Archive for January 2010

Steve Ware has won three IHMSA (International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association) International Championships – one in production air pistol and two in unlimited air pistol.

I’ve never met Steve face to face, but we’ve spoken numerous times over the telephone and via email, and Steve graciously agreed to let me quiz him about his adventures in air pistol silhouette.

JE: How did you get started?

SW: In 1986 I was living in Findlay, Ohio. One day I was reading a shooting magazine, and they had an article about handgun silhouette. It intrigued me. I thought of it as a kind of “organized plinking.” There was a silhouette club in Lima, Ohio, so I decided to check it out. I liked what I saw and decided to go the next match with a High Standard Double 9, which is a double-action 9-shot .22 revolver.

JE: How did you do?

SW: I knocked down two out of 40 targets, so I had no place to go but up!

JE: What happened next?

SW: I started to get involved and began building a silhouette handgun collection. One of the things I like most about this sport is you can get as addicted as you want – you can buy and shoot one discipline or you can build a bunch of different guns and shoot several disciplines. I started 25 years ago, and I’m still doing it. One of the reasons is that pistol silhouette shooters are among the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I’ve often thought that if I ever went blind, I’d still go to the matches because of the great people.

JE: How did you come to get involved in air pistol silhouette?

SW: I had met Mike Kelly who was IHMSA’s Alaska State Director at the time online and he was interested in promoting air pistol. So he and I got involved in writing the rules for air pistol silhouette, and the IHMSA Board of Directors approved them in 2001. One of the key notions behind air pistol silhouette was to keep it an everyman’s sport, so that people could get involved for very little money, and one of Mike’s best ideas was to create a production class that was based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.

Pretty soon after that Mike became the first person to shoot a 40/40 with an air pistol, and he did it with a Crosman 1377. He did it because he wanted to prove that you could shoot a good score with a $50 pistol. Incidentally, he did it by zeroing the 1377 at 10 yards and then figuring out how many pumps you would have to add to hit the silhouettes at the longer ranges.

JE: So when did you start shooting the air pistol discipline?

SW: By the time the air rules were approved, we had moved to Oregon. I asked our local club if they were interested in shooting air, and they said sure, so now there are six or seven of us who regularly compete in air pistol at our club. I see it as a way to grow the sport. The Boy Scouts set our targets for us, and periodically we’ll have a barbeque for them, and let them shoot airguns. We’re building the next generation of shooters.

JE: How did you come to win your first Championship?

SW: 2002 was the first year that air competition was offered at the International Championship, so I went and won the product class with a Daisy 747. It just shows that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to compete on an international level.

JE: What other air pistols do you shoot?

SW: I have two IZH-46s and a Mac-1 LD and a Crosman 2300S. They are set up for various air pistol silhouette classes.

JE: How often do you practice?

SW: Well, you could say that I don’t practice at all. Here’s my theory on practice: any time you’re pulling the trigger, and you’re not in a life and death situation, you’re practicing. I’m the match director at our local club. As a result, I shoot 3 0r 4 matches a month for a total of 6 or 7 different guns shot, with at least 45 shots for each gun. Do the math, and that works out to over 300 shots a month.

JE: What advice would you offer to newbies?

SW: My best single piece of advice for anyone interested handgun silhouette is don’t be intimidated when you go to the range and see somebody shooting a $2,000 gun. You don’t need that to be competitive. Shoot what ya brung, and talk to lots of silhouetters. We share our secrets. Talk to other shooters at the match, try lots of stuff, and find what works for you. New shooters need to attend matches regularly so they are around shooters who can offer them advice and to get the basics down before venturing to the range by themselves to practice.

JE: What about those silhouette positions? I see people lying on their backs to shoot pistol . . .

SW: Yeah, that’s the Creedmoor position, and many silhouetters shoot from it or some variation of it. One of the big mistakes that beginners make with Creedmoor is that they don’t put their elbow on the ground, their wrist against their hip, and the barrel against their leg. You need all three points of contact to get really steady. It’s a very steady position, and I can actually shoot better groups from a Creedmoor position than I can from a bench.

JE: So what’s the bottom line on air pistol silhouette?

SW: Knocking something down is more fun than putting holes in paper.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

The Weihrauch HW97 is one of the world’s classic underlever spring-piston air rifles. It has been around for a number of years and has a devoted following who think very highly of this German made tackdriver.

For a while now, I’d been hearing rumors that there was a factory thumbhole version of the HW97, and recently the good folks at Airguns of Arizona sent me a sample in .177 caliber to check out. I can tell you straight up that I really don’t want to send it back.

Before we get into the particulars of the HW97K (the K stands for Karbine) thumbhole, I should explain that several years ago, I owned a Venom-tuned HW97K with the standard stock. It had “stout” cocking effort, a very quick firing cycle, and was very accurate if you did everything just right. But I had never shot an untuned HW97, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the fresh-out-of-the box HW97KT (the T, of course, stands for thumbhole).

According to the factory specs, the HW97KT is a tenth of an inch longer than the HW97K, and the HW97KT weighs 9.37 lbs, compared to 8.8 lbs for the HW97K, but there are lots of other differences as well.

Starting at the aft end of the HW97KT, you’ll find a soft rubber recoil pad. In the center of the pad, there is a screw. Loosen the screw, pull the pad back a bit, and you can move the butt pad up and down to fit your anatomy. There is a metal plate attached to the recoil pad and another metal plate on the buttstock. Each has metal teeth that engage with each other when the screw is tightened so that the adjustable butt pad will not slip out of its intended position.

The stained beech stock is truly ambidextrous. There is a slight cheek swell on either side of the buttstock and a modest cheek piece. Below that is the thumb hole. Forward of the thumb hole is the pistol grip which has stippling on either side. At the top of the pistol grip are grooves on either side of the stock to accommodate the shooter’s thumb and forefinger.

Moving forward again, you’ll find the metal trigger guard, inside of which is the Rekord trigger and trigger adjuster, both of which are gold colored. Forward of the trigger is the forestock which is laser checkered on either side. The end of the forestock is swept backward slightly, complementing the sleek looks of the the thumbhole stock.

The cocking lever protrudes from the forestock, the free end of which is captured by a latch that is attached to the muzzlebrake/silencer at the end of the barrel. Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find the receiver and the silver colored breech plate. Moving aft again, there are scope dovetails on top of the receiver with sockets for anti-recoil pins toward the back of the receiver. At the extreme back end of the receiver is the small push-button safety.

Overall, I’m very impressed with the fit and finish of the HW97KT. The stock looks very streamlined and purposeful, and the finish on the metal is what you would expect from an adult precision air rifle in this price range.

To ready the HW97KT for shooting, press the small black button just under the muzzlebrake. This releases the cocking lever. Pull the lever down and back until it latches. This cocks the action and also slides open the breech plate, exposing the breech. Thumb a pellet into the breech and return the cocking lever to its original position. Take aim at the target, click off the safety, and ease the first stage out of the trigger. Squeeze just a bit more and – tunk! – the shot goes down range.

I really, really liked shooting the HW97KT. The report was remarkably subdued – not dead quiet, but certainly low enough to keep the peace with the neighbors. I could hear just a touch of vibration when the shot goes off, but I couldn’t feel any of it through the stock, so basically the vibration becomes a non-issue for me. I particularly like the fit of the stock for me, and I found it very easy to shoot this gun well. At 13 yards, I was easily able to shoot ragged one-hole groups where all the pellet holes overlapped each other. It strikes me that this is an air rifle that, with the addition of your choice of scope, could easily be campaigned in field target competition.

The powerplant in the HW97KT is identical to the powerplant in the HW97K, and typically should deliver around 850 fps with Crosman Premier 7.9 gr. Pellets. The HW97 is also an incredibly accurate air rifle. A few years ago, Brad Troyer sent me a target he had shot at 50 yards from a sitting position with his HW97. The five pellet holes I saw there could be covered with a dime.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Mike Driskill grew up in a small town in east Tennessee. His grand mother had a Daisy Model 25 that she bought in 1947 to chase the squirrels off the birdfeeder. Driskill remembers pinching “the bejeezus” out of our fingers on this classic whenever he went to visit her. Eventually, young Driskill had his own airgun, a Benjamin.

But kids grow up, and as Driskill moved into adulthood and a career as an architect, he didn’t pay much attention to airguns.

“I’m not really sure when I became a collector,” Driskill says, “but I remember clearly when the resurgence of my interest in airguns happened. In 1985, our firm did a big project as a joint venture with another firm, and I spent almost a year working in their offices. Most of the guys were shooters, and there were a lot of shooting magazines around. In one of them, I saw an ad for a Beeman catalog, and that got me interested in adult precision airguns. The gun that captivated me in it was the HW 35. The beautiful lines just sucked me right in. I’ve owned three of them and now have a mid-70s Bayern-stocked HW 35 Luxus that is a real beauty.”

Over the years, Driskill has bought and sold over 100 airguns. Now he owns about 45 airguns, 90% of which have been built between World War II and the 1980s and are medium power springers. He also owns some high powered airguns and some CO2 powered airguns.

“Over time, you develop a taste for what you like,” he says. One of the things that influenced Driskill greatly was the articles of Ladd Fanta, an airgun dealer in California. He wrote several articles in the 1970s that extolled the virtues of the Diana 27.

“He got me looking at that class of gun, based on his comments on how nicely they handle and how easy they are to shoot well, and it doesn’t hurt that they are a lot cheaper than the new ones,” Driskill says.

The Diana 27 was made in many variations from WW I to the 1980s, and now Driskill owns six different examples of the 27 in different forms, including five major generations of Diana 27 actions. He is interested in not just collecting the guns, but the history of how a particular model has changed over the years.

The photo below shows (top to bottom) four distinctly different generations–the original “Millita” style gun (this one dated 1926); a Nazi-era “DRP” marked, ca. 1935 rifle with its marvelous striker-type adjustable trigger; a first-generation post-WW2 rifle from the late 1950’s; and the classic modern gun from 1981 with RWS markings.

Another air rifle that has fascinated Driskill is the HW55, and over the years he has collected seven different samples, each of which is unique. “I’ve seen so many different variations of some of these airguns that I’ve begun to wonder if they ever made two that were exactly the same,” he says, adding, “The one gun that I’d really like to find is an HW55 with double set triggers . . . and Gaines Blackwell (a friend) has two!”

Below is a picture of Driskill’s very first HW55.

Here’s a picture of his HW55 T.

Collecting has changed a lot over the years for Driskill. When he first started out, in the pre-Internet days, there was a mailing list that circulated among collectors. If you had something to sell, you put it on the list, and maybe someone else who received the list would buy it and maybe you would buy an offering from someone else.

Today, Driskill combs the auction sites every day, reads the airgun classifieds, and attends the Roanoke airgun show. His biggest source of collectable airguns is the German auction site, which Gaines Blackwell suggested Driskill check into.

“I shoot everything I own on a regular basis,” Driskill says. “I do have some guns that are in extremely good condition, but most of my favorite shooters are not mint guns.”

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Steve Mannie is a retiree living in Arizona, and he shares a couple of passions that most readers of this blog could identify with. First, he loves airguns. Second, accuracy is what floats his boat.

“Accuracy is my main magnet,” Mannie says. “First and last, I am concerned with accuracy and the repeatability of it. For other people, it would seem that speed is the main thing, but not for me.”

Back in 1996, Mannie bought a Daystate CR94, serial number 58. He tried it out and liked it so well that he bought another one; serial number 60 (only 60 CR94s were made).

Mannie has done some field target competition, but it is no longer popular in his area, so he scratches his itch for accuracy by shooting benchrest at 10 meters. “I usually shoot 2 or 3 sessions a day of about 35 shots each,” he says.

His CR94s are tuned down a bit for shooting indoors in a mobile home park and keeping the noise to a minimum. He has owned other airguns, but “I like shooting precharged pneumatics. They are very easy to use, very accurate and relatively quiet,” Mannie says.

Both of Mannie’s CR94s are scoped. He doesn’t prefer one over the other. “I can shoot either, because they both shoot exceedingly well,” he says.

One of his favorite targets is quarter-inch graph paper. He puts a tiny dot of ink in the center of every other square and then blows the dot away with a pellet. Mannie shoots at a pellet trap with “a quarter inch of steel at the bottom, with scrap paper in between.” He uses a SCUBA tank to charge the guns. Mannie reports that the tank “is very heavy to move,” now that he is 81 years of age.

Mannie relates that he is now on his ninth or tenth case of JSB Exacts that he has shot through these two guns, and before that, he shot case after case (after case) of Crosman Premiers through the pair of Daystates. Although Mannie has not kept exact count of how many rounds have gone down range from each gun, a conservative estimate would be that Mannie’s CR94s have launched at least 100,000 pellets apiece.

The CR94s lasted well over ten years before either required any service. About two years ago, one of the guns needed a reseal, and this year both are in for some additional service. Still, 100,000 shots apiece and over 10 years of continuous service stands as an impressive testimony to the reliability of the Daystate CR94s.

Mannie says, “I use them a lot and enjoy them, because if you select the right airgun, set it up as close as possible to your ideal, they are one of the most satisfying guns to shoot.”

Additional update: I heard back from Brad Troyer regarding his high-mileage HW97. Here’s what he had to say:

“I bought my first HW97 in Sept. of 1994 and have well over 100k pellets through it. I had it tuned in the summer of 1995 by Ken Reeves and at my first major FT match that I put on at the Port Malabar Rifle & Pistol Club a washer from the tune broke and I couldn’t finish the match.

I had David Slade tune it after that and shot it for a lot of years on that tune. I started tuning my own rifles in the late 90’s and have had a variety of kits in it. Most of the time I would shoot the kit for a period of time and then change or modify the tune for a variety of reasons. Right now it has a standard Beeman spring with a Macarri spring guide. It still shoots like a dream. I have had two springs fail in the rifle, as I remember it the first spring that came with the rifle broke and I had another factory spring break in the late 90s. The first spring broke, I think, because I was shooting Beeman Kodiaks in the rifle until I discovered Crosman 7.9 pellets.”

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott