Archive for July 2009

The Hammerli Pneuma has its own distinctive style.

The Hammerli Pneuma is an interesting newcomer to the entry level category of precharged pneumatic (PCP) airguns. Stretching 39.4 inches long and weighing 7.3 lbs without scope and mounts, it is a single shot, side lever action air rifle fitted with an ambidextrous matte black composite thumbhole stock that gives it a quasi military/tactical look. The Pneuma is available in .22 and .177. I tested the .177 version.

The rubber recoil pad is adjustable vertically.

Starting at the back of the Pneuma, there is a soft rubber butt pad that is adjustable for vertical position. Moving forward, you’ll find the black composite butt stock with the large triangular thumbhole. Just ahead of that is the pistol grip, which is nearly vertical and has checkering molded on each side. Ahead of that is the black metal trigger guard which houses a gold-colored metal trigger.

The gauge is located at the end of the air reservoir.

Moving forward again, there is the forestock. At the end of that is the air reservoir, which has a fill port in the side near the end and a pressure gauge gauge that reads in BAR at the very end. The air reservoir cylinder can be unscrewed and replaced, opening the door for shooters to carry spare cylinders in the field.

The fill port near the end of the reservoir can be seen below the barrel.

Above the air cylinder is the barrel. The muzzle is fitted with a ½ UNF connector for attaching a silencer (where legal), and it comes equipped with a cap to protect the threads. Just behind the UNF connector is the fiber optic front sight which has a knurled wheel for vertical adjustment. Moving rearward long the barrel, you’ll find two barrel bands. Moving back again, you’ll find the receiver which has a rear notch sight and dovetails for both 11mm and 22mm scope mounts. Partway back on the receiver is the breech with a gold-colored metal bolt. On the right side of the receiver is the black side lever, which the shooter pulls back to open the breech.

At the rear of the receiver is an automatic safety that engages whenever the action is cocked. The safety is pushed forward to ready the Pneuma for firing, but it can be pulled back again to safe the action whenever desired. When the safety is pushed in, a red dot appears on either side of the receiver to indicate that the rifle can be fired. At the extreme back end of the receiver is a flat spot in the composite stock that provides a convenient thumb rest for shooters who don’t want to use the thumbhole.

To get the Pneuma ready for shooting, fit the charging probe (included with the Pneuma) to your pump or SCUBA tank, slide the rubber plug out of the fill hole, and insert the charging probe. The Pneuma manual says “make sure the airgun is unloaded and not cocked.” I certainly agree that the Pneuma should not be loaded when charging, but I found that I could not get it to take a charge until the action was cocked. Charge the Pneuma to 200 BAR max.

To get the Pneuma ready for shooting, pull the side lever all the way back. This will open the breech, cock the action, and activate the automatic safety. Insert a pellet into the breech, return the sidelever to its original position, and push the safety in. Now you’re good to go.

Next time, we’ll see how the Pneuma behaves on the range.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

I’ve never known a writer who didn’t also enjoy reading, and without duress, I’ll confess to being an unrepentant bookaholic. The definition of a true bookaholic, by the way, is that if you stop at a bookstore on the way home, you lie to your significant other and tell her you were at a bar!

So when I’m not shooting airguns, I enjoy reading about them. Here are some of my favorite books about airgunning.
American Air Rifles
American Air Rifles (2001) by James House deserves a place on every airgunner’s bookshelf. This 204-page book focuses specifically on American airguns and includes chapters on Air Rifles: Then and Now; American Multi-Pump Pneumatics; Sights, Sighting, and Safety; Pellets; Evaluation of .177 Rifles; Evaluation of .20 and .22 Rifles; The Pellet’s Punch; The Pellet’s Path; Fun and Games, and Hunting and Pest Control. House writes in an engaging style and has done considerable research for this book which he presents in charts and tables.

The thing I like best about American Air Rifles is that you come away with the overall impression that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to have tons of fun with air rifles. A modest investment in a Benjamin, Sheridan, Crosman or Daisy can yield huge returns in shooting pleasure over many years. It’s good to be reminded of that, and House’s book does an excellent job of driving the point home.

CO2 Pistols & Rifles
If you are a CO2 airgun enthusiast, Houses book CO2 Pistols & Rifles (2003) also deserves a spot on your shelf. It presents a wealth of information, including impressions of shooting CO2 classics. A note: this book was competed and published before the new 88-gram CO2 air rifles reached the American market.

Airgun Odyssey

Every airgunner should have a copy of Steve Hanson’s Airgun Odyssey (2003) This remarkable volume delivers a staggering amount of information in 175 pages in chapters such as Airgun Evolution and Trends; Airgun Propulsion Systems; Airgun Pellets, Testing and Ballistics; Airgun Varmint Hunting & Pest Control; American Field Target; Introduction to BR400 (benchrest competition); Airgun Tests/Current Production Models; Airgun Tests/Classic & Discontinued Guns; Spring-Piston Airgun Tuning (by Ken Reeves) Building a New PCP Airgun for the Sport of American Field Target (by Larry Durham), and a couple of appendices.

There is a lot to like about Hanson’s book, but I am most impressed with is the enormous amount of data presented in the two Airgun Tests chapters. Most of the testing – focusing primarily on spring-piston air rifles and which must have been simply a huge amount of work – was done at 40 yards indoors shooting from an Ultimate Tripod. The result is, in my opinion, absolutely fascinating.

Elliott on Airguns
Finally, at the risk of shameless self-promotion, I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from my book Elliott on Airguns. It is a collection of 30 articles that I wrote for Precision Shooting and The Accurate Rifle magazines from May, 2001 through January, 2005. Whether you like springers, PCPs, single-stroke pneumatics, classic multi-pump rifles, or the Daisy Red Ryder, there’s something for everyone. I sure had a lot of fun writing those articles, and as nearly as I can tell, readers are enjoying them too.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Rifle scope parallax problems can bite you in the posterior if you’re not careful, putting your carefully aimed shots off course.

To get a quick idea of what a parallax problem is, let’s do an experiment. Hold your left hand up in front of you, fingers pointing at the ceiling, palm facing you. Now, hold your right hand up in front of your left with the fingers in a fist and the thumb pointing straight up. Now position your right thumb so that it appears to be over the middle of your left palm.

All set? Good. Now, without moving either your left or right hand, move your head slowly to the left a couple of inches then to the right a couple of inches. Does your right thumb appear to move in relation to your left palm? It should, and it’s a perfect demonstration of parallax error. Even though your right thumb has not moved relative to your left palm, it appears to slide from side to side.

A similar thing can happen in a rifle scope. In a perfect universe, what a rifle scope would like to “see” is the image of the target focused in the same plane as the crosshairs. If the image of the target is not “coplanar” with the crosshairs, as you move your head, the crosshairs will appear to move on the target per the illustration below.

When you have a parallax problem, the crosshairs appear to move on the target.

If the image is properly focused, the crosshairs will stay on the same spot on the target, regardless of how you move your head . . . per the illustration below. You can check it out for yourself. Put your rifle on a rest at a known distance, say ten yards. Then, using the highest power, set the distance on the bell your scope at a distance that you know is wrong . . . perhaps 25 yards. Look through the scope, wiggle your head, and notice how the crosshairs move on the target. Now properly focus the scope and watch those crosshairs settle down.

When the target image is focused in the same plane as the crosshairs, the crosshairs stay put, not matter how you move your head, and you don't have a parallax problem.

On low power scopes, where everything tends to seem in focus no matter what distance the scope is focused at, you’ll have to focus the scope, move your head to check for parallax, and repeat until you have removed parallax error at a particular distance. Otherwise, parallax error can throw off your shots at surprisingly short distances.

While we’re on the subject, make sure your scope’s ocular is properly adjusted. Drape a tissue over the objective (the end of the scope toward the target) so that you are not distracted by the view through the scope. Now, unscrew the ocular (moving it away from the body of the scope) until the crosshairs look fuzzy. Next, screw the ocular back in until the crosshairs are just in focus and then just a tiny bit more. More your head in and out toward the ocular to make sure that the crosshairs are sharp.

There, now you know about parallax.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Before we see how the NPSS behaves on the range, pay heed to something that Crosman apparently feels is very important. No less than three times in the owner’s manual, the following statement appears: “There may be up to a 100 shot break-in period. During this period accuracy may be inconsistent and your gun may seem loud. This will improve as the nitro gas piston breaks in.”

Now, back to business: take aim and pull the first stage out of the trigger (This requires about 3 lbs 6 oz of effort). Squeeze some more, and at just a hair over 5 lbs, the sear trips, and the shot goes down range.

An aside – recently I spoke with an airgun enthusiast who is also a military shooter. He offered the observation that a lot of airgunners are (his term, not mine) “trigger Nazis,” meaning that if they don’t get a match trigger that can be adjusted down to ounces, they declare the airgun to be garbage. My informant pointed out that there are an enormous number of military shooters who achieve spectacular accuracy with very heavy triggers, and that shooter discipline is the key to getting the job done. So, while I would prefer a somewhat lighter trigger in the NPSS, I found that the trigger is crisp enough and predictable enough for my tastes, and I enjoyed shooting it.

The NPSS launches 7.9 grain Premier pellets at just over 900 fps, producing around 14.7 foot-pounds of energy. While the NPSS box claims “30% Quieter!” I found the report to be comparable to other spring-piston airguns of similar power.

I started testing the NPSS for accuracy before it was fully broken in, and I quickly discovered that I was woefully out of practice for shooting a recoiling spring-piston air rifle. I found I could put three shots into a half-inch ctc group at 20 yards, after which my technique would go to blazes, and the group would widen. How did I know it was my technique? Easy – I tried the same thing with my tuned R7, which is a known tackdriver, and got very similar results. I surmise that a skilled springer shooter could do substantially better.

One thing that is remarkable about the NPSS is that shot cycle is absolutely vibration-free. There is no buzz or twang, and no apparent torque. Subjectively, the shot cycle appears to be very quick – whack! – and the shot is downrange. The pulse of recoil is fast, strong, and gone in an instant.

Recently, I had a call from a friend who wanted a recommendation for a rifle he could cock, load, safe, and keep behind the kitchen door for dealing with pests in his yard. He didn’t want to deal with the hassle of a PCP or pump-up gun. This where the NPSS shines; it’s the perfect be-ready-in-an-instant air rifle for pest control, hunting, or other applications. In all, I found that I really enjoyed shooting the NPSS, and I think that a lot of springer shooters will enjoy it as well.

A footnote: after I finished this blog, the NPSS called to me again, and I took it into the yard for a 15-minute vacation. From a sitting position at 35 yards, I put three out of five shots within an inch of each other. I think the NPSS is breaking in . . . . or maybe I am.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott