Archive for May 2011

The Alecto comes in a nice foam-lined case.

This week, Dear Reader, I’m going to be telling on myself. When I first pulled the Webley Alecto out of its foam-lined black plastic case, I thought: “Oh cool, another single-stroke pneumatic air pistol.” Little did I know that I had a happy surprise in store.

The Alecto with the right hand grip.

I grabbed the Alecto, a container of Crosman Premier Light (7.9 gr.) .177 pellets, and wandered outside to punch some holes in a paper target at 10 meters. I was happily sending pellet after pellet downrange and enjoying the heck out of the Alecto when it started to sprinkle. So I packed up the gun, pellets, and pellet trap and scooted inside.

Back at my desk, I began wondering whether Airguns of Arizona had the Alecto up on its website yet. I found it at http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/webley.html and was idly scrolling down the page when the following jumped out at me: “Multi-pump Pneumatic Pistol” “1-3 Pumps.”

“HOLY SMOKES!” I thought, “this changes everything.” Right then and there, I decided maybe I should read the manual for this pistol to find out what the deal is. But manual is strangely reticent to reveal that the Alecto is, in fact, a multi-stroke pneumatic pistol. The only place that it is mentioned is in the CAUTION section on page 4. To whit: “If you require extra power, the cocking procedure can be carried out to a maximum of three times. Extra cocking strokes (presumably beyond 3 strokes – JE) will not increase power but will eventually damage the internals of the pistol.” Oh.

Clearly, the good folks at Webley have not truly grokked the significance of what they have created here, so let me lay it out for you. In the past, if you wanted a self-contained air pistol with an excellent trigger, low recoil, and worthy accuracy suitable for high-accuracy plinking or casual club competition, the obvious choice was a single stroke pneumatic pistol like HW75, HW40, FAS 604, or Daisy 747.

If you wanted a self-contained pistol capable of killing small game at very close range, you could choose pistols like the HW45 or RWS LP8 and deal with the recoil of their spring-piston powerplants. Alternatively you could choose a low-recoil pump-up pistol like the Crosman 1377 or the Benjamin HB17 or HB22 and do a lot of pumping to generate sufficient power for dispatching vermin or small game at close range.

But the Webley Alecto, it would appear, offers the promise of the best of both worlds: excellent trigger, low recoil, and excellent power (for a self-contained pistol) at only three pumps. Could it be true? We’ll find out in just a little while, but first let’s take a stroll around the Webley Alecto.

Available in .177 and .22, the Alecto stretches just 11 inches long and weighs 2.4 pounds. Shaped to look like a modern semi-automatic pistol, most of the Alecto is sculpted of a matte black engineering polymer. At the extreme back end of the pistol is a metal notch sight that is adjustable for elevation and windage. Just below the rear sight on either side of the upper cover of the Alecto is a lever. Both of these levers must be pulled upward to release the upper cover for cocking and loading. At the far end of the upper cover, near the muzzle is a blade front sight with a small red dot on it. This blade front sight can be flipped 90 degrees to reveal another front blade of lower height.

The trigger is highly adjustable, shown here with the safety in the "SAFE" position.

Underneath the muzzle, the lower half of the receiver is fitted with a Weaver rail for mounting accessories such as a flashlight or laser. Moving back, the trigger guard is molded of matte black polymer and encloses a silver metal trigger and push-pull automatic safety. The trigger is adjustable for left, right and downward movement; trigger position forward and aft; and trigger spring strength, from just under a pound to about 4 pounds. Moving back again, the Alecto features a match-style grip (available in left or right hand) with an adjustable palm shelf.

The Alecto with the upper cover in the full forward position, reading for loading.

The aft end of the barrel, where the pellet is inserted.

To get the Alecto ready for shooting, pull the levers on either side of the upper cover upward and then swing the aft end of the upper cover up and forward until the cover is completely open. Returning the upper cover to its original position charges the action, cocks the trigger, and activates the automatic safety. You can pump the Alecto up to three times, and the effort becomes stiffer with each successive stroke.  Before you complete the last stroke, insert a pellet into the end of barrel prior to returning the upper cover to its original position.

Now you’re good to go. Take aim at your target, flick the safety off (you can’t help but notice the automatic safety since it blocks the trigger), and squeeze the trigger. At 1 lb. 1.4 oz., the first stage comes out. At 1 lb. 12 oz., the shot goes down range with a pop (The pop gets louder as the Alecto is charged with more pumps). At one pump, the Alecto launches 7.9 grain Crosman .177 Premier pellets at around 365 fps; at 2 pumps, about 480 fps, and at 3 pumps, about 560 fps. At three pumps, that’s very comparable to the power you would get from an HW30 rifle or the RWS LP8 pistol, and a bit more powerful than an HW45 pistol in .177.

It strikes me that the Webley Alecto delivers a whole lot to like in a handsome package: a virtually recoilless pistol suitable for high-precision plinking, casual target competition, or pest control at close range.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight,

-          Jock Elliott

A BB gun for adults. It's on steroids!

There have been times when I’ve wondered if I would ever discover an air rifle that would be as much pure fun as my very first BB gun.

With the Marocchi SM45 HP, I’ve found a strong candidate. Think of the SM45 as a BB gun for adults or perhaps a BB gun on steroids.

The SM45 stretches 37.5 inches from end to end and weighs 4.4 lbs. empty. There are two versions, the synthetic and the wood look. I tested the synthetic. At the aft end of the buttstock you’ll find a soft rubber butt pad. Moving forward, the ambidextrous butt stock has a slight cheek piece on either side. The pistol grip has a soft rubber gripping surface, and the Marocchi emblem is displayed in silver on the end of the pistol grip.

The forestock opens to insert an 88-gram CO2 cartridge.

Moving forward, the trigger guard is molded of the same synthetic as the stock and houses a black plastic trigger. Forward of the trigger guard is a knurled wheel that can be unscrewed to open a hatch in the forestock that houses an 88-gram CO2 cartridge. Forward of the forestock is the .177 caliber Lothar-Walther barrel.

This shows where the forward end of the magazine fits into the muzzle brake.

At the end of the barrel is a plastic fitting that serves as a mount for the red fiber-optic front sight and also has a fitting into which the magazine snaps. Moving rearward along the barrel, there is a barrel band, the rear notch sight, and the receiver proper which has an 11mm dovetail. (When I tried to mount a scope on the SM45, I found the rail a bit flimsy. I would suggest using only the lightest scope if you think you really need one.) The rear end of the magazine, which runs the length of the right side of the barrel, snaps into the receiver on the right side. On the right side of the receiver at the rear is a slide safety. Move it right to safe the SM34. Move it to the left position to allow the gun to fire. Finally, at the rear of the SM45 receiver is a knob that can be used for adjusting the power.

To ready the SM45 for shooting, first put the gun on SAFE, then unscrew the knurled knob just forward of the trigger guard. The hatch will automatically open. You can then insert an 88-gram CO2 cartridge into the hatch with the threaded end toward the trigger guard. Screw it in until it is snug.

A partially loaded magazine in position. On the left end, the magazine fits into the magazine housing on the receiver. On the right side, the BB follow provides tension to feed BBS into the SM45.

Next remove the magazine by pulling the knob at the muzzle end of the magazine back toward the receiver until the muzzle end of the magazine can be slipped out the muzzle fitting. Pull the free end of the magazine toward the muzzle, and the other end of the magazine will slip out of the magazine housing on the receiver. Next, push the knob – the BB follower – at the receiver end of the magazine forward in the long slot on the side of the magazine until it can be hooked into the notch at the far end of the slot.

Next, point the muzzle end of the magazine toward the floor and inert up to 80 Marocchi copper-coated lead balls into the magazine. With the muzzle of the SM45 pointed toward the ground, slide the receiver end of the magazine back into the magazine housing on the receiver. Snap the muzzle end of the magazine back into the fitting on the muzzle. Now all that remains is to unhook the BB follower the notch so that it can put tension on the BBs in the magazine.

To fire the SM45, take aim at your target, slide the safety to FIRE, and squeeze the trigger. The trigger pull is long and rolling and tops out at more than 10 pounds, put it feels like the trigger pull in a revolver and is very predictable.

The SM45 launches lead BBs at nearly 650 fps on high power and at around 500 fps on low power. At 88 gram CO2 cartridge will deliver around 200 shots, or about 2.5 magazines full of BBs. With open sights, I found I could easily keep shots inside a 1.5 inch circle at 10 yards.

I went to war on this can with the SM45.

It was wounded in action.

But the real fun came with out-and-out plinking. I dropped a tomato sauce on the ground and absolutely shredded it. The first few shots passed completely through the can. Then it fell over, and I bounced it this way and that, spinning it left and right until it looked like something that been through a war. I suppose in a way it had!

Would I recommend the Marocchi SM45? Absolutely – but only if you want to let the little kid in you out for some can-busting fun.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

If you have never tried field target competition, you really owe it to yourself, as an airgun enthusiast, to give it a go. It’s a lot of fun.

On May 1, 2011, I attended and competed in a field target match put on by the Eastern Field Target Competitors Club (EFTCC) at the Dutchess County Pistol Association in Wappingers Falls, NY.

Field target is the fine art of shooting at metallic silhouettes of squirrels, rabbits, birds, and the like. These silhouettes are generally 4-12 inches high. There is a hole, called the kill zone, in the silhouette, and behind the hole is a paddle. If you put a pellet cleanly through the hole, it hits the paddle, and the target falls down. If you hit the face plate of the target or split a pellet on the edge of the kill zone, the target stays upright. What makes field target challenging is that the range to the target can vary from 7 to 55 yards, and the size of the kill zone can range from .25 inches to 1.875 inches. Further – and this is key – there is no correlation between the range to the target and the size of the kill zone. A one-inch kill zone at 10 yards is fairly easy to hit, but a one-inch kill zone at 50 yards can be downright challenging.

Normally, you score one point for each target you knock down (and no points if you fail to drop the target), but the May 1 EFTCC match was scored on a risk/reward system: you got one point if you knocked the target down from a sitting, prone, or kneeling position, but you scored two points if you dropped the target from a standing position. 

The catch in all this is that it is harder to shoot from a standing – or offhand – position. Most lanes had two targets, and you could take two shots at each, four shots in all in each lane. If you were successful with all four shots from, say, a sitting position, you would get four points for that lane, but if you were successful with all four shots from a standing position, you would get eight points. So, is it worth the risk to attempt the more difficult by higher scoring standing shots? That was the question facing the competitors.

Six classes were available for competition at EFTCC: Hunter, WFTF (World Field Target Federation), Pistol, PCP, Spring Gun, and Junior. There were entrants in all classes but Pistol.

Below is my attempt to capture the day in pictures.

The day was gorgeous: mid-70s and low wind. It started with signing up for a class to compete in.

The shooting lanes are along the left edge of the photo, the check-in table on the right.

A couple of typical field targets. Hit the yellow kill zone, and the target goes down.

Can you spot the field target on the tree?

Here it is up close.

 You could spot just about any type of air rifle in the competition.

Tom Holland took first in the WFTF class with this Steyr LG110FT.

Michael Arroyo finished second in Hunter with this Beeman R11.

Glenn Thomas campaigned a Gamo CFX.

Hector Medina took second in Spring Gun Division with a Diana 54.

Veronica Ruf competed with an HW95.

Brian Williams goes prone in Hunter class with his .20 caliber Daystate Air Wolf.

In Hunter class, Greg Shirhall reloads his custom-stocked Marauder.

Robert Bidwell shot a QB78PCP in Junior Class.

Paul Bishop won Spring Gun Division with this custom-stocked HW98.

Jerry LaRocca won Hunter class with his .22 caliber Diana 56TH.

Ron Zeman shot an Air Arms S300 in PCP Division.

Art Deuel finished second in the PCP Division with this customized Marauder.

Nathan Thomas sights in a Marauder. He won the PCP Division with it.

Your Humble Correspondent with his trusty FWB150.

Match Director and Team Crosman member Ray Apelles shot a Marauder Hybrid bullpup that was specially built for ease of transportation to the FT World Champsionship in Italy.

Ray's father Hans is co-Match Director and the other half of Team Crosman. Here he is shooting his lefthanded Marauder Hybrid Bullpup.

And a good time was had by all!

The FT match was a lot of fun. You get to meet a lot of nice people, enjoy shooting for half a day, and see some interesting equipment. What’s not to like?

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

- Jock Elliott

You might call the Diana 470 Target Hunter the big brother of the Model 460 Magnum that I tested a while back. The 470 TH stretches 45 inches from end to end and weighs 9.4 lbs. Available in .177 and .22, it has an ambidextrous hardwood thumbhole stock.

Starting at the aft end of the 470, you’ll find a soft rubber butt pad that is vertically adjustable. Just loosen a screw and slide it up or down. Forward of that is the hardwood stock which has a cheek piece on either side of the buttstock. Moving forward again, you’ll find the thumbhole and a fairly vertical pistol grip which has checkering on either side.

Just ahead of the pistol grip is a black metal trigger guard, inside of which you’ll find a black metal trigger. This is the new generation trigger, the TO6. Ahead of that, the forestock descends to a level almost even with the bottom edge of the trigger guard and provides a kind of blocky shelf for four or five inches. Moving forward again, the 470 has checkering on either side of the forestock. There is a long slot underneath the forestock to provide clearance for the cocking linkage.

At the end of the forestock is the underlever which is used for cocking the 470. The far end of the cocking lever snaps into a nice metal muzzlebrake at the far end of the barrel. At the other end of the barrel, you’ll find the receiver, which is clearly marked “RWS Diana Mod. 470 TH.”

The anti-beartrap release tab is circled in yellow. It "travels" along the side of the breech as the breech block moves back.

A few inches back from the juncture of the barrel and receivers is the silver breech block, and on the right hand side of the receiver, you’ll find the anti-beartrap release tab. The breech opening is cut more deeply on the right hand side of the receiver. Toward the rear of the receiver is a scope rail with a couple of dimples for anti-recoil pins. At the very end of the receiver is a push-pull safety that can be reset.

To ready the 470 for shooting, unsnap the underlever from the muzzlebrake by pulling down. Next, pull the underlever down and back until it latches. This slides the breech block back and opens the breech for pellet loading. As you do this, the anti-beartrap release tab on the right side of the receiver slides backwards along the right side of the receiver in concert with the breech block.

Insert a pellet into the aft end of the barrel. To close the breech and return the underlever to its original position, you will have to depress the anti-beartrap release tab, which is now located near the rear of the breech opening on the right side of the 460. As you close the breech, you’ll see the anti-beartrap release tab sliding back to its original position.

With the 470 loaded, take aim, push the safety off, and squeeze the trigger. It takes 1 lb 2 oz of effort to take the first stage out of the trigger, and at 1 lb. 7.6 oz, the shot goes down range. That’s light, but there is a very defined “stop” between the first and second stages. The 470 launched 14.3 grain Crosman .22 Premier pellets at 775 fps average. That’s about 19 footpounds of energy at the muzzle.

With the Crosman .22 Premier pellets, I put 5 shots into a group that measured 7/8 inch edge to edge at 30 yards, and the last three shots of the group fell into a cluster that measured just .5 inch edge to edge. That works out to .65 ctc and .28 ctc respectively.

The 470 TH is an accurate air rifle that packs a substantial wallop, is fun to shoot, and has an excellent trigger.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-        Jock Elliott

It sure looks like a Benjamin, and it really is .50 caliber.

Okay, I’ll admit it: in addition to my love of airguns, I have a serious infatuation with exotic weapons. Over the years, I’ve messed around with stick bows, wheel bows, atlatls (spear throwing sticks), slingshots, and blowguns. (If you want to read one of my writings about blowguns, check out: http://www.africanarcher.com/blowgun.html ) Basically, I like projectile launchers.

Every once in a while, my interests cross pollinate. This particular story starts some years ago when I was being given a tour of the Crosman Corporation. At one I noticed a very strange looking air rifle. “What in the world is that?” I asked my guide. Came the answer: “It’s a rifle that launches tranquilizer darts. We make it for another company.”

Just last year, I got my hands one of these beasts. It’s a Pneu-Dart Inc. Model 178B dart “projector” (as Pneu-Dart calls its dart launchers), but any airgun enthusiast will recognize it immediately as a close cousin of the Benjamin 392/397. Aside from some extra hardware around the breech area, what really sets this air rifle apart is that it is a fifty caliber (no, that is not a typo) smoothbore. The reason for large bore is that it is designed to send drug-filled syringe darts flying through the air for the purpose of tranquilizing wild life. You can see some practice darts in the picture above.

Let’s take a quick look at the Pneu-Dart Model 178B. At the aft end, you’ll find a hardwood stock like you might find on any modern-day Benjamin or Sheridan rifle. Moving forward, you’ll find the familiar metal trigger guard, metal trigger, and push-button safety. The forestock is split into two pieces. The section nearest the muzzle also serves as a pumping arm for charging the air reservoir on this rifle. The shooter can pump it up to 8 times, depending upon how much dart speed is desired.

At the end of the barrel is a blade-type front sight. Further back along the barrel is a notch rear sight. There are two handles on the rear of the receiver. In the photo below, the top handle is used to open the breech.

Below, the breech is opened and the bolt pulled all the way back.

Below, the breech fully opened and rotated to the side. Why? Because if you couldn’t swing the bolt completely out of the way, it would be impossible to insert a dart into the aft end of the barrel.

To get the 178B ready for shooting, pump it up 3 to 8 times. Open the breech and rotate the bolt completely out of the way. Slide a dart into the breech and return the bolt and breech to their original position.  Next, grab the handle below the breech and pull it straight back toward the butt stock. The 178B is now cocked.

The shooter's view of the breech all the way open and ready to receive a dart.

Next, take aim, flick off the safety, and squeeze the trigger. Between 4 and 5 pounds of pressure, the shot goes down range.

In the very first picture at the top of this blog, you’ll see two short practice darts and one long practice dart below the rifle. The 178B launches the dart slowly, verrrrry slooooowly — at 3 pumps, just 131 fps; 5 pumps, 179 fps; 7 pumps, 210 fps, and 8 pumps 216 fps.

When I tried to shoot the dart rifle for accuracy, that’s when things got seriously weird. Obviously, I couldn’t use a pellet trap for a target, so I used an archery target instead. When I shot at the “field point” side of the target at 10 yards, the darts bounced off and back in my direction. (My neighbors thought, perhaps, I was doing some little known folk dance in the yard as I skipping around avoiding darts.) So I turned the archery target to the “broadhead” side. I shot again from 10 yards, and this time, the darts buried themselves completely in the target. I’m not exaggerating here, the darts disappeared totally inside the target (as in “Where the heck did the dart go?”), and it took me a while and a bit of digging to figure out their final resting place.

I also experimented with shooting half-inch marbles and .50 cal blowgun darts out of the 178B, but none of them fit the .50 cal smoothbore barrel as snugly as the practice darts from Pneu-Dart, and they tended to dribble out the barrel. I even tried shooting BBs, shotgun style, out of the 178B, but at just a few feet the shot pattern was too wide to be practical.

Still, it was fun to experiment with a dart rifle.  Pneu-Dart says this projector is suitable for use at 5-40 yards. Since dart rifles are generally used on large animals – deer, bear, and the like – I suspect the accuracy is sufficient. Looking on www.pneudart.com, I see that you can even get a red dot sight for the 178B.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott