 1.75 inch bucket at 55 yards. Eventually I managed it with a .22 Career. Now it’s your turn.

Here’s what you need to participate in the Uncle Jock (UJ for short) Quigley Bucket Challenge:

· An air rifle or air pistol with NON-glass sights
· Some pellets
· The official UJ Quigley Bucket Challenge target (click to download)
· 55 yards of space

The rest is obvious: set up the target at 55 yards, try to hit it with three consecutive shots with your air rifle or air pistol, and report your results here with full details.

Some notes: First, this is for non-glass sights only. Sure, you can shoot at the target with your scoped rifle, but it won’t count for bragging rights in the UJ Quigley Bucket Challenge. After all, part of the challenge is an optical one; the target is going to look small compared to your front sight.

Second, I realize that some iron-sighted airguns won’t have the necessary accuracy. For example, I tried to hit the bucket at 55 yards with my Sheridan, but couldn’t get it done. If that is the case, try moving the bucket closer in small increments until you can hit it three times in a row. Frankly, I would love to hear from someone the maximum distance they were able to hit the bucket with a Sheridan or a Benji. Or try it with your match rifle, or your springer, or a Daisy Red Ryder. The point is to have fun and make like Matthew Quigley.

And if it turns out that hitting the bucket is just way too easy for you at 55 yards, feel free to move it back and amaze all of us with your skill.

Third, I will accept any shooter-supported position. True, in the movie, Quigley shot the bucket offhand, but later he shot from other positions, so I will allow prone, sitting and offhand. No benchrests, though.

Give it a try, and report back here. I look forward to your results. When you give an account of your efforts, I’d like to know: gun, ammo, distance, and position.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

For the past several weeks, I’ve been shooting a new air pistol that I believe is a classic in the making. The RWS LP8, also known as the Diana LP8, is a break-barrel, spring-piston, single-shot air pistol that will replace the 5G pistol. Available only in .177, the LP8 stretches nearly 18 inches from end to end, weighs 3.2 lbs, and has an integrated top rail for mounting a scope or red dot.

The LP8 is set up a bit like the old powder burning Fireball pistol, which had a fair amount of the receiver rearward of the pistol grip and overhanging the shooter’s hand. The LP8 is designed to be ambidextrous. Both sides of the action are enclosed by a handsome matte finish black metal casting, and the pistol grip is enclosed by molded ambidextrous plastic grips. Further, on either side of the receiver, just above the grips, is a flip-lever safety. Truly, the ergonomics of this pistol will keep both lefties and righties happy.

At the very stern of the LP8 is a metal name plate that says “RWS.” Just above that, on top of the receiver, is a micro-adjustable rear notch sight with a fiber optic green dot on either side of the notch. Moving forward, you’ll find the rail for mounting a scope or red dot. (In the picture, you’ll notice that I used a Leapers 3/8-to-weaver adaptor to mount the red dot on my LP8, but I did that only because the only unused red dot that was available had weaver mounts.) The receiver measures nearly 11 inches from the front edge to the back of the pistol. Moving forward again, you’ll find the barrel and a muzzle weight with the front sight which has a red fiber optic dot.

Moving underneath the receiver, the trigger guard is an integral part of the castings that surround either side of the action. Inside the trigger guard is a metal trigger which has a grooved front surface. Underneath the trigger guard in a small hole for a screw that prevents trigger overtravel and should not be adjusted.

Loading the LP8 is dead easy: grab the muzzle weight from underneath (otherwise the front sight will poke you in the palm) and pull down and back until the barrel latches. This cocks the action and activates the automatic safety. Insert a .177 pellet into the exposed breech and return the barrel to its original position.

Now you’re good to go. Flip off the safety lever, ease the first stage out of the trigger and squeeze just a bit more. According to my Lyman digital trigger gage, out of the box, the first stage takes 2 lb 13 oz, and the shot goes off at 3 lb 11 oz, and I had no difficulties achieving satisfying accuracy with that weight of trigger.

The shot cycle is very smooth, and makes kind of a “doink” sound that is very neighbor friendly. You can hear some vibration, but you don’t feel it in your hands. On my Oehler chronograph, the LP8 was sending 7.9 gr. Crosman Premier Light pellets downrange at 558 fps average. That’s within kissing distance of an untuned Beeman R7 rifle. By contrast, my RWS 5G pistol launches the same pellets at 530 fps average. In an email, the folks at UmarexUSA told me they got the following results: RWS Hypermax 645 fps, RWS Hobby 560 fps, RWS Super H-Point 550 fps, and RWS Super Dome 500 fps.

Fooling around in my side yard, from a sitting position, and using a red dot (which is not the best choice for ultimate accuracy), I put five shots into a group that measured 11/16 inch edge to edge. Three of the shots were in a cloverleaf group where all the holes touched each other.

The bottom line is that I think the LP8 is one heck of an air pistol. It has power, accuracy, and it’s fun to shoot. My prediction is that a lot of airgunners will think the same thing and vote with their wallets.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Attending the NRA Show in Phoenix was an interesting and educational experience.

I didn’t spend a huge amount of time hanging around the Airguns of Arizona booth, but when I did, one of the more enlightening aspects was the kind of questions that visitors to the booth asked.

Frequently I would hear a comment like: “I bet this will take care of rabbits in the garden, yeah?” And sometimes someone would eye a beautiful airgun and inquire about the cost.

Curiously, no one within my hearing ever asked about accuracy. Most visitors to the booth (except those who were already high precision airgun enthusiasts) were unaware that high quality precharged pneumatics will easily product sub-one-inch groups at 50 yards and sometimes at much longer ranges.

The one question that I did hear most often was: “How many feet per second?”

Since that particular question was asked so many times, it told me a couple of things. First, it told me that the average non-airgunner is woefully ignorant when it comes to the real questions to ask about airguns. Second, it showed me that the companies that are marketing on the basis of feet-per-second claims are winning the marketing battle, for now, at least.

It wasn’t until I had returned from the show, was sitting in the comfort of my office and meditating on the experience, that the correct response to the “How many feet per second?” question came to me.

The proper response is another question: “Do you want to be fast or do you want to be accurate?” Tony Belas, Director of Daystate, hit the nail on the head: “You can take the analogy of the WWII Spitfires. When they broke the sound barrier, they used to fall out of the sky. We can shoot a pellet out of an 80 foot-pound Air Ranger and it will go 1380 fps. And at 20 yards, it will go through the same hole, day in and day out. But at 40 yards, you won’t find the hole, because the pellet goes from supersonic to subsonic and goes its merry way. The problem is that if you crack the sound barrier, the pellet is going to be out of the sound barrier long before you hit the target.”

I saw this demonstrated in spades when I tested the Gamo Hunter Extreme in .177. “Hunter Extreme, 1600 fps!” the box read, adding, “The fastest spring airgun on earth.” This claim was made based on shooting Gamo’s new Raptor Performance Ballistic Alloy which are very light (under 5 gr., if I remember correctly)

So I tested the Hunter Extreme at 50 yards with the Raptor pellets. Velocities – which were loudly supersonic — ranged from 1477 to 1525, averaging 1491 (this isn’t the 1600 fps that Gamo promised, perhaps because we were keeping the chronograph a couple of feet from the muzzle), but the accuracy simply wasn’t there. Group size at 50 yards was 3.5 to 5 inches, depending upon whether you called one shot a shooter-produced “flyer” or not.

But if you slowed the velocities down by shooting a much heavier pellet, the accuracy improved substantially. The Hunter Extreme “liked” Crosman Premier 10.5 gr. Heavies (CPHs, for short). After dieseling for a couple of shots, it settled down, launching them at around 1021 fps, average (high was 1026, low was 1015). That’s over 24 foot-pounds of energy. Our first 5-shot group measured just 1.25 inches edge to edge.

So I have a modest proposal for the good folks at Airguns of Arizona. The next time they go to a show, they should put up a BIG poster with two targets, both shot at 50 yards with the same gun and the same pellets. The first would show a tiny little group with the velocity prominently displayed below: 960 fps. The next target would show a much bigger raggedy group with the velocity: 1500 fps.

Then the poster would ask the right question: Do you want to be fast, or do you want to be accurate?

Til next time, aim true, stay subsonic, and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott