Archive for the ‘Airguns’ Category

Okay, Butch, here’s the practical stuff you can do to extract the most accuracy out of your springer.

  1. Make sure the stock screws are snug. They don’t have to be as tight as humanly possible, but if they are not snug, they can produce very erratic accuracy. Recheck them from time to time.
  2. Make sure that your scope mounts are snug to the dovetail on top of the receiver and around the scope tube. Recheck these also from time to time.
  3. Let your springer choose the ammunition. Test for accuracy off a rest at close range with several different round-nose pellets – 10 to 15 yards to start – and when you find some pellets that group well, move to longer range and test again.
  4. Use a soft rest like a rolled up jacket, towel, or even a pillow. I often use my field target bum bag on top of a couple of old boat cushions. Try to place the rest just in front of the trigger guard. Use the same rest all the time. Springers generally do not like hard rests and can display dramatic changes in point of impact if you change the type of rest that you use. I had a nicely tuned springer that was dialed in perfectly for shooting from a sitting position with the gun resting in the crook of my arms. When I tried shooting the same gun with my elbows resting on a bench, the point of impact jumped up by an inch and a half at just ten yards. In another dramatic example, a fellow beat me by a couple of points with his springer. I asked him if I could try his gun. Sure, he said. I could not drop a large target at ten yards with half a dozen attempts. He thought there was something wrong with the gun. He tried it and dropped the target immediately. Obviously, the way you hold a springer makes a big difference in the point of impact.
  5. Don’t pull the gun hard into your shoulder. Let it rest easy.
  6. Try to make sure that the gun in its rest is naturally pointed at the target. If you have to force the gun to get on target, adjust your rest until, as much as possible, your air rifle is aimed at the target without you having to “muscle” it into position.
  7. Stay focused on the target. If possible, rest the thumb of your trigger hand on the top of the buttstock and pull your trigger finger straight back toward it. The object is to make your trigger pull as straight back as possible and not to either side. Suck in a breath, let half of it out, and pull steadily, keeping the crosshairs exactly where you want them on the target until the shot breaks. Don’t yank the trigger.
  8. If, as you are aiming, you find yourself running out of breath and getting desperate to release the shot, stop, reset yourself, take a couple of breaths, and start over again.
  9. Follow through. Don’t move anything until you see the pellet hit the target. Maintain laser focus of yourself on the target throughout the entire shot cycle.
  10.  Finally, if possible, move closer to the target. Nothing improves accuracy like getting closer! If you can reduce the distance to your pest birds by 15 yards, I think you’ll find it easier to hit the mark. (Butch, this is no reflection on your shooting skill, but a practical observation.)

Well, I hope this helps.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Recently, I heard from blog reader Butch who said:

“I am new to adult air guns and have a few questions.  At my work we use air guns to rid birds off equipment.  I am having trouble with accuracy off a bench rest.  I have been trying to site in off a bench.  I have tried several pellets and can’t seem to get better than a 3 inch group at 50 yards.  I might get 3 shots less than a inch and always flyers that stretch the group out.  Could you give a little insight into shooting a spring gun.  I am aware of the artillery hold.  Maybe suggest a good gun rest.  Thanks.”

Well, Butch, you raise a really good question, and it’s one that I face frequently since many times a year I test spring-piston air rifles (springers), and I always want to wring the best accuracy out of them.

The Basics

At the risk of telling you stuff you already know, Butch, let’s start at the beginning. Springers are based on a unique airgun powerplant. All airgun powerplants use compressed gas – usually air, but sometimes CO2 or another gas – to drive the pellet down the barrel. Springers are, however, the only airgun powerplant that generates the compressed gas at the moment you pull the trigger. If you want to check out the other airgun powerplants have a look at this: http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/Review%20-%20Airgun%20Powerplants%20-%20Jock%20Elliott.html

Here’s how it works: when you cock a springer using the barrel or side lever or under lever, you are pushing a spring and piston backward inside the receiver until it latches. It sits there, inside the air rifle, bunched up like sprinter ready to launch when the gun goes off. When you pull the trigger, you release the spring and piston. They rocket forward inside the receiver, causing (remember Newton?) recoil toward the rear of the air rifle. As the spring and piston drive forward, they compress air in front of them. As the spring and piston rear the end of their stroke, two things happen. First, the piston bounces off the wad of compressed air in front of it and begins to move backwards. This causes recoil in the opposite direction. Second, a small amount of air squirts through the transfer port, driving the pellet down the barrel.

But notice the key thing here: the unique springer powerplant causes both forward and reverse recoil before the pellet leaves the muzzle of the gun. This whiplash recoil – which can involve several ounces thrashing around inside the receiver – can raise havoc with accuracy.

The other airgun powerplants – precharged pneumatic, CO2, multi-stroke pneumatic, single-stroke pneumatic – don’t have the problem of the whiplash recoil. The thing about springers that makes them so seductive is that they are so convenient – one cocking stroke and they are good to go, and no auxiliary equipment is required, like a pump or SCUBA tank or CO2 cartridges. Lee Wilcox, who used to run Airgun Express, once told me: “Shooters go through three stages with springers: first they love ‘em, then they hate ‘em because they’re hard to shoot well, then they love ‘em again.”

Expectations

Before we get to the nuts and bolts of extracting the most accuracy out of a springer (in Part II next week), we probably ought to talk just a bit about what you might reasonably expect from a springer at 50 yards. And it is a mixed bag. I have seen a five-shot 50-yard group that you could cover with a dime shot from a sitting position by a field target shooter. No kidding. But that’s not typical. Further, I have shot close to 1-inch groups at 50 yards with springers, but that required a lot of work and a lot of care that might not be feasible when you’re trying to clean birds off of equipment.

Robert Beeman, who founded Beeman Airguns, reported in the Beeman Airgun Guide/Catalog Edition 18, “Approximate Potential Accuracy at Field Distances” ranging from 1.3 inches to 2.5 inches center to center at 40 yards, with springers. At 50 yards, those groups are going to spread out even more. A 1.5 inch group at 40 yards might become 2.3 inches at 50 yards. Bottom line: groups of 2-3 inches at 50 yards might well be typical with average springers and average shooters. (By contrast, it is rare for me to test a precharged pneumatic air rifle that will not deliver groups of 1 inch or less – sometimes much less – at 50 yards.)

Remain patient, Butch, next time I’ll offer some practical suggestions for improving your shooting.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

FX Indy 007-001

To get the Indy ready for shooting, first charge the air reservoir to 200 bar (not quite 3,000 psi) using a SCUBA tank or high pressure pump. Be sure to use the fitting that comes with the Indy because the male Foster fitting mounted on the Indy sits deeply in the hole in the stock and it can be difficult to get a grip on a normal (shorter) fill fitting. Alternatively, you can, of course, pump up the Indy using the on-board pump. I did this, and if I counted correctly, it took roughly 50 strokes on the on-board pump to get from empty to full charge. I don’t have any good way of measuring the amount of effort that the pumping requires, but I would estimate it to be around 30 lbs.

The rotary magazine slides into the breech from the right hand side.

The rotary magazine slides into the breech from the right hand side.

Next, load the12-shot rotary magazine. To do that, first, rotate the clear plastic face plate counter-clockwise as far as possible. Now, while holding the face plate in position, flip the magazine over so you’re looking at the back side. You’ll see that a port has opened in the back of the magazine. Load a pellet backwards (tail first) into the port. This will lock the spring and keep the inner wheel from turning. Now, flip the magazine over and load the rest of the pellets by dropping them nose-first into the magazine while rotating the transparent cover so that the hole in it opens each of the pellet “bays.” Once you have filled the magazine, rotate the transparent cover back to its original position. Pull the breech lever to the rear of the receiver to move the bolt back. Now slide the magazine into the breech.

Push the breech lever forward to move the first pellet out the magazine and into the barrel. Take aim, slide the safety off, and squeeze the trigger. On the sample I tested, it required only 13.9 ounces to take up the first stage, and at l lb 4.1 ounces, the shot goes down range.

Over the course of 10 shots on high power, the Independence launched the 18.2 grain JSB Jumbo Heavy pellets at an average of 864 fps (high 888, low 832), generating about 30.2 (average) footpounds of energy at the muzzle. The report is a loud pop. With the shroud extension in place, the report is quieter but is still distinctly audible. Perhaps some additional baffling could be placed in the barrel shroud extension to knock the report down even more.

Accuracy was what I have come to expect from FX airguns: excellent. At 32 yards, off a casual rest, five JSB pellets fell into a group that measured just 5/8 inch edge to edge. That works out to .4 inches center to center.

This receptacle in the butt stock will hold a couple of spare magazines.

This receptacle in the butt stock will hold a couple of spare magazines.

While doing research for another blog, I called Airguns of Arizona and found myself talking to Kip. He is an avid hunter, and he offered the opinion that the FX Indy could be the ultimate answer in the quest for an airgun survival rifle.

The case he made was this: “If you are in a survival situation, and you have a springer, you need to carry an extra spring and seal. When it comes time to fix it, you need a spring compressor or another person to help you safely disassemble and reassemble the gun. With the Indy, all you need is a small packet of o-rings and a couple of hand tools, and you can take care of it yourself.”

And that leads me to another thought: maybe someone (Airguns of Arizona perhaps?) could offer a seminar for FX Indy owners on how to maintain and rebuilt your airgun. It would have to be real hands-on stuff. Seminar participants would actually tear down and rebuild their own airguns so that if they ever needed to make survival-type repairs, they would know what to do.

The bottom line is that the FX Indy may well be the ultimate air survival rifle. Of one thing I am certain: it was a lot of fun to shoot!

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

FX Indy 001-001

I never expected the good folks at Airguns of Arizona to try to pull a fast one on me, but apparently they have.

Here’s what happened: Brown Santa (the UPS guy) shows up the other day with a long slim package. This is a fairly normal occurrence at El Rancho Elliott. I lug it down to the basement, decant the packing peanuts, and pull out a black box. It says “FX Airguns. Made in Sweden.” It’s a bit shorter than the normal FX boxes, but I am unconcerned.

I am unconcerned, that is, until I open the black box and see what’s inside. It doesn’t look like any airgun I have ever seen. The only thing that my scrambling mind can come up with is that it must be a Photon Pulse Rifle straight from the weapons shops on Tatooine. Or, if by some outside chance the object in my hands is, indeed, an airgun, it just simply has to be the air rifle of a Jedi Knight. And the guys at www.airgunsofarizona.com are trying to pass this off as an air rifle from Sweden . . . Hah! They can’t fool me.

Well it turns out that Uncle Jock was wrong on all counts. This new rifle is indeed from Sweden; it’s the brand-new FX Indy, a bullpup air rifle with an on-board pump. It stretches just 29.5 inches from end to end, weighs just 8.7 pounds before a scope is mounted, and is available in .22 caliber, .25 caliber, or .30 caliber. Factory specs say the .22 version will generate 30 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle; the .25, 46 fp, and the .30, 75 fp. I tested the .22 version.\

This view shows the adjustable butt pad, the slot where extra magazines can be stored, the air gauge, the cheek rest on the top of the receiver, the breech, and the power adjustment wheel, just slightly ahead of and below the breech.

This view shows the adjustable butt pad, the slot where extra magazines can be stored, the air gauge, the cheek rest on the top of the receiver, the breech, and the power adjustment wheel, just slightly ahead of and below the breech.

At the extreme aft end of the Indy is a soft rubber butt pad that can be adjusted vertically. It is attached to a one-piece matte black stock that is molded from engineering polymer. Just forward of the butt pad, there is a hole in the stock. It can be accessed from the righthand side and used to store extra magazines. Forward of that on the left side of the stock is another hole which contains a clearly marked air gauge. Forward of that on the bottom of the stock is a male Foster fitting for filling the on-board air reservoir with a SCUBA tank or high pressure pump.

Forward of that is the nearly vertical pistol grip and the trigger guard which surrounds a black metal trigger. Forward of that, the forestock is unadorned except for the extreme forward end, underneath which is a Picatinny rail for mounting accessories. Above the forestock is the air reservoir, and above that, the shrouded smooth twist barrel.

At the end of the barrel is a fitting that can be unscrewed, allowing the attachment of a barrel shroud extension. Moving back on top of the barrel, you’ll find a long dovetail assembly for mounting a scope.

On the left side of the receiver forward of the breech, there is a wheel that allows the power to be set at one of three levels. Just to the rear of that is the breech, into which a rotary magazine is inserted. Aft of that, on the left side, the rear of the receiver is covered with a smooth metal cheek rest.

The right side, showing the on-board pump arm and shroud extension fitting.

The right side, showing the on-board pump arm and shroud extension fitting.

On the right side of the receiver, stretching back from the front end of the air reservoir, there is a long side lever that can be used for pumping up the air reservoir. That’s right: with this rifle, you are independent of the need for an external pump or SCUBA tank if you don’t want to use one. Hence the name: Indy.

Just aft of the breech on the right side of the receiver, you’ll find the breech lever and a lever type safety. That’s it.

The Indy is clearly one of the most unusual airguns I have ever seen, but it seems to be a case where form is driven by function. The Indy appears to be extremely solidly built and ready to face whatever challenges may present themselves.

Next time, we’ll take a look at how the Indy shoots.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Sometimes the most important part of this business of writing a weekly airgun blog is waiting . . . waiting for the weather to clear . . . waiting for equipment to arrive, and so forth.

Right now I am waiting for both the weather to clear and some equipment to show up, and my wife suggested that it might be useful to answer some questions. I thought about this for a moment and decided it was an excellent suggestion. So here goes . . .

This is a question I get fairly often in the comments section of the blog: Where can I buy a (insert name of product here)?

Answer: The first thing you need to know is that I am not an employee of www.airgunsofarizona.com I work under a handshake arrangement with them to write a blog about airguns once a week. As such, I do not have an intimate knowledge of AoA’s inventory, order plans, and such like. However, in the past I have been a customer of AoA, and I have first-hand knowledge that they pride themselves on providing excellent customer service. Basically, they try to treat their customers in the way that they themselves would like to be treated. They have long ago realized that if they do a good job of matching an airgun to a customer’s needs and wants, they will have more repeat business and fewer customer satisfaction issues. In addition, Airguns of Arizona does not “spiff” its staff. Spiffing is the common practice of offering a monetary bonus to sales people if they sell a particular product. Spiffing, where practiced, leads sales people to recommend products to customers solely on the basis that they will make more money, not on the basis that it is the best choice for the customer. I was a victim of spiffing once when I purchased a ham radio, and I think that spiffing is vile. Bottom line: if you need an airgun or airgun accessory, reach out to the good folks at AoA. They will do their best to steer you right.

Question: Recently Kelton, a reader of the blog, wrote in with the follow question: “How long do you think the discovery will last if I shoot about 2000 pellets through it every month? I have had many spring guns and none have lasted more than six months. I think because I shoot so much I wear out the spring and seals.”

Answer: Well, Kelton, there are really two answers to your question. The first is that I have no idea how long a Discovery, with its precharged pneumatic powerplant, will last if you shoot about 2000 pellets through it a month. The second regards your troubles with springers. Springers are among the most durable and reliable airgun powerplants. I once asked Robert Buchanan, president of Airguns of Arizona, which was the most reliable airgun powerplant. He didn’t hesitate for even an instant: “Springers,” he said. “We never get them back.” Check out this blog “Just how durable are those springers anyway?” http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2009/10/just-how-durable-are-those-springers.html My best suggestion to you is that you purchase a high-quality springer such as an RWS, Weihrauch, or Walther that is backed by a good warranty. Sure, occasionally you may need to have the spring or seals replaced, but with high-quality springers, it is worth doing; you’ll have a rifle that, with proper care and infrequent rebuilds, will provide a lifetime of shooting service.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

This week’s blog contains a couple of things.

The new black kink-free hose can be tied in a knot much tighter than this one without kinking.

The new black kink-free hose can be tied in a knot much tighter than this one without kinking.

First, www.airgunsofarizona.com now has kink-free hose for PCP filling assemblies. It’s available as a complete filling assembly or just the hose alone. Greg at Airguns of Arizona tells me you can tie an actual knot in the hose, pull it tight, and it will still work just fine. For prices and availability, contact the good folks at AoA.

Second, I have been up to no good, again, thinking about air pistols, survival situations, and such like.

First, some background: back in 2008 or 2009, I discovered an outfit called the United States Rescue & Special Operations Group, or USRSOG. You can find their website at www.usrsog.org On the introduction page, it says: “This site was created specifically for military personnel that could easily find themselves in a foreign country, without the vast assets of the United States military’s tactical or logistical support. In places where not only the people are a threat but maybe the weather and terrain conditions are as well.” USRSOG offers a nifty survival and evasion manual called “Six Ways In And Twelve Ways Out.” You can find out more about it if you click on the Field Manual section of the Training page.

For their survival firearm, USRSOG recommends a heavy barrel match grade .22 caliber pistol equipped with a red dot. An impressive list of game has been taken with these pistols, including Coon, deer, turtles, fish, quail, squirrel, turkey, rabbits, possum, frogs, snakes, ducks, geese, fox, muskrat, birds, beaver and that’s just in North America.

The 1377 with steel breech and red dot on top and the Trail NP pistol on bottom.

The 1377 with steel breech and red dot on top and the Trail NP pistol on bottom.

This inspired me to consider whether any of the current crop of self-contained air pistols might make a useful tool for, say, a hiker or canoeist who was thrust into a survival situation. I decided to experiment with three pistols: an RWS Model LP8 Magnum fitted with a red dot, a Crosman 1377 fitted with a metal breech and red dot, and a Benjamin Trail NP (NitroPiston) pistol with iron sights.

The LP8 pistol with red dot at left and the Kip Karbine at right.

The LP8 pistol with red dot at left and the Kip Karbine at right.

I printed out a groundhog target from my collection and set it at 20 yards. Then, using a fresh target each time, I fired five shots at the target from a sitting position. I hit the woodchuck image three out of five times with the LP8 pistol, three out of five times with the 1377, and only once out of five times with the Trail NP. From this I concluded that I might be able to hit small game at least some of the time with an air pistol at 20 yards, shooting from a steady position that I might assume in the woods.

The woodchuck target I used, printed on an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper, with a pellet tin for scale.

The woodchuck target I used, printed on an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper, with a pellet tin for scale.

Next I wanted to discover what kind of penetration these air pistols would deliver at 20 yards. I set out a “tin” can – a Dole pineapple can, to be exact – and shot at it with the three pistols. The 1377 penetrated one side of the can; the Trail NP penetrated one side of the can, and the LP8 penetrated one side of the can. (I had to make several tries with the LP8 before I hit the can.)

The much abused can.

The much abused can.

I tried the Kip Karbine (a 1377 built up in .22 to be a short carbine) and it penetrated one side of the can on one shot and dented it on another shot. I pulled out my tuned Beeman R7 (HW30 equivalent), and it penetrated only one side of the can. Finally I tried a Benjamin 392 multi-stroke pumper and a Sheridan MSP, and, at eight pumps, they both blew through both sides of the can.

I repeated the experiment at 13 yards with all three pistols, and still they penetrated only one side of the can.

So what was my takeaway as a result of all this fooling around? First, I think the air pistols I tested are powerful enough to take small game out to 20 yards with proper shot placement. Even though the LP8 and NP pistols are a lot of fun to shoot, it is more difficult to shoot accurately with their spring-piston/nitro-piston powerplants than with the multi-stroke pneumatic 1377. In addition, in stock form, 1377 is well over a pound lighter than the LP8 and NP pistols.

As a result, the 1377 with a steel breech and red dot would be my first choice, among these three pistols, for a potential game-getter on a backpacking or canoeing trip. I would, however, test the 1377 before each outing because I once had the seals fail on an MSP airgun while it was stored in a gun cabinet.

In addition, it seems abundantly clear that if you plan on using an air pistol as a possible survival tool, you (and me) would be well advised to practice with it sufficiently to be proficient. Finally, in general it is a lot easier to shoot accurately with an air rifle than it is with an air pistol.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

At top, the HB17; the EB22 in the middle, and the HB22 at bottom. Classic pistols that have been discontinued.

At top, the HB17; the EB22 in the middle, and the HB22 at bottom. Classic pistols that have been discontinued.

Well, it’s official: three Benjamin air pistols – the EB22, the HB22, and the HB17 – have been “obsoleted” according to a Crosman Corporation spokesperson and will be dropped from the line.

The EB22 is a .22 caliber, single-shot, bolt-action, CO2 powered pistol. Overall length is just nine inches, and the weight is 28 ounces. All the metal is black with the exception of the silver metal trigger and silver bolt at the back of the receiver. Under the receiver is the metal pistol grip frame, which is fitted with a couple of dark-colored hardwood grips. Ahead of the grips is a safety button. Push it full left to allow the EB22 to fire. Just forward of that is the silver metal trigger inside the black metal trigger guard.

Above the trigger guard is the tube that holds the 12-gram CO2 Powerlet that powers the EB22. At the end of the tube is a black knurled metal knob, the filler cap. Above that are the muzzle of the 6.38-inch brass barrel and the front sight. Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find the breech and the loading port. Behind them are the rear sight and the bolt.

To ready the EB22 for shooting, remove the filler cap and insert a CO2 Powerlet small-end-first into the tube under the barrel. To ease removal of spent Powerlets, it’s helpful if you smear a dab of Pellgunoil on the end and around the neck of the Powerlet. Replace the filler cap and make sure it is completely screwed into place. Cock the action by rotating the bolt knob ¼ turn counterclockwise and pull it full back until you hear two clicks and it stays back. Put the EB22 off “safe” and pull the trigger. This usually punctures the CO2 Powerlet, and you should hear a “pop.” If not, reactivate the safety, tighten the filler cap, and repeat the procedure.

Next, cock the action again, insert a pellet into the breech, close the bolt and rotate it clockwise until it locks. Now you’re good to go. Take aim at your target, click off the safety, and squeeze the trigger. At around 2.5 pounds pull, the shot goes down range at velocities up to 430 fps, depending upon the pellet weight. That’s enough power to punch through one side of a soup can at 10 yards. You can expect 25 to 35 shots per cartridge before the velocity really starts to die.

I like that the EB22 is solidly made of brass, metal, and hardwood, is its handy and compact, has enough power to defend the bird feeder or garden at short range, and is just plain fun to shoot..

The Benjamin HB17 and HB22 are multi-stroke pneumatic pistols that are outward identical. Both weigh two-and-a-half pounds, stretch 12.25 inches overall, are single-shot bolt action, and are made of metal (including a brass barrel) and American hardwood. The only difference between the two is that one is .177 caliber (the HB17), and the other is .22. With 8 pumps in them, the HB17 will launch pellets a little over 500 fps, and the HB22 will propel them a bit more than 400 fps. The HB17 will punch through both sides of a soup can at 10 yards, and the HB22 will punch through one side. Like the EB22, they are solidly built.

If you are fortunate enough to acquire either of these MSP pistols, there are a couple of tricks that make life easier. First, lubricate the gun before you shoot it the first time. The manual recommends Crosman Pellgunoil, but you could use some light machine oil or non-detergent 20 or 30 weight motor oil. Put a drop of oil at each spot recommended in the owner’s manual. This will ease the pumping effort a bit and extend longevity, since the guns are shipped nearly bone-dry in their factory packaging. Be sure to give your pistol a little lubrication before each shooting session.

Second, when pumping the HB17 or HB22, make sure that you don’t grip the forend so that the heel of your pumping hand is over the trigger guard. If you do, you’ll whack the heel of your hand on the trigger guard with every stroke, and this becomes annoying very quickly. Instead, grab the forend so that the heel of your hand rests on it just forward of the trigger guard. Wrap your other hand around the barrel and the trigger guard so the heel of your hand is resting on the breech. Open the forend all the way, then return it to its original position by driving your two hands together. When the pumping stroke nears completion, wrap the fingers of your forend hand around the barrel to help finish the stroke.

It saddens me to see these classic air pistols go out of production. I suspect that many airgunners will treasure the ones that they own. I know I will.

Til next time,

Aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott

 

The Cricket is a classic bullpup and measures just 27 inches from end to end.

The Cricket is a classic bullpup and measures just 27 inches from end to end.

Wikipedia defines a bullpup as “a modern firearm configuration in which the action is located behind the trigger group and alongside the shooter’s face, so there is no wasted space for the buttstock as in conventional designs.”

I had heard about bullpup airgun designs for some years and had seen some on various forums – including a “bullpump” Sheridan – but had never handled or shot one until the Kalibrgun Cricket Standard Tactical .22 showed up at my doorstep, sent to me by www.airgunsofarizona.com . The Cricket that I tested was fitted with a Hawke 4-12 x 50 AO scope on Sports Match mounts.

To be honest, I had some doubts about the whole bullpup concept. Yeah, sure, it produces a shorter rifle, but the idea of laying my face on part of the action while shooting didn’t seem like the world’s greatest idea to me.

My first impression of the Cricket was that, unlike some of the homebuilt designs I had seen online, it looked professionally designed and executed. The stock is molded from a single piece of engineering polymer, and all the metal bits, with the exception of the trigger and the bolt lever, are finished in black. The Cricket .22 Standard Tactical weighs 7.75 pounds before a scope is mounted and measures 27 inches from end to end.

Those round things in the buttstock below the receiver are holders for extra magazines.

Those round things in the buttstock below the receiver are holders for extra magazines.

At the aft end of the stock is a soft black rubber butt pad, which is separated from the main stock by a white plastic spacer. Immediately on top of the stock at the rear is the receiver, which has a slot for a 14-shot rotary magazine. On the right side of the receiver is the bolt lever and the silver colored magazine control lever or MCL. Below the receiver, in the stock are four holders for additional magazines. Moving forward, there is a large opening that allows the shooter’s thumb to wrap around the pistol grip, which is nearly vertical.

The metal cover surrounding the gauge slides forward to allow access for the fill port.

The metal cover surrounding the gauge slides forward to allow access for the fill port.

Beyond the pistol grip, stock material forms a guard around the silver metal trigger. Forward of that is the forestock which has indentations for gripping on either side. Above the forestock is the air reservoir, which has a large gauge on the end. The metal surrounding the gauge slides forward to allow access for the fill port.

The air gauge is unmarked but green is good.

The air gauge is unmarked but green is good.

Above the air reservoir is the barrel, which is shrouded. Moving rearward, you’ll find two metal supports that serve as mounts for the barrel and a scope rail. To the rear of that is another section of barrel that is bare, and behind that, another barrel mount and the receiver.

The magazine and the MCL, which is the silver lever at left.

The magazine and the MCL, which is the silver lever at left.

To ready the Cricket for shooting, charge the air reservoir with a hand pump or SCUBA tank until the gauge is at the top of the green zone. Slide 14 pellets into the magazine, pull the breech lever back until it locks and slide the MCL back until the probe from the MCL can slide into the hole at the center of the magazine.

The breech lever pulled fully back.

The breech lever pulled fully back.

Next, return the breech lever to the fully closed position and slide the MCL forward all the way and then down. There are two forward positions for the MCL. One allows the magazine to function, and the other does not. And this brings me to basically my only complaint about the Cricket: the manual is terrible. It is poorly written and reproduced. In my view, when you spend 1.5 kilobucks for an air rifle, you should get a decent manual. End of rant; back to our regularly scheduled review. (End of rant; now back to our regularly scheduled review).

Now you are good to go. Take aim and start the trigger squeeze. The first stage requires only 7.8 ounces, according to my Lyman digital trigger gauge and at 13 ounces, the shot goes down range. The trigger is very crisp, and there is a very positive “stop” between the first and second stages.

The shot goes off with a distinct POP which is about as loud as a loud springer. It is not raucous by any means, but you can definitely hear it. This gun would not be your first choice for maintaining stealth while shooting.

The Cricket launches 18.2 grain JSB Exact Heavy pellets at 887 fps (average), and delivering 29.2 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Accuracy is top notch, and the Cricket seems to be un-fussy about ammunition. With Crosman Premiers, at 32 yards, it delivered a 5-shot group that measured just .675 inch from edge to edge, which works out to .455 inch ctc. With JSB pellets, I got a 5-shot group at the same distance that measured just .75 inches, or .53 ctc.

In addition, I found the shooting position very comfortable, with my cheek resting not on the receiver, but on the bare section of barrel just forward of the receiver.

If you’re looking for a short air rifle that is suitable for hunting, the Cricket Standard Tactical delivers the goods.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

In the top half of the case, Agent X's rifle with the new scope mounted. The old scope is in the bottom half of the case.

In the top half of the case, Agent X’s rifle with the new scope mounted. The old scope is in the bottom half of the case.

I was on my way to a meeting when an acquaintance and colleague of some 20 years – who shall henceforth be known as Agent X – motioned me into his office.

“You know about airguns, right?” he said.

“Yes, a bit.”

“What would you recommend in .22 caliber for killing squirrels?” he asked.

“How far are you shooting?”

“Oh, maybe twenty yards,” Agent X said.

I recommended a pump-up Benjamin 392 or Webley Rebel, on the basis that they are very easy to shoot well, but as we chatted, it became apparent to me that Agent X had more on his mind. After further conversation, it developed that he had already purchased a Nitro Piston rifle from one of the big box stores, and he wasn’t having very good success with it.

Had he tested it with different pellets? Yes. Had he tested it for accuracy. Yes. What kind of results was he getting? “At twenty feet, I’m getting groups that you couldn’t cover with a quarter,” he said.

That’s terrible, I told him. At twenty feet, you ought to be able to stack one pellet on top of another, or very close to it.  I made him an offer: the next time you get a free day, give me a call. If the weather’s decent, and I’m free, we’ll get together at my place and see if we can sort out your rifle. Deal, he said.

On the appointed day, Agent X arrived with his gun case containing a Benjamin Titan GP. He pointed at the scope. “I changed the scope because the one that came with it wasn’t very good.” I looked at the new scope. It was a Leapers 4 power non-adjustable objective.

Using my usual test rig – a bum bag and some old boat cushions on top of a WorkMate – I banged off a few shots with Crosman Premier pellets at a target 13 yards away. Two shots grouped together pretty well, but the third jumped away by half an inch.

“Let’s change to a scope with an adjustable objective,” I said. “I want to eliminate parallax as a possible source of accuracy problems.” If you would like to know more about parallax as a source of shooting error, check out this blog: http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2009/07/parallax.html

So we switched to a Leapers 3-12 Mini Tactical sidewheel scope. I tried a few more shots with Crosman Premier pellets and got decent results but perhaps we could do better. So I tried JSB pellets. Nope, this rifle didn’t like them.

These are the pellets that worked best.

These are the pellets that worked best.

Then Agent X said, “Would you like to try the pellets I had hoped to shoot?” He waggled a tin of H&N Baracuda Green lead free pellets. I started feeding them to the Benjamin Titan GP, and it liked them! But as I was cocking the Benjamin Titan, I felt a subtle movement, as if something were loose. I check the scope rings and the scope mount, and all were snug. Then I check the two screws on either side of the forestock and, while they weren’t outright loose, I found I could snug them up a bit more. Finally, I checked the screw at the rear of the trigger guard. It was very loose, and I snugged it up.

After tightening the stock screws, we got dime-sized groups at 13 yards with the Baracuda Green pellets. “Looks like we have a winner,” I said.

We put a woodchuck paper target in the pellet trap and moved it out to 20 yards. After adjusting the elevation, I asked Agent X to shoot the chuck. He did just that, plugging him in the chest and in the head. It looked to me like he was ready to send some squirrels to that Big Acorn Patch in the Sky.

“But what if I want to shoot indoors at 20 feet? How do I adjust the scope?” he said.

“That’s the beauty of the mil-dot scope we mounted on your rifle. You can use the mil-dots as different aiming points for different ranges,” I said. Then I asked him what kind of pellet trap he was using. “A Boston phone book, backed by a piece of ply wood,” came the answer.

That’s not good enough, I said. “You start putting pellet after pellet in the same hole, you’re going to blow through the phone book and the plywood.”

To demonstrate, I drew a cross on a seasoned piece of 2 x 6 board and shot it at 13 yards. The pellet penetrated more than three-quarters of an inch. Agent X made immediate plans to build or obtain a more substantial pellet trap.

So what did we accomplish? By swapping scopes, tightening stock screws, and finding the right pellet, we were able to shrink Agent X’s groups from “larger than a quarter at 20 feet” to nickel-sized at 20 yards. He should be in good shape to take care of his squirrel problem, and I’m pretty sure that he was smiling as he drove away.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Two of Your Humble Correspondent's Sheridans. At top, a 50th anniversary Sheridan. At bottom, a modern Silver Streak modified with a globe front sight.

Two of Your Humble Correspondent’s Sheridans. At top, a 50th anniversary Sheridan. At bottom, a modern Silver Streak modified with a globe front sight.

Today, the modern Sheridan lives on, in a sense, in the Benjamin 392 (.22 caliber) and Benjamin 397 (.177 caliber) multi-stroke pneumatic rifles that Crosman Corporation still manufactures. They are identical in all but caliber with the modern generation of Sheridans.

When I wrote about the modern Sheridans in 2004, retro-cranks complained that “they don’t build them like they used to.” From a certain perspective that is certainly true. But from what I’ve seen on the factory floor, there is a lot to be said about the benefits of modern manufacturing.

Today, the barrels, made with the same alloy and same process, are purchased from the same supplier that made them for the Racine factory. The breech is now CNC machined so they are consistent and precise from unit to unit. The trigger guard is now a zinc casting and the trigger is made from powdered metal. Previously, they were stamped parts. The biggest change is that brazing the action together – an operation that was highly dependant on operator skill and often required re-work – has been automated so that it is far more consistent from day to day, gun to gun. Modern Streaks weigh six pounds and measure 36.5 inches end-to-end, including a 19.38-inch barrel with one turn in 12 inches.

While the manufacture of parts for the Benjamin/Sheridan has been largely automated, the assembly and testing of the guns is still done manually by highly skilled operators in the same way that it was done back in Racine. Every gun is tested for compression, velocity, operation and safety, and a portion of the guns are tested for accuracy.

These multi-stroke pneumatic (MSP) air rifles have their own particular charm. They are easier to shoot well than a spring-piston air rifle, but they must be pumped up multiple times after each shot. They seem to me to be the air rifle equivalent of a muzzle-loader, a Hawken gun. Shooting is more deliberate. You have to work a little for your shots, but then it seems that I enjoy each round a bit more. Give a Benjamin/Sheridan a trio of pumps, and you can plink or shoot targets at short range. With eight pumps you can easily dispatch the rabbit that has been raiding your garden. With a peep sight mounted, accuracy is sufficient to hit anything that appears as wide as the front sight blade. When a neighbor calls wanting a pest control “favor,” a Benjamin or Sheridan MSP air rifle is my go-to choice.

There three common complaints about Benjamin/Sheridan multi-stroke pneumatic air rifles. The first is that it is difficult to mount a scope on them. That is true, and there are two solutions that I can recommend. The first is to forget about the scope and mount a Williams peep sight. It keeps the rifle light and there is no scope to interfere with hand placement while pumping. The second is to forward-mount a pistol scope, scout rifle style. You can read more about that here: http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2011/06/benjamin-scout-rifle.html

The second common complaint is that the trigger is mediocre. You can readily improve it by installing a Supersear. You can read more about that here: http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2009/03/installing-benjamin-supersear.html

The third complaint is that people don’t like all that pumping. Steve Woodward has addressed this by developing the Air Conserving Pumper, which drastically reduces the time and effort between shots and is quieter than the factory model. You can read all about the ACP here http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/BenjaminACP.htm You can read my review of the first generation ACP here: http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2009/01/steve-from-ncs-wicked-cool-air.html

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott