Archive for May 2010

Back when Beeman Precision Airguns was still a going concern, Beeman sold Feinwerkbau (FWB) precision air rifles and air pistols for 10-meter international competition. At that time, Airguns of Arizona was Beeman’s number one dealer when it came to selling FWB match rifles and pistols.

So it should come as no surprise that FWB management has selected Airguns of Arizona to become a factory-direct distributor of FWB’s excellent gear in the United States. This means that if you need an FWB air pistol or air rifle for 10-meter competition, or you simply want a superb example of the airgun maker’s art, you can get it from Airguns of Arizona.

Recently, the good folks at AoA sent me a sample of the FWB P44 match pistol for examination, and I’ve got to tell you that it saddens me greatly that I have to send it back.

The P44 doesn’t just show up in a box, it shows up in a fitted plastic case. Inside the case is the pistol, a spare air cylinder (extra cost), a filling fitting, and some tools for making adjustments.

Also in the case is a manual, and an integral part of the cover of the manual is a target. This target shows the results of five shots fired at 10 meters with the pistol that’s in the case. The “group,” if you can call it that, is a barely egg-shaped hole. In other words, each FWB P44 pistol comes with proof that it is a one-hole gun at 10 meters.

It also means that when you purchase one of these pistols, you have entered the Land of No Excuses. In short, if you miss, shoot a crummy score, or otherwise embarrass yourself with this pistol, it’s your fault. It’s no good saying, “Well, ya know, if I had a better pistol, I coulda . . .” Nah, that won’t wash. Man up, brother (or sister), step to the line, shoot your best, and accept the results.

The P44 stretches 16.33 inches long weighs just 2.09 lbs. It’s a .177 caliber, single-shot, precharged pneumatic match pistol. The hand rest, rotation of the grip, and grip angle can all be adjusted. The sample I shot had a beautifully sculpted right hand grip that fit as if it had been molded for my hand. Left hand grips are also available.

The trigger shoe can be adjusted from side to side; the trigger can be moved fore and aft; and the trigger stop can be adjusted. The trigger is set at the factor precisely to 500 grams (the minimum standard for international and Olympic competition), but the weight of the trigger can also be adjusted if desired. There is an “absorber” built into the P44 that helps absorb the recoil of the pellet being launched down the barrel, and you can dry fire with the P44 if you don’t feel like launching pellets.

The manual states that the velocity of pellets has been adjusted to 492 feet per second, and you should be able to get 160 shots from a 200 bar (2900 psi) fill. The rear sight is, of course, micro adjustable for windage and elevation, but you can also adjust the width of the rear notch, and you can even swap the front sights with optional front sights of other widths if you feel you need to.

Shooting the P44 is simplicity itself. Flip up the lever on the left hand side that opens the breech by pulling back the bolt. Slip a pellet into the breech and return the lever to its original position. Now, take aim, squeeze the trigger, and the shot goes down range. If it gets better than this, I don’t know how.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

If you search Google Videos for “IPSC” or “IPSC shooting”, you’ll find pistoleers who can shoot fast and accurately. Guys like Rob Leatham are absolutely gun wizards, nailing steel plates and other targets with a speed and precision that has to be seen to be believed.

 If, like me, you occasionally get the urge to see if you can shoot fast and accurately, grab any one of the pistols we’ll be talking about this week, line up some soda cans against a safe backstop, and have at it – it’s fun.

 All three of the pistols below are CO2-powered BB repeaters. At top is the Makarov. In the middle is the Colt Defender, and at the bottom is the Umarex SA177.

 The Makarov is 6.25 inches long and weighs 1.5 lbs. It has an all-metal frame and plastic grips that slide back to access the bay where the 12-gram CO2 cartridge is held. The slide can be racked back to shoot the Makarov in single-action mode, but the slide does not blow back while shooting. The factory claims the Makarov will launch steel BBs at around 380 fps.

 Press a tab at the bottom of the Makarov’s pistol grip, and the magazine will slide out. Pull the BB follower down and back to lock it in place, and then you can load 16 BBs into the magazine through a loading port at top of the magazine.

 The Colt Defender is 6.75 inches long and weighs 1.6 lbs. It has an all-metal frame and plastic grips that slide back to reveal the compartment for the 12-gram CO2 cartridge. The Defender has an accessory rail under the barrel.

 What sets the Defender apart is that the magazine is permanently built into the frame. Just slide the BB follower down and lock it in place, and there is a cut-out into which 16 BBs can be poured for loading. The Defender is also the only one of these pistols that has a dovetail on top of the slide to which a red dot or laser could be mounted. Maximum velocity for the Colt Defender is 440 fps.

 The Umarex SA177 is 7 inches long and weighs 1 lb 11 oz. The frame is part plastic and part metal. The heel of the pistol grip opens to reveal the CO2 compartment, and a pushbutton allows the magazine to slide out of the bottom of the pistol grip. Slide the BB follower down and lock it, and you can load 16 BBs into a port near the bottom of the magazine. It also has an accessory rail under the barrel for mounting a flashlight or laser.

 A couple of things set the SA177 apart from the other pistols in this group. First, it has blowback action on each shot to simulate a semi-automatic pistol. Second, it has fiber optic sights. Maximum velocity is about 380 fps for this pistol.

 On paper, all of these pistols are pretty similar. Shooting them, I found that the Makarov is the slimmest in the hand, even though its specs are nearly identical to the Colt Defender. The Makarov moved the least in my hand when fired.

 The SA177 looked and felt the biggest, and with its blowback action, it makes the most commotion when it goes off, but that’s what shooting a blowback pistol is all about.

 The Colt Defender, however, was the pistol that I could shoot the fastest, putting as many BBs downrange as quickly as possible.

 You really can’t go wrong with any of these pistols. Which one will be best for your style of shooting depends on which characteristics matter most to you.

 Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–         Jock Elliott

Rumors swirl around the Internet and around the airgun industry, but I have it on pretty good authority that Beeman Precision Airguns, the airgun company that many of us knew and loved, is no more. I have heard that one company has bought the rights to the low-end Beeman products while another may have bought the rights to use the Beeman name for high-end products for a few years, but I have received no official announcements to that effect.

During my experience as an adult precision airgunner (as opposed to the BB gun days of my youth), I knew the Beeman company primarily as a purveyor of high-quality spring-piston air rifles – mainly German-made Weihrauch rifles – that had been given the Beeman brand.

It’s a sad thing to see a well-respected company fade into oblivion, but for those of you who wish to own the kind of high-quality spring-piston air rifles that Beeman once sold, there is good news: you can! Airguns of Arizona is importing the equivalent German models directly from Weihrauch.

What once was the Beeman R9 is now available as the Weihrauch HW95 Luxus. Available in .177, .20, .22, and .25, the R9/HW95 is truly one of the classic air rifles of all time, and I suspect that a very large number of them have been sold over the years.

I had never owned an R9/HW95, so Airguns of Arizona sent me one to evaluate. After playing around with it for a while, it’s easy to understand why they are so popular.

The HW95 stretches 42.32 inches long and weighs just 7.5 pounds. At the extreme aft end is a soft brown rubber buttpad, connected to the ambidextrous hardwood stock by a black spacer. The pistol grip is checkered on either side, and forward of that you’ll find a black metal trigger guard. Inside the trigger guard is the world-famous Rekord trigger, which is adjustable for second stage weight.

Moving forward, the forestock has checkering on either side, and there is a slot underneath to accommodate cocking the break barrel action. Forward of that is the Weihrauch barrel, on top of which is a globe front sight with interchangeable inserts. On top of the breech block is a micro-adjustable notch rear sight with a choice of four different notches for sighting.

Moving back along the receiver, you’ll find dovetails for mounting a scope and three recesses for accepting anti-recoil pins from a scope mount. At the extreme rear edge of the receiver is a push-button safety.

To ready the HW95 for shooting, grab the barrel near the front sight and pull it down and back until it latches. This requires about 40 lbs of effort. Stuff a pellet into the breech and return the barrel to its original position. Take aim, click the safety off, and pull the trigger.

Making no adjustments to the Rekord trigger as it came from the factory, I found that the first stage came out of the trigger at 1 lb, 3 oz, and at 3 lb, 8 oz, the shot went downrange. But note well: the Rekord trigger can be adjusted much lighter than that.

The .177 sample I tested launched 7.9 gr. Crosman Premier Light pellets at 879 fps average, for about 13.5 foot pound of energy at the muzzle.

Well, what about accuracy? I’m glad you asked! I didn’t actually test this sample for accuracy, because I already knew what an R9/HW95 could do. For example, I know of one highly place national field target competitor who uses an R9/HW95 as his backup gun. I shot it one day (to be fair, it had been lightly tuned and had a custom stock) and easily dropped a one-inch field target at 40 yards. I also know a pest control professional who relies on a .177 R9 for controlling birds inside supermarkets. His selection of the R9/HW95 is very high praise indeed; there are lots of things in supermarkets that you don’t want to inadvertently shoot while you are controlling unwanted wildlife, so he is betting his professional reputation on the accuracy of the gun.

You might say that the R9/HW95 is a professional’s workhorse – what better recommendation do you need?

Bottom line: while it is sad to say Goodbye to the Beeman company, it is very good news to know that the high quality Weihrauch air rifles that Beeman offered are still available.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

The third most interesting aspect of the Benjamin Trail NP All Weather – and the one that is bound to be most controversial – is the trigger. Now, I need to preface the following by explaining that I shot the All weather for a while and got some pretty nice accuracy results (which I will reveal below) before I ever attempted to measure the weight of the trigger pull.

That’s when things got interesting. When I first measured the trigger pull with my Lyman digital trigger gauge, I saw the following: at 1 lb 11 oz, the first stage appears to come out of the trigger and there is a hard stop. Then there is a long creepy pull and another hard stop at about 4 lbs 13 oz. Finally, at around 5 lbs, 4 oz, the shot goes off.

I had never encountered anything like this before. Weird, I thought, this air rifle appears to have a three-stage trigger. So I called Crosman about it. No, they said, what you think is the first stage is simply pulling against the trigger return spring. The second section that ends at 4 lbs 13 oz is actually the first stage, and 5 lbs 4 oz is where the second stage releases, they explained. They added that if you comparatively test breakbarrel rifles produced by Crosman, you’ll find that the Quest, the Phantom, the Summit, the Vantage, and others all have very similar triggers.

Now, I’ll grant you that All Weather’s trigger feels unusual at first, but I’ve shot it for a while now, and I’ve found that it is quite consistent and doesn’t interfere with accurate shooting (and it’s not as heavy as some military triggers I’ve been told about). For those who don’t want to deal with the All Weather’s trigger, after market triggers are available, but take note: if you fit one to your All Weather, you will void the warranty. So my advice is shoot your All Weather until your one-year warranty is up, and then put in an after market trigger if you still want one.

To cock the All Weather, grab the end of the barrel and pull down and back toward the buttstock. This is where the All Weather begins to show the advantages of the Nitro Piston powerplant. You’ll hear a “snick” when the breech unlatches and another snick when the powerplant is fully cocked and . . . nothing in between. The cocking stroke is one smooth, noiseless glide. It’s like cocking a break barrel springer that has been fully romanced by one of the master spring gun tuners.

With the breech open, slip a .22 caliber pellet into the aft end of the barrel and return the bullbarrel to its original position. The safety is non-automatic. If it is pushed back toward the trigger, push it forward toward the muzzle to ready the rifle for firing, and pull the trigger.

The sample of All Weather that I tested launched Crosman Premier 14.3 gr. pellets at 687 fps average, which is just a teensy bit below 15 foot-pounds of energy. When the shot goes off, the weight of the All Weather becomes your friend, helping to gentle the shot cycle. The recoil is quick and surprisingly smooth, with no torque, twang or vibration. Further, the report is quite subdued, even for a breakbarrel air rifle. The accuracy is very, very satisfactory. At 35 yards, I was able to put three Crosman Premier pellets into a little tiny group where all the holes touched each other before my technique went to blazes. I think a really good spring gun shooter (which I am not) could achieve some impressive results with this rifle.

In the end, I liked the Benjamin Trail NT All Weather. As I have explained before, I am not a trigger Nazi – what I care most about is how the overall system performs. In my view, the All Weather delivers a lot of performance and accuracy in a reasonably-price package. As such, I think a lot of shooters will enjoy it.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Ever since I got caught in a light summer shower with an airgun, I’ve had an interest in all-weather airguns. It just seems to me that, in general, it’s a good idea to have airguns be as impervious as possible to bad weather.

So when Crosman offered me the opportunity to evaluate the new Benjamin Trail NP™ All Weather air rifle, I said “You bet!”

The All Weather, which is available only in .22 caliber, is a break barrel air rifle, and there are several interesting things about it. First, it has an all-weather synthetic stock. Not only that, but the all weather stock is fully ambidextrous, nicely styled, and downright swoopy looking.

The catalog says that All Weather weighs 8 lbs (and stretches 43 inches long), but it comes with a scope and mount, so the whole package weighs 9 lbs 12 oz when fully assembled. That might seem like a lot to tote around for a day afield. Fortunately, also included in the package (at least during an introductory period) is a sling. It easily attaches to the swivels that are provided and makes carrying the All Weather so much easier that it makes me scratch my head and wonder why I hadn’t tried a sling before now.

Let’s take a tour of the All Weather. Starting at the back, there is a soft black ventilated butt pad, separated from the synthetic stock by a gray spacer. The buttstock has a cheek piece on either side, which ought to make lefties happy and a stud near the end for mounting a sling. Forward of that is a large thumbhole and nearly vertical pistol grip that is checkered and has a pronounced flair at the end. Moving forward again, the trigger guard is molded into the synthetic stock. Inside the trigger guard is a metal trigger and forward-and-back lever safety.

The forestock stretches out in front of the trigger guard. There is checkering on either side near the end and a long slot underneath to provide clearance for cocking the break barrel action. The other attachment for the sling is fastened to the breakbarrel mechanism near the end of the slot. Beyond that is the bullbarrel/shroud.

The barrel attaches to the breech block. Moving rearward, you’ll find the receiver, on which is mounted a picatinny/weaver scope rail. That’s it. The result is an air rifle that looks and feels good in the hand and balances very well.

Included with the All Weather is a CenterPoint 3-9 x 40 scope and weaver rings. When I saw the beauty and simplicity of how the scope rail and rings worked together, it made me wonder why all airgun manufacturers don’t standardize on the slotted weaver rails. You don’t have to worry about whether your rings will hold, whether your anti-recoil pin is seated deeply enough in the socket or whether you have to really crank down your mounts. All you have to do is drop the bars on the weaver rings into the slots on the scope rail, snug the mounts down, and you’re done. Hats off to Crosman for doing this!

Another key aspect of the All Weather is that it is powered by the Nitro Piston powerplant. (That’s what the NP stands for.) Unlike a conventional breakbarrel springer, which uses a spring to drive a piston that compresses the air which in turn launches the pellet, the Nitro Piston technology uses a gas strut, much like the strut used to elevate the back window on many automobiles. As a result, there is no spring to wear out, no twang when the shot goes off, no vibration or torque on discharge. Further, you can leave a Nitro Piston powerplant cocked for as long as you want without worrying about damaging the spring.

Next time, we’ll take a look at how the Benjamin Trail NP All Weather performs.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott