Archive for August 2009

Before we get rolling this week, a quick update: if you want to make your Crosman Nitro NPSS even nicer, install one of Steve from NC’s Nitro Custom Triggers. It reduces the trigger pull from over five pounds to less than two and makes a good air rifle even better.

On top, the S&W pistol with red dot. Below, the Crosman 3576 with laser.

Recently I tested a pair of air pistol and sight combinations that really put a grin on my face, and I suspect that a lot of airgunners will like them as well.

The first was a Crosman 3576 revolver. The second is a Smith & Wesson 6” revolver. Both are CO2 powered 10-shot single-action/double action .177 caliber revolvers; both use 12-gram CO2 cartridges that “live” in the pistol grip, and both launch 7.9 grain pellets at around 400 fps on a warm day. Likewise, both will exhibit significant drops in velocity (as much as 100 fps) if you insist on emptying the magazine as quickly as possible. In double-action mode, both have trigger pulls that feel heavier than I like, but put either of these pistols in single-action mode by pulling the hammer back, and suddenly you have a pistol with a nice, crisp trigger. And both, I’m happy to say, can be quite accurate.

The Crosman breaks open for loading.

Despite the similarities, there are differences between the two pistols. The 3576 grip and frame are made of plastic, but it has a rifled steel barrel. To load pellets in the 3576, you press a button on the top of the frame and pull the barrel downward. The action “breaks” open, revealing a 10-shot plastic magazine that can be loaded in place or removed for loading.

The 3576 is equipped with a front blade sight and an adjustable notch rear sight. But to make the pistol easier to aim, I decided to equip it with a Crosman Laser sight. Mounting the laser requires slipping the laser out of its mount, then slipping mount down over the rib on the top of the 3576 barrel, then tightening the mount just a bit. Having inserted the batteries into the laser, you slip the laser back into the mount, orienting it so that one of the black adjustment screws points up, and the other black adjustment screw points to the left (as the gun is facing forward). Next you finish tightening the mount on the barrel, then tighten the two black screws on the top of the laser mount.

To sight in the laser, turn it on, point it at your sight-in target, and shoot. If the point of impact is not where the laser was pointed, loosen the gold locking screw on the right hand side of the laser, and adjust the laser. Turn the top adjustment screw clockwise to raise the point of impact, and turn the side adjustment screw clockwise to move the point of impact to the left. Do the opposite to move the point of impact in the opposite directions. Once you get the 3576 shooting where the laser is pointed, tighten the gold looking screw.

A note: since the laser adjustment directions are somewhat count-intuitive, and since they require the use of two allen wrenches furnished with the sight, make sure you store the directions and wrenches someplace safe for the day you want to replace the laser batteries and sight in the laser again.

Although sighting in the Crosman/laser combo was a bit more difficult than I expected, shooting it was a lot of fun.

I found this combo a lot of fun. The laser actually projects a bright red dot on the target that can be seen by others. There are no brightness adjustments on the laser, just a simple on/off switch. I found the red dot to be highly visible on a white target even in bright sunlight, but on a variegated background, like the highly colorful printing on a spaghetti sauce can, it can take a moment to spot the laser dot. Nevertheless, I really got a charge out of this laser-sighted revolver. No need to look through or align sights; just put the dot where you want it and pull the trigger. What fun!

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

The Browning 800 Mag air pistol is big and powerful.

The new Browning 800 Mag air pistol truly fits the definition of “an air rifle you can hold in one hand.” The 800 Mag is a .177 caliber break barrel spring-piston air pistol that generates velocities with standard weight pellets (i.e., not flyweight pellets) that are faster than a Beeman R7 air rifle and faster than 99% of air pistols that I can think of.

The 800 Mag is a large air pistol. It stretches 18 inches from the muzzle to the end of the receiver and weighs 3.9 lbs. The main receiver tube is made of metal. On top of the receiver is an 11mm dovetail for mounting a scope or red dot sight. To the rear of the dovetail is a green fiber optic rear sight that is adjustable for elevation and windage. At the extreme aft end of the receiver is a matte black plastic cap.

Below the receiver tube is matte black plastic assembly that extends the full length of the receiver. This plastic assembly, in turn, mates to the matte black pistol grip through a sliding rail system (we’ll get back to this rail system in just a little while). The pistol grip is ambidextrous, has indents for fingers, and incorporates a plastic trigger guard. Inside the trigger guard you’ll find a black plastic trigger which is adjustable for first stage travel only and a metal Gamo-style automatic safety (push away from the trigger to fire and pull toward the trigger to safe the action.)

Underneath the 800 Mag, just forward of the trigger guard, is a slot for accommodating the cocking linkage when the barrel is broken for cocking and loading. Forward of that is the barrel and at the end of that, a muzzle weight that incorporates a mount for the red fiber optic front sight. That’s all there is to the Browning 800 Mag . . . almost.

Here's the 800 Mag with the 'cocking assist handle' mounted.

To get the 800 Mag ready to shoot you need an additional part – you have to first slide the “cocking assist handle” over the muzzle. The front sight fits in the slot of the cocking assist handle. I estimate the cocking effort for the 800 Mag to be in the low-thirty-pounds range. It is definitely “stout” for an air pistol. The cocking assist handle does two thing for you: (1) it gives you additional leverage for cocking the break barrel action and (2) it lets you avoid stabbing the palm of your hand with the front sight. With the assist handle in place, cocking the 800 Mag is pretty straight forward: pull the muzzle down and toward the pistol grip until it latches. (When you do this, the safety automatically activates.) Insert a .177 pellet into the breech end of the barrel and return the barrel to its original position.

Now, at this point you can remove the cocking assist handle, but you don’t have to. Why? Because the cocking assist handle is hollow, and you can shoot right through it. Take aim at your target and squeeze the trigger. The first stage comes out at about 2.5 lbs. The second stage trips at about 5 pounds (the box says 4 lb trigger pull weight but the sample I tested didn’t deliver that), and the shot goes down range. There is a distinct “thwack” when the shot goes off, and the shooter feels very little recoil because the receiver can slide on the anti-recoil rail system relative to the pistol grip. I suspect the 800 Mag would be a real handful if it didn’t have the anti-recoil system. But it does, so it is surprisingly docile to shoot considering it is a spring-piston air pistol.

It is evident, however, that the Mag 800 transmits a great deal of recoil shock to anything mounted on the upper part of the receiver. During my tests with this pistol, the Mag 800 destroyed an RWS Red Dot sight. After several dozen shots, the brightness control became so loose that it rattled. I had no problems with a Bushnell Trophy red dot, though.

When it comes to accuracy, at 13 yards from a Creedmoor position and using a red dot sight, I put five pellets into a group that measured .57 ctc. I suspect that even better results could be achieved with persistence and practice.

When I chronographed the 800 Mag with CPLs, the very first shot went 730 fps, but subsequent shots settled down to a 658 average with about 30 fps difference between high and low. A couple of minutes later I did a second string, got a high of 651 and a low of 618 (that’s 33 fps variance) with an average of 631. I asked Airguns of Arizona to chronograph a sample they had there in the shop, and they got a high of 494, a low of 463, and an average of 477. I have no idea why there is such variance between samples of the same pistol or why I am seeing such variation in velocity in the sample that I was sent. Neither do I know whether these variations will settle down as the 800 Mag gets several hundred pellets put through it.

One blog reader asked for a head-to-head comparison between the 800 Mag and the RWS LP8. I tried shooting the 800 Mag and the RWS LP8 at a tomato can at 13 yards with the same 8.4 grain pellet, and I found the LP8 pistol will penetrate one side of the can, and the 800 Mag will penetrate both sides of the can. The LP8 launches CPL pellets at an average of 558 fps with less than 10 fps variation from low to high.

The Browning 800 Mag (top) and the RWS LP8 are about the same size, but there is considerable difference between them. Neither comes standard with a red dot sight.

The Browning 800 Mag generates more power, cocks harder, is about a half pound heavier, and has significantly more variation in velocity than the LP8. The LP8 shoots slower, has a nicer trigger and fit and finish, is more consistent in velocity and costs significantly more. The LP8 is smoother and more sophisticated, but the Browning delivers a heck of a punch for not a lot of money.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

To get the Daystate Huntsman Midas ready to shoot, remove the cap at the end of the air reservoir, attach a high pressure pump or SCUBA tank, and charge the reservoir up to 230 BAR maximum. (I didn’t have a 230 BAR air source, so I charged the Huntsman to 200 BAR. You can do that, no problem; you simply won’t get as many shots as you would from 230 BAR.)

The 10-shot magazine, shown here in the breech, is very easy to load.

To load the 10-shot magazine, first apply the safety catch. Lift the bolt handle at the rear of the breech block and pull all the way back until fully cocked. Next move the bolt forward about 10mm until you feel a click. Now the magazine can be removed. (Any attempt to remove the magazine before you feel the click will simply end in frustration. I know; I tried.)

Next load one pellet head-first into the large hole at the bottom of the magazine, making sure that the pellet head passes the seating o-ring. Rotate the pellet ring counter-clockwise to bring the next empty bay in line with the loading port. Continue this one click at a time until a maximum of 10 pellets has been loaded. When this has been completed, replace the magazine into its position in the breech block and return the bolt forward to the closed and locked position. Now you’re good to go.

The red anodized safety lever can be seen just below the gold finished bolt handle.

Take aim at the target, flick the safety off, and start to squeeze the trigger. This is the point at which things begin to get astonishing. On the sample that I tested, the first stage required only 4.5 ounces of pressure. At about 8 ounces – that’s right folks, just one-half pound – the shot goes off.

Further, considering the Huntsman was launching JSB .22 Jumbo Express pellets at a lively 840 fps (average) the report was remarkably subdued. It wasn’t dead quiet by any means, but it was a lot quieter than I expected to be. There are two reasons for this. First, the new Huntsman of 40% more efficient than the old model, which means that it uses a lot less air and causes a lot less noise for each shot. Second, the barrel is shrouded, which definitely takes the top end off the report.

The chief reason the new Huntsman is so efficient is because of the Steve Harper designed patented “slingshot” valve. This innovative concept utilizes principles of inertia to mimic the operation of a solenoid-powered valve hammer and, therefore, eliminates the phenomenon known as ‘hammer bounce’ – a common problem on conventional PCPs where the valve constantly opens and closes after the main discharge, ‘wasting’ air long after the pellet has been accelerated up the bore. But with valve, the Huntsman delivers performance comparable to a computerized Daystate – namely extremely efficient use of air, a very high number of shots per charge, a flat power curve, an ultra-fast firing cycle and a quiet muzzle discharge. As effective as the slingshot system is, it’s also remarkably simple and, therefore, reliable. As a result, Daystate is able to back-up it up with a three-year warranty.

Here’s how it works. The slingshot hammer is contained within a cage, both of which move forward under pressure from the mainspring when the trigger is released. Using soft buffers, the cage’s forward motion is brought to a rapid halt, allowing the hammer within to carry on and strike open the main valve under inertia. A pulse of high pressure air is released from the secondary air reservoir, driving the pellet along the bore. Assisted by air pressure and a return spring, the open valve is immediately shut and the hammer moves rearwards – what would normally be the initial stages of a ‘bounce’. However, an internal buffer within the cage absorbs most of the hammer’s kinetic energy and, aided by the anti-bounce spring, the hammer does not open the valve a second time and therefore does not waste air. Even though the Huntsman has a relatively small air reservoir, you can expect 30 full power shots from a fill.

Neither does the Huntsman disappoint when it comes to accuracy. At 50 yards, five shots fell into a group that measured just .59 in. ctc.

In all, the Huntsman delivers the goods: excellent efficiency, sparkling accuracy, and a quieter-than-expected report, all backed up by striking good looks.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

The Daystate Huntsman Midas looks great, and it shoots as good as it looks.

“Hey, that looks like a real rifle!” That’s an exact quote from Dick Johnson, a benchrest competitor who frequently accompanies me to the range to test air rifles. In saying that, Dick showed that he had gotten the point of the new Daystate Huntsman exactly. It’s an air rifle that is designed to look and feel like a traditional firearm.

Dick is accustomed to me showing up with a trunk full of pneumatic arms that look like they came from Darth Vader’s workshop, so for him to say that he likes the way an air rifle looks is, well, remarkable.

And in this case, the object of Dick’s admiration wasn’t just a new Daystate Huntsman, but a Daystate Huntsman Midas. The gun I was testing was, in fact, #123 of a limited edition of 400. These special limited Midas Editions of the Huntsman were created to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first Huntsman Air Rifle produced by Daystate on September 28, 1998. It’s fitted with the latest Harper Patent slingshot valve system, a special American Walnut stock, and Rosewood grip cap, as well as a gold-finished tube and fittings. How do I know? Easy: the rifle came with a hand-signed certificate attesting to its authenticity.

Over the years I have learned, through bitter experience, to harden my heart to the charms of shapely stocks, well-figured walnut, and snazzy accoutrements. It’s performance that matters, Darn It! Having said that, I’ll have to admit that the Huntsman Midas is pretty easy on the eye.

The Huntsman stretches 38 inches from buttplate to muzzle, and weighs six pounds. Starting at the rear, you’ll find a ventilated rubber buttplate attached to that American Walnut stock. The version I tested was righthanded and had a distinct cheekpiece on the left hand side of the stock. Below the buttstock and just ahead of the buttpad, a stud for a sling was attached. Forward of that is the pistol grip, which is checkered on both sides and is fitted with the rosewood cap and a lighter colored spacer.

Ahead of the pistol grip is the black metal trigger guard with a gold-colored metal trigger inside. Above the trigger guard, on either side of the stock, the Daystate name and emblem are incised into the stock. The two-stage trigger is adjustable for second stage weight, trigger blade angle, and first stage travel. Ahead of that is an allen screw for holding the action in the stock, and still further ahead is an air gauge, with a gold-colored trim ring, that reads in bar.

Moving toward the muzzle again, the forestock is checkered on either side, and you’ll find another sling stud. At the end of the forestock are a barrel band and a black metal cap, which when removed, reveals a foster fitting for filling the air reservoir. The gold-finished air reservoir is visible between the top of the forestock and the matte black finished barrel. At the end of the barrel is a cap that can be unscrewed for fitting a silencer where legal.

Traveling back along the barrel, you’ll find the receiver, which has dovetails for fitting a scope, the breech – where the ten-shot rotary magazine can be inserted – and the gold-finished bolt handle. Below the bolt handle on the left side of the receiver is the rotary safety. Flick the red anodized tab UP for fire and DOWN for safe.

Next time, we’ll see how the Daystate Huntsman Midas shoots.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

The single-shot Hammerli Pneuma has a side lever action.
I like the sidelever action on the Pneuma. It reminds me a bit of the Fortner action that is used so often on Biathlon rifles: pull back to load, push forward to close the breech. Simple, direct, easy, and I found it very easy to use when the gun is on benchrests.

To test the Pneuma for accuracy, I mounted a huge 6-24 x 56 mil-dot scope on 11mm mounts. My digital trigger gauge tells me it take about 1 lb to take the first stage out of the Pneuma’s trigger. At about 5 lbs pressure, the second stage trips, and the shot goes down range. The Pneuma manual says that the trigger is adjustable for trigger travel and trigger pull. I did not attempt to adjust the trigger travel, but I did attempt to lighten the trigger pull. This requires undoing the two screws that hold the trigger guard so that you can access a small screw immediately behind the trigger. Unfortunately, no amount of adjustment seems to have any effect. The trigger sear always seems to trip at around 5 lbs. I queried the folks at UmarexUSA about this, and the factory told them that the trigger should be adjustable down to about 3 pounds. Maybe it was simply a problem with my sample, but I couldn’t detect any adjustability. Nevertheless, as we’ll see, the trigger did not interfere with accurate shooting.

When the shot does go off, though, the Pneuma drives pellets with authority and with a report that is likely to attract the attention of neighbors, although not nearly as raucous as some of the big Korean hunting air rifles I have shot. The .177 Pneuma was pushing Crosman Premier Heavy (10.5 gr) pellets through the chronograph at 988 fps average. That’s 22.7 footpounds of energy. At 50 yards, I was able to put five Crosman Premier Heavy pellets into a group that measured just .61 inches CTC.

I tried JSB heavy pellets, Dynamic TM-1 pellets, and Beeman Kodiaks. All of them flirted with 1,000 fps or faster, and all of them produced much wider groups than the Crosman Premier Heavies. I don’t know if that is because those pellets weren’t a good match for the Pneuma barrel or if the pellets were simply going too fast for accurate shooting.

The .22 version gets about 20 shots before the velocity really starts to drop.

The .177version delivers about 30shots before the velocity drops too low.

I am not an airgun engineer, but my guess is that the Pneuma is wasting a lot of air and could benefit from some tuning that would make it more efficient and probably quiet it down a bit. The .22 version gets about 20 shots between 825-875 fps before the velocity really starts to drop, and the .177 version gets 30 shots per fill.

The sample I tested was 'minute of squirrel's noggin' at 50 yards.

My take on the Pneuma is that it is a worthy entry-level air varminter. It has the power and the accuracy to clobber vermin at 50 yards and beyond. If I were selecting my first air varminter with a close eye on my checkbook, I’d make sure the Hammerli Pneuma was on my short list.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott