Archive for February 2010

I have a serious weakness involving air pistols. I like them all, but there are some days when a single-stroke pneumatic pistol is just the right thing for shooting casually at 10 meter pistol targets, knocking a bagful of dollar store dinosaurs off a fence rail, or chasing a wiffle golf ball around the yard.

Single stroke pneumatic pistols have a lot to offer. They are self-contained, so you don’t have to fuss with CO2 cartridges, pumps or air tanks. Only one cocking stroke is required for each time you shoot it, so the effort per shot is agreeably low. Accuracy is typically superb. Triggers are usually good to excellent, and the report is generally pretty low. The downside of any SSP pistol, if you can call it that, is that they don’t generate much power. You certainly wouldn’t want to use one for hunting anything bigger than a mouse or maybe even a hornet. But even that is an advantage when you realize that you don’t need a tremendously strong target backing to stop pellets from an SSP pistol.

So when Airguns of Arizona told me that they would be importing the FAS line of pistols, I couldn’t wait to try one. A few days later, an FAS 604 standard pistol showed up in its foam-lined plastic case, and it makes a really good first impression. Stretching just under a foot long and weighing a smidge less than two pounds. The 604 is lovingly crafted out of metal and wood. I surmise that plastic must be some sort of dirty word at the FAS factory, because I certainly couldn’t detect any on this pistol.

The grip appears to be carved out of a single piece of hardwood and is fully ambidextrous. Grooves on either side of the top of the grip help to position the thumb and forefinger, and stippling helps the other three fingers to stay in position. Forward of the grip is a metal trigger guard which is integral to the metal receiver and houses an adjustable metal trigger.

At the forward end of the receiver is a pivot that allows the entire top of the receiver to rotate for the cocking stroke. The front sight, naturally, is located at the front end of the receiver, and the micro-adjustable rear sight is located at the extreme aft end. The whole thing is solidly built yet retains a certain amount of rakish style.

To ready the 604 for shooting, you press a small metal lever located on the left side of the receiver just about the pistol grip. This releases the rear end of the top receiver half so that it can pivot upward and forward. This pulls the piston back to the beginning of the compression stroke and exposes the aft end of the barrel so you can load a pellet in the breech.

Once a pellet has been loaded, grab it near the rear sight and return it to its original position. This pressures the action. The website says this takes about six pounds of effort, but I suspect it is a bit more.

There is no safety, so all you have to do now is take aim and shoot. Squeeze the trigger, and on the sample that I tested, the first stage came out of the trigger at about one pound, two ounces. Squeeze a bit more, and shot goes down range at 1 lb. 9.5 oz. The trigger is crisp and highly predictable, and the FAS 604 launched Beeman .177 Laser pellets at around 380 fps and RWS Meisterkugeln 8.2 grain wadcutters at about 345 fps.

In all, I found the FAS 604 standard to be fun, accurate, and built to last a lifetime or two. It saddened me to send it back.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

As I explained some time ago, my very first airgun was not the legendary Daisy Red Ryder or a Crosman or a Sheridan. Instead, it was the Daisy Model 25, the pump-action BB that many of us older airgunners owned. It predates the Red Ryder by a good many years.

The Model 25 was first produced in 1914. Some fifty-three thousand were produced in that first year, and the Model 25 remained in continuous production until 1978, when it was discontinued. It was brought back briefly in 1986 as a Centennial Model, and then it disappeared again.

The first time that I spoke with Joe Murfin, vice president of marketing for Daisy, I waxed eloquently about how I loved my old Model 25. I remember him says, “Yeah, that’s the one rifle I really wish we had back in our lineup again, but the tooling was destroyed.” He and I commiserated for a while and then got on to other things.

Still, whenever I think of an airgun or mull over airgunning in general, almost everything gets measured against the yardstick of how much fun it was to shoot the Model 25.

So imagine my glee, my absolute joy when I found out that the Model 25 was going back into production. Even worse, I couldn’t tell anyone about it! No kidding. I found out in September, 2009, while preparing the airgun roundup for the SHOT Show Daily newspaper, but I had to keep it secret until the SHOT Show.

Now, of course, the reintroduction of the Model 25 is public. Joe Murfin from Daisy was kind enough to send one to me. It stretches 37 inches long and weighs just 3.1 pounds. Starting at the back end of the Model 25, there is a plain wooden stock that attaches to the metal receiver with several screws. On either side of the receiver is engraving depicting a hunting scene. On the left side of the receiver is a bolt (and a nut on the right side) which can be removed to break the Model 25 into two pieces. Beneath the aft end of the receiver is the metal trigger guard which houses a plastic trigger and push-button safety mechanism.

Forward of that are the various parts of the pump mechanism, which terminates in a wooden pump handle. Moving forward again, you’ll find the barrel. The muzzle has a knurled edge which is helpful in unscrewing the shot tube to remove it. On top of the barrel is the front sight. At the extreme aft end on top of the receiver is the rear sight, adjustable for elevation and windage, which can be flipped from iron sight to peep sight.

To load the Model 25, you unscrew the shot tube from the muzzle, push a slide down and lock it, and then pour BBs into the loading port until the shot tube is full. All that remains is to screw the shot tube back into the muzzle, and you’re good to go.

Pump the action once, flick off the safety, and squeeze the trigger, and the Model 25 launches BBs at around 325 fps.

I always thought that the Model 25 was better than the Red Ryder. It’s just plain easier to maintain a bead on the target while working a pump action than it is while working a lever action. Red Ryder enthusiasts point out, however, that the Red Ryder is shorter and lighter than the Model 25, and it holds more BBs. But for me, the Model 25 will always define what a BB gun should be.

I loaded mine up and strolled outside to take a few shots in the back yard. I brought the Model 25 to my shoulder and the years just fell away. Suddenly I was awash with memories of the grand times my buddy and I had roaming the fields and woods of northeastern Vermont with my trusty Model 25. It was, as Jean Shepherd put it: “The best Christmas present I ever got.”

This new Model 25 will enjoy a place of honor in my gun cabinet.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

JE: Any other practice routines?

PC: Especially when shooting at 12 fp, I spent a lot of time practicing for the wind. I bought a wind gauge, got a piece of thread, put it on the muzzle, and tried to correlate the movement of the thread to the speed of the wind. With 12 fp, the wind becomes a serious consideration for almost every shot. I also focus on having a positive attitude when I’m about to take a shot and fine-tuning my natural point of aim.

JE: What’s the most difficult thing about field target?

PC: I think it’s shooting sitting for 10 lanes and then having to shoot offhand with no warm-up.

JE: Does the Anschutz butthook help?

PC: Yeah, it does. It helps me mount the gun the same way each time.

JE: What about your shooting routine? Do you intentionally trigger shots or are you surprised when they go off?

PC: Well, when I’m shooting offhand, I intentionally trigger the shot. I pull the trigger as fast as I can as soon as I see that sight picture I want, but when I’m shooting from a sitting position I try to go for the surprise. But when you’re shooting 12 fp in the wind and you’re also against the lane timer, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of waiting, so when you get an opening, you take it.

JE: Is there one thing that’s a key to your success?

PC: Consistency, that’s it. You have to practice until everything you do is consistent, shot after shot.

JE: How much do you practice?

PC: I shoot 10,000 to 12,000 pellets a year.

JE: What advice would you give newbies?

PC: Pick a rifle that you like and fits your shooting position and learn how to shoot it. Spend a lot of time with it, get into position, test for the pellets, get your scope set up and shoot a whole season before you change anything. Realize that you will have bad days, and when that happens, it doesn’t mean you need a new rifle.

JE: Anything else?

PC: Realize that what you do in your back yard, while it really helps, doesn’t necessarily translate into a match. In a match, you have the pressure of competition, and that is going to mess with you. That’s why new shooters need to shoot a season or two before they can make informed decisions about making changes. They should learn to read the wind by shooting on windy days. The more you shoot, the more you recognize the nuances of what’s going on. There’s no substitute for trigger time, and no substitute for competition experience.

JE: Is there anything more new shooters need to do?

PC: Yes. Mental preparation is extremely important. There’s lots of good material out there. Read what the Olympic champions have written about proper trigger technique and breathing. You also need to take a Blood Oath: no desperation shots. Don’t pull the trigger because you think you’re running out of time or air or steadiness. Pull the trigger when you know it’s right. Concentrate on the center of the kill zone, not the size of the kill zone. That’s where the focus of your attention should be. If a small kill zone is going to freak you out, you’re concentrating on the wrong thing.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Paul Cray is arguably one of the best field target shooters on the planet. In 2004 and 2005, he won the US National Piston Division Championship with a score that was within spitting distance of the highest PCP Division scores. In 2007, he won the US PCP Division Championship and the World FT Championship. In 2009, he won the International Division (sub 12 foot-pounds) at the US FT Championships.

The first time that I met Cray was at an offhand field target match at the Eastern Field Target Competitors Club in Wappingers Falls, NY. He is a tremendously nice fellow, and he agreed to an interview on his secrets of success.

JE: How did you get started in field target?

PC: My first match was that offhand match where we met in January, 2002. I live about 10 minutes away from EFTCC, so it is very convenient for me to compete there.

JE: What equipment do you use?

PC: In piston class, I shot an Air Arms TX-200, which I got from Jim Maccari. All the internals – the seals, springs, and lubes –are Jim Maccari. Jan Kaner tuned the gun and also did the stock. In PCP class, I won the US and World Championships with a USFT rifle. Now that I’m shooting in the 12 fp class, I’ve switched to a Steyr LG110 FT.

JE: How is your Steyr set up?

PC: I’ve equipped it with the same butthook that I had on my TX-200, and it’s set up with the same length of pull and scope height as my TX. I’m using a knee rest from my USFT, and I’m shooting 8.4 grain JSB pellets with 4.52 head diameter. I don’t lube the pellets.

JE: That’s it?

PC: I used to weigh the pellets, but I stopped doing that. It didn’t seem to have an effect on accuracy.

JE: What about your scope?

PC: I use a Nikko Sterling 10-50 x 60 sidewheel scope with extended wheel. (Now, I’m sponsored by Nikko Sterling.) It’s so huge, I call it “the Hubble,” and I generate the ballistic data by physically shooting at targets at various ranges. I zero my setup at around 27 yards. I also have a scope level on my rig. I look at it before every shot.

JE: Do you use any other gear?

PC: Yes, I use a shooting glove for offhand and kneeling shots. I used to shoot with it all the time but quit using it for the sitting shots because it didn’t seem to make a difference. In addition, I wear a Creedmore shooting coat for the entire course.

JE: What’s your practice routine?

PC: I practice quite a bit, shooting at paper, establishing my natural point of aim. I have a target at 30 yards, with multiple kill zones. I try to go through the act of sitting down and see that the gun is naturally pointing on target. You can use your strength to move the gun on target, but as soon as you pull the trigger, the gun is going to point where it “wants” to point. So I don’t even look through the scope until I’m relaxed. I make a conscious effort to relax, and if the crosshairs aren’t in the kill zone, I move my leg or adjust my bum until they are. Then I make sure I am relaxed again and make sure the scope is on target.

JE: Do you exercise?

PC: Yes, I have an exercise bike that I ride a couple of days a week to get my heart rate down. I’m also doing a lot of running and playing soccer, which helps endurance and heart rate.

Special thanks to Bridget Cray for taking the pictures of her dad!

Part II next time.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott