Archive for October 2009

(An aside) Question: What’s in the boxes?
A new shipment from IZH/Baikal.

Answer: a new shipment of goodies from IZH/Baikal.

Now, back to today’s episode: I get curious from time to time whether one particular type of airgun powerplant is more reliable than another. As I explained in my “A Shooter’s Look at Airgun Powerplants,” each powerplant has its own positives and negatives, advantages and disadvantages, but if you are looking solely at the issue of reliability, which powerplant would win out?

I posted this question on the “Yellow” forum and got a wide variety of responses. Some people weighed in on the side of springers like the RWS/Diana 48. Others voted for the match rifles like the FWB 601 or FWB 300, while still others championed PCPs like the Air Force Condor.

In 2005, FT shooter Brad Troyer reported in his blog that an HW97 that he “bought over ten years ago has well over 100,000 rounds through it and it still shoots accurately.” I tried to reach Brad to find out the current status of that gun and whether it has been rebuilt at all, but I haven’t heard from him yet.

But then I got an email from an air rifle shooter that totally blew my socks off. He wishes to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, but he has given me permission to relate his story. The gist of his tale is that he went through an incredibly rough, grief-stricken period in his life, and he used airgun shooting as a kind of therapy to deal with the stress.

The RWS Model 350 Magnum.

Here’s what he had to say: “Back in august of 2001 I purchased an RWS 350M from Air Gun Express. This was an early production .177 with the T01 trigger.”

“I shot 1 tin 250ct. of Crosman Premier Heavies through this gun 7 days a week for 3 years. That comes out to 273,750 rounds. Now admittedly I did miss a few days, but I also made up time by shooting two tins 500ct. on some weekend days. Even if we estimate for 200 rounds 6 days a week we end up with 187,200 rounds. This was my only air gun during this time frame, and the CPH were purchased at the local Wal-Mart as they were readily available.”

(Note: The place where he was shooting was at an elevation of over 5700 ft.)

He adds, “I sold the rifle in 2004 to a fella in Indiana fully expecting the gun was in need of a rebuild as the velocity was pretty punk by this time. The rifle was bone stock, No after market kit of any kind, no lube tune etc…When he tore the gun down the piston seal was torn, and pretty well fried. Here’s the kicker !!! The breech seal was still solid (No leaks), and the spring was perfectly intact (No Breaks) although it was indeed crooked as hell, and pretty well shot.

“Nevertheless when you take into account that the gun was completely stock shooting at the very least 187,200 rounds of 10.5 gr. pellets over 3 years time, I find this pretty remarkable . The only real maintenance was religiously cleaning the barrel no less than once a week (CPH are high antimony, and typically Filthy as hell) and at high velocities they lead the hell out of the barrel in the worst possible way, and I’ll bare witness to that for fact!”

He concludes: “I’m a Dyed in the wool Weihrauch man all the way…and have no predisposition to ever purchase another RWS rifle. I’m completely sold on Weihrauch’s build quality and see no good reason to change that for anyone, but I’m forced to admit you would be very hard pressed to find ANY Springer that could repeat the experiment.”

All I can say to that is: “Wow!”

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Do you ever play The Perfect Airgun Game? I sure do. Sometimes when I’m drifting off to sleep at night I think about what would be “the perfect” airgun. Of course, you don’t have to think about the whole idea for very long before you realize that what constitutes perfection depends a whole lot on what you intend to do with it – what the mission profile is. The airgun that is awesome for Olympic 10-meter shooting is going to be a lot different from the airgun that excels at long-range varminting, and very different from the airgun that is just great for family backyard fun.

I get to play with a lot of airguns, and over time I find myself turning to certain ones over and over again. So, here are some of my current favorites, and the reasons I like them. This list is drawn from currently available airguns that I have first-hand personal experience with.

The R1.

Beeman R1 – This is a big springer that seems overbuilt for the job and shoots very pleasantly right out of the box. Lots of people hunt with them, and I have had good success shooting one (.177 cal.) in field target competition.

The R7.

Beeman R7 – This diminutive, low-power springer is a favorite of many shooters because it is easy to shoot well. I have spent many happy afternoons plinking in the back yard with my R7. You can hunt small game with an R7, provided you keep the distances short and the shot placement precise.

The HW35E.

HW35E – This springer is a classic in its lines, incredibly smooth performance and its barrel latch. If someone held a gun to my head and said, “You can only have one springer, choose!” I think the HW35E would be at the top of my list.

The Crosman Nitro.

Crosman Nitro – The Nitro Piston Short Stroke rifle has a lot going for it: gas-ram powerplant, good accuracy, no twang or vibration, and you can leave it cocked, ready to deal with those Wascally Wabbits in the garden.

The RWS 54.

RWS 54 – In my view, this is the king of the long-range self-contained varmint air rifles. Its recoilless action shoots like a PCP and is satisfyingly accurate.

The RWS LP8.

RWS LP8 – This springer pistol, with a red dot mounted, is currently my go-to pistol. It cocks easily and is great fun to shoot, but I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that any of the HW45 pistols or Beeman P-series pistols are just as much fun.

Single-stroke pneumatic pistols – I like the Daisy Avanti 747, the Gamo Compact, and the IZH-46M, and I can’t really pick a favorite among them. They are all accurate and fun, but if you want to mount a red dot, but Gamo is the easiest.

The Crosman 2300S.

Crosman 2300S – This CO2 pistol qualifies for IHMSA “product class” silhouette competition (as does the Daisy 747). It’s wickedly accurate. Drop a scope on it, and you have an “instant” pistol suitable for pistol field target competition.

Wow, I’ve chewed up my space for this time and haven’t even gotten to PCPs!

How about telling me what some of your favorite airguns are, and why?

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

The whole thing began a little ominously. I was chatting with Airguns of Arizona’s normally cheerful Greg Glover when he got serious on me: “I’m going to be sending you some pellets,” he said, adding, “You might want to have a camera handy when you open them up.”

Oh? Why? I wondered.

“Just open the pellets and let me know what you think,” Greg said.

After he hung up, I remembered that he had mentioned AoA’s quest for a better way to package pellets. They wanted to deliver pellets in as perfect condition as possible without going to stupid lengths like swaddling a single tin of pellets in a bale of bubble wrap. They were tired of tins getting beat up in transit, he said.

A day or so later I get an email notification from UPS that a package is en route to me from AoA. My fevered writer’s imagination goes into high gear. I could picture titanium clamshells lovingly cupping pellet tins centered in a nest of resilient elastomers. Or maybe some George Jetson/Star Wars combo based on hovercraft-anti-gravity tech. “May the Force be with your pellets.” Or perhaps pellet tins cast into a cloud of poly-something-or-other foam and protected by one of those cool metal cases the international couriers use (preferably handcuffed to the wrist to prevent lost).

So I was ready, primed for something spectacular, on high alert. I even put fresh batteries in my camera.

About a week after the email notification, our UPS guy drops off a thoroughly unremarkable package: a cube of cardboard measuring a hair over six inches on a side. (An aside: I’m convinced that our UPS guy has Ninja, or SEAL or SAS training; he can leave a package on our front stoop without setting off our security system – two dachshunds. These same two dogs will sound ‘all hands to battle stations’ if a butterfly so much as lands on our back deck.)

At first glance, the new packaging didn't look especially impressive.

So I pick up the cube and eyeball it. Nothing obvious. Easy-like, I slide my Buck tactical knife out of my pocket, flick open the blade, and quietly slit the tape. The top two cardboard flaps part slightly. Other than that, nothing. No fweeeet or zeeeee as robotic extensors activate, no hum from gyroscopic stabilizers. Hmmm.

Digging a little deeper revealed a tin of JSB Monsters nestled in a hole in a stack of cardboard squares.

I lean over, spread the flap, revealing two more cardboard flaps. I spread these flaps to reveal a tin of JSB Exact Jumbo Monster .22 pellets nestled in the exact center of a square of cardboard . . . except that it’s not just a square of cardboard. It’s a whole stack of squares of cardboard that have a circle punched out in the center so the pellet tin can live there unmolested as the box travels through whatever horrors UPS subjects it to on the way from Arizona to upstate New York.

This shows the Monsters tin with the surrounding cardboard removed, showing the cardboard square between layers.

Underneath the tin is a square of cardboard and below that, another laminated cardboard hole containing a tin of JSB .177 Express pellets. Below that, the same thing again, but this time with a bigger hole to accommodate a tin of JSB .20 cal pellets (the tins are bigger, see?). One more layer down, I find a tin of JSB .22 Jumbo Express pellets, and below that, the bottom of the box.

This is the next layer down, showing the cardboard layers with the hole in the center pulled out to the side. This is the secret of the new packaging. Every pellet tin is secure in a cardboard nest. It can't bounce around, and it would take a mightly blow to inflict damage on any of the tins packaged and shipped this way.

The upshot of this is that four tins of pellets arrived in perfect shape, thanks to Airguns of Arizona’s new packaging scheme. And, if getting my pellets in pristine condition were not enough, my floor is not covered with those foam plastic packing peanuts that seem to cling to everything. Heck, you can even recycle all of the packaging when you’re done with it. Is that neat, or what?

To shoot the Lone Star, make sure you have cocked the action by pressing in the cocking knob (see Part I), take aim, flick off the safety, and squeeze the trigger. The slack comes out of the first stage at about 10 ounces, and at one pound, ten ounces, the shot goes off. The trigger is adjustable for trigger weight and sear engagement after you have removed the action from the stock. But given how light and crisp the trigger is as set by the factory, I don’t see the need to fiddle around with it.

Now, I have a confession to make: prior to the Lone Star, I had never shot a .25 cal. airgun. My impression is that it is extremely easy to shoot well. The Lone Star is equipped with one of BSA’s match barrels, and the pellets simply go where the gun is pointed. Shooting tight groups is easy.

I’m also impressed that you can feel the recoil when the Lone Star goes off and the muzzle lifts a bit. The Lone Star will launch 30.9 grain Kodiak pellets at an average of 751 fps, delivering 30 shots from a fill with an extreme spread of 25 fps. But since there is no pressure gauge, you better keep track of your shot count.

The other thing that impresses me about the Lone Star is that it is LOUD. Not as raucous as a .22 cal. Sumatra, but this is certainly not the airgun you want to be popping off in a suburban neighborhood. You will, no doubt, attract unwanted attention.

The rear sight on the Lone Star is somewhat unusual, to my thinking. The elevation adjustment has the customary click-stops, but the windage adjustment has click-stops that are very subtle. The first time I adjusted the sight, I thought there were no click-stops; the second time, I could “sorta” feels the clicks. I tried the iron sights for a while, decided my eyes were no longer up to precision shooting with classic iron sights, and mounted a scope.

The scope I chose was a Hawke Airmax 3-9 x 40 AO. This scope has the Map 6 reticle, which has extra aiming points for compensating for the trajectory of an air rifle. Using free downloadable software, you can set up the Hawke scope so you know exactly where your aiming points are when you go out in the field. The Ballistic Reticle Software even has presets for various air and powder-burning calibers. I used Hawke rings to mount the scope. I like them because the anti-recoil pin can be easily screwed in or out, depending upon whether you need it or not.

I liked shooting the Lone Star with the Hawke scope. If I were choosing a hunting air rifle, it would be high on my list of candidates.

I felt the Lone Star and the Hawke scope were an attractive and potent combination, offering the ability to deliver a hard-hitting .25 pellet exactly where you want it, and it will certainly hold an inch at 50 yards. For some accuracy results at 50 yards, check out this video. If you want a hunting rifle that will dispatch your quarry with authority, the BSA Lone Star may be just what you are looking for.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott