Posts Tagged ‘Air pistol’

G12 Colt 1911, Beretta 92 007

The Beretta 92FS is another CO2-powered replica air pistol. It looks and feel like the Beretta pistol used by so many military forces and law enforcement agencies. The air pistol (there is some disagreement about what it should be called. The website has it as the Beretta 92 FS, the printed manual that comes with it calls it the Beretta 92FS, and the label on the side of its case says Beretta M 92 FS) weighs 2 pounds 12.2 ounces, and its length is 8.27 inches.

Everything on this pistol appears to be made of metal except for the checkered plastic grips. There are several models, including a blued finish with black grips, blued with walnut grips, nickel with black grips, nickel with walnut grips, and an all-black XX-Treme model with false silencer and dot sight. I tested the nickel finish version with black grips.

G12 Colt 1911, Beretta 92 009

What all of them have in common is that, while they look like their semi-automatic firearms counterparts, they are, in fact, double-action revolvers. Press the slide release lever on the side of the receiver, and the front of the slide moves forward to reveal the slot for the 8-shot rotary magazine.

G12 Colt 1911, Beretta 92 012

The procedure for loading the CO2 cartridge and for loading the magazine is exactly the same as it was for the Colt 1911 replica CO2 pistol that I tested last week, so I won’t go through that again here. And like the 1911 that I tested last week, the Beretta suffers from the same malady: if you shoot it in double action mode, the trigger pull is very high – over 10 pounds – but when you shoot it in single-action mode, the trigger pull drops to 5 pounds 5 ounces (which is still higher than I would like to see). And, like the 1911, the wallop that the Beretta packs is sufficient at 10 feet to dent and bounce tin cans but not enough to punch holes in them.

And that leads, naturally enough, to a question: what exactly are guns like the Beretta 92FS and the Colt 1911 from last week good for? They are not as accurate as match pistols, and they are not powerful enough for pest control at short range. And yet they are fun to shoot.

So what is needed, in my not so humble opinion, is a really good game to play with these pistols, and I think an airgun version of IPSC – the course of fire offered by the International Practical Shooting Confederation – would be just the ticket. Here’s what the IPSC website ( says: “IPSC shooters need to blend accuracy, power, and speed into a winning combination. Multiple targets, moving targets, targets that react when hit, penalty targets, or even partially covered targets, obstacles, movement, competitive strategies, and other techniques are all a part of IPSC to keep shooters challenged and spectators engaged.”

I think it would be absolutely terrific if the folks who manufacture replica air pistols would offer a line of targets that would allow shooters of these replica pistols to set up their own “backyard IPSC” courses. Check out this video of airsoft IPSC shooters in Asia — – I don’t see why a similar thing couldn’t be done with replica air pistols . . . and it looks like an enormous amount of fun to me.

If anyone knows of an effort in the US to put together something like IPSC for air pistols or air soft, please let me know.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

G12 Colt 1911, Beretta 92 013

I’ve been seeing a lot of replica air pistols lately. By replica, I mean air pistols that look and feel like their firearms counterparts.

This week’s example is the Colt Government 1911 A1 pellet pistol from Umarex. It stretches 9 inches from end to end and weighs 2 pounds 6 ounces. Everything except the checkered grips (plastic) is made of metal in a handsome blued steel finish. Powered by a 12-gram CO2 cartridge, it features a slide release latch, a manual safety on the left side, a functioning grip safety at the back of the pistol grip, non-adjustable front and rear sights, a lanyard loop, and a working hammer.

G12 Colt 1911, Beretta 92 014

It looks like a semi-automatic, but in actuality the 1911 A1 is a double-action revolver that houses a small rotary magazine inside what looks like the 1911’s slide.

G12 Colt 1911, Beretta 92 015

To ready the 1911 for shooting, first press the slide release lever just above the trigger assembly on the left side of the pistol. This will allow the front section of the slide to move forward, opening a gap to reveal the rotary magazine. Remove the rotary magazine. Next, press the magazine release button on the left side of the receiver between the trigger guard and the pistol grip. This releases the grip panel on the right side of the pistol which you must finish removing with your fingers. Beneath the grip panel is a chamber to hold the 12-gram CO2 pistol.

G12 Colt 1911, Beretta 92 018

Pull the cartridge lock lever at the bottom of the pistol grip down as far as it will go. Loosen the gold-colored cylinder screw by turning it clockwise. Insert a new CO2 cartridge into the chamber with the small end point toward the top of the pistol. Tighten the cylinder screw by rotating it gently counterclockwise until snug. Return the cartridge lock lever to its original position by pushing it upward. This should pierce the CO2 cartridge. To confirm this, point the pistol in a safe direction, flip the safety to FIRE, push in the grip safety, and squeeze the trigger. You should be rewarded with a “pop.”

If you don’t hear a pop, swing the cylinder lock downward, tighten the cylinder screw a bit more, and try again. Once you are sure that the pistol is discharging CO2, it’s time to load the rotary magazine by inserting pellets headfirst into the eight pellet bays. The back of the magazine has a small eight-point star-shaped assembly at the center. Once the magazine is loaded, drop it into the slot between the front and rear sections of the slide with the front of the magazine facing the muzzle and close the slide by pulling the front section of the slide back until it locks.

You can chose to shoot the 1911 A1 in one of two ways. In double action mode, you pull the trigger back, back, back, driving the hammer backward until the shot fires. In single action mode, you pull the hammer back until it locks and then you pull the trigger to discharge the shot.

Theoretically, double action mode is faster because you don’t have to pause between shots to cock the hammer. I found, however, that the effort to pull the trigger in double action mode is high . . . very high . . . 8 pounds 12 ounces, in fact. That’s high enough to be no-fun-at-all, in my view.

However, if you shoot in single action mode and cock the hammer first, the effort to trigger the shot is much more reasonable: only 2 pounds, 13.5 ounces. As a result, I highly recommend shooting this pistol in single action mode.

On a 75-degree day (velocities from CO2-powered airguns can vary considerably with temperature), the 1911 1A launched its first 7.9 grain pellet at around 400 feet per second. I shot slowly, taking a few seconds to align the pistol over the chronograph sensors, and every subsequent shot was slower, until the last shot registered around 353 fps. This is typical of CO2 powered airguns unless you give them sufficient time to recover CO2 pressure between shots.

I tried a few shots at a soup can at a distance of about 10 feet and found the 1911 A1 didn’t have enough oomph to punch holes in the can. It would dent the can and bounce around, but no holes.

In the end, I found the 1911 A1 is well made and fun to shoot. What this air pistol really needs is a fun game to play with it, and we’ll get into that a little bit next week when I take a look at Beretta 92FS pellet air pistol.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Why in the world would an airgun company knowingly create and sell an air rifle/scope combo with a crappy scope – one that is likely to create a customer satisfaction and product return problem for them? The short answer is that you are not the first customer. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Of course I am the first customer. I’m the guy who plunks down his money and takes the air rifle/scope combo home.”

Wrong. The first customer for that air rifle/scope combo is the buyer at a big box chain of retailers. I saw a documentary a few years ago that explained there has been a change in the dynamic between manufacturers and big box retailers that have thousands of stores.

It used to be that a manufacturer’s representative would approach the buyer at a retail chain, put on a dog-and-pony show of what products he had available, and then the buyer would decide which products to order. Now the buyer may well be, in effect, deciding which products the manufacturer should make by saying something like this: “If you can deliver a rifle/scope combination with the following features for $X price, I’ll buy 100,000 of them.”

Now no manufacturer is going to turn down a big sale like that, so they will try to figure out how they can deliver the rifle/scope combo that the big box buyer wants at the specified price and still make a profit. The end result: a really cheesy scope is part of the combo.

At this point, you may well be thinking: “What about me, the airgun enthusiast? Don’t they care about me?” The short answer is: yes, they do care, but probably not as much as you had hoped.

The reason, quite simply, is that the big box retailers are the center of the universe when it comes to corporate profits for the bigger airgun manufacturers. Enthusiasts are important, but not as important as the big box stores.

It’s really a matter of numbers. I did a little research a few years ago to try to get a handle on the size of the airgun enthusiast market. I called each of the bigger online airgun retailers, talked to the boss, and asked – under the provision that I would not share the information with anyone else – how many unique customers they had in their customer database. Then I added up the numbers (ignoring the fact that there were probably duplicate customers from retailer to retailer and that the folks I was talking to might be inflating the numbers just a bit) and came up with an estimate that there were 15,000-20,000 airgun enthusiasts in the United States.

Given that this was a few years ago and that the airgun market has been growing, let’s postulate that the number has more than doubled, and that there are now, say, 50,000 airgun enthusiasts in the U.S.

That’s not a bad number, but compare that to the millions of people who visit the big box retailers every day, and you don’t have to be Einstein to figure out why those big box stores are so important to the larger airgun manufacturers.

So what can you do to help get the airgunning products you want? Two things.

First, if you have a retailer like who spends the time on the phone (or in person) with you to help you make an informed buying decision, support them by buying from them. Sure, you might spend a buck or two more, but isn’t it worth it to get buying advice you can trust from people who actually know and use the product?

Second, reinforce good behavior but letting manufacturers know when they have done something right. Take the time to call the customer service line or email someone when you really like their product: “Hey, thanks for including an adjustable objective on that rifle combo” or “I really love the new such-and-such pistol; well done!”

Ingratitude is darn-near a national disease in the United States. It is very fashionable to bitch, whine, and complain when the least little thing doesn’t suite us. Let’s strike a blow for the good guys. Let people know when they are doing good and how much you appreciate it. You’ll be surprised how much good you can do with a few positive words.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you probably have noticed that I don’t generally do negative reviews. Oh, sure, I may mention that I didn’t like this or that about a particular airgun or that something could be improved, but if I find that an airgun has what I call “a fatal flaw” (for example, the trigger weight might be unacceptably high), I tell the manufacture that the review will have to wait until they fix the problem.

My underlying philosophy is that you, the reader, would prefer to read about products that work reasonably well and that perhaps you might like to buy. My presumption is that you, like me, read reviews of products on-line as a kind of “decision support tool” that you use to figure out whether you are interested in a product.

Lately, though, I have noticed a trend that has gotten me hot enough that I need to blow off some steam. That trend has been the inclusion of really crappy scopes in a package with an inexpensive yet decent air rifle.

What do I mean by “a really crappy scope?” Quite simply, a scope that does not have an adjustable objective. An adjustable objective – usually a rotating bell on the end of the scope that faces the target but sometimes a sidewheel on the scope – allows the shooter to critically focus the scope on the target. Sometimes because the scope cannot be focused, it is just plain difficult to see the target clearly.

But there is another problem: a non-adjustable objective can result in something called parallax error. For a detailed explanation of parallax, go here: The upshot of parallax error is that if you don’t place your eye in exactly the same spot behind scope for each shot (and it is surprisingly easy to get it wrong), you may think that you are aiming at the same spot on the target, but you may not be.

Now, at this point you would be right to ask: “So what?” Well, it is a very big “so what.” If you can’t be sure that you are aiming at the same spot on the target, your attempts to shoot groups for accuracy and to test different pellets to see which is the most accurate will be in vain . . . that’s what.

The reason that I am writing about this is that in the past month or so, I have been sent three different air rifle/scope combos that included crappy scopes. In one case, I contacted the manufacturer and said, “The previous generation of this rifle had a better scope; this is a step backwards.” I was told: “The decision was made to include this scope with this rifle. I’ll let you know if anything changes.”

In another case, I contacted the parent company, and they said, “Maybe you got a defective scope.” I sent the scope back and in a few days I heard from them: “You should test this rifle with whatever scope you prefer.” In other words, the scope was not defective, just crappy. (And in private conversations, the guy I spoke with, a marketing guy, admitted that this was likely to create a customer satisfaction and product return problem for them.)

Next time, we’ll look at why airgun companies do this.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

G12 Colt 1911, Beretta 92 019

Back in the very late 1800s and early 1900s, the US Army had a problem. From 1899 to 1902, US Soldiers were fighting the Philippine-American War, and this involved facing Moro tribal insurgents who are alleged to have rendered themselves insensible to pain through a combination of body binding with leather, narcotics, and religious ritual.

When the Moro charged, they just kept on coming, and the soldiers’ .38 caliber service revolvers were not adequate to deterring the Moros. According to the Internet sources I have read, the Army tried reverting to the .45 caliber single-action Colt revolver. The heavier bullet was effective, but the single-action Colt simply wasn’t fast enough. A higher rate of fire was needed.

Enter John Moses Browning, prolific firearm inventor. In addition to a lever action rifle, a pump action shotgun, a machine gun, and an automatic rifle, Browning invented the M1911 semi-automatic magazine-fed pistol, which served as the standard-issue sidearm for the US Armed Forces from 1911 to 1985. This pistol has an illustrious history and is still widely used by military, law enforcement, firearms competitors, and private citizens throughout the world.

Recently, the good folks at sent me the Colt 1911 WWII Commemorative Edition air pistol. It is a limited edition model, with just 500 made. I was immediately struck by the appearance of the box for the WWII Commemorative. At first glance, it looks like an ancient corrugated cardboard box that has been lying neglected in some warehouse for decades – stained by the dirt, dust and grease of not being disturbed for years. In short, the box looks like it might have been made during World War II and somehow “fell through the cracks” until now. Closer inspection reveals that the box actually has the shiny finish of modern printing, but nevertheless, it is a very cool effect.

G12 Colt 1911, Beretta 92 022

Open the box, and the appearance of the pistol is even more striking: as the antiques folks put it, it has been “distressed,” given an aged look that suggests the pistol you are holding is a veteran of World War II. Normally I am not much of a fan of “faux” this or faux that, but in this case I am more than willing to make an exception. Whoever at Umerex designed this commemorative pistol did a really nice job, and it absolutely looks the part. I think would be interesting to put one of these in front of a 1911 firearms enthusiast and see how long it takes them to figure out that this is a modern replica and an air pistol at that.

G12 Colt 1911, Beretta 92 020

The WWII Commemorative stretches 8.5 inches from end to end and weighs two pounds, one ounce. The frame is metal and the grips are wood. Press the magazine release button and a magazine that holds a 12-gram CO2 cartridge and 20 BBs drops out of the pistol grip. The pistol features a full blow-back slide, a slide release latch, a manual safety on the left side, a functioning grip safety at the back of the pistol grip, non-adjustable front and rear sights, a lanyard loop, and a working hammer.

G12 Colt 1911, Beretta 92 021

To ready the Commemorative for shooting, release the magazine and turn the cartridge piercing screw counter-clockwise with the allen wrench that is provided. Slide a CO2 cartridge into the magazine and slide the magazine back into the pistol grip. Now turn the cartridge piercing screw clockwise until the CO2 cartridge is pierced and stops hissing. Eject the magazine again and slide the BB follower down until it locks. Load up to 20 BBs into the magazine through the loading port, press the BB follower to unlock it and re-insert the magazine into the pistol grip.

Now, here’s the really cool part: as the last step before shooting, you have to “rack the slide” – pull the slide back so that it cocks the hammer. Take aim at your target, and a mere 2 lbs. 4.8 oz. of pressure on the trigger will send the shot downrange. As it does so, the Commemorative emits a “pop,” and the slide blows back, cocking the hammer for the next shot, just like the real deal. When the last shot is fired, the slide locks in the back position, just like the real deal.

The Commemorative launches BBs at around 300 fps. That’s not enough to punch a hole in a tin can at 10 feet, but it is enough to bounce the can around pretty well. I can imagine setting up a backyard practical shooting course and having a whale of a lot of fun with this interesting commemorative pistol.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

G12 Chiappa FAS 604 004-001

My first thought when I opened the case for the 6004 FAS by Chiappa Firearms was, “Wow, this is a nice air pistol.”

And, indeed, it is. I’ve been reviewing air rifles and air pistols for a while now, and everything about the Chiappa 6004 says to me: “This is a serious air pistol, made by people who are serious about quality.

The 6004 comes in two models, the standard, which has an ambidextrous walnut grip, and the match, which has a match-style grip with adjustable palm shelf. Other than the grips, I believe the single-stroke pneumatic powerplants for both models are identical. Airguns of Arizona sent me the standard model for test.

G12 Chiappa FAS 604 006

The 6004 stretches 11 inches from end to end and weighs just two pounds. At the extreme aft end of the pistol is an ambidextrous walnut grip that I found extremely comfortable. It seems to grip my hand with a small shelf at the top of the grip and another at the bottom. There are sculpted finger indentations which seemed to fit me “just right,” and the finger indentations and the back of the grip (where the palm wraps around) is stippled for easier gripping.

Forward of the pistol grip, the lower part of the receiver forms a black metal guard around a black metal trigger that is adjustable for trigger weight and position and pull. Plastic must be some sort of dirty word at the Chiappa factory in Italy, because I couldn’t find a scrap of it anywhere on the 6004, with the exception of a tiny o-ring at the breech end of the barrel.

Underneath the receiver, you’ll find the caliber, “Made in Italy,” and a serial number, all inscribed in white lettering. On either side of the receiver, also in white lettering, you’ll find 6004 FAS by Chiappa Firearms. There is a pin, secured by e-clips, for a pivot point at the extreme forward end of the lower receiver. Above that is the upper receiver, which has an inset opening for the muzzle and, above that, a blade-type front sight that can be swapped out if needed or desired.

G12 Chiappa FAS 604 007

At the extreme aft end of the upper receiver is a micro-adjustable notch-type rear sight with knobs for adjusting windage and elevation. On the left side of the upper receiver, just forward of the rear sight is a latch for releasing the upper receiver for loading and cocking.

That’s all there is to the 6004. The fit and finish are excellent, and everything smacks of quality. The only addition that I would make to the 6004 would be the inclusion of a small dovetail on the top of the upper receiver so that a red dot or scope could be added if the shooter desires.

G12 Chiappa FAS 604 011

To ready the 6004 for shooting, press the latch on the left side of the upper receiver in. This releases the upper receiver so that the aft end can pivot up and forward so that the upper and lower are open almost flat. This exposes the breech end of the barrel for loading. Slide a .177 pellet into the aft end of the barrel. Return the upper receiver to its original position – this requires about four pounds of effort – and this pressurizes the action for shooting.

Take aim at your target, ease the first stage out of the trigger. This required 1 lb. 9.2 oz. of effort on the sample that I tested. At 3 lb. 2.5 oz. of pressure, the second stage trips, and the shot goes downrange with a mild “pop.” Depending upon the weight, the 6004 launches pellets up to 400 fps.

With the right pellet, the factory claims accuracy of 0.08 inches center-to-center. That’s plenty good enough for 10-meter competition, air pistol silhouette, and high-precision backyard plinking. Because of its low velocity and low power, the 6004 would not be suitable for pest control, except possible mice or hornets at close range.

Now here’s a surprise: because the 6004 is produced in a modern firearms factory with efficient manufacturing techniques, the price is actually much less than I had expected; the standard model is under $400. That strikes me as a bargain for a pistol that, based on the quality of its construction, promises to deliver decades of shooting fun with occasional replacement of seals.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott


"Varmint cong" at work at El Rancho Elliott. They are undeniably cute, but they can be very destructive.

“Varmint cong” at work at El Rancho Elliott. They are undeniably cute, but they can be very destructive.

Sometimes the subject for a blog comes from the strangest places. My wife and I were on an outing with her sister and our brother-in-law Kyle. Kyle is my best buddy.

My mechanic had informed methat one of our ancient cars had several problems that, when the inevitable failure came, would be too expensive to fix. So we were talking about cars. Kyle was relating how pleased he was with his Honda van, how reliable it was, and how over the years he had spent relatively little for repairs and maintenance. . . except for “The Great Chipmunk Invasion.”

Kyle and his wife’s house are in an older development that was built perhaps 30 years ago in a vast oak forest. Everywhere you look, there are oak trees and vast quantities of acorns are available every year. So why, exactly, chipmunks would choose to crawl into the innards of Kyle’s Honda van and chew on the plastic that insulates the wires, no one knows. What Kyle and his repair shop know, for a certainty, is that the chipmunks did $800 worth of damage in a very short period of time. In addition, chipmunks or squirrels (Kyle can’t be sure which) also ate several important plastic parts on a lawnmower stored in Kyle’s shed. He related all this to me while were chatting about cars. He also said he had begun a war on chipmunks. He calls them “varmint cong.”

What came next, however, surprised the heck out of me. “You know that pistol you gave me?” Kyle said. I nodded. He was referring to an RWS/Diana 5G springer pistol. It launches 7.9 grain pellets at around 530 fps.

He continued, “Well, the other day I killed five chipmunks with it.”

The RWS 5G pistol when it was temporarily rigged with a red dot.

The RWS 5G pistol when it was temporarily rigged with a red dot.

“Holy smokes,” I said. “How far away were you?” In the back of my mind, I was thinking that he must have been pretty close. The eastern chipmunk is not a large animal. It’s about 5-6 inches long and weighs about 3 ounces. Further, since the RWS 5G is a springer pistol, it has typical springer recoil, which makes it challenging to shoot with high accuracy. Beyond that, the 5G is a difficult pistol to mount a scope on, so Kyle was probably shooting with iron sights.

“I was shooting from the deck,” Kyle said. His deck juts off the second story of his house and offers a commanding view of the back yard. “I got three of them by the shed and two by the woodpile.”

I thought about it for a moment. It has to be a good 30-40 feet from the deck to the shed or the woodpile.

“That’s some good shooting,” I said. “How did you do it?”

“I was shooting two-handed,” Kyle replied. “Sometimes, I rested my hands on the deck railing. The fiber optic sights really helped in lining up the shots.”

Kyle related that he dropped four of the chipmunks instantly. Another was hit but crawled under the shed.

So, if you are wondering if spring-piston air pistols can be used for pest control, under the right circumstances, yes they can!

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

There are two kinds of shooting that I really enjoy: popping away at targets with an airgun and capturing nature and wildlife images with a digital camera. Believe it or not, the two support each other.

Before we get to the specifics of what I mean, let’s grab hold of some basic background information. To wit: people wobble. That’s right; you, me, everybody, wobbles. We don’t notice it most of the time because in most folks it is slight and inconsequential. But if you have ever weighed yourself on a Wii balance board, the results displayed on the screen show the movement of your center of gravity over the balance board, and it’s not a single dot. Instead, it’s a tracing showing movement. We are constantly in motion, you and I, with our muscles continually micro-tweaking our position.

When an airgun shooter wants to shoot offhand – that is, from a standing position – immediately that inherent wobble begins to matter a great deal. Even with iron sights, you find you can’t stay pointed where you want to be: at the exact center of the target. And when you add a scope with magnification to your airgun, the problem appears to be even worse, as the field of view careens back and forth across the face of the target.

Now, here’s the real rub: short of dying, having yourself stuffed with a steel rod up your center, you can’t stop the wobble. Sure, Olympic ten-meter shooters try to control it with special jackets, pants, underwear (no kidding) and shoes, but they still wobble.

The best you can do, as an ordinary (non-Olympic) airgun shooter is to try to control it and deal with it.

Control it. Set your feet at shoulder width, relax and settle into your center of gravity, rest your elbows against your sides, take a breath in and let half of it out, ease the first stage out of the trigger, and take your shot.

Deal with it. In my view (and there certainly are contrary views, so try what I suggest and if it works well for you, use it; otherwise check out some of the contrary views), one of the best ways to deal with the wobble is to get the timing right. Here’s a prime example: some years ago I was shooting a scoped rifle at a field target match. On one of the standing lanes, I was wobbling fiercely, but the wobble was fairly regular, left and right from the center of the target. I realized that if I triggered the shot while I was aimed at the center of the kill zone, I would actually be in the act of moving off the target, but if I triggered the shot while I was at the peak of the wobble to one side, I would actually be in the act of moving back onto the center of the target. So I triggered the shot when I had “wobbled off,” and the target went down.

So what does this have to do with wildlife photography? A lot, it turns out. When I am shooting wildlife with my Panasonic FZ200 superzoom camera, I am generally shooting at extremely high zoom levels: 24x, 48x, sometimes 96x, and I shoot handheld, standing up. As you might imagine, the image sometimes moves around quite a bit in the viewfinder, so I use the same skills: feet at shoulder width, relax into my center of gravity (if I can manage it in the excitement), take in a breath, and let out half, press the shutter halfway down to lock the autofocus and autoexposure, and take the shot when the timing is right.

Even better, I have found that the more I practice with the camera, it helps my airgun shooting, and the more I practice with the airguns, it helps my wildlife photography. It appears to be a synergistic system, and it sure is fun!

What follows are some photos that I was fortunate enough — using the techniques described in this blog — to capture when my wife and I were walking on Peebles Island near Troy NY. On both days, it was a “God likes me” moment.

On July 24, 2013, I shot this image of the dam on the north side of Peebles Island. (Click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.)

FZ150 Peebles Island 019

My wife, who has extraordinary distance vision, said, “What’s that at the far end of the dam?” At full optical and digital zoom, I saw this:

FZ150 Peebles Island 020

On June 16, 2014, we saw the following:

Due to recent rains, water was pouring over the dam.

FZ200 Peebles eagles and herons 016

Herons were waiting below the dam.

FZ200 Peebles eagles and herons 031

One of them caught a fish.

FZ200 Peebles eagles and herons 033

An eagle scared the heron off the fish.

FZ200 Peebles eagles and herons 034

He thought about his options for a moment.

FZ200 Peebles eagles and herons 035

And flew off with his ill-gotten gains.

FZ200 Peebles eagles and herons 036

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

You don’t see it talked about much in the airgun forums, but many spring-piston air rifles and air pistols – springers – actually burn some of the lubricants in their compression cylinders during the shot cycle. Don’t worry; it’s a normal thing.

Here’s how G.V. Cardew and G.M. Cardew describe it in their book The Airgun from Trigger to Target: “The combustion phase is the phase in which most high powered sporting spring rifles operate. As the piston comes forward on firing, the temperature of the air in front of it rises with the pressure; this very high temperature causes oil, or any other combustible substance to burn, thereby increasing the pressure further, producing enough energy to drive the pellet up the barrel at a very high velocity.”

Further, they proved that the combustion takes place through an ingenious test that they called “The Nitrogen Experiment.” Starting with a .22 caliber Weihrauch HW35, they stripped it, degreased and rebuilt it with the correct amount of lubrication everywhere. They then fired it through a chronograph until it settled down at 636 fps with a 14.4 grain pellet (12.9 fp of energy at the muzzle).

They then placed the HW35 and a supply of pellets in a long plastic bag and sucked all the air out of it with a vacuum pump, leaving it sitting under vacuum for half an hour to remove all oxygen from within the seals and mechanism. The bag was sealed around the barrel and a rubber bung pressed into the muzzle to prevent oxygen from re-entering the gun. After that, nitrogen, an inert gas that does not support combustion, was blown into the bag to make it a manageable size for shooting the gun. The bung was removed and replaced for each shot, and a number of shots were fired. With the HW35 unable to enter the combustion phase of the shot cycle, the gun managed only 426 fps or 5.8 foot-pounds. The Cardews had proved conclusively that combustion is necessary for the proper operation of a sporting springer.

So, a little bit of lubrication is necessary so that combustion can take place. But what happens when your brand new airgun has a little too much lubrication? Check out the chart below.


This is the graph of velocities of an airgun that has too much lubrication and has entered into what the Cardews call the “detonation phase,” or what airgunners generally refer to as “dieseling.” Instead of making normal shot-cycle sounds, the shot goes off with a bang, producing the wild variations in velocity that you see above. Often smoke comes out the barrel and there is a characteristic smell. In severe cases, dieseling can actually bow out the walls of the compression chamber and drive the piston backwards with such force that it kinks the mainspring.

Fortunately, it is usually the case that a handful of shots with extra-heavy pellets will drive the excess lubricant out of the powerplant and settle the airgun back into normal operation. Below is the velocity graph of the same airgun after it was shot enough to settle down.


The bottom line: high powered sporting air rifles and air pistols require some combustion of their lubrication to operate properly. But there is such a thing as too much. If you find your air rifle or air pistol dieseling, 5-10 shots with the heaviest pellets you have of the appropriate caliber may help to correct the situation.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott


pie plate massacree 001

Recently I heard from a reader who was responding to my attempt to test the claims made for the Predator Polymag pellet. You can read that blog and the comments that follow here:

In a nice note, Mark, who says he is a professional shooter with over 20 years’ experience, made a number of comments, among them: “Simply if hunting small game you don’t want to punch a little hole through you want a pellet that goes in expands uses all its kinetic energy in the animal and that gives much better quicker kills. I’ve tested these poly pellets along others in .22 and have seen the results they do penetrate and unleash more kinetic energy than most …”

He also said, in effect, that he didn’t think my tests on inanimate objects really proved anything and that if I did some testing on actual rabbit heads I might be surprised at the results. Now, I take Mark’s point: maybe my tests on inanimate objects really don’t prove anything. And, if Mark or anyone is getting really good results with Predator Polymag pellets in the field, that’s all that really matters. If the Polymags deliver the accuracy and lethality you need, the defense calls no further witnesses. Read the original blog carefully and you’ll see that at no point did I say that the Predator Polymag pellets were bad pellets. Instead, I simply couldn’t prove – in my tests – the claims of “incomparable penetration and expansion.”

As to the suggestion that I test on actual rabbit heads, in theory it is a good one, but the practical problems seem daunting: I don’t have a supply of rabbit head available for testing and – even more importantly – I lack the dissection skills to make sense of the results. Nevertheless, Mark had planted the seed of an idea: maybe I should give the Polymag Predator pellets another test to see if I had got it wrong the first time.

So I decided to do some more testing, again on inanimate objects. For outright penetration – the ability to crack a skull – I decided to use a metal pie plate my wife gracious donated to the cause. For penetration in somewhat softer material, I selected a piece of 5/8-inch-thick hard wood. And for penetration and expansion, a thick paperback book that I had purchased at a used bookstore and didn’t care to finish.

The pie plate was thick, enameled, and looked to be pretty tough. To get calibrated as to its ability to withstand penetration, I set it up at 13 yards and launched a 7.9 grain Crosman Premier at it from my high-power .177 caliber Walther LGV. With a clang, the pellet punched through the plate, so I decided to step down in power and brought out my 6-foot-pound FWB 150. Typically, it launches pellets in the mid-600 feet per second range.

The first shot with the FWB150, with a Crosman 7.9 grain premier, dented but failed to punch through the plate. The same thing happened with the Predator Polymag and an RWS Superpoint Extra. An RWS Hypermax alloy pellet, however, punched through the plate with authority.

On the thin wood, the 7.9 Premier, the Polymag, and the Hypermax, when shot from the FWB 150, all lodged themselves near the surface of the wood. When I tried the same pellets launched from the LGV, measuring with a toothpick down the pellet holes, the Crosman Premier apparently penetrated the deepest.

Special note here: shot from the high powered .177 LGV, the Hypermax pellet went supersonic with a loud CRACK! I once kinked the mainspring in a nice German break barrel air rifle while shooting ultralight pellets that went supersonic and caused the rifle to diesel. So unless your air rifle manufacture specifically makes claims for high velocity with alloy pellets (1,200 fps and above), I would avoid shooting ultralight alloy pellets in high power spring-piston airguns.

The one place I can really recommend shooting lightweight alloy pellets is in low-power airguns (such as the Weihrauch HW 30 rifle or RWS LP8 pistol) for pest control at short range where you might want lots of penetration and then have the shot “die” very quickly. And – this should go without saying – only if the pellet delivers the accuracy you need.

Shooting the paperback book with the FWB, the Crosman Premier penetrated to page 131. The Hypermax drilled its way to page 173. I found the red plastic tip of the Predator Polymag at page 198 and the body of the pellet at page 179. The RWS Superpoint penetrated to page 206. All of the pellets caused deformation in the paper pages well beyond where the pellet was found, and none of them – including the Polymag – exhibited any significant deformation or expansion of the pellet body itself.

Just for fun, I also tried shooting the book with a 7-foot-pound .22 caliber pumper rifle that Tim Smith put together for me. Launching a Gamo Hunter round-nose pellet, it penetrated to page 98 in the book.

I sacrificed another thick paperback book to the angry gods of airgun testing, Predator Polymag head-to-head against the RWS hollowpoint. Shooting them through the FWB 150 at 13 yards, I found that the body of the Polymag out-penetrated the RWS hollowpoint by some 34 pages, and the red point of the Polymag penetrated another 12 pages beyond that. There was little deformation to the body of the Polymag while the nose of the RWS pellet had flattened so that it looked like a wadcutter.

Shooting with the high power LGV, both pellets penetrated more than twice as far. The Polymag penetrated 16 pages deeper with the red point three pages beyond that. Both pellets were approximately equally mangled and flattened by their passage through the book. Why the pellets were more flattened by this book than by the first book, I can’t say.

So where does that leave us? First of all, there are clearly more variables to the business of testing pellet penetration and expansion than I have a good handle on. The Predator Polymag may not deliver “incomparable” performance in all cases, but it fares pretty well. So if you are using the Predator Polymag, and if it delivers the accuracy and hunting performance you need, by all means keep using it . . . and, if you like, share with me some of your experiences in the comments section of this blog.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott