Total weight: 3 pounds, 14.9 ounces.

Total weight: 3 pounds, 14.9 ounces.

For me, one of the best ways of spending an afternoon – besides shooting airguns with a friend – is reading, or watching, a man-on-the-run thriller. I have a particular fondness for some of the older ones, like The 39 Steps by John Buchan which first appeared as a magazine serial in 1915. In it, an ordinary guy – Richard Hannay – finds himself thrust into international intrigue and on the run from sinister forces. Buchan was both the 15th Governor General of Canada and the author of dozens of books, both novels and non-fiction. Talk about an overachiever! The 39 Steps is available as a book and has been turned into a film several times. I recommend it.

RogueMaleNovel

Recently I had the opportunity to watch another man-on-the-run thriller that I had not seen in several years: Rogue Male. Based on the 1939 novel by Geoffrey Household, the 1976 film stars Peter O’Toole as Sir Robert Hunter, a British sportsman who stalks and takes aim at Adolph Hitler with a high-powered rifle. He misses and is captured and tortured by the Gestapo, who make up a fanciful story about why he is missing, throw him off a cliff, and leave him for dead. But Hunter doesn’t die, and he makes his way back to England only to find that the Gestapo is still after him. To escape his pursuers, he literally “takes to ground,” burrowing into a hillside in far out in the countryside.

As I watched Rogue Male, I couldn’t help but think, “Sir Robert really would have benefitted from having a small, light air rifle for collecting small game. And that’s where the trouble began.

I got to thinking about what would be the smallest, lightest air rifle that could be reasonably counted on for taking small game, at say, 20 yards. I’m not aware of any really featherweight springers. The venerable Benjamin 392 tips the scales at 5.5 pounds. The Crosman 2100 weighs 4.8 pounds. The Crosman 760 weighs only 2.75 pounds, but I would want something that breaks down easily to a smaller size for easy transport. The 1377 pistol with a steel breech and red dot weighs 3 lbs. 6 oz., and as I have written before — http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2013/08/various-and-sundry.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=various-and-sundry — can be challenging to shoot accurately to harvest small game (even though it is a lot of fun to shoot).

The Kip Karbine in its original configuration.

The Kip Karbine in its original configuration.

Then it came to me: what about the Kip Karbine? Some years ago, Kip at www.airgunsofarizona.com built for me a tiny air rifle based on the 1377 multi-stroke pneumatic pistol. It featured a pumping forearm from the backbacker rifle, a plastic detachable shoulder stock, a steel breech and a .22 barrel. When it arrived at El Rancho Elliott, I mounted a muzzle brake from a Daisy target rifle (mainly because I liked the look of it, and it protected the muzzle) and a diminutive Bug Buster scope. The whole rig weighed about five-and-a-half pounds, and I used it that way for some time.

 

I mounted a globe front sight.

I mounted a globe front sight.

But as I looked at the Kip Karbine and thought about Rogue Male, I wondered what I could do to reduce the weight even more. I took off the Bug Buster scope and mounts. They were surprisingly heavy – 1 lb. 5.8 ounces. The Daisy muzzle brake already had dovetails for mounting a front globe sight, so I clamped one to the rail with a post-and-bead insert mounted inside.

The rear peep sight clamps to the scope rail.

The rear peep sight clamps to the scope rail.

The rear sight was more of a problem. I couldn’t use any sort of peep sight that hung over the rear of the breech because a screw got in the way. A Williams peep sight looked like it would interfere with the operation of the bolt. But while rummaging through my parts drawers, I came upon a peep sight – I believe it is from Mendoza airguns – that looked like it would clamp to the dovetail on the breech. It worked! Even better, when I went outside, I found that it had sufficient vertical travel that it would sight in.

Here's what the finished Kip Karbine Ultralight looks like compared to a Sheridan (the same size as a Benjamin 392).

Here’s what the finished Kip Karbine Ultralight looks like compared to a Sheridan (the same size as a Benjamin 392).

The final question was: would it generate enough power for reliably taking small game at 20 yards? I began banging away at a tin can at 20 yards, increasing the number of pumps until it penetrated both sides of the can. At twelve pumps, the Crosman Premier pellets punched through with authority. I chronographed the gun – which I have no dubbed the “Kip Karbine Ultralight” – and found that it was launching 14.3 grain .22 caliber Crosman Premier pellets at 484 feet per second. That works out to 7.4 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle, and ought to be enough to get the job done. I really like shooting it, and since there are no custom parts, it ought to be possible for readers of this blog to put together their own version of the Kip Karbine Ultralight if they so desire.

Kip Karbine Ultralight 007-001

For those who would like a much higher quality way of traveling light, I understand that FX airguns makes a sight attachment accessory which allows most FX’s (or anything with a standard threaded muzzle) to have a front sight rail: http://www.fxairguns.com/2011/09/foresight-mount/

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The Hatsan Model 95 is a handsome air rifle.

The Hatsan Model 95 is a handsome air rifle.

Lately I have been testing some inexpensive air rifle/scope combos. The Hatsan 95 Combo is one of those. But before we get into that, let’s back up for a moment and take the 30,000-foot view.

In the online forums, it would appear that some airgunners simply don’t “get” the idea of the price/performance curve. It can be thought of as a graph in which you plot the price of a product on one axis and the performance of the product along the other axis. For almost every single product I can think of, the price/performance curve shows that, in general, you get what you pay for; that is, the more you pay, the more performance you get.  (There are, of course, occasional exceptions, products that provide exceptional performance at a modest price, but these are rarities.)

Another way to look at this concept is in terms of tiers (this is quoted from a recent issue of SHOT Business magazine, if you want to read the whole article, you can see it here: http://shotbusiness.org/the-new-world-of-airguns/ ):

  • Tier 1, $20-$200 – These are the pump-up, spring-piston, and CO2 air rifles and pistols you are likely to find in big-box discount retailers and the airguns the public is most likely to know about. Familiar brand names in this category include Crosman, Daisy, Sheridan, and Gamo.
  • Tier 2, $200-$500 – These are the better made pump-up and spring-piston air rifles as well as less expensive PCP airguns that are sometimes carried by independent sporting goods shops. These are, by and large, “legacy” airguns that get passed from generation to generation.  Familiar brands in this tier include Benjamin, BSA, Gamo, RWS, and Weihrauch.
  • Tier 3, $500-$3000 – These are the top echelon, elite performers of the airgun world. Comprised mainly of PCP rifles and pistols, this category also includes very high end spring-piston rifles. These airguns that will have the guys at the gun club drooling with envy, especially when your airgun customers outshoot them. Familiar brands in this tier include Air Arms, Air Force, Anschutz, Benjamin, Brocock, BSA, Daystate, FWB, FX, RWS, and Weihrauch.

Bear in mind that these tiers are generalities, designed to help independent gun dealers get their heads around why they should carry airguns, but typically in Tiers 2 and 3, you can expect very good to outstanding quality, and you can expect to pay commensurately for the privilege.

The Hatsan 95 features a Turkish walnut stock and a gold colored metal trigger.

The Hatsan 95 features a Turkish walnut stock and a gold colored metal trigger.

Tier 1, however, is much more of a mixed bag, and it’s in Tier 1 that we find the Hatsan Model 95. Available in three calibers (.177, .22, and .25), this is a single-shot spring piston air rifle that stretches 44.3 inches from end to end and weighs 9 lbs. 1 oz. with the scope that comes as part of the combo attached.  I tested the .177 version. Two things struck my eye when I pulled the Model 95 out of the box: the Turkish walnut stock and the gold-colored metal trigger. The result is a very nice looking air rifle.

The butt pad is a soft rubber-like material.

The butt pad is a soft rubber-like material.

At the back end of the Model 95 is a soft rubber butt pad which is attached to an ambidextrous walnut stock. The modestly-slanted pistol grip has checkering on either side. Forward of that, a black trigger guard surrounds the trigger. Moving forward again, the forestock is checkered on either side, and underneath you’ll find a slot to provide clearance for the break barrel cocking linkage.

The polymer muzzle brake serves as a mount for the fiber optic front sight.

The polymer muzzle brake serves as a mount for the fiber optic front sight.

At the muzzle end of the barrel is a molded polymer muzzle brake which also serves as a mount for the red fiber optic front sight. Moving aft, you’ll find a green fiber optic micro adjustable rear sight on top of the breech block. Moving back again, the receiver has dovetails to allow mounting a scope, and near the aft end of the dovetails is a metallic scope stop that prevents the scope from moving backward along the scope rail when the shot goes off. Finally, at the extreme aft end of the receiver is a push-pull type safety. Other than the 3-9 x 32 non-adjustable-objective scope, that’s all there is to the Model 95.

To get the Model 95 ready to for shooting, grab the muzzle break and pull it down and back until the cocking mechanism latches. I estimate this takes a bit over 30 lbs of effort. Next, insert a pellet into the breech and return the barrel to its original position. Take aim, click off the safety, and squeeze the trigger. At 1 lb. 3.3 oz. the first stage comes out of the trigger, at 4 lb. 14.2 oz., the shot goes down range. The Model 95 launches 7 grain hobby pellets at 995 fps for 15.4 fp of energy at the muzzle.

The report is typical for a springer of this power, and the powerplant generates some vibration, but it is more heard than felt by the shooter. Hatsan says that the Model 95 is equipped with something called the Shock Absorber System, but I was unable to find out more about this system from the factory website. While it does not make the Model 95 recoilless, it certainly is not an unpleasant springer to shoot.

The Model 95 Combo, though, it not without problems. The scope and its mounts are basically junk. I had two scope mounts fail while testing the Model 95 (www.airgunsofarizona.com sent me replacements), but that is not the crucial problem. The scope, being non-adjustable-objective, cannot be focused. At 3 power, I could not see clearly at 13 yards, at 9 power, I could not see clearly at 20 yards. This made accuracy testing extremely problematic. I might have been the victim of unit-to-unit variation, but the scope that came with this sample was – flatly – useless. I would recommend either mounting a better scope or going the simple route and use the fiber optic open sights that come with the Model 95. (For the record, the good folks at Airguns of Arizona recommended to Hatsan that they either include a decent scope in the combo or don’t include a scope at all.)

I mounted a good scope – a Vortex – and tested the Model 95 for accuracy. Eventually, I was able to achieve at 5-shot group, shot with JSB Express pellets, at 32 yards that measured 1.1875 inch from edge to edge. That’s just a hair over 1 inch CTC. Now while that is hardly superb accuracy for a springer at that range, it is certainly sufficient for clearing the garden of pests at 100 feet.

In the end, the Hatsan 95 is a decidedly mixed bag. The scope and mounts are dreadful. The rifle itself, however, is nice looking and pleasant to shoot. The accuracy is not stellar but sufficient for plinking and pest control in the back yard at modest ranges. I’ve heard rumors that the .22 version is more accurate than the .177. Perhaps I’ll have the opportunity to test one in the future.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

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