Archive for the ‘Airguns’ Category

If I had any useful advice to offer anyone, it would be this: marry a smart woman.

Here’s why: I was musing aloud the other day about what I was going to write about for upcoming topics, when my better half jumped on her laptop and began clicking and typing. A little while later, she pushed the laptop in my direction and inquired: “Have you ever heard of this?”

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What I saw on the screen was a computer game entitled “Daisy Air Gun Fun.” The cover showed two people shooting an air rifle. It was rated E 10+ and available for the princely sum of $6 plus shipping from one of the third-party sellers on Amazon.com. Hmmm, I thought, I bet I could write about this. I click the right buttons and place my order.

Fast forward a few days and a copy of Daisy Air Gun Fun shows up in my mailbox. I waste no time installing it on my computer and discover that it really is a fun, if a little dated, computer game that actually has quite a lot going for it.

safety

The first thing that I discover, after installing the game, is that you can’t do anything without first reviewing the rules of airgun safety as defined by Daisy’s Take Aim At Safety program. These rules include:

  • Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
  • Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
  • Only load or cock a gun when you are shooting.
  • Check your target and beyond your target.
  • Anyone shooting or near a shooter should wear shooting glasses.
  • Never climb or jump with a gun.
  • Avoid ricochet. Never shoot at a flat hard surface or at the surface of water.
  • Keep the muzzle clear. Never let anything obstruct the muzzle of a gun.
  • Guns not in use should always be unloaded.
  • Respect other people’s property.

What happens next is that you are forced to take a Safety Quiz, which is a series of true or false questions that basically review the safety rules that had been displayed on the screen at the beginning of the game. Upon successfully completing the Safety Quiz, a Take Aim At Safety Certificate is displayed. The screen also says “Get your safety certificate from Daisy.com” I doubt that the safety certificate is still available, but Bravo! to Daisy for drilling airgun safety into the players of the game.

Daisy character screen

Once you get past the safety lesson, you get to the main screen which allows to play the game, access the manual, set various options, and set parental control.  The next screen allows you to enter your name and create your character, which includes your gender, age and appearance.

Select Level and rifle

The next screen is where the fun really begins because it features a variety of shooting venues, including a shooting gallery, a 10-meter range, the backyard, a silhouette range, and a – believe it or not – Martian shooting venue. For each of the venues, you can choose from a selection of Daisy air rifles that are appropriate that venue. For example, for the backyard, you can choose from a Daisy Buck, Daisy Red Ryder, Winchester 1894, or a couple of different models of Daisy Grizzly, but for the 10-meter venue, you can only choose among different Avanti target rifles. And, for the Martian venue, you can only select the CO2 powered target rifle because there is no atmosphere on Mars!

10-meter

In addition to what gun you want to shoot, the backyard venue lets you choose among six different kinds of targets – soda cans, Daisy Shatterblasts, game pieces, etc – and also adjust the range at which you shoot. While I was fooling around with this game, my college-age son asked me the obvious question: “What do you need that for? You have real airguns.”

Three answers occurred to me. First, Daisy Air Gun Fun really is fun to play, particularly on a rainy day when you can’t get out to shoot. Second, it’s an interesting way to introduce youngsters to the idea of what airguns are all about, particularly the ones who are focused on video games. And third, you actually learn some stuff about safety but also about shooting – when you’re shooting silhouettes at 40 yards in the game, you get “the wobbles,” and the target swims around in your scope. You have to learn to deal with the wobbles, just as you do when you’re shooting for real. It’s also fun to experiment with different distances to targets in the backyard venue. The outdoor venues also feature variable wind that you have to deal with.

Unfortunately, there is also bad news. I spoke with Joe Murfin, VP of Marketing at Daisy, and he said that Daisy Air Gun Fun is no longer an active product. It was the result of collaboration between Daisy and ISE (Interactive Sports Entertainment & Marketing Inc.) in 2005. The game sold well for a year, placed on the shelves of big box stores by ISE, and then gradually faded away. As I can attest, though, new copies are still out there, and if you can pick one up for a modest price, I recommend it.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Previous Post – The Brocock Specialist – A diminutive tackdriver – Part I

The magazine slides into a slot on the right side of the receiver.

The magazine slides into a slot on the right side of the receiver.

To get the .22 caliber Brocock Specialist ready to shoot, unscrew the cap at the end of the reservoir and charge the reservoir up to 200 BAR from a SCUBA tank or high pressure pump. At this point, you will immediately notice one of the things that is missing from the Specialist: there is no on-board pressure gauge. As a result, you will have to use the gauge on the pump or the tank to determine when the reservoir has been filled. In addition, you will need to be aware of how many shots you have sent down range to stay within the shot curve.

Pull the bolt back and lock it in the open position. You can now remove the magazine by simply pulling it out of its slot. Push 6 .22 caliber pellets into the magazine (the side with the center bump faces toward the shooter). It’s super easy: just push the pellets in far enough so that the head of the pellet goes past the black o-ring that encircles the magazine. There is no twisting of a top plate to wind up a spring within the magazine. The cocking mechanism in the gun indexes the magazine, so there are no moving parts in the magazine. As a result, the magazines for the Specialist ought to be very reliable. When you’re done loading the magazine, slide it back into its slot in the receiver.

Lift the bolt out of its locked open position, push it forward, and lock it in the closed position. This pushes a pellet out of the magazine and into the barrel. Take aim, squeeze the trigger. At 15.4 oz., the first stage goes out of the trigger. At 3 lb. 2.7 oz., the shot goes down range with a POP. While the report is not as loud as some of the Korean airguns that I have shot, it is definitely much louder than many of today’s shrouded-barrel PCP air rifles. I guestimate that the report is roughly equivalent to a Benjamin 392 at eight pumps. This is not an air rifle that I would recommend for stealthy shooting in your backyard.

Did you notice what was missing from the sequence I described in the paragraph above? At no point, did I say, “switch off the safety.” That’s because there is no safety. You can render the gun safe by not cocking it after your last shot or by locking the bolt in the open position, but once you have moved the bolt forward and a pellet is in the barrel, there is no way to lock the action and prevent it from firing. There two keys to keeping the gun safe: (A) keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot and (B) keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction until you are ready to shoot.

The Brocock Specialist launches 14.3 grain .22 Crosman Premier pellets at an average velocity of around 785 feet per second, which works out to about 19.5 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Here's the 5-shot group that Kip shot at 18 yards.

Here’s the 5-shot group that Kip shot at 18 yards.

And the accuracy? Well that’s an interesting story. When I unpacked the Brocock Specialist, I found included with it a target shot by Kip at www.airgunsofarizona. It said “JSB 15.89 gr., 5 shots, 18 yards.” In the center of the target was a single ragged hole that measured just half an inch from edge to edge. That works out to .28 inch center-to-center. Not too shabby, I thought.

Here's the 5-shot group that I shot at 32 yards.

Here’s the 5-shot group that I shot at 32 yards.

So I charged up the specialist, pulled out my WorkMate, popped a couple of cushions on top of it, and banged off at shot at 13 yards. The Specialist appeared to be holding its zero from when Kip had sighted it in. I moved the target to 32 yards and banged off three groups with the same pellet that Kip had used, the JSB .22 15.89 gr. The best I could do were five-shot groups that measured .75 inch from edge to edge. That’s not a bad showing, but not as good as I had hoped for.

I was about ready to give up when I got that little internal nudge that says: “charge up the gun again and give a try with some Crosman Premiers.” So I did. My second group measured just .5 inch edge-to-edge at 32 yards, the same size as the group Kip had shot at 18 yards. I’ll take that kind of accuracy any day.

Brocock-Specialist22

The bottom line: the Brocock Specialist is a light, easy to handle air rifle that is wickedly accurate. It’s a bit loud for shooting in close proximity to neighbors, but it ought to be just what the doctor ordered for a day afield.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The Brocock Specialist is less than a yard long and weighs less than 7 pounds with a scope mounted.

The Brocock Specialist is less than a yard long and weighs less than 7 pounds with a scope mounted.

It’s not an uncommon theme: when airgunners want to spend a day or half day wandering the woods and fields with their favorite pneumatic arm, they don’t want to be hauling around a lot of weight. Trudging around with a heavy burden diminishes the experience.

Some time ago, I wrote a blog on “The 7.5 pound hunting rig,” http://198.154.244.69/blog/2011/01/the-7-5-pound-hunting-rig.html and while it is not a hard-and-fast rule, 7.5 lbs seems to be about the limit of what many hunters want to tote afield.

The Brocock Specialist easily makes the weight limit. In fact, with a Hawke Varmint 2.5-10 x 44 scope mounted, the entire rig weighs just 6 lbs. 7 oz. In addition, the Specialist stretches just 34.5 inches from end to end. The ambidextrous stock is molded from matte black engineering polymer, and at the aft end, you’ll find a soft rubber butt pad attached to the buttstock. Moving forward, there is a raised cheek piece on either side, but the portion of the buttstock below the cheek piece is simply cutaway, thereby saving weight.

I found the unusual stock well finished and comfortable.

I found the unusual stock well finished and comfortable.

Moving forward again, there is a nearly vertical pistol grip that flares at the end and has molded-in checkering on either side. Forward of that, a piece of black metal serves as a trigger guard, but does not go completely around the black metal trigger. Beyond that, the forestock curves gently upward and has molded-in checkering on either side for improved grip.

Extending from the end of the forestock is the air reservoir, which has a screw-off metal cap at the end. Remove it, and you’ll find a male foster fitting for charging the reservoir with air from a SCUBA tank or a high-pressure pump. A barrel band connects the air reservoir with the barrel above which is fitted with some sort of bull barrel sleeve. Both the barrel and barrel band are finished in black. At the muzzle end of the barrel is a screw-off metal fitting which can be removed so that a silencer can be fitted (where legal). Between the barrel and the metal muzzle fitting is a silver metal spacer.

The pistol grip is nearly vertical.

The pistol grip is nearly vertical.

Moving back along the barrel, you’ll come to the receiver, also finished in black. On the left side of the receiver is a small rectangular protrusion which I presume has something to do with the operation of the magazine. On the right side of the receiver is a rectangular slot into which the six-shot rotary magazine is inserted. Toward the rear of the receiver on the right hand side you’ll find the bolt which has two locking slots – one to hold the bolt closed and the other to hold the bolt open.

The fit and finish of this rifle are excellent, and I found it very comfortable to shoulder and shoot. In addition, I really liked the Hawke Varmint 2.5-10 x 44 scope. It looks to be well built, the optics are nice and clear, and the mil-dot reticle has lots of aiming points. I prefer mil-dot scopes because you can zero them at one range and then figure out what ranges the other mil-dots correspond to. This gives you the option to instantly compensate for the pellet’s trajectory at various ranges. In addition, the side focusing knob was buttery smooth and an absolute pleasure to use.

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

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

It occurred to me the other day, while I was repacking an airgun, that some of the good readers of this blog might want to know what actually happens when I test an air rifle or air pistol.

We’ll get into that in just a moment, but first a few words of appreciation are in order. A hearty thank you is due to all the good folks who take the time to read this blog. If it weren’t for you, there wouldn’t be any reason for www.airgunsofarizona.com to continue sponsoring this blog. In addition, I am particularly thankful to the people who not only read the blog but respond to it with comments. Very often you provide useful information and spark ideas for additional blogs in the future, so thanks! Another big thanks needs to go out to the crew at www.airgunsofarizona.com who supply me with guns, scopes, pellets, and ancillary equipment to help make this blog happen.

Of course, it goes without saying that doing this blog is a pretty neat job. I am allowed to play with all the latest, coolest toys in the world of airgunning, and then I get to tell you about them. What fun!

The actual process begins when the UPS guy (aka Brown Santa) deposits a long rectangular package on the front stoop here at El Rancho Elliott.

The next step, since Airguns of Arizona routinely double-boxes its shipments and surrounds the inner box with a generous layer of packing peanuts, involves extracting the inner box(es) that contain the airgun(s). It’s at this point that my battle with an alien life form – packing peanuts – begins. I am convinced that they are alive, intelligent, and animated since no matter how I try to control them, they always manage to escape. They run, they hide, they make rebellious teenagers look like Mother Teresa. Since I don’t remember them being around when I was a kid, they must be from another planet. I think NASA is aware of the problem.

After I get the rifle or pistol box extracted from the outer packaging, the fun begins. Usually I will quickly unpack the gun from its factory box, figure out what caliber it is, grab some pellets, and, regardless of the weather, go outside for a few quick shots, just to get an initial “feel” for the gun.

On a couple of occasions, the entire gun review process has stopped right there. In one case, an air rifle with a hollow synthetic stock produced such a loud resonant sound on discharge that, after three shots, I wanted nothing more to do with it. In another case, a prototype of a pistol had a trigger pull weight in excess of 12 pounds. During my initial attempt to shoot the pistol, I thought I had left the safety on. Later I tested the trigger weight with my Lyman digital trigger gage, and it went off scale before the shot discharged. I called the manufacturer and reported that the pistol was a non-starter until the problem was resolved. Most airguns, however, sail through the initial “get acquainted” process.

As soon as the weather cooperates, it will be time to get serious. I’ll fit a scope to a rifle, sometimes a scope or red dot to a pistol, and shoot groups. With rifles, typically I will shoot from a casual rest consisting of some old cushions on top of a WorkMate. Frequently I’ll shoot pistols from a sitting position wearing my SteadyAim harness because I find it difficult to shoot pistols from a rest. I’ll try different pellets and do my best to shoot the tightest group I can. Usually I start at 13 yards and then work my way out to 32 yards with a rifle. When group shooting is going great, it is enormous fun; when it is not going so well, it can be frustrating, but it is always interesting and instructive.

After shooting groups, I’ll measure the speed of the pellets with my Oehler chronograph and test the weight of the trigger. During the process, I am taking notes and collecting impressions and thinking about what I am going to tell the readers of this blog. At some point, I’shoot photographs of the airgun, usually outside on an overcast day, to reduce reflections off shiny surfaces. The next step in the review process involves repacking the airgun, shooing those pesky alien packing peanuts back into the box, and returning it to www.airgunsofarizona.com.

My goal in writing the blog is to deliver enough information so that you, the reader, can have some idea of what it is like to shoot the airgun in question. I always appreciate your comments, feedback, and suggestions.

Non-airgun-related postscript: Recently I put together a small book (20 pages) that combines my Christian faith with my passion for sky photography. It’s entitled “The Heavens Declare the Glory of God,” and it’s a free download available here: http://198.154.244.69/blog/about-jock-elliott Just click on click on Download to open or save the file. If you choose to download it, I hope you enjoy it.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

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Long time readers of this blog already know that I have a great interest – some might say an obsession — in the bucket shot scene from the movie Quigley Down Under.

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If you are one of the few shooters left on planet earth who has not seem Quigley Down Under, here’s a quick synopsis of the bucket shot: Tom Selleck plays a Wyoming cowboy, Matthew Quigley, who has been hired by an Australian rancher looking for “the world’s finest long-range rifle shot.” A few minutes into the film, Quigley, who has traveled three months by boat to get to Australia, meets his employer for the first time. Wanting to confirm that Quigley is indeed a superb marksman, the rancher instructs one of the ranch hands to grab a wooden bucket and ride out toward a knoll until he is instructed to stop. He finally places the bucket atop the knoll where it is just barely visible. Quigley attaches the tang vernier sight to his Sharps 45-110, eyeballs the weathervane on the roof, watches the wind drift some sand from his fingers, makes a couple of tweaks to the vernier sight, and clobbers the bucket three times in succession with the heavy rounds from his Sharps.

When I saw that scene, I was thunderstruck. Something inside me responded viscerally: “That’s soooo cool; I wish I could do that.” Then another inner voice chimed in: “Maybe you can.” That, in a nutshell, is where the trouble began. Ever since, I have been on a personal mission to recreate my own bucket shot, but with airguns. Along the way, I invented a game, which I call “Air Quigley,” which involves shooting at a 1.75 inch bucket target offhand at 55 yards with an air rifle with non-glass sights. Every year at the Northeast Regional Field Target competition at Crosman Corporation, they have a separate Quigley Bucket Challenge which is well attended.

If you would like to read some of my other writings on Air Quigley, try here http://198.154.244.69/blog/2010/07/further-quigley-experimentation.html and there are a couple of chapters in my book “Elliott on Airguns” http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/ElliottOnAirguns.html

Recently, however, I had the opportunity to thank the gentleman who wrote the screenplay for Quigley Down Under, John Hill. He and I corresponded by email, and he kindly gave me permission to quote him.

“Forty years ago, in L.A. in 1973, I was a young would-be screenwriter in Los Angeles, and read an feature article on the front page of the Los Angeles Times about the historical treatment of aborigines by the British and the Australian settlers in the late 19th century.   One paragraph said they left out poison sheep to kill off the aborigines; men, women and children were herded off a cliff in one instance; and they cleared the island of Tasmania of its native by paying two English pounds for every pair of aboriginal ears. I read that and thought, wow, that has to be a movie. Took me two years to come up with Quigley and the plot.

I wrote the script in 1975, on speculation, and the bucket-shooting scene, which I just made up, at the time – after researching the Sharps rifle from my father’s books on rifles and guns.  There’s a great irony here — I grew up in Kansas and my father was a great shooting and hunting enthusiast (taught me as a boy) but I went to Hollywood and became one of those candy-assed liberals who doesn’t like guns, shooting or hunting and is all for maximum gun control etc, (while the jewel of my tarnished little crown of my career is Quigley’s rifle!)

My father, who passed away in 1975, would have LOVED hearing today about manufacturers making a Quigley rifle later, Quigley long-distance shooting contests, and things like the British military snipers calling it a “Quigley” in the sniper culture whenever a military sniper line up two bad guys and kill them both with one bullet, as in the movie.

And my son who lives in Oregon is now a gun enthusiast and has a new $1,000 deer rifle and he practicing for deer season.  He’s a good shot! (I’m the black sheep of the family!)

But this isn’t about politics -it’s about writing an entertaining adventure movie with some credible, even inspiring, truths to it.   So I am so glad and immensely flattered that one shoot-the-bucket scene (which came in #94 in COWBOY AND INDIANS magazine years ago in their choice of “The 100 Greatest Western Movie Moments” for the last 100 years) has such resonance.   Oh, and I did have a pellet rifle when I was a boy – it was great fun!    So, again, thank you so much for you good email and the report that so many of those dangerous, lethal buckets who have gone rogue are getting the hell shot out of them!”

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight!

–          Jock Elliott

 

 

The E.B.O.S. is a BB rifle like no other.

The E.B.O.S. is a BB rifle like no other.

Once a year, after the SHOT Show, airgun manufacturers will frequently send me their latest catalog as part of their press kit announcing what’s new and interesting. These catalogs prove invaluable because, as the year wears on and I am looking for something to write about, I’ll pull out a catalog or two to see what might be a fun subject for a blog.

So that was the scene a few weeks ago as I paged though the catalog from UmarexUSA. When I got to page 35, I noticed something called the E.B.O.S. It is a BB gun that boasts 540 fps and “8 shot burst!” Could be interesting, I thought, so I called the nice people at www.umarexusa.com and asked them to send me an E.B.O.S.

One arrived a few days later in a deceptively small box. When I first pulled it out, it looked like a two-handed air pistol, but I soon realized that there is a buttstock that attaches to the main receiver. E.B.O.S. is an acronym that stands for Electronic Burst Of Steel. The EBOS is 24.75 inches long and weighs 3 pounds. It shoots .177 steel BBs and is powered by an electronic action and an 88 gr. CO2 cartridge (not included).

 

Under the pistol grip is a hatch for loading six AA batteries.

Under the pistol grip is a hatch for loading six AA batteries.

The entire EBOS appears to be made of matte black engineering polymer. Under the pistol grip there is a slide-off hatch into which you insert 6 AA batteries (not included) that provide power for the electronic trigger and firing mechanisms. Forward of the pistol grip, the engineering polymer forms a guard around a black polymer trigger. Forward of that is an additional grip that can be moved fore and aft along a rail under the receiver.

The safety (right) and selector switch for number of shots.

The safety (right) and selector switch for number of shots.

Above the rail on the left side of the receiver are two selector switches. One allows the shooter to SAFE the action so that it won’t fire, and the other allows the shooter to select 1, 4, or 8 shots to go down range when you pull the trigger. Above the two switches on the left side is a 24-shot BB magazine and a bb follower that pushes the BBs into the breech as they are needed.

The BB magazine with BB follower and (above to the left) the BB reservoir.

The BB magazine with BB follower and (above to the left) the BB reservoir.

At the extreme front end of the EBOS is the plastic muzzle which has threads that could possibly be used for mounting a barrel extension or faux silencer. On top of the receiver at the front end is a large capacity reservoir that can hold 360 BBs and the back edge of which incorporate the front sight.

Below the reservoir on the right side of the EBOS is another switch that can be used for selecting 300, 400, or 500 shots per minute. Moving back along the top of the receiver, you’ll find a Weaver/Picatinny type rail that can be used for mounting a red dot or scope. At the aft end of the rail is the notch-type rear sight which can be adjusted for windage.

The buttstock removed, showing the 88 gr CO2 cartridge underneath.

The buttstock removed, showing the 88 gr CO2 cartridge underneath.

To ready the EBOS for shooting, open the hatch under the pistol grip and insert 6 AA batteries in correct orientation. Next, screw an 88 gr CO2 cartridge into the back of the receiver. Slide the buttstock over the CO2 cartridge until it latches. Finally, having made sure the EBOS is on SAFE, slide the hatch back on the BB reservoir and pour in a generous supply. Pull the BB follower toward the muzzle and lock it in place. Shake the EBOS until 24 BBs load into the BB magazine and gently release the BB follower. The EBOS is now good to go.

Take aim at your target, slide the safety off, and squeeze the trigger. In single shot mode, I found the EBOS would launch steel BBs at around 525 fps. If you begin to shoot quickly, the velocity drops to around 449 fps average (on a 70 degree day). If you change the selector switch, you will indeed get 4 or 8 shots bursts.

I discovered the purpose of the EBOS while collecting my pellet trap from the garage. One of the empty soup cans that I keep for penetration tests made a smart remark to me, and I decided then and there to teach it a lesson. I tossed it into the driveway, flipped the selector to single shot and cut loose. The first couple of shots blew cleanly through the sides of the can.

Then I put the selector on 4-shot burst: pow-pow-pow-pow! The can fell over and began rolling around in an effort to escape. I flipped into 8-shot mode: pow-pow-pow-pow-pow-pow-pow-pow. I walked over to inspect the shredded can. “I’m sorry,” it said. “You should know better,” I said as I consigned it to the trash.

The EBOS is simply excellent for bouncing cans around, and I imagine it would be great fun with whiffle golf balls or a bag full of dollar store dinosaurs. If you decide to indulge yourself, make sure everyone on the firing line is wearing eye protection because BBs will ricochet, and, as always, be sure that you are firing in a safe direction where no people, pets, or property will be damaged.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The Benjamin Trail NP pistol with the cocking assist handle detached.

The Benjamin Trail NP pistol with the cocking assist handle detached.

I have a weakness for air pistols. They are both fun and challenging to shoot. (Heck, any pistol is challenging to shoot because they don’t have the additional support of a shoulder stock.) I particularly enjoy shooting spring-piston air pistols because they deliver a mild jolt to the hand when they go off, and managing the recoil is the key challenge.

Nearly 18 months ago, I became aware that Crosman Corporation had plans in the works to build a spring-piston break-barrel air pistol based on the Nitro Piston powerplant. I was particularly interested because, to the best of my knowledge, no other company is building a break-barrel pistol based on gas ram/gas spring/Nitro Piston technology. From time to time I would send an email to my contact at Crosman and inquire when the pistol would be available. For quite a while, the answer always came back: “Not yet.” A couple of months ago, though, I got an email telling me that Crosman would send me one soon.  And sure enough, not long afterward, a UPS truck arrived bearing a large box containing the Benjamin Trail NP Pistol.

I yanked it out of the box, grabbed some Crosman Premier Light (CPL) 7.9 grain pellets and began banging away at some soup cans at seven yards. I found almost immediately that the NP pistol would punch through one side of a soup can at seven yards, but not both.  I tried the very light non-lead Crosman SSP Pointed pellets that were in the package, but I still could not penetrate both sides of the soup can. The other thing that I found immediately was that this pistol was fun to shoot. My initial impression was: “I like it! Decent rear sight, manageable recoil, useful cocking assist handle, and enough power to defend the birdfeeder at close range, fun to shoot.”

The rear sight hangs slightly over the rear of the receiver.

The rear sight hangs slightly over the rear of the receiver.

Before I tell you about the rest of my experience, let’s take a guided tour of this pistol. The Benjamin Trail NP Pistol is a single-shot, break-barrel pistol in .177 caliber. It stretches 16 inches from end to end, 19 inches with the cocking assist sleeve attached, and weighs just shy of three-and-one-half pounds. A metal notch-type rear green fiber optic sight that is adjustable for windage and elevation hangs over the back end of the receiver. Below that, the powerplant is made of metal and the “stock” (including the pistol grip) is made of a matte black polymer.

The pistol grip is studded with small protrusions that aid in gripping the pistol, and the same black polymer forms a guard around a black polymer trigger. Above the trigger is a push-button safety that displays a red ring when the safety is off. Beyond the trigger guard is a slot underneath the pistol that provides clearance for the cocking linkage.

The Benjamin Tral NP pistol with the cocking assist sleeve attached.

The Benjamin Tral NP pistol with the cocking assist sleeve attached.

Beyond that is a black metal barrel with has a polymer fitting on the end that serves as a protection for the muzzle and a mount for a blade-type red fiber optic front sight. Moving rearward, you’ll find the breech block and the receiver, which has dovetails for mounting the rear sight or a pistol scope or red dot. That’s all there is to the Benjamin Trail NP Pistol.

To ready the pistol for shooting, you could grab the muzzle end of the barrel and pull it down and back until it latches. But the barrel is short and the front sight would dig into the palm of your hand, so Crosman has provided a cocking assist handle that clips over the muzzle fitting but provides a slot for the front sight to poke through. Unlike other pistols that have offered cocking assist devices, the cocking assist handle for the Trail NP is designed to clip to the barrel of the gun so that it stays on while you are shooting it. It extends the length of the pistol by three inches and provides a place to grip the pistol for cocking that won’t dig into your hand.

The sight picture showing the two green dots of the rear sight on either side of the out-of-focus fiber optic red front sight.

The sight picture showing the two green dots of the rear sight on either side of the out-of-focus fiber optic red front sight.

So you grab the cocking assist handle in one hand and the pistol grip in the other and pull the muzzle down and back until it latches. This takes, I estimate, around 30 pounds of effort, but is very smooth and free of any noise. Next, slide a .177 pellet into the breech and return the barrel to its original position. Take aim, push the safety off, and squeeze the trigger.

Now, here’s where things get a little weird. When I first shot the Trail NP pistol, I was banging away at cans using a two-handed weaver grip and pulling straight through the trigger. If you had asked me then, I would have estimated the trigger pull at about five pounds. Later, however, I checked the trigger pull with my Lyman digital trigger gauge and found that the first stage requires 3 lbs. 13 oz, and the second stage is 7 lbs. 13 oz. I was astonished because the trigger didn’t feel that heavy to me. But I rechecked the pull a couple of times and those really are the numbers.  The second stage also has a lot of creep. When I was shooting groups, I found I would pull halfway through the second stage, recheck the sight alignment, and then pull the rest of the way to trigger the shot.

The Benjamin Trail NP sends 7.9 grain Crosman Premier pellets down range at 506 fps average, which works out to 4.49 foot-pounds of energy. Crosman claims, on the package, 625 fps with lead-free pellets, but that turned out to be too low.  The Benjamin Trail NP pistol sent 4-grain Crosman SSP Pointed pellets through my chronograph at a sizzling 720 fps, generating 4.6 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. The report was pretty subdued, not dead quiet but not loud enough, it seemed to me, to disturb the neighbors.

Shooting two-handed from a sitting position in my SteadyAim harness at ten yards, I found that the Trail NP would deliver 1.5-inch five-shot groups with just about any pellet I fed it. Generally I could put 3 shots into a group you could cover with a quarter but then I would get a couple of outliers that would expand the group.

In addition, as I was completing this review, I heard from the editor of Airgun Hobbyist magazine. He said that he had bought the Benjamin Trail NP pistol and could not get it to sight-in at 10 yards. There simply wasn’t enough elevation adjustment, he said. I did not have that problem with the sample that Crosman sent me, but I had to adjust the sight almost to the very limit of its travel. In addition, I have seen similar online comments from a couple of shooters. At this point, I do not know if the sight adjustment problem with this pistol is limited to a handful of units or is more widespread. Certainly this is something that Crosman should look into, in my opinion.

So where does that leave us with the Benjamin Trail NP pistol? Despite the heavy trigger, I found it a lot of fun to shoot. It is an excellent choice for an afternoon of plinking and is accurate enough and has sufficient power to defend the birdfeeder at close range. It would also be an appropriate pistol for controlling pigeons or rats in a barn. I believe a lot of airgunners will enjoy shooting this pistol as it stands so long as the sight can be properly adjusted, but with less trigger weight and creep, a pistol that I found enjoyable would be significantly improved.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The Walther Lever Action in all its glory.

The Walther Lever Action in all its glory.

When I was a youngster, cowboys were Big Time, Big Deal. Early on, it was Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry. Later on, it was Maverick, Gunsmoke, and The Rifleman. Even now, any of the many fine books by Louis L’Amour are among my favorite reading materials. Part of me remains a ten year old boy who roamed the summer woods and fields of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont with his Daisy Pump 25. My constant companion, the kid from across the road, carried a Daisy Red Ryder. High adventure usually included a nickel tube of BBs and a popsicle from the general store.

Recently, I had in my hands an airgun that made all of that come flashing back to me in the twinkling of an eye. The gun in question is the Walther Lever Action. Finished in blued steel and wood, the Walther Lever Action answers in my mind the question: “What would happen if the Daisy Red Ryder grew to maturity?”

That thick butt pad detaches to allow inserting an 88-gr. CO2 cartridge.

That thick butt pad detaches to allow inserting an 88-gr. CO2 cartridge.

The Lever Action is a eight-shot, .177 caliber repeating air rifle powered by an 88 gr. CO2 cartridge. It stretches 39.2 inches from butt pad to muzzle and weighs 6.2 pounds. At the extreme aft end, you’ll find a thick plastic butt pad that has a large screw in the end (More about that in a while). Ahead of that is a hardwood buttstock that is ambidextrous. Ahead of that, underneath the stock and receiver, is the lever which cocks the air rifle and advances the magazine and also serves as a trigger guard.

There is a saddle ring on the left-hand side of the receiver.

There is a saddle ring on the left-hand side of the receiver.

Forward of that is the hardwood forestock which has a polymer band at the end. Protruding from the end of the forestock is a false tubular magazine made of metal which is connected to the barrel above by another polymer band. On top of the barrel at the muzzle end is a hooded blade-type front sight. Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find a notch type rear sight on top of the rear portion of the barrel, and moving further back you’ll find the receiver proper. The front sight is moved to adjust for windage, and the rear sight is adjusted for elevation.

Press in the cartridge loading gate on the right side of the receiver, and the magazine pops out.

Press in the cartridge loading gate on the right side of the receiver, and the magazine pops out.

On the left side of the receiver, there is a saddle ring and one end of the push-button safety. On the right side of the receiver is the other end of the push-button safety and what appears to be a loading gate for feeding cartridges into the magazine as well as a small rectangular hatch. At the back end of the receiver is the hammer. The Walther Lever Action is made in Germany, and I think the fit and finish are spot on for an air rifle in this price range.

The magazine, ready for loading. It can be removed from its pivot for easier pellet insertion.

The magazine, ready for loading. It can be removed from its pivot for easier pellet insertion.

To ready the Walther Lever Action for shooting, undo the large screw in the butt plate using the tool that is supplied with the gun. The butt plate comes off, revealing a chamber into which an 88-gr. CO2 cartridge can be inserted. Screw the cartridge into the receptacle and tighten it using the special pliers that are also supplied. Reattach the butt plate.

Next press in the loading gate on the right side of the receiver. This will cause the magazine arm to swivel out, revealing the eight-shot rotary magazine. Slide the rotary magazine off its axel. Load eight pellets into the magazine by pushing them in nose-first from the back side of the magazine. (The back side of the magazine has what looks like a small toothed gear in the middle.) Put the magazine back on its axel and close the magazine arm.

Pull the lever all the way down and back up again to cock the action and index the magazine. This requires very little effort. Take aim at your target and squeeze the trigger. The first stage comes out at 1 lb. 6.1 oz. At 4 lb. 11 oz., the shot goes down range with a muted “pop.” At ten yards, from a sitting position, I found I could put eight shots into a ragged one-hole group that you could cover with a dime.

I chronographed the Walther Lever Action on a day that was barely 58 degrees here in upstate New York, and I found that it averaged 528 fps with Crosman 7.9 gr Premier pellets. The factory specifies that that the Lever Action will deliver 630 fps, but they don’t say what weight pellets will do that. Since CO2 powered airguns will vary in velocity with temperature, I would expect that the Lever Action would certainly launch pellets faster than 528 fps average at 70 or 80 degrees. I also tried Crosman non-lead SSP Pointed pellets and got 654 fps average. Certainly this airgun delivers enough oomph for defending the bird feeder at short range. UmarexUSA tells me you can expect 150-200 shots from an 88-gr. CO2 cartridge.

What's not to like?

What’s not to like?

In the end, I liked the Walther Lever Action a whole lot. It’s accurate, is easy to shoot well, has a neighbor-friendly report and repeats with a flick of a lever. Heck, if you have any cowboy in you, you need one of these airguns.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott

First of all, let’s hold a few truths to be self-evident: the folks who read this blog are possessed of keen wit, superior intelligence, and fine judgment. After all, you are voluntarily, of your own free will, reading this blog, so that proves my point; the defense calls no further witnesses. To borrow a notion from Lake Woebegone, among the readers of this blog, all the women are pretty, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average. So the topic of this blog is specifically not addressed at my regular readers.

Nevertheless, because evil, stupid, criminal, chemically deranged, or mentally ill people occasionally do horrific things with guns, and then the media waxes on excessively about the Evils of Guns (notice that they do not wax on excessively about the problem of evil, stupid, criminal, chemical deranged or mentally ill people, as if somehow the inanimate guns rather than the people who actually commit the acts were responsible), in the United States we live in a culture where some folks who are unfamiliar with projectile launchers can get pretty twitchy about them.

As I write this, two incidents come to mind, both of which I personally witnessed. The first I offer as evidence of some folks’ mental state when it comes to guns. I was shooting in the side yard, testing an airgun, when some college kids in a car, apparently lost, came up our dead-end road. As they pulled into a neighbor’s driveway to turn around, I heard one of the young women say, “Oooh, he has a gun!” in a tone that suggested she was concerned. I continued shooting, made no reaction, and they drove off. But I was mildly offended. Did she think that because I had an airgun I was somehow a threat to her safety? If I were trimming limbs with a chainsaw, would she be equally concerned? (Hey, hasn’t she seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Be afraid, be very afraid!)

The second I offer as evidence that some folks’ attitudes about guns are based on ignorance. A few years ago, the good folks at www.airgunsofarizona.com were kind enough to fly me to Phoenix to attend the NRA show there. It was a wonderful show, and in a large room there, a collection of airgun vendors had set up an airgun shooting venue with tables, chairs, and guns on one side of the room, and pellet traps and targets on the other side. It was an excellent setup, well organized and well run. As I was visiting the room, a family arrived with perhaps at 10-year-old girl. One of the parents asked, “Would you like to try shooting an airgun?” No, said the girl emphatically, I don’t like guns. Then, if I recall correctly, one of the guys from Airguns of Arizona said, “Why you just try a couple of shots, and if you don’t like it, you can just quit?” The girl agreed, and in a twinkling of an eye, the next problem they had was that she didn’t want to stop shooting. She had gone through two or three magazines of pellets, and was holding up the line! The point being that some people think they don’t like guns, but that is simply a cultural attitude and not based on real experience.

So, by now I bet you are wondering where I am going with all this. Okay, here’s the point: every once in a while I will notice on one of the forums that an airgunner has gotten into a problem with one of his or her neighbors over shooting the back yard. What follows are Uncle Jock’s tips for getting along with the neighbors with your airguns. Note well: all of this is predicated on the notion that your relations with your neighbors are positive or at least neutral. If you have already had a really negative interaction with your neighbor over some issue, all bets are off.

First, know where you stand legally. Make a phone call to the police or sheriff and ask, “What’s the status of shooting airguns in (name of place where you live)?” You may find out that it is perfectly legal, or that it is forbidden, or that it is legal under certain circumstances. The point is that you need to know, for certain, where you stand; ignorance is not your friend.

Second, have some positive interaction with your neighbor ahead of time. Say hi. Rescue their garbage can from the street. Welcome them to the neighborhood. Chitchat at the mailbox. Show that you are a good guy (or gal).

Third, approach them at some time about your shooting. (Do NOT take the gun with you.) Some might say something like this: “I’m planning on shooting an airgun in the backyard, so if you see me out there with a gun, that’s what I am doing. I am very concerned about safety, so I will be shooting into a pellet trap. I always make sure that the shooting lane is clear, so that if your cat (or dog or child) should wander into my yard, I’ll stop shooting until they are clear. Do you have any questions?” Depending on their reaction, you might offer to show the gun to them or even invite them to shoot.

Fourth, be considerate of when you shoot. If the neighbor works the night shift and he needs to sleep until noon or if the baby naps every afternoon, that would be a poor time to be banging away with your airgun. When you speak to the neighbor you might say, “My airguns are pretty quiet, but is there any time that I should avoid disturbing you?”

Finally, you may have a neighbor who is just inalterably against guns and doesn’t want to see, hear, or know about them. In that case, my advice is to hide your shooting. The basement is a popular venue for many airgunners, and I know of one targeteer who in an urban backyard from an enclosed back porch into a pellet trap hidden in a garden shed.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

 

 

From last week’s blog, remember that Blair wrote in, asking:

  1. In your experience, what would you recommend as the best gun (top 3 in order) and caliber to purchase in order to maintain a regular food supply? I live in Georgia in a suburban area with woods all around. (squirrels, turkey & smaller deer) I don’t plan on being a collector of numerous airguns however, price is not a limiting factor.
  2. What are your preferred scopes and range finders?
  3. Since, in theory, the electricity may be out, I will need to hand pump the rifle. What is the best (most efficient, easiest to use and reliable) pump available?

Until recently, Blair, I would have recommended a multi-stroke pneumatic rifle as your first choice since they are self-contained and easy to shoot well, but my thinking has changed. The reason? One of my favorite MSP rifles failed simply by being stored in a gun closet. One of the seals failed, and the rifle would not pump and hold air.

And that is a problem with all MSP, SSP, CO2, and PCP airguns – they are seal dependent. If a single seal fails, the air rifle may quit functioning entirely, ruining its ability to gather food for your family. So unless you intend to stock a spare seal kit and learn how to repair the air rifle you choose, I would not recommend for your purposes an airgun with an MSP, SSP, CO2 or PCP powerplant. Don’t get me wrong: there are many wonderful MSP, SSP, CO2 and PCP airguns out there, and it gives me great joy to shoot them, but in the scenario that you describe, Blair, with the lights out and the need to gather food urgent, I would go with the most reliable airgun powerplant I could find.

Spring-piston air rifles (springers), on the other hand, tend to be fail-soft. You can burn a piston seal, kink or break a spring, and they will continue to launch pellets, albeit at lower velocity. I once asked Robert Buchanan, maximum leader at Airguns of Arizona which was the most reliable airgun powerplant, and he said, “Springers. We never get them back for service.”

So I would recommend a medium-power springer in .22 caliber. Specifically, an RWS34 in .22, a Weihrauch HW95 in .22, or, if you want a somewhat lighter, less powerful air rifle, the Weihrauch HW50 (the Brits, after all, have taken a lot of game with 12 foot-pound air rifles). As to scopes, the good folks at www.airgunsofarizona.com have more experience with the reliability of different kinds of scopes than I do, but I can tell you that my very first high-quality airgun scope, a Bushnell Trophy 3-12 x 40 is still alive and well after more than a decade of airgun testing. I use a Bushnell rangefinder, but I recommend that you learn to estimate range for yourself because you may need to do it quite rapidly in a hunting situation.

In addition, Blair, I reached out to Jim Chapman, who also blogs for Airguns of Arizona on hunting topics: http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/hunting/ . He is a knowledgeable and enthusiast hunter, and I deeply respect his opinion, so I asked for his take on your questions.

Here, verbatim, is his response:

Hi Jock;

This subject comes up quite a bit, my thought is that the airgun in this situation has a limited and specific role. If I could only have one gun in a true survival situation, it would not be an airgun, but rather a .22 rimfire that I could use for small game, head shoot a deer for food, and in a last ditch effort use for defense. Ammo is cheap and you could store vast quantities and high capacity magazines if you had to use it for defense.

The role I’d have for an airgun in a survival situation would be for stealth hunting to take small game without generating a lot of noise. Plus you could store thousands of pellets that cost relatively little and take almost no room to store. If the lights went out for good, this would be invaluable for harvesting plentiful small game.

The gun I’d choose for this would be a mid powered (circa 16 fpe) spring piston airgun in .22 caliber. I find that squirrels go down faster with a .22 than a .177 with a head or body shot, and if you need the food the last thing you’d want to see is your mortally wounded squirrel disappearing into its den to die.

My personal home survival kit is a supply of food and water to last my family for some time, appropriate centerfire rifles, pistols, and shotguns for hunting and defense, my bow for stealth hunting big game, and many airguns (I have a big collection after all) for small game. We live in a suburban are bordering lots of farmland and woods, and hunting for food might come into play, but mostly I’d want firepower to defend what we have.

Maybe not what folks would like to hear from an admitted airgun fanatic, but it’s the way I see things.

Regards,

Jim

PS; If I was stuck on an island with no dangerous game and no need for defense, the same airgun discussed above would be my first choice. In the right situations an airgun could keep you fed indefinitely.

Finally, Blair, whatever airgun you choose for food gathering, it’s important that you practice your skills before the need arises. You didn’t say anything about your hunting skills, so if you are inexperienced, you need to learn how to hunt and prepare game before you are forced to learn under duress.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott