Archive for November 2009

In last week’s exciting episode, we found out how Brocock airguns had nearly been put out of business when the British government banned manufacturing, selling, purchasing, transferring or acquiring any air weapon using a self-contained gas cartridge system. The ban ripped away half of Brocock’s business. Even worse, it was the most profitable half of the firm’s business.

But Brocock didn’t take the blow lying down, and they took decisive action when they saw storm clouds headed their way. One of the most decisive steps was to hire the chief designer for now-defunct Falcon Pneumatics to create a new line of precharged pneumatic air rifles and pistols. The first of the new line was introduced in January, 2009, and has been met with better than anticipated demand.

It’s easy to understand why; I’ve been testing two samples from the new
Brocock line of airguns, and I think they are just terrific. This week, we’ll be taking a look at the Brocock Grand Prix.

The Brocock Grand Prix is a precharged air pistol. Stretching 15.5 inches long and weighing 2.8 lbs, it is available with and without sights. The sample that Airguns of Arizona sent me was the “sightless” version, but was fitted with a Hawke Red Dot sight which appears to be a notch above the quality of a lot of other red dots I have seen.

Let’s take a walk around the Grand Prix. It Grand Prix has an ambidextrous wooden “stock” with checkering on either side of the pistol grip. The rear of the stock overhangs the pistol grip by about an inch, so that the pistol nestles comfortably into the web between the shooter’s thumb and forefinger. While scarcely a match grip, the pistol grip is contoured nicely, including a lip at the bottom to support the shooter’s little finger, and I found that it felt very comfortable in my hand.

Moving forward, the trigger assembly is surrounded by a wooden trigger guard. Inside the trigger guard is the trigger assembly. The metal trigger is wide, slightly curved, and appears to be machined out of a single piece of metal. Just forward of the trigger guard is a single Allen head bolt that secures the receiver into the stock. Moving forward again, the forend is flattened, which allows the Grand Prix to be rested easily.

Ahead of that, you’ll find the air reservoir which has a screw-off metal cap. Under the cap is a male foster fitting for charging the air reservoir from a SCUBA tank or hand pump. Above that is the .22 cal. barrel. The muzzle has a screw-off fitting which reveals threads for fitting a silencer where legal.

Moving aft, you’ll find the metal receiver, which has an opening for the breech in the middle and dovetails for scope mounting fore and aft of the breech opening. On the right side of the rear section of the receiver, there is a lever, and at the very aft end of the receiver is a knurled knob. Overall, I found the fit and finish of the metal and the wood on the Grand Prix to be excellent and very appealing.

To ready the Grand Prix for shooting, remove the protective cap on the foster fitting and charge the reservoir to 200 bar/2900 psi. Press the lever at the rear of the receiver down, and the knurled knob springs backward, opening the breech. Pull the knurled knob backward until it clicks, and you have cocked the action. Insert a pellet into the breech, push the knob forward until it clicks to close the breech, and you’re good to go.

On my Lyman digital trigger gauge, it only took 11.4 ounces to ease the first stage out of the trigger on the Grand Prix. At 1 pound 7.5 ounces, the shot went off. I found the trigger to be crisp and predictable. With a 2,900 psi fill, the Grand Prix will deliver 35 shots. With JSB 15.9 gr. pellets, the high was 570 fps, the low 519, and the average 543, which works out to about 10.4 foot pounds.

I tried shooting the Grand Prix from a Creedmoor position at 13 yards with Crosman .22 Premier pellets, and I found that several times I put pellets in the same hole. When I can shoot that well with an air pistol with a red dot on it, that puts a smile on my face.

The bottom line: it looks to me like the Brocock folks have hit a home run with the Grand Prix.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

It wasn’t so long ago that you could visit the Airguns of Arizona website, click on “Brocock” and view wonderful airguns like “the Cattleman” and the “Buntline Special.” These airguns used the Brocock air cartridge system, which consisted of a metallic cartridge, which was pressurized with air, into which a pellet was inserted. The air cartridge was then inserted into the Brocock airgun and when you pulled the trigger, the air would be released, pushing the pellet down the barrel.

Some years ago, I tried a Brocock western style revolver, and I wasn’t hugely impressed by the performance of the air cartridges, but I loved the fit and finish of the guns. Little did I know at the time, Brocock air cartridge airguns were doomed.

Here’s how it happened. On March 13, 1996, Thomas Watt walked into the Dunblane Primary School in the Scotland, armed with two 9 mm automatic pistols and two .357 magnum revolvers, and slaughtered 16 children and one adult. The following year, the government almost completely banned all private ownership of handguns.

In 2002, the BBC reported: “Figures from NCIS (National Criminal Intelligence Service) show that converted Brococks now account for 35% of all guns recovered by the police. When used legally, the airgun fires small pellets using a compressed air charge in a cartridge that is loaded into the pistol. But criminal gangs have been adapting the guns by fitting special steel sleeves inside the chamber of the gun, enabling live .22 calibre bullets to be fired. In October, Bradford taxi driver Mohammed Basharat was murdered with a converted Brocock pistol. This weapon had been drilled out to take more powerful .38 calibre bullets.”

You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure on what would happen next. This is from a police website in the UK:

“On 20th January 2004, it became an offence to manufacture, sell, purchase, transfer or acquire any air weapon using a self-contained gas cartridge system.

From 1 May 2004, it became an offence, punishable by a minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 10 years imprisonment, to possess a self-contained gas cartridge weapon without the necessary firearm certificate.”

With the stroke of a pen, a mature airgun technology that had at least 75,000 customers in the UK was wiped out. On the face of it, you would think that that is would be game, set and match for Brocock airguns. But it didn’t turn out that way. Starting January, 2009, Brocock has come back in grand style in both the UK and the US.

I spoke with Nigel Silcock, owner of Brocock Airguns to find out why. “When the air cartridge guns were banned, we still had 50% of our business left. The thing that really hurt, however, was that we lost the half of our business that was most profitable,” he says.

But Silcock and his team are no dummies. When they saw trouble brewing on the horizon for the air cartridge guns, they began looking are precharge designs. They brought out the Enigma, but according to Silcock, it never really took off.

“Then Falcon Pneumatics closed, and the guy who did their design work came to work for us,” Silcock says, adding, “He knew how to put these things together.”

“We knew we had to come up with an action, a reservoir, and plan to produce a whole family of successful airguns,” he says.

And indeed they have. Since the introduction of the first of the new line in January, demand has been twice what Brocock had anticipated.

Next time, we’ll start to explore this new line of airguns by taking a look at Brocock’s new Grand Prix pistol.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

After I posted the blog entitled “Telling on myself,” I received a response, in the form of a private email, and it’s a doozie.

Everett Bosch wrote to me to relate the story of a strange encounter he had recently while airgunning. Everett is a Presbyterian Minister in the Town of Tracy, California. Tracy, Everett tells me, is situated about 60 miles east of San Francisco and about 60 miles south of Sacramento. It used to be a small farming town, but with the growth of the Bay area, has increasingly become a bedroom community for folks who commute to the Bay area.

But folks still farm in Tracy, and ground squirrels are definitely a problem for the farmers. Everett is an airgunner, proud owner of a scope .22 Discovery, and he likes to help people out by doing “pest control favors” while at the same time keeping his eye sharp.

On a recent Friday afternoon, he decided to indulge one of his country boy pastimes by getting out his Discovery and going out west of the new Catholic Church site to help out a local farmer by reducing the severe ground squirrel-caused crop predation in that area. He walked about a quarter into the fields from where he parked his car and began to search for ground squirrels. As he searched, from time to time he would look toward the road.

After a while, Everett looked and saw two highway patrols cars some distance up the road from him. He figured they were doing “some sort of highway patrol stuff” and gave it no further thought. A while later, he looked again, and there were now four highway patrol cars at the same location. “Boy, something must be going on,” he thought.

He was about to find out that he was what was going on.

Having hunted for about an hour, Everett decided to call it quits.

As he walked back to his car, from the quarter-mile distant road, with its four Highway Patrol and now one Sheriff’s patrol cars, came the loudspeaker command: “You in the field with the rifle… put the rifle down! Put your hands up! Start walking toward the road!”

Everett thought, “Oooh boy, I’ve done it now! I can see the paper now: ‘Local pastor arrested on terrorism charges!’ As I walked the very long distance, my hands slowly drifted downward a bit: ‘Get your hands away from your body! Lift them HIGH! When you get to the pole, a unit will meet you.’ The CHP car came to me, stopping about 15 yards away and the officers inside took over. One got out, standing behind his car door with pistol drawn and aimed carefully at me. The other said, ‘Turn around; keep your hands very high! Get down on one knee; now onto the other one; cross your legs over your ankles!’ At my age and with my extra-long feet, do you know how hard that is? I’m sure I detected the end of a laugh when I heard, ‘Don’t fall over.’ The officer at my back proceeded to give a very thorough pat down, over, under, and around. He asked, ‘Is that a cell phone in the belt holster under the shirt?’”

Soon it became very apparent that the Everett wasn’t doing anything illegal. He was merely trying to help a local farmer with a pest problem. The responding officers even commented on his “impressive” air rifle.

Everett now has a written statement of release from custody by the investigating officer (though he said Everett was never in custody… whatever Everett was in, he was now released from it!). Apparently the local authorities had received three phone calls, not from the local residents, but from motorists on the highway, reporting “a man with a rifle.” The Deputy Sheriff said that it was just “Suspicious Circumstances” to which they had responded. Everett thinks maybe he’ll have his statement of release framed.

He concludes: “You see, this is no longer the little country town called Tracy, occupied by farmer-types and mostly blue collar workers accustomed to ‘gopher patrols’. It is now the city of Tracy owned by Bay Area people who call 911 out of fear of guys with rifles.”

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

I collect stories. I particularly like true stories of things that I have actually happened to people. The incidents might be funny or strange or just mildly unusual, but I like them because they underscore how whacky real-life can be. I hope you will share some of your stories, but to get the pump started, here are a few things that have happened to me while airgunning.

A close encounter of the curious kind. Not long after I first began testing and writing about airguns, I was sitting in the front yard, shooting an HW97 with a huge scope mounted on it. I was concentrating on trying to complete a few shots in the fading light when my wife stuck here head out the front door to see how I was doing.

Suddenly she began laughing.

“What?” I said.

“You have an audience,” she replied.

“What do you mean ‘an audience’?”

“Very carefully, look to your right,” she said.

Slowly I turned my head and looked across the lane that divides our property. There, standing on a small ridge not 80 feet away, three deer were peering through the trees, intently watching me with all the curiosity of young children.

I wondered what they were thinking. We’re they talking in muffled deer whispers about me? “Jeez, Marge, do ya think he’s a good shot?” “I dunno. If he is, we better get oughta here.”

The buck stops here. One spring I was in the side yard, shooting at a bout 20 yards with a PCP air rifle with a high magnification scope mounted. As I peered down range for my first shot, all I saw was a blur. I tried twisting the focus ring on the scope all the way out. No improvement. So then I tried turning the focus all the way in the other direction. Still all I saw was a blur.

I lifted my head, looked over the scope, and found a beautiful 4-point buck standing between me and the target. He stood there looking at me. “Get out of here!” I yelled. No response. “Git! Shoo!” Nothing. Finally, I turned my back on the deer, whistled Dixie for a few seconds, and when I turned back, he was gone.

The awful truth about the common denominator. I usually shoot “Ok” most of the time, but every shooter will occasionally have an off day. One day, I learned that lesson Big Time.

I was testing a spring-piston air rifle that is known for its accuracy, but no matter what pellet I tried, I couldn’t get to group better than 1.5 inches at 30 yards for a 5-shot group. I came storming into the house using several of the more colorful short words to peel the paint off the walls: “Those blinkety-blink springers are more trouble than they are worth! Why, you’d be lucky to hit the broadside of a barn from the inside. It’s a wonder that anybody shoots them. You must have to be some sort of savant to get them to behave . . .” and so forth.

Teed-off to a fare-the-well, I grabbed my .22 caliber Career precharged rifle which was a known tackdriver. I charged back out to my range, put up a fresh target, and fired five shots for a group with the best pellet for that gun. I walked up to the target and found I had gotten the same result as with the springer.

“What, have all my airguns gone to blazes?” I asked the empty range. Then I realized that the one common denominator in this experiment was the nut behind the trigger: me. Some days, it’s just plain your fault that the shooting is not going well. Along those line, Brian Johnson, a very gifted shooter, once said to me, “When I miss, I assume it’s my fault, not the guns.” That’s excellent advice.

If you feel like telling on yourself, I’d love to hear your interesting airgunning story.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

My very first airgun was a Daisy, but not the vaunted, legendary Red Ryder. Instead my first airgun was a Daisy Model 25.

It was Christmas. I was ten, sitting in the living room with my Dad. The opening of presents was over, and I was disappointed. I hadn’t gotten my BB gun. But, just like in the movie “A Christmas Story,” my Dad said, “Wait a minute, there’s another present over here.”

And he pulled a long, slim box from behind the couch. In it was my Model 25. It was beginning of many happy hours for me and my Dad.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Model 25, it is a pump action BB gun. Pump once for each shot. To load the Model 25, you unscrew the shot tube from the muzzle, push a slide down and lock it, and then carefully (very carefully) pour BBs into the tiny hole until the shot tube is full to the top. Then you have to screw the shot tube back into the muzzle, and the fun can begin. The Model 25 had a rear sight that could be flipped from a peep sight to a notch sight.

I don’t know how many thousands of BBs went down the smooth bore of my Model 25, but I can remember there were summers when it seemed I was at the corner store every other day buying another tube of BBs. I do know that eventually I became a pretty good instinctive shooter. I didn’t use the sights anymore; I simply looked over the top of the barrel and pretty much hit what I intended. I think, though, that if I could pop back in time, I would be astounded at how short the distances were that we normally shot at. I think that many of our shots were taken at 15-20 feet. No matter; we had lots of fun.

Eventually trigger seer became so worn that the gun was now on “full auto” – as soon as you returned the cocking pump to its original position, it would go off, whether you pulled the trigger or not. Nevertheless, I still have that Model 25. I can’t bear to throw it away.

I drifted away from shooting after that, concerned with the things that young men chase after. It wasn’t until four decades later that I got back into airguns again. A fellow writer was visiting from Scotland. On a whim one day we purchased a Marksman Biathlon Trainer, a rudimentary low-power break barrel springer with plastic match sights and .177 rifled barrel. Even though it had what a friend called “a seventeen-stage trigger,” I was astounded with how far it could shoot with a fair degree of accuracy. My Scottish friend and I shot up a couple of tins of pellets in a few days.

We knew nothing about trajectories, velocities, pellet selection, scopes, triggers or any of the other considerations that fill my head now when I consider an airgun. All we knew was that we were enjoying the heck out of shooting.

There was another thing that we did not know, although I know it now: that unobtrusive, unremarkable box that housed the Marksman Biathlon Trainer also contained the Seeds of My Doom. That’s right: my fate was written on the wall, if I only had sense enough to realize it. And here’s why: that Marksman box also contained a glorious, full color catalog from Beeman adult precision airguns.

When I looked at the beautiful metal and wood of those finely craft airguns, I was lost. I knew I had to find out more about them. And that was the beginning of the road that eventually led to me writing this blog.

That’s my story. How about posting a comment that tells how you got started in airgunning?

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott