Archive for September 2010

Recently, a new gun store opened up not too far from where I live. Naturally, I had to go check it out, and when I arrived, I found a well-lit, well-organized place of business with lots, and lots, and lots of firearms.

I asked one of the fellows behind the counter whether they did anything with airguns, and he pointed me to a rack near the doors. There I discovered three less expensive Gamo air rifles and a Gamo Hunter Extreme in .22, emblazoned, of course, with the obligatory boast of how wicked fast it is with PBA ammo and with lead pellets.

I asked the clerk, “Did you know the Hunter Extreme is available in .25 caliber?”

Immediately he said, “How fast is it?”

I patiently explained that it wasn’t nearly as fast as the claims made on the receiver of the .22 Hunter Extreme, but that it shoots heavier pellets and makes a larger wound channel. I added, if you shot a raccoon that’s been molesting your garbage cans with the .25, chances are it wouldn’t get up again.

The whole encounter got me to thinking about how poorly we airgunners and the general public at large have been served by the marketing departments of some of the larger airgun manufacturers. In particular, I am irritated by the velocity race that has been taking place in advertising and on the sides of product cartons: 1,000 feet per second! 1,250 fps! 1,500! 1,650! When I see these claims, I want to grab a really large permanent marker, scratch out the velocity number, and write: REALLY STUPID!

Yeah, I know; I’m being an old retro-crank. But there are several things that really get up my nose with these velocity claims.

First, the claims are rarely true. Manufacturers often exaggerate how fast their guns shoot. Sometimes, they achieve their superfast results with ultra-light pellets that no one would want to use for any practical application. I know; I’ve tried some of these ultra-light pellets, and the accuracy quickly deteriorated as the range increased.

Second, even if an air rifle would routinely launch pellets at, say, 1,500 fps, would you really want it to? The answer I get from external ballistics experts is a resounding “NO!” Here’s why: in talking to long-range firearms varminters – the kind of shooters who can nail a prairie dog at 600 yards – I get the following argument. As a projectile approaches the sound barrier, it encounters a region in which there is a lot of buffeting and turbulence (check out the movie The Right Stuff for more about this) that throws off accuracy.  When a projectile is launched faster than the speed of sound, if it slows below the sound barrier, it will encounter the same region of turbulence and buffeting that screws up accuracy. That is why most firearms varminters take care to launch their bullets well above the speed of sound, and they make sure that it continues to go at supersonic velocity until it reaches the target.

I have never heard of or seen any air gun powerplant that was capable of launching a pellet at supersonic speed (about 1,100 fps at sea level) and keeping it above the speed of sound for any appreciable distance. As a result, the best plan is to keep your pellets out of the region of trans-sonic turbulence. This is why most of the best field target shooters set up their air rifles to shoot in the low 900 fps range; it helps to keep the pellet as stable and as accurate as possible.

Third, the velocity race is just plain irrelevant. Imagine if you went to a car dealership and plastered on the windshield of every car were claims about speed: 120 mph! 143 mph! 160 mph! You would think the car dealer had gone insane.

In point of fact, pleasure to be had from an airgun has almost nothing to do with velocity. For example, airguns can be shot in many, many locations where discharging a firearm is absolutely forbidden. Many airguns are astonishingly accurate. They cost just pennies a shot, are a pleasure to own and are great fun to shoot. Further, even modestly powered airguns can do a worthy job of controlling pests in the garden.

Tell that to a firearms shooter next time he (or she) asks how fast your airgun is.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

The HW40 looks like a tactical pistol but it shoots like a match pistol.

In my previous blogs I have already admitted my fondness for single-stroke pneumatic pistols. The have a lot to offer: they require only one stroke for cocking; they exhibit negligible recoil, and they generally deliver excellent accuracy. That makes them “just what the doctor ordered” for an afternoon of easy-going, high-accuracy plinking. About the only downside to an SSP pistol is that none of them generate much in the way of power or velocity.

The Weihrauch HW40 is a single-stroke pneumatic pistol that stretches about 9.5 inches long and weighs about a pound and three-quarters. The entire frame appears to be molded out of some sort of matte black engineering polymer. Overall, I was well pleased with the fit and finish of the HW40. At the rear of the pistol is a silver “hammer,” the function of which we’ll discuss in just a bit. Below that is an ambidextrous pistol grip molded with finger grooves. I found that it fit my hand very comfortably.

Forward of the pistol grip, the polymer trigger guard encloses a silver-colored metal two-stage trigger. Above the trigger, on the left hand side of the pistol is a silver metal slide safety. Push it toward the muzzle to release the trigger for firing.

At the muzzle end of the pistol, just about the muzzle, is compensator that vents extra air as the pellet exits the barrel. Just aft of that is a red fiber optic front sight. Moving back along the top of the pistol is a dovetail to which a red dot or scope can be attached. Below the dovetail and above the trigger guard on either side of the HW40, you’ll find an “ejection port” through which you can actually see a portion of the HW40’s barrel. Moving aft again, at the top rear of the pistol, you discover a micro-adjustable green fiber optic rear sight. That’s all there is to the HW40.

Pulling the silver hammer back at the rear of the HW40 releases the "slide" for cocking and loading the pistol.

The HW40, ready for loading.

To get the HW40 ready for shooting, pull back the silver hammer at the rear of the pistol. This unlatches the rear upper half of the pistol – the “slide” if this were a firearms automatic. Next, grasp the rear of the slide and pull it up and forward as far as it will go. This open the action for the compression stroke and activates the automatic safety. Insert a .177 pellet into the aft end of the barrel and return the “slide” to its original position, making sure that the hammer snaps shut. (Although I have no good way of quantifying it, the last 1.5 inches of the compression stroke are fair stiff, so this is not the air pistol I would recommend for a youngster.)

The right side of the HW40.

Next, take aim, slide the safety off, and squeeze the trigger. It takes just a hair less than 11 oz to pull the first stage out of the trigger, and at 1 lb 0.6 oz, the shot goes off. The HW40 has one of the nicest triggers you’ll find anywhere in a single-stroke pneumatic pistol, short of an Olympic-quality match pistol.

My Oehler chronograph tells me that the sample of HW40 that I tested launches Crosman Premier 7.9 pellets at 365 fps average. That’s just 2.3 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. The HW40 is satisfyingly accurate as well. With the right pellet (and presuming you are doing your job properly), the HW40 will shoot 3/8 inch edge to edge groups. At 10 meters.

In the end, I really liked the HW40. It’s an attractive SSP pistol that is easy to shoot well, has an excellent trigger, and is accurate enough to satisfy most pistoleros. It saddened me to box it up and send it back.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

It wouldn’t surprise me if one of these days, my friends and family pull an “intervention” on me. You know what an intervention is: one of those deals where they all gather in a room and tell you how concerned they are about you and how maybe you ought to be thinking about what you’ve been up to and perhaps you ought to Get Some Help. Interventions often revolve around drug abuse or alcoholism. But that’s not my difficulty. We’ll get to what my problem is in just a little bit, but I’ll give you a hint: I started thinking about it when I began testing the Weihrauch HW30S De Luxe.

The HW30S is one neat little air rifle. It measures just 38 and three-quarters inches end to end and tips the scales at just five-and-one-half pounds. At the extreme aft end of HW30S is a soft brown rubber butt pad that is attached to the hardwood stock with a black spacer. The butt stock has a slight swell for a cheek piece on the left hand side, but in all truth the stock for the HW30S is virtually ambidextrous and lefties should have no difficulty shooting it whatsoever.

Moving forward just a bit, there is checkering on either side of the pistol grip, and it is this checkering – and the checkering you’ll find on the forestock – that separates the HW30S De Luxe from the plain old HW30S. Forward of the pistol grip is a black metal trigger guard inside of which is a silver metal Rekord adjustable trigger. Forward of that, underneath the forestock, is a large screw that secures the action into the stock, and a bit further on is a slot in the forestock to provide clearance for the cocking mechanism.

Beyond the end of the forestock is the breech block and the cocking linkage, followed by the barrel. On top of the barrel, near the muzzle is a globe sight (like you would find on a a Beeman R1) that has interchangeable inserts. Moving back along the barrel, you find a micro-adjustable rear sight mounted on top of the breech block. Moving aft again, there is a dovetail for mounting a scope and a couple of holes for anti-recoil pins. At the extreme aft end of the receiver, you’ll find a push-button automatic safety that is non-resettable.

To get the HW30S ready for shooting, grab the barrel on or near the front sight and pull it down and back until it latches. This opens the breech for loading. Stuff a pellet into the breech and return the barrel to its original position. I tested the .177 version of the HW30S (it’s also available in .22), and it launches Crosman Premier 7.9 gr. pellets at average of 620 fps, generating about 6.7 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

The HW30S shares the same powerplant as the Beeman R7, which is one of the most beloved breakbarrel air rifles in the world. What makes it so much fun to shoot, I think, is that the power it generates is well matched to the weight of the gun, which makes it easy to shoot well, very accurate, and just plain a lot of fun to put shot after shot down range.

The Rekord trigger acquitted itself well (as they always do). The first stage required only 1 lb 2.3 oz, and the second stage just 2 lb 11.8 oz.

Now we come to the part where I need an intervention. After shooting the HW30S De Luxe for a while, a thought (powered by my obsession with the movie Quigley Down Under) crept into my brain: How would this neat little air rifle work with a peep rear sight?

In seconds, I was in the basement, dismounting the scope and the rear sight and mounting a Gamo Super Match rear sight that had been fitted with an anti-recoil pin and a variable aperture.

Okay, I pulled one to the right . . .

A few minutes after that, I shot a neat little group at 13 yards from a sitting position using the globe front sight and peep rear sight. With its light weight and ease of cocking, the HW30S De Luxe is simply great fun to shoot, and I heartily recommend this setup to anyone who wants to shoot as simply as possible.

And that’s why I fully expect friends and family to stage an intervention on me. “Jock, you’ve simply got to stop pretending you’re Matthew Quigley and quit mounting peep sights on every airgun that comes in the door!”

But I won’t stop. No so long as there are delightful air rifles like the HW30S De Luxe that can be fitted with peep sights and shot with immense pleasure.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Ever since I was a kid reading Boy’s Life magazine, I have been fascinated by stories of people who got themselves in a tough spot and how they survived the ordeal. As a result, it is my habit to check out www.survivalblog.com almost every day. It is a fascinating website with lots of information about survival and preparedness.

On August 6, 2010, I was checking out survivalblog when I ran across a post by “D.M.” on “Pellet Rifle Hunting.”  In it, D.M. claims that, due to economic circumstances, he found himself living out of his pickup truck on public lands in the Southwest. During that period, he hunted extensively with a pellet rifle, and it “put at least 70% of the meat on the spit over my fire throughout that summer.”

Further, he adds that “Living in the field for a while really proved out my gear. Sadly and expensively, most fell to the way side, but the [pellet rifle] turned out to be an unlikely sleeper candidate for one of my personal top 10 gear awards!”

So what was his pellet rifle . . . a Weihrauch, an RWS, perhaps a PCP with a pump or maybe a Sheridan? Wrong! – none of the above. The air rifle that sustained D.M. in putting game on the spit was the humble Crosman 2100. The 2100 is a multi-stroke pneumatic (MSP) air rifle that shoots both BBs and .177 pellets and that can be purchased for well under $70.

D.M. has a number of reasons why he favors the 2100:

  • Reliability. He figures he put 3,000 BBs through it at an average of 6 pumps per shot with no failures.
  • Accuracy. He was easily able connect with game within 25 yards.
  • Handling. Just a bit over 5 lbs fully loaded and scaled to be handled by adults.
  • Critter “bagability.” Birds at 50 yards, rabbits at 30 yards, turkeys at 25 yards, raccoons at 10 yards.
  • Variable power. Birds at 5-6 pumps; 10 pumps on bigger game.
  • Stealth. A modest report means greater opportunity for a second shot if needed.

I was fascinated by what D.M. had to say. (You can read his entire report on the survivalblog here: http://www.survivalblog.com/2010/08/pellet_rifle_hunting_by_dm.html). So I called up the folks at Crosman and asked them to send me a 2100 for testing, which they did.

The 2100 stretches 39.75 inches long and weighs 4 lbs, 13 oz. The buttstock is made of brown plastic with a wood grain finish. At the extreme aft end is a hard black plastic butt plate, attached to the stock with a white spacer. There is a black cap on the pistol grip with a white space. If you slide the black plastic cap toward the buttstock, a hole is revealed into which you can pour BBS. More about this in just a bit.

Moving forward, you’ll find a black metal receiver, metal trigger guard, and metal trigger with pushbutton safety. Moving forward again, there is the brown plastic forearm which serves as a pumping arm for pumping up the MSP action. Ahead of that is the black plastic pivot housing and barrel clamp. Above that is the barrel which has a fiber optic sight on the muzzle end. Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find the rear sight mounted on the barrel just forward of the receiver.

Slide the grip cap at the end of the pistol grip toward the rear of the air rifle to load BBs through this hole into the BB reservoir.

This shows the "visual magazine" with the BB follower stem in the forward position.

The BB follower stem in the rear position for loading BBs into the visual magazine.

To load BBs into the 2100, slide the black plastic cap at the end of the pistol grip back and pour up to 200 BBs into the hole. Next, slide the “BB follower stem” on the left side of the receiver toward the buttstock and hook it in the slot. Next, point the barrel at the ground and twist and shake the air rifle to fill the “visual magazine” on the left side of the receiver. Now unhook the BB stem follower and allow it to move forward to hold the BBs in place. Next, pump the 2100 up to ten times, pull the bolt back (it will pick up a BB from the visual magazine on the magnetic tip of the bolt. Slide the bolt forward to its original position.

Now, you’re good to go. Squeeze the trigger. The first stage comes out at 1 lb. 5.7 oz. At about 4 lb. 14 oz., the shot goes down range. At ten pumps, the 2100 launches steel BBs at an average of about 650 fps. But the speed is highly variable. The high was 670 fps, and the low was 637 fps.

The breech closed.

The breech open, ready for loading a pellet.

Loading pellets is much simpler. Pump the 2100 up to ten times, pull the bolt back, roll a pellet laterally into the breech, and close the breech again. Note well: if you plan to shoot pellets, you can’t have any BBs in the visual magazine. Otherwise, the 2100 may try to load both a pellet and a BB. You can, however, have BBs in the buttstock reservoir and shoot pellets at the same time. I found that, at 10 pumps, the 2100 launches Crosman Premier 7.9 gr pellets at an average of 620 fps (high 627, low 616).

So how does the 2100 stack up as a survival tool? I found I could shoot half-inch groups (edge to edge) at 13 yards with Crosman Premier 7.9 pellets, and they would penetrate one and sometimes both sides of a baked beans can at that distance. Groups with BBs were problematic, possibly because of the variation in speed, but the BBs always penetrated both sides of the can at 13 yards. Still, I think the BBs could be effective for ambushing game at close range at places where they come to feed or drink.

The clack-clack-clack sound the gun makes while pumping is non-stealthy and could frighten off game, but gluing a piece of felt inside the pump arm might solve that problem. Nevertheless, the pumping effort was easy.

The iron sights that come with the 2100 work well enough, particularly with the fiber-optic front sight, but older folks (like me) will want some sort of scope. Still, I liked the light weight of the “naked” 2100, and in that form, it makes a dandy plinking rifle.

So, could the Crosman 2100 be used as a small game getter in hard times? I certainly think so. If D.M.’s comments about the reliability of the 2100 are correct, and when you factor in its very modest cost, it makes sense to have a 2100 tucked away, just in case.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott