Pneumatic Pnews

Monday, January 16, 2006

Benjamin Sheridan SHB 17 & SHB 22

by Tex Force.

Do you ever feel you got into airgunning too late? That, if you could just turn back the clock 30-40 years, things would be great because that was when all the really neat airguns were available? Well, you may have overlooked a gun that's still made today in the same way it has been made for the past 60 years - the Benjamin Sheridan SHB17 and SHB 22 (second gun down on the page).

How far back does it go?
The models 132 and 137 began production right after World War II in 1946. They're the direct ancestors of today's multi-pump pistol and had an incredibly long production run - up until 1985. Over that time, they lost the "Tootsie Roll" pump handle, the finish changed from plating to paint and the wood grips become more modern. But, the basic gun remained the same.

The Benjamin 130/132/137 may have looked a little different. Underneath, it was the same gun as the one you can buy today.

Quality reveals itself
The gun had a brass barrel in 1946, and it still does today. The stock and forearm were made of walnut, and they're still made of American hardwood, which can be either walnut or other hardwoods. The adjustable sights have remained, as have the two calibers - .177 and .22. In short, this is pretty much the same air pistol you could buy 60 years ago, only this one has all the modern improvements that make it a better gun.

Seals have improved since WWII!
Synthetics and seal materials have improved vastly since the 1940s. No longer is leather used as a pump head seal. It worked fine in its day, but it had to be oiled frequently or it lost compression pretty fast. Today's pump head will probably outlast the first owner and maybe the second, too. The space program advanced synthetics quite far from the 1960s through the 1980s. However, you still want to leave one pump of air in the gun at all times to keep the valves closed against air contamination.

Pellets have improved, too!
The pellets they had in the 1940s were nowhere near as accurate and efficient as modern pellets. For this pistol, you'll want to use a light pellet to keep the velocity respectable. I like the Daisy Quick Silver pellets and the RWS Geco pellet.

Back in the '60s, you'd be lucky to get a 1" group at 10 yds. Now, that can be stretched out to 25 yds. by a careful shooter. The barrels haven't gotten better - just the pellets. Improvements in pellets have also sped up the guns! The .177 is now rated at 525 f.p.s., and the .22 is rated at 460. That's the equivalent velocity of a Beeman P1 for less than one-third the price!

How much longer do we have?
It's difficult to say how much longer these pistols will be made. In the past 10 years, Crosman (who owns Benjamin Sheridan) has cancelled all of the Sheridan pistols. The guns we see today in .177 and .22 are Benjamins - Sheridans are always .20 caliber. They have also done away with the nickel-plated versions, which were very attractive. So, a grouping of more than 10 pistols has been whittled down to just four - including the CO2 SEB 177/22. It's just a matter of time before these, too, will be history.

Are they too expensive?
In 1949, a Benjamin 132/137 was $13.50. Compasseco now lists the SHB pistols at $116.95. If Chevrolet had increased their full-sized car prices by the same percent, a 2006 model would sell for under $14,000. In my book, today's American air pistol is something of a bargain!

If you want one of the most powerful air pistols generally available, and one that is still made here in the U.S., this model is one to consider. It has a level of quality that will never diminish.


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