About Steve Scialli
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So you’re thinking about an airgun. However you go about it, chances are good you’re relying on past experience, budget, and perceived value to guide your buying decision and for most, that’s where the trouble begins. Airguns don’t play by the same rules we grew up on. They’re not powder burners and in most instances don’t behave as such. There’s quicksand and lion’s dens all over the place and unless you’ve a guide to walk you through these perils, chances are good you’ll wind up making an expensive mistake.
Take the modern spring gun for instance. It’s a tragic mismatch for many but it also happens to be the most affordable way in. Don’t get me wrong, they’re wonderful if you pick the right one for your needs, patience, & physical ability but if you don’t, be prepared for some level of disappointment. Spring guns in a large part have gone down a path of overpowering and with overpowering comes some issues. Ever try cocking one? Many of these guns take 25+ lbs of cocking force to break the barrel & compress the spring and while that doesn’t seem like a lot, try doing it a few hundred times for an afternoon of pellet sorting and see how long it takes to get jelly arm. The firing cycle may also be a surprise to ya. It won’t have the clean, sharp snap of the powder burner you’ve come to love. If the springer is classified as a “magnum”, be prepared for that bone jarring gong that you’d get as a kid when you’d hit the ball wrong. Then by the time you finally get to working on those groups, you’re spraying pellets all over the place because powerful springers require the skillful mastering of a special hold before you’ll see any consistent accuracy out of them. Frustrated, soar, and tired, you’re left scratching your head in bewilderment trying to figure out what went wrong and what it is people like about these things.
Don’t worry, so it isn’t all bad. Spring guns are for the most part are a great way to enjoy airgunning, if that is, you are wise enough to pick one that’s right for you. Forget big power. It means nothing without accuracy and if your knees are knocking after enduring the cocking experience, you’re not going to be able to hit anything. Instead, focus on a moderately powered break barrel that benefits from a smooth firing cycle, clean trigger break, and reduced size & weight. Your selection will shoot straighter, be more pleasant to cock, and you’ll have a better time learning to master its tendencies. What’s more, your friends & family will be much more likely to join ya for a day of fun if you put something with manners in their hands. Regarding their moderate power output, dead is dead. Any size pellet traveling at 500-600 fps is going to clobber most anything inside of 50 yards into the afterlife so if ya want to hunt with it, have at it. Be sure to avoid the whole gas-ram/conventional spring distraction as well. I’ve shot both that perform great & I’ve shot both that cycle & shoot terrible. The smoothness, accuracy, & reliability chases the moderate power & dollars invested more than it does one spring or the other. Focus there.
If you’re down with a grander investment, the Precharged Pneumatic (PCP) will reward. True, support items such as a fill device and recharge source will add to your cargo but they also add to the fun. The PCP airgun is for the person who seeks easy operation, easy coming accuracy, and a lustrous firing cycle. It’s also for those who enjoy relying on one toy to make another work. If you’re good with the added hardware to make it go boom, you can enjoy not having to exert yourself and compress a mechanical spring with each shot. The PCP stores compressed air on board and with a single charge from an external fill source like an SCBA tank or hand pump, will get ya 30-100 shots depending on the model & caliber. What that means to ya is that you can load up a magazine of 8-12 shots or more & let em’ fly without having to work in between. In the field, all this luxury translates into more downed pigeons and greater precision in your match events. It also means that since there’s no spring release, there’s no recoil and that my good friends, is priceless on so many levels.
YouTuber & Columnist
Like you guys, I love to spend time on the forums learning all I can about airguns, the people that enjoy them, and their experiences. For years I’ve been a member of several forums, and one thing they’ve all got in spades is fact, fiction, and opinion. This is a good thing, right? Well, yes… but not always. Ya see, it’s human nature to want to be a part of something special and to be heard, but to knowingly sacrifice truth for acceptance is also what it means to be human. That’s where the line gets blurred and that’s where we all have a responsibility to one another to do a better job with our airgun evangelism.
When I was new to all of this, if it was in print, I was taking it as gospel… even some of the preposterous stuff. At that time I just didn’t have the experience to know any better. As my involvement developed, I began to build my own repository and it was then I realized that smart, seasoned airgunners were rampantly spreading misinformation to a very credulous audience. Born out of social responsibility and a passion for airgunning, two things swiftly happened: One, I woke up and two, I started sharing my own experiences. It was in this moment of realization that my mission was laid before me… truth.
Myth # 1: Never clean your airgun barrel
Arguably this one of the most popular debates in the history of airgunning… to clean or not to clean. Some don’t ever and still claim good accuracy. Back in the old days, most were of the opinion that airgun barrels were soft… in fact, so soft were these bores that word on the street was, don’t ever clean!At one time that may have been quite true, but in my experience it isn’t any longer and may not have been as big a concern in the first place. As a teen (25+ years ago) I would sometimes scrub out my Crosmans & RWS’ with a brass bore brush and automotive valve lapping compound. I’d finish with a bore mop, more lapping compound, and finally a good cleaning… and it was these tabooed practices that eventually got em’ shooting exceptionally well.
Today, the barrel manufacturing process across all price points is much improved. It’s rare that I ever need to put the old cane down one anymore but if I do, we’ve been blessed with wonder cleaners like JB bore paste and Dewey plastic coated cleaning rods. Together with Otis brass brushes, they work like a charm to deburr breeches, transfer ports, riffling, and crowns. In fact it was the use of these techniques that got my Kalibrgun .22 shooting straight… so don’t be afraid to experiment, just be gentle and remove the barrel and any o-rings before you begin.
Outside of general tuneup, I thoroughly clean my personal airgun barrels and those that are about to be reviewed on the channel. It’s been my experience that a dirty barrel can still perform well at 20-30 yards yards but never at 100. My methodology is simple… using a Patchworm, I’ll pull Ballistol soaked patches through the bore from breech to muzzle until they come out clean, dry-fire ten times to clear the transfer port and valving of any oil (PCP only), then begin to pull dry patches through until they emerge clean and oil free. It takes some time but in doing so, I can get most every gun shooting well at great distances… regardless of price. If nothing else, it’s a good practice to get the anti corrosion shipping grease out of the bore before you get to shooting for groups, or coat the bore in preservative before you shelf it long term.
So if you want better accuracy out past 50 yards and aren’t seeing it, try thoroughly cleaning your barrel and see what happens… break barrels included. Start with gentle patches and if need be, move to more aggressive methods. If there’s not immediate improvement, be patient. It’s not uncommon for some guns to require 25-50 shots to re-season the bore before you’ll see your groups come together.
Myth #2: My airgun isn’t accurate
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, especially if you’re already at the juncture of disappointment & frustration but it’s almost never the gun. Hey, I’ve been there… ya just can’t get the darn thing to group no matter what you do and it never shoots as well as the ones you see on YouTube. I used to wonder if the social media sharing system was rigged and if the mainstream reviewers were given only the very best performing rigs to put out there in front of the world. Then… I became one. Years ago, I wrote over 20 reviews for Airgun Depot, and I was surprised to find that there was no screening of the product before they sent it off for me to evaluate. Occasionally the shipping companies would destroy one and the replacement would drop ship from the out-of-state warehouse, to arrive with the barrel still coated in the overseas preservative we all see on new airguns today. I’m not picking on AGD. They’re a solid organization and their practices are on par with the industry standards I’ve experienced through other sponsors on the channel. The point is that what you get is what I get, and that is a good thing.
Rather than going back to the vendor for a replacement, start by getting the barrel good and clean and once done, make sure it’s dry of any residual oil or cleaner. Then go to town finding the right pellet for it. You don’t need every brand of lead out there but as a general rule you’ll always find a winner by having on hand all the weights & offshoots of the JSB brand (Air Arms, Falcon, Straton, Predator International) etc. You’ll also want to have around all the variants of H&N Sports‘ Baracuda and Field Target, to include their Hunter and Hunter Extreme lines. On occasion, Crosman Premiers will be the one, but in my experience, aren’t as consistent as the above mentioned.
From here, we fine tune. Once you narrow it down to the best 2-3 pellets, clean the barrel again and get it good & dry of any residual. Season if necessary and test at a good distance like 50 yards or more. Poor pellet choices for your airgun will corkscrew into a single ragged hole inside of 35 yards but will open up considerably out past 50, so move your target back to make sure. Shoot your top picks again, this time experimenting with pellet lube. An incredibly small amount lightly misted into a baggie with a handful of pellets is all you need. There are several good ones out there but I’ve done well with Slick50 Supercharged 1-Lube. When you repeat the exercise with your lubed pellets, re-season the bore so it gets good & oiled up before you get to taking the the micrometer to those groups.
If by now you still haven’t been able to turn your off the shelf airgun into a one of a kind wonder-gun then something is likely off with your setup, shooting technique, gun’s mechanics, or pellet condition. These are all topics that warrant their own blogs but for you springer guys & gals, just be sure that your stock screws are tight and that your scope hasn’t jarred loose or bit the dust. For the PCP crowd, be sure you haven’t maxed out your scope’s turrets and that you haven’t a burr on the breech opening, transfer port, or crown, or have a torn breech seal. Embrace the above folks and you’ll be surprised at just how rare & glamorous a team you and your popgun can become.
Myth #3 More expensive equals greater accuracy
As with automobiles, more money doesn’t necessarily equal more speed but the increased investment can buy you a more fulfilling journey.
“$1,750 for that… my $250 blah-blah-blah is just as accurate.”
This misunderstanding is one of the more common chirps I see on my YouTube channel. I used to scratch my head and wonder why someone would feel that accuracy was the only variable to consider when choosing an airgun… after all, most airguns today are accurate, no matter what the cost. Then it occurred to me… perhaps they’ve no frame of reference. Maybe they haven’t had an opportunity or need to experience better so haven’t cause to try and get comfortable with the extra dollars.
So what’s all that extra cheddar gettin’ spent on? Are the hi-line manufacturers just padding their pockets and giggling all the way to the Yacht Club? I don’t think so. Airguns that cost more, cost more to make. I’ve only had the privilege of visiting one high end airgun manufacturer but what I came away with was that an insane amount of resources had been committed to trial and erroring their way to an exquisitely balanced union between shooter & shootie. The first time I handled one, I was immediately taken aback by how different it sounded… not the muzzle report but rather everything else. The cycling of the arm or lever, the rotation of the magazine, the movements of the trigger… they all had a timepiece-like precision and the sounds & vibrations reminded me of a watchmaker’s symphony. It felt different in hand too. Light, balanced, and smooth in all the right places; to embrace one was to slow down time & pay deeper attention to the senses. Then there was the shooting experience and extra performance. Firing & cycling was like taking a sip of a drink you just discovered you loved for the very first time… there’s the initial “Mmm,” then you right away want to go back for more and just can’t seem to ever get enough. Wrap it all up in a box and garnish it with an incredible amount of regulated shots, adjustable power, super silencing, superb triggers, and repeatable accuracy… and you’ve now got a general understanding of why people are willing to pay a premium for them.
At the end of the day, if you want to own an accurate airgun, fear not… there are plenty of options in all price points. Align with a good manufacturer, break it in, get the barrel clean, find the right pellet and enjoy. If you’ve been there and done that, and find yourself yearning for more… raise your sights and get comfortable parting with those dollars. There’s a whole other level of gentility available that will have your more reasonably priced pieces collecting dust.
YouTuber & Columnist,
Today’s article comes from a new writer to this BLOG, but a known person in the airgun community. We are proud to have on board, Steven Scialli from the Airgun Exploration & Advancement Channel on YouTube.
Without further delay we give you Steve’s first entry:
I can remember a time not long ago when it seemed like not much shot well without a tune up and word on the street was that airguns were for kids. A lots changed in 15 years. Before the arrival of the internet sensationalizing the long range airgun kill, most of us were perfectly content to spend our winters plunking away in our basements or across the backyard come summer. To dispatch the occasional feeder-burglar without the neighbors finding out was to declare airgun victory… and afterwords, the rifle would go right back into the hallway closet. After all, with the rimfire touting hundreds of 50 yard rabbit dinners and firmly rooted at the front of the safe, it never even occurred to most of us to try with the old windgun… that just wasn’t the culture here in the States back then. So what happened?
We’re evolving. With costs of powder burning ammunition on the rise and background checks & special permissions becoming evermore obstructive, some of us began to look for a better way and although we didn’t know it then, collectively we were seeking the same light. Luckily for us, industry entrepreneurs were counting on it and were already well along in the development of economical, powerful, good handling, good looking, quiet, and insanely accurate airguns. With our methodology & second amendment rights never in question until recently, many of us hadn’t looked up but for those that did, are today enjoying a world of performance & value without the headache.
Still looked upon by the masses as a stocking stuffer, these machines of excellence have migrated firmly into; “can kill your ass at 100 yards” territory and most Americans still have no idea. For those of you that don’t live stateside, we are of a gun culture but unlike our friends across the oceans, the word gun is always synonymous with gun powder. Powder burners are everywhere here, transcending age & gender, and apart from the lobbyists & current administration, are a part of Americana held in high regard. I own them myself and being a police officer by trade, I was sourced of it’s allure. But I sense a change in the wind… a shift in acceptance if you will, and we’re right on top of it. America has begun to furrow a brow at real guns and it’s become fashionable for White House administrations to do as they please without the support of Congress. My advise is that if you like your shooting lifestyle, you may want to get involved or at the very least, take a harder look at air power.
I get it all the time on my YouTube channel… “$1,800 for that? Why not just buy a real gun?” I make it a point never to answer.. not out of laziness or arrogance, but because the answer was in the video they just watched and they didn’t even realize. Pneumatic newcomers take note: airguns are more fun to own… it’s really that simple. Our popgun crowd all seem to be cut from the same cloth. We like our toys sophisticated, reliable, handsome, hi-performing, and above all… we like them damn civilized. Tall order, right? Nope. Enter the modern airgun.
Invest $100 to $500 and you’re taking home a more primitive degree of civility, granted, but virtues common to the price point are power, accuracy, reliability, good looks, and darn good triggers. Raise your sights to over $1,000 and you’ve entered a realm of lavish air-power pampering that’s hard to put into words until you’ve tried it. For those of you previously propelling via chemical reaction and whom have already been assimilated into the gang, you know what I’m talking about. These guns generate 20-40 foot pounds of energy with ease, and are more than accurate enough to take head shots on 10 pound critters out past 100 yards. They’re well made and while of course you can get one with issues now & then, by and large they’ll last long enough to pass down through generations. The glory isn’t in the performance though… not really. It’s in the shooting experience. These guns are generally recoil-less, are often fitted with silencers from the factory, fit ya like hand in glove, transmit super slick firing cycles, and can even be had with enough chutzpah to take down wild game like bear & elk. The fact that competition barrels & triggers are also the norm is only triumphed by the piece of lumber or polymer that gun calls home. Sure there are some pieces of support equipment that you’ll need to make it all go boom but that’s all part of the fun… fun we’ll save for another day.
Although modern airgunning is in it’s infancy in America, over the past decade it’s gained great momentum in variety and sophistication. Perhaps shooting enthusiasts are being pushed there, perhaps they’re bored with powder and just want a change, but one thing’s for certain… EVERYONE that picks one up and shoots it for the very first time says the exact same thing, “that’s an airgun?”
So go grab a friend and show em’ a better way.
YouTuber & Columnist,