Archive for August 2010

Some years ago a friend who had been the track announcer at Watkins Glen when they still hosted the US Grand Prix told me the following story.

Team Lotus was getting ready for practice. Jim Clark slid into the cockpit of his car, wiggled the steering wheel a fraction of an inch, noticed that the front wheels had not correspondingly moved, and said, “Fix that.” The crew chief nodded and scurried off to fetch the necessary tools. It was clear that everyone involved had “been there, done that” and were professionals committed to getting the job done.

The Gehmann GP-1 pistol

I have a similar feeling about the folks from Gehmann Gmbh & Co. When I cracked open the manual for the GP-1 match air pistol, I was pleased and surprised to see the following:

“An airgun is capable of causing severe injury. Used properly it is a precision instrument designed to function properly. Handle the pistol as if it were loaded at all times. Pull trigger only with the intention of firing. Aim at targets only, never at persons or animals. Keep pistol in a safe place out of reach of children and other unauthorised persons.”

The manual is equally direct when it comes to maintenance. It says, in part:

“We recommend a change of seals every 3 years. Use shoot-through felts to clean the barrel, following manufacturer’s instructions . . . “

It’s clear the crew from Gehmann has been there, done that, and they are committed to getting the job done with professionalism, starting with an excellent manual.

The Gehmann GP-1 is a single-shot, precharged pneumatic air pistol designed for international/Olympic 10-meter competition. It measures 17 inches from end to end and weighs 2.2 lbs. It has a heavily stippled anatomical grip that is fully adjustable for grip angle, muzzle offset, and palm rest position, so no matter what your preference, you can get the GP-1 adjusted to the set-up that suits you best.

Moving forward, the black metal trigger is adjustable for first-stage travel, sear adjustment, trigger weight, overtravel, and fore-and-aft position. Forward of that, the black metal receiver wraps around the trigger slightly to form a trigger guard. Forward of that is the air cylinder. It has a gauge on the end, and the entire cylinder unscrews for charging.

Above the cylinder is the black metal barrel. Gehmann doesn’t specify who makes the barrel, but they furnish a test target shot at 10 meters to demonstrate that it will shoot one-hole groups at that distance. At the end of the barrel is a compensator that helps to eliminate flip and recoil and also serves as a mount for interchangeable front sight blades.

The GP-1 seen from the right with the breech open.

Moving back to the receiver, there is a load lever on top that is easily activated by left or right handed shooters. Just pull the lever up and back, and the breech opens for loading. Drop in a pellet, and return the lever back to its original position, and you’re good to go.

The GP-1 from the left with the breech open. The dry-fire activation lever is visible just below the breech.

On the left hand side of the receiver, there is a lever that activates the dry-fire mode. Finally, at the back end of the receiver, the rear sight can be adjusted for not just windage and elevation, but also for the width and depth of the rear notch. Another screw, hidden under the pistol grip, allows the pellet speed to be adjusted up to 170 meters per second (around 550 fps).

Ultimately, I liked the Gehmann GP-1 a whole lot. It is well documented and offers a wealth of adjustability and accuracy for just a bit more than entry-level precharged match pistols.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

There is something about full-out competition equipment that gets my blood moving faster and my heart pumping quicker.

I once got to drive an SCCA national class winning MGB sports car (complete with roll cage, teensy front windshield, five-point harness, and an engine that didn’t even start to breathe deeply until it revved over four grand) and by the time the ride was over, a little voice in my head had begun whispering, “Hey, maybe you need one of these.”

The FAS 609

And so it is with the FAS 609 precharged pneumatic match air pistol. This is a pistol designed for 10-meter international/Olympic style competition. It stretches 16.54 inches from end to end and weighs 2.09 lbs. It is a single shot competition pistol, designed to launch match-grade .177 pellets at about 500 fps.

At the extreme aft end of the 609, the most prominent feature is the highly ergonomic righthand walnut grip. Available in three different sizes (and lefthand version as well) the grip, which has an adjustable palm shelf is designed so that it exactly fits the shooter’s palm and fingers. The finger slide around the grip and seem to just naturally fall into place. The result is that it feels not so much that you are gripping this pistol, but that you are wearing it.

Forward of the grip is the silver-colored metal trigger, which is adjustable for fore-and-aft position, trigger stop, something called trigger “trim,” first stage weight, first stage length, second stage weight, and second stage length. Forward of that is the black metal receiver, which wraps around the trigger slightly to form a trigger guard.

Moving forward again is the silver air cylinder, which has a gauge at the end and which unscrews for charging. Above the air cylinder is the match grade Lothar-Walther barrel which has a compensator at the muzzle that also serves as a mount for the blade-type front sight which can be interchanged with other optional blades to suit the shooter’s preference.. Moving back along the barrel, on the left side of the receiver is a black lever with a silver tab at the end. Lift the tab, and the breech opens for loading.

The FAS 609 with the breech open. The dry-fire activator is that tiny lever visible just below the breech.

On the right side of the receiver is a tiny black metal lever. When the breech is open for loading, this lever can be pulled to the right, and the FAS 609 will be put in dry-fire mode. At the aft end of the receiver is the notch-type rear sight which is, of course, adjustable for elevation and windage. Like the front blade, the rear notch can be changed with optional inserts that the shooter prefers.

The FAS 609 from the left side showing the breech activation lever in the closed position.

To ready the 609 for shooting, unscrew the air cylinder and attach it, using the special fitting, to your pump or SCUBA tank and charge the cylinder to 200 bar. Re-attach the cylinder to the pistol. Pull up the loading lever, place a pellet in the breech, and return the lever to its original position. Take aim at the target, ease the first stage out of the trigger, squeeze a bit more, and the shot goes downrange. Ten meter pistols are usually set up to break the shot at .5 kilograms or about 1.1 lbs.

The accuracy of these 10-meter match pistols is usually staggeringly great. With its Lothar-Walther barrel, I suspect you could clamp the FAS 609 in a vice and put shot after shot through the same hole at 10 meters. I would expect nothing less.

I do, however, have one complaint with the 609: the manual. When you spend 1.3 kilobucks on an air pistol, you ought to get more than four pages (half of which is in Italian) of explanation of how to use and adjust the thing properly. Come on, FAS, an excellent pistol deserves an excellent manual!

Having whined about the manual, I find the actual FAS 609 an entirely worthy air pistol that any 10-meter competitor or casual shooter ought to enjoy for a long, long time.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Earlier this year Airguns of Arizona announced that they would be importing the Weihrauch HW35E. The HW35 has been in continuous production for over 50 years, and the “E” version is the Export version of this gun. The HW35E is available in .177 and .22 caliber, stretches 43.5 inches from muzzle to buttplate and weighs 7.8 pounds.

At the aft end of the HW35E, you’ll find a brown rubber butt pad which is separated from the walnut stock by a black spacer and a white spacer. On the left side of the buttstock, there is a modest cheekpiece. The comb on the buttstock is quite low, which aids shooting this air rifle with iron sights. Underneath the buttstock is a swivel for attaching a shooting sling.

Moving forward, there is a pistol grip, which is checkered and trimmed with a white spacer and a black cap. Forward of that is a black metal trigger guard which houses the silver-colored metal Rekord trigger and its adjustment screw. Forward of that, the forestock is relatively unadorned, with the exception of finger grooves on either side and a screw that secures the action in the stock. At the forward end of the forestock, there is a cocking slot that provides clearance for the action with the break barrel is opened.

If you look at the HW35E from the right side, it looks pretty much like any break barrel air rifle. But from the left, you’ll notice something unusual: a semi-circular cut-out on the right forward edge of the forestock. This cut-out provides clearance for a breech latch that is secured to the breech block. The breech latch makes sure the barrel and breech always return to the same position after loading for greater accuracy.

Forward of the breech block is the barrel, and about halfway to the muzzle, another sling swivel is attached. On top of the barrel at the muzzle end is an R1-style front sight with interchangeable inserts, and a typical metal rear sight is mounted on top of the breech block. Moving further aft, you’ll find the receiver is equipped with dovetails for a scope and three holes for anti-recoil pins. At the aft end of the receiver is a push-button safety.

To ready the HW35E for shooting, place your left hand on the barrel just forward of the breech block. With your left thumb, pull the latch release toward the muzzle, then pull down gently on the barrel. The action breaks open about an eighth of an inch and stays there. Now, slide your left hand out to the front sight and pull the barrel down and back until it latches. The cocking stroke is incredibly smooth and noise free, and the cocking effort is definitely moderate – I estimate it to be in the mid to high 20-pound range. Insert a pellet in the breech end of the barrel, return the barrel to its original position, and you’ll hear the breech latch click into position.

Next, take aim, click the safety off, ease the first stage out the trigger and squeeze just a bit more. The action goes “tunk,” and the shot goes down range. There is no twang, no vibration, and very little recoil. In short, the sample that I tested cocked and shot like a professionally tuned air rifle. The report is also very neighbor-friendly.

I found the .22 caliber HW35E launched 14.35 grain JSB pellets at 626 fps average (about 12.4 footpounds of energy).

The accuracy of the HW35E was excellent. I found it was really easy to put 5 JSB pellets in a group at 30 yards that I could hide with a nickel. A skilled springer shooter could probably do even better.

Straight out of the box, the HW35E is easily the nicest to shoot unmodified spring piston rifle that I have shot to date. I give it my hearty personal recommendation.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Back in 2004, I had an assignment from SHOT Business magazine to do a profile on Crosman Corporation. As part of putting that together, I had the opportunity to speak at length with Ken D’Arcy, CEO of Crosman.

When D’Arcy arrived at Crosman, the company had been coasting for eight years. Management had not brought a serious new product to market in years, and it was not looking for ways to reduce costs to remain competitive.

“The company was dead,” D’Arcy said. “It just didn’t know it yet. Like many companies that have been around for a long time, it had forgotten what drives the business. Consumer products companies are about just that–consumer products.”

“Clearly the answer is to bring new offerings to market that consumers will want to buy,” D’Arcy said. We’re a consumer products company. Our responsibility is to introduce new products. You become stale if you are only changing the cosmetic appearance of existing products.”

In some four decades of writing for a living, I’ve found that CEOs love saying stuff like “We’re taking the company in a bold new direction,” but it’s not so common for them to actually get it done.

But D’Arcy certainly appears to be making good on his promise. During his tenure at the top, Crosman has introduced dozens of new products including the Discovery rifle, which shattered the price floor for PCP rifles, and, last year, the Marauder PCP rifle which had all the goodies on most airgunners’ Christmas list: quiet, wickedly accurate, excellent trigger, repeater all for about $500.

Among the new products being introduced this year by Crosman is the .25 caliber Marauder. Outwardly the .25 cal Marauder is nearly identical to the .177 and .22 versions. It stretches 43 inches end to end and weighs 7.5 lbs. What’s really interesting is that this is, apparently, Crosman’s first venture into .25 caliber.

The new Marauder is equipped with a .25 barrel manufactured by Green Mountain. The slot in the breech for the magazine is deeper to accommodate the new 8-shot .25 cal rotary magazine, which in turn is deeper to make room for larger .25 pellets. Those are the major differences from the .177 and .22 Marauders. To accompany the new Marauder (and a new .25 cal gas ram rifle to be introduced later this year), Crosman is also introducing Benjamin .25 cal domed and pointed pellets.

I had the opportunity to shoot one of the very first production .25 caliber Marauders. It was my first experience shooting .25 caliber, and I didn’t know what to expect, but I was very quickly delighted. At 35 yards, shooting Benjamin .25 domed pellets, I was easily able to put five shots into a tiny group that you could cover with a dime. Even better, the report was remarkably quiet, and the trigger was well behaved (1 lb 10 oz first stage, 3 lb second stage).

Cliff Tharpe, producer of Airgun Hunting the California Ground Squirrel, has shot similarly tiny groups at 50 and 65 yards with his .25 Marauder, and he routinely hunts prairie dogs at 50-100 yards with it. He finds he can get 16 shots (two magazines) before he has to recharge the air reservoir. Shooting Kodiak pellets, his Marauder generates about 46 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. He says of his Marauder: “I’ve got a lot of expensive shiny rifles, and when it comes to accuracy, this one shines with the best of them.”

In the end, the Marauder has a whole lot going for it for hunting and pest control: outstanding accuracy, enough power to deal with anything you might reasonably want to hunt with an air rifle, and a very neighbor-friendly report.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

A couple of years ago, I had a BSA SuperTEN with a bull barrel. It was a really neat air rifle and accurate as the dickens, but there were a couple of things about it that really drove me to distraction: you had to remove the “bottle” (the air reservoir) to recharge the gun, and there was no way to tell how much air pressure was left in the reservoir.

The new BSA R10, available in .177 and .22, is an evolutionary step forward in the SuperTEN concept. The R10 is a so-called “bottle” gun because it has a removable 200cc air bottle at the end of the forestock. It is a multi-shot repeater with a fully shrouded barrel and an excellent trigger.

The R10 is 43 inches long and weighs 7.3 lbs before a scope is mounted. Length of pull from the trigger to the end of the butt pad about 13.75 inches. At the extreme aft end of the R10 is a soft rubber butt pad that is adjustable vertically. Just loosen a screw and slide it up or down as needed. On either side of the stock, near the butt pad, the stock is laser engraved with the BSA logo. On the underside of the butt stock, about two inches from the butt pad, the stock has a fitting for attaching a sling. Forward of that the walnut stock is distinctly right-handed with a pronounced cheek piece and comb on the left hand side of the stock.

The pistol grip has sharply cut checkering on both sides and a nice dark wood cap with a lighter colored spacer. Just above the pistol grip is an indentation is an indentation that the shooter can use as a thumb rest. Forward of the pistol grip is a black metal trigger guard which houses the two-stage adjustable match trigger. The forestock has checkering on both sides and underneath.

Ahead of the trigger guard is a screw that secures the action in the stock. Forward of that is a white-on-black pressure gauge, next to which is a quick-fill port. Beyond that you’ll find another attachment for a sling, followed by dark wood at the end of the forestock with a lighter colored spacer. Beyond that is the air reservoir.

Above the air reservoir is the fully shrouded bull barrel with a ported thread protector at the end. Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find a magazine retaining catch on the left side at the front end of the receiver. The full length of the top of the receiver has a 10.8 mm dovetailed scope rail. About halfway back along the length of the receiver on the left side there is a slot for inserting the 10-shot magazine.

At the rear of the receiver on the left side is a lever-type safety. Push it forward to ready the gun for firing, and pull it back to “safe” the action. At the extreme aft end of the receiver is a large chrome bolt. In all, I find the R10 a handsome air rifle, but I think the finish on the receiver is not quite as nice as I remember on the SuperTEN.

To ready the R10 for shooting, you first have to charge the reservoir, which can be done in two ways. (1) Remove the bottle, and using an optional filling adaptor, charge it to 232 bar with a SCUBA tank or high pressure pump. (2) Insert the filling adaptor supplied with every R10 into the quick-fill port and charge it using a SCUBA tank or high pressure pump. The quick-fill port has a restrictor screw that should be screwed down tightly if you are using a SCUBA tank. BY ALL MEANS, READ THE MANUAL!

There are detailed instructions in the manual for loading the magazine, and it is a pretty straightforward process. Once you have accomplished this, slide the magazine into place and push the bolt forward to slide the first pellet into the barrel.  Take aim at a target, flip the safety off, and squeeze the trigger. At 10.3 oz, the first stage comes out of the trigger. At 1 lb, 14.2 oz, the shot goes off. The trigger is extremely crisp and clean with no creep, very much like the trigger you would find on a 10-meter match rifle.

The .22 caliber R10 sample launched 18.2 grain JSB Exact Heavy pellets at 832 fps (27.98 foot-pounds), and when the shot goes off, you quickly discover where BSA has dropped the ball in the design of the R10: the fully shrouded bull barrel offers no acoustical advantage. There are no baffles in the bull barrel, and, as a result, this gun is loud.

On the other hand, the accuracy was outstanding. At 35 yards shooting from a casual rest, I was able to put 5 shots into a ragged one-hole group that you could easily cover with a dime.

In the end, I can happily recommend the BSA R10 on all fronts – it operates smoothly and efficiently, is commendably accurate, and has a superb trigger. The only exception to that is if your shooting requirements demand a neighbor-friendly report.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott