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

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

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

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

“Yes, a bit.”

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

“How far are you shooting?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are the pellets that worked best.

These are the pellets that worked best.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Just recently I heard from a spokesman at Crosman Corporation that, after nearly 70 years, the Sheridan air rifle has been discontinued. Crosman will, however, continue to make .20 caliber pellets.

The Sheridan enjoys a long and glorious history that stretches back to the 1940s.

Note: for a lot of what follows, I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Ted Osborn who was a beady-eyed, totally-committed, non-in-the-twelve-step-program Sheridan fanatic. Ted conducted hundreds of hours of research and interviews into the history of Sheridan and in 2004 was extraordinarily generous of his time in helping me prepare an article about the Sheridan for The Accurate Rifle magazine. Sadly, Ted passed away at home on February 16, 2011. I still miss our phone calls, his hearty baritone, and his ready laugh. He once drove from Ithaca, NY, to my house to allow me to shoot all three grades of classic Sheridans.

In 1943 Ed Wackerhagen and his friend Bob Kraus thought they could build a better airgun, so they set about designing and building one. By mid-1944, they had completed a prototype. On June 20, at 9:30 am, the two men pumped and loaded their creation and launched a pellet at a block of wood a few feet away. The pellet buried itself in the wood, and it was time for celebration: their gun worked! The block of wood was dated and signed and tucked into Kraus’ pocket.

By 1947, advertisements appeared in the magazines of the day, offering the Sheridan pneumatic air rifle (known as the Model A Super Grade) for sale for the princely sum of $56.50. That was a lot of money for an air rifle back then. For the same price, you could purchase a Winchester model 94 30-30. But never mind, an American classic, manufactured in Racine, Wisconsin, had been born, a classic that endures to this day.

The very first Sheridan, the Model A Super Grade. Only 2130 were produced.

The very first Sheridan, the Model A Super Grade. Only 2130 were produced.

The Sheridan Super Grade was a .20 caliber (all Sheridans were .20 caliber.) multi-stroke pneumatic air rifle. It had a large cast and machined aluminum receiver, bronze barrel and pump tube, walnut stock with Monte Carlo cheek-piece, ball-type valve mechanism, adjustable trigger and peep sight. It weighed 5 pounds 14 ounces, stretched 37 inches overall, with a 20-inch barrel with one turn in 12 inches.

About 800 Super Grades were produced that first year. Over the six few years, total production would amount to 2130 units. Today, a Sheridan Super Grade is among the most sought-after collectable airguns, and you might pay as much as 10 times the original price for one.

In the April 1947, in American Rifleman magazine, Major General Julian S. Hatcher reviewed the Sheridan and said, “The accuracy of this gun is superb . . . Here is a gun which is capable of real target shooting, is deadly on small pests, and is a real pleasure to shoot. It is a quality job all the way through.” He reported velocity of 400 fps with just two pumps and 770 fps with 12 pumps (which is not recommended).

The Model B Sporter Sheridan. Only 1051 were produced over 3 years.

The Model B Sporter Sheridan. Only 1051 were produced over 3 years.

In 1948, the company introduced the Model B Sporter, a lower priced gun that sold for about $35. It had various changes, including no cheek-piece and a painted finish, to keep costs down. During the three years that this model was produced, only 1051 were built, making the Model B highly sought by collectors.

The Sheridan Silver Streak. Over half a million Streaks were produced in various forms.

The Sheridan Silver Streak. Over half a million Streaks were produced in various forms.

The Model C first reached the public in 1949 and has been in continuous production until now. The Silver Streak was introduced first. It had a nickel finish that was beautifully polished, a walnut Manlicher stock, and a hold-down safety. It cost $19.95. The Blue Streak, with a black oxided finish, was introduced a few years later. Various versions of the Streaks would be produced over the years: the hold-down safety, the rocker safety, and the modern push-pull safety. No one knows exactly how many Streaks have been produced in total, but it is over half a million.

In 1977, the Benjamin company, which also manufactured air rifles, acquired Sheridan after Ed Wackerhagen’s death. Benjamin management ran the Sheridan from afar until 1982, when Benjamin closed its plant in St. Louis and merged the two businesses in a new plant on Chicory Road in Racine.

Along the way, Ray Katt had bought Benjamin-Sheridan from the Spack family, and he now began homogenizing the two air rifle lines. The pistols were first: they became Benjamin-Sheridan pistols. Next, the two pump-up rifle lines began moving toward each other until there were only minor cosmetic differences separating the two.

In 1992, the operation was purchased by Crosman Corporation. About a year-and-a-half later, the Racine plant was closed and production was moved to East Bloomfield, NY. Now the guns were identical except for caliber.

To be continued in Part II.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

The blog that I wrote on installing the GTX aftermarket trigger in the Benjamin Trail NP All Weather has proven to be one of the most commented-upon items in all the time that I have been writing this blog. You can find the original posting here: http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2011/04/installing-the-gtx-trigger-in-the-benjamin-trail-np-all-weather.html

Recently reader Don Swyers wrote: “I upgraded my nitro trail trigger to the gtx generation 2 and my safety hasn’t worked since.. I tried adjusting the secondary, and it still doesn’t work…”

I contacted Steve Woodward, inventor of the GTX trigger, to answer Swyers’s question and some other common queries regarding the GTX trigger.

Woodward: In addition to correct adjustment of the GTX Secondary screw (you can find the directions for adjustment here: http://www.airgunsofarizona.​com/GTX.htm Just click on the blue “Installation Guide” button), proper operation of the Crosman “Gamo-Style” safety depends on a number of things. (Note: the picture below shows the trigger assembly with the trigger pointed up and the receiver pointed to the left.)

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

One of those things is Correct installation of the Safety “hairpin” spring, including alignment with the Safety Toggle index notches (#1) and retaining tab (#2).  The leg that engages the index notches (#1) should press against the trigger housing and should be underneath the outer tab labeled “1”. It curls around the pivot pin and is held in place with an e-clip. The other leg should be clipped firmly behind the retaining tab (#2). It is the anchor for the free end of the spring.

Also, these springs are sometimes made of poor quality wire, resulting in inadequate tension.  This can sometimes be improved by removing the spring, bending the two ends together, and then reinstalling.

Finally, the profile of the sheet-metal Toggle (#3)  is sometimes malformed, and can be improved by minor reshaping to better conform to the face of the trigger blade.

These factors are especially important with the GTX, due to its machined anodized aluminum fabrication, which is smoother and has a lower coefficient of friction than the stock steel trigger blade.

Another common Question: Why doesn’t the GTX trigger reset when I pull halfway and then let go without firing?

Woodward: The stock trigger does the same thing, but you probably never noticed before because it hides the fact from your trigger finger. After the gun is cocked, the mating surfaces of the sear hold the piston back against hundreds of pounds of force from the compressed mainspring or ram. When you pull the trigger, moving the mating surfaces toward break, there’s such a lot of friction; the spring that returns the sears to the original position while the gun is being cocked, is not strong enough to overcome the friction. The behavior of the GTX trigger is the same, but with the stock trigger, the trigger spring makes the trigger blade return to the original position, while the sear is still partially disengaged.  By contrast, the GTX trigger tracks the true position of the sear and reports that to your trigger finger. In both cases, with the stock trigger and the GTX, what the prudent shooter needs to do is adopt the habit of always recocking the gun whenever the trigger is touched without firing. Incidentally, this applies to almost all inexpensive airgun triggers, not just springers.

Question: The GTX trigger feels really light. Is it safe?

Woodward: Any trigger that will never fire unless it is being touched at the time is a safe trigger. The GTX satisfies that criterion just as well as the stock trigger does. The safety of the trigger depends on the engagement of the sear. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. We recommend practicing with your GTX trigger until you are familiar with the feel of the first and second stages.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

 

The Brocock Contour Super 6 is smaller and lighter than the Brocock Specialist.

The Brocock Contour Super 6 is smaller and lighter than the Brocock Specialist.

Those of you who regularly follow this blog might recall that recently I was pretty pleased with the Brocock Specialist. I applauded the Specialist because, at 6 lbs. 7 oz. with a scope mounted and only 34.5 inches from stem to stern, the Specialist seemed to embody the idea of a lightweight, easy-to-handle hunting rig. As I boxed up the Specialist to send it back to www.airgunsofarizona.com, I thought the subject of lightweight hunting rigs was pretty well closed.

Well, I was wrong. Recently I unzipped another long, slim package from the good folks at Airguns of Arizona to discover the Brocock Concept Super 6, and it – amazingly – is even smaller and lighter than the Specialist. It measures just 32.25 inches from end to end and weighs just 5 lbs. 9 oz. with a Hawke 4 x 32 scope mounted. At the aft end of the Super 6, you’ll find a soft black rubber butt pad that can be adjusted vertically. Forward of that is a hardwood skeleton thumbhole stock that is decidedly right-handed.

Brocock Contour Super 6 002

The forward edge of the pistol grip is nearly vertical and is checkered on both sides. Above the thumbhole is a vertical thumb rest. The wood of the stock forms a trigger guard that encircles a black metal trigger. Forward of that, the forestock tapers gracefully and features checkering on either side. Underneath the forestock is a single Allen bolt that secures the receiver to the stock.

Brocock Contour Super 6 003

Above the forestock is the air reservoir that has a black metal cap on the end that unscrews to reveal a male Foster fitting for filling the reservoir from a SCUBA tank or high pressure pump. Above that is the barrel which is shrouded. At the muzzle end of the barrel is a silver metal space which has a black metal fitting that can be removed for fitting a sound moderator (where legal).

Moving back along the barrel, you’ll find the receiver with has a slot on the right hand side for inserting the six-shot rotary magazine and a silver metal molt.  The bolt has two positions: locked back and locked forward.  On top of the receiver, forward and aft of the breech, are dovetails for mounting a scope. As with the Specialist, the Contour Super 6 has no air gauge and no safety.

To ready the Contour Super 6 for shooting, charge the air cylinder to 200 bar with a SCUBA tank or pump, pull the bolt back and lock it in the back position. You can now remove the rotary magazine and fill it with six .22 caliber pellets by inserting them nose-first into the back of the magazine. Move the bolt up and forward and down again into the forward-lock position to push a pellet out of the magazine and into the barrel. Take aim and squeeze the trigger. The first stage comes out at 1 lb. 12.3 oz; at 5 lb. 6 oz., the shot goes down range.

Brocock Contour Super 6 005

On the Contour Super 6 sample that I tested, I found that the trigger was noticeably stiffer than the Brocock Specialist. Since the rifle arrived without a manual, I do not know if the trigger weight can be adjusted. I also noticed that the report was quieter on the Contour Super 6 than the Specialist. To my ear, it sounds significantly more muted, which would make it more acceptable for shooting in close proximity to neighbors. It is, however, still clearly audible, and if you are looking for an air rifle that will be essentially unnoticeable, the Contour Super 6 would not be the best choice. The more neighbor-friendly report makes sense, because the Contour Super 6 makes about 15.5 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle, compared for almost 20 foot-pounds for the Specialist.

The Contour Super 6 arrived with a target, shot by Kip at Airguns of Arizona at 18 yards, that measured just .5 inches from edge to edge for a 5-shot group. I tried shooting at 32 yards with Crosman .22 Premiers and got groups that measure 1 inch edge to edge, but I think I know why I didn’t get results that were as good as those delivered by the Brocock Specialist. Quite simply, I couldn’t see as well with the 4-power scope as I could with a 10-power scope.

Still, for the airgunner who wants to spend some time afield with a lightweight air rifle that has enough power and accuracy for hunting small game, the Brocock Contour Super 6 offers a delightful choice.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Airgunning has a lot going for it.

Probably at the top of the list is convenience. Airguns can be shot in many places where discharging firearms is strictly forbidden. Of course, check with your local authorities and always, always, ALWAYS observe safe shooting and gun handling procedures, but there is a decent chance that you can avoid a trip to the range and shoot airguns where you live. I have heard countless stories of “closet” airgunners who shoot in the basements or in some clandestine fashion at their homes.

Airguns also deliver the addictive challenges of an accuracy sport. Can you hit that target? Can you place the shot exactly where you want it? Can you knock down that soda can, plastic dinosaur, or spent cartridge? Can you put five pellets into a teeny, tiny group at a particular distance? These are the kinds of questions that fascinate shooters of all ages and keep them coming back for more. I maintain that, in many ways, shooting an airgun is no different than shooting baskets – you’re trying to control the arc of the projectile so that it hits the target with accuracy.

Airguns also offer pride of ownership. The fit and finish on many airguns is impressive, and some of the least expensive airguns can be endlessly customized to make them your own. The end result is that, whether you bought it gorgeous or made it gorgeous, it’s a bit of a thrill to pull your gun from its case and have someone say: “Wow, that’s nice! What is it?”

On a cost-per-shot basis, airguns can be very kind to your wallet. Pellets are generally just pennies apiece, and they are readily available.

Your Humble Correspondent, shooting an air pistol from his SteadyAim harness.

Your Humble Correspondent, shooting an air pistol from his SteadyAim harness.

Recently, I was reminded that airguns deliver another benefit: often they get us outside to enjoy what is going on around it. A while back, I had an amazing moment while testing an air rifle. I was shooting from my SteadyAim harness. The SteadyAim is a harness that buckles around your shoulders and chest and has a couple of loops for your knees. You sit down or the ground or on a cushion, place the loops over your knees, and lean back. The weight of your legs in the loops counterbalances against the mass of your torso so that you can maintain a very comfortable, stable sitting position for long periods. I find it very relaxing, like sitting in an easy chair.

Sometimes airgunning allows you to see amazing things.

Sometimes airgunning allows you to see amazing things.

So I’m sitting my yard, relaxing in the harness with an air rifle across my knees, when I slowly become aware that it is one of those “Goldilocks” days: not too hot, not too cold, a bit of breeze, but not too windy. In short, it was very, very pleasant. I sat there, taking it all in, listening to the scrabble of the squirrels in the trees, the rustle of the leaves, the birdsong. Then it happened: a deer stepped out the woods on the other side of the lane from our house, walked the length of the side yard, and disappeared into the trees at the other end of the yard. If I had not been outside, messing around with an airgun, I wouldn’t have seen it.

On another occasion, I stepped onto our back deck, intent on shooting a CO2 revolver at a resettable target I had attached to a tree in the back yard with a couple of bungee cords. I was struck by the serenity of the scene as I looked through the trees, down the slope, to the little brook that runs through the ravine behind the house. I was peering through the leaves, trying to see if any ducks were visiting the brook, when a movement caught my eye. A doe was leading a pair of fawns along the brook. I watched them until they wandered out of sight.

Sometimes the best thing about airgunning is the spaces in between.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

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?”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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://www.airgunsofarizona.com/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://www.airgunsofarizona.com/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