Pneumatic Pnews

Monday, February 27, 2006

Benjamin Sheridan 392/397

by Tex Force

Back on January 16, I did a posting about the Benjamin Sheridan SHB 17 & SHB 22. I said those pistols are timeless classics, direct descendants of airguns made in 1946. Today, I want to talk about the Benjamin Sheridan 392 and 397 pneumatic rifles (third and fourth guns down) that are descendants of Benjamin rifles going back to 1940! People say they don't make them like they used to, but these air rifles are a notable exception to that statement.

The Benjamin 392 and 397 are made as well as the Benjamin rifles of decades ago.

Brass, steel and wood!
It's hard to find products made from real materials today, but these Benjamin rifles certainly are! Their barrels and pump tubes are made from brass the way they were more than 60 years ago, and the action parts are made from solid steel. The stocks are made of American walnut. That's right - walnut! While other companies have gone to injection-molded plastic stocks, these fine rifles are still stocked in the traditional way, with hardwood that is an American tradition. The one thing that's changed over the years is the metal finish.

The old Benjamins were nickelplated and had a dark coating on top of that called black nickel. The black was very fragile and flaked off as time passed. The bright nickel also wore away, and now some people think the old guns were originally shiny brass! Today's guns are electrostaticaly painted with a durable paint that wears about as well as nickelplating.

Variable power!
The nice thing about a multi-pump pneumatic airgun is that you can vary the power to suit your shooting simply by the number of pumps you put into the gun. For target shooting, three pumps is plenty. For hunting, you may want six to eight pumps for greater power. The nice thing is that all you need to do is vary the number of strokes, which is really easy.

Both rifles come with fully adjustable rear sights that many owners use just as they are. But there are other options. A Williams peep sight can be easily mounted to the receiver. The rifle is already drilled and tapped with the holes for it. This sight increases your sighting precision by about 50 percent, which is why the U.S. Army has used peep sights on their main battle rifles since 1884. They are easier and faster to use than conventional open sights and much more accurate.

If you want to mount a dot sight or scope on the rifle, it is possible with the special four-piece scope base (second item down) that clamps directly to the barrel. And 11mm scope ring clamps to this base, allowing the use of scopes and dot sights. If you mount a scope on the barrel, you may have to hold the gun differently when you pump it. You do not want to grab the scope when pumping!

Another option that works well with compact scopes is the B-Square Weaver base (fourth item down) that attaches to the receiver of the rifle. This mount brings the eyepiece of the scope back to your eye. It's just a base, so you'll still need to buy scope rings (for a Weaver base) and the scope or dot sight, itself.

Which pellets to use?
For starters, try the Benjamin Sheridan pellets (last item on the page) in the correct caliber for your gun. These seem to work the best in these rifles. Another great pellet in either caliber is the Crosman Copperhead domed pellet (third item down on page). And, the Crosman Premier on the same page is another great pellet for either of these air rifles.

What else?
Really that's about all you need to start shooting - a rifle, pellets and sights, if you choose not to use the excellent open sights that come on the gun. There is one more maintenance item, however, and that's a tube of Crosman Pellgunoil. Put a couple drops of oil on the pump head about every six months and your gun will keep its compression for decades.

One maintenance tip.
This is extremely important. Be sure to keep one or two pumps of air in your rifle at all times when you are not shooting it. That air keeps both the inlet valve and exhaust valve closed against airborne dirt and contamination. I have multi-pump pneumatics that are 30 years old and still function as good as the day they were new because I have done this faithfully.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Daisy 717: the perfect informal target pistol

by Tex Force

Do you like to just shoot and shoot with no particular goal in mind? That's called plinking, and there's a Daisy pistol perfect for it - the Daisy 717 (bottom of the page). It's the easiest of easy-going air pistols, yet it has all the accuracy you need to make those really difficult shots.

Single-stroke pneumatic
This pistol is charged by a lever on the left side of the gun. The bolt is first withdrawn to cock the action, then the lever is cycled open and closed one time. One side of the compression chamber is the pump seal. If the lever is withdrawn a second time, the compressed air from the first stroke will be lost. You can't defeat the system. One pump is all you get.

Light pumping!
That one pump rewards you with a single shot in the mid-300 f.p.s. range when using light target pellets. It's also the easiest single-stroke pistol to pump. Even easier than the IZH-46 (second item down). Daisy deserves credit for that, because single-stroke pistols are usually more difficult to cock. Not only did they make it easy, they also made it possible to adjust the pump stroke from outside the gun. You can always keep your pistol shooting at peak performance! Included in that is the oiling of the pliable pump head seal, for which Daisy recommends 20-weight automotive oil, but I've used Crosman Pellgunoil on the piston seals of all my Daisy single-strokes.

The sights are fully adjustable, if a little low in front. Sharp eyes will reward you with a perfect sight picture that will result in very small groups if you do your part.

The Daisy 717 was Daisy's first single-stroke target pistol - introduced in 1981. There was also a .22 caliber model, called the 722, introduced at the same time. Daisy dropped it in 1996. In target airguns, .177 caliber is really the only one that matters. In 1986, they added the 747 pistol, an upgrade of the 717. It had a Lothar Walther barrel and better adjustable sights. In 1990 the top-of-the-line 777 was added. It had a non-adjustable wood grip that never quite justified the higher price charged by Daisy. Today, the 717 and 747 are all that remain. Although the 717 doesn't have the Walther barrel, it's still very accurate.

Both the 717 and 747 are muzzle-heavy pistols. While that does help steady the guns for better control, it also makes them feel too heavy to many shooters. They really aren't that heavy at just 36 oz., but they do have a lot of that weight out in front of the triggerguard. If you don't like that feel, the lighter Gamo Compact (third item down) is probably the better airgun for you. The two-stage trigger is somewhat creepy but not too heavy. It is not adjustable, but you do get used to it pretty quick.

Pellet choices
Since this is a Daisy, I think you have to try Daisy's Quick Silver pellets. I would also recommend the Gamo Match pellet (third item down), because it often performs as well as more expensive target pellets. Finally, don't forget to try the light Tech Force Match pellet. It usually performs best in my target airguns - even better than other brands sold at higher prices.

The Daisy 717 is a fun gun that's also a wonderful informal target pistol. You'll be hard-pressed to find a better all-round plinking air pistol.

Monday, February 13, 2006

IZH-61: an air rifle for everyone!

by Tex Force

Shame on me for not telling you about this wonderful little air rifle before now! If you don't know about the IZH-61 yet, you're in for a rare treat!

It may look like a futuristic combat rifle, but the IZH-61 is one very accurate target rifle!

A real value from Russia!
That's correct - this sidelever spring-piston rifle is made by the same people who make the AK-47. They're also the folks who make the IZH-46M target pistol (second item down), widely acknowledged as the best buy in a target air pistol! It should come as no surprise that the IZH-61 is also a very accurate air rifle. But, how good can it really be if it's selling for less than $85?

As accurate as $400 target rifles!
You may not believe that, but this little spring rifle can hold its own with a Daisy model 853 target rifle that sells for over $400. In fact, it's as accurate as Daisy's Avanti 888 precharged target rifle that sells for more than $500! From a rest, an IZH-61 will group all its shots in about two-tenths of an inch at 10 meters. One owner on the East Coast was so impressed with his rifle that he installed a laminated stock that costs over $200 and an Anschutz front and rear aperture sight set costing over $500 on his $80 Russian air rifle! Granted that was extreme, but the rifle can back up that kind of investment. It's that accurate.

Loaded with features that are perfect for beginners
The IZH-61 is the perfect starter air rifle for several reasons besides just the accuracy. It weighs just 6.5 lbs., or about the same as Daisy's target rifles designed for youth shooting. It has an adjustable stock, so it can be sized to fit smaller children. Although it is a sidelever, the pellets feed from a 5-shot magazine, so there are no places where small fingers can get pinched. This is one of the easiest-cocking air rifles on the market! All are good reasons to start a new shooter with one of these, but adults will also find plenty of features to love. The adjustable stock also accommodates larger shooters, and the rifle comes with both open sights and an aperture site conversion. There are even two mounting points for the rear site, depending on which form - peep or open - you choose to use. The front sight is a globe-type that accepts different inserts for different types of shooting. It comes with a square post insert.

It's a repeater?
Yes. The rifle comes with a 5-shot "harmonica"-type magazine that indexes the next pellet every time you cock the lever. It's practically foolproof, except that it doesn't sense when the last pellet has been fired, so it would be possible to dry-fire the gun if no pellet remains in the magazine. This type of magazine makes it easy to load pellets because they are put into the magazine when it's apart from the gun. Then the magazine is inserted in one side of the receiver, and you can begin cocking and shooting.

Trigger has some creep
The trigger is the one feature that's not absolutely first-rate on this rifle. It has a lot of creep or movement that can be felt when it is pulled. Still, it is light enough for younger shooters to use easily. Though it's creepy, it's just as good as many triggers on sporting spring rifles costing hundreds of dollars.

Lower power is perfect for indoor target use!
This rifle shoots lightweight .177 pellets at 450 to 475 f.p.s. While that is too slow for hunting or pest elimination (except for small mice), it's perfect for indoor target use, providing you shoot into an approved pellet trap such as the Tech Force flat pellet trap (last item on page) or the much larger Daisy pellet trap (last item on page). Though it's not powerful, do not attempt to catch the pellets in a cardboard box filled with crushed newspapers, the way you do with a BB gun. This rifle will soon shoot through such a stop and start hitting whatever is behind it.

The low power also means the rifle is very quiet, so it shouldn't bother others if shot inside the house. The noise of the pellet hitting the trap will be the loudest sound heard.

What pellets to use?
The Tech Force Match Pellet (Light) (bottom of the page) is the perfect match for the accuracy of this rifle. The Gamo Match pellet (third item down) is also a good choice. A lighter pellet with a wadcutter or flat nose cuts a perfectly round hole in the target and is easier to see and score.

The IZH-61 is already a legendary air rifle. Ask any owner and they will tell you what a wonderful little shooter it can be! I hope you can become a happy owner like the others. Let me know what you think of the gun when you get it!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Gamo Hunter 1250

by Tex Force

You want power in an air rifle? This one's got it all. The Gamo Hunter 1250 (third item down on the page) is the first spring-piston rifle to break 1,250 feet per second in .177 caliber. You may not actually want to shoot that fast, especially if you want to hit anything, but all that power means this rifle can handle the heavy pellets faster than other rifles shoot the light ones.

Hunters rejoice!
This Gamo really performs! Actual chronograph tests show that there is some deviation, rifle to rifle, but all the .177 1250s I've tested were well over 1,200 f.p.s.! That means you can accurately shoot heavyweight pellets, such as the Beeman Kodiak Match (bottom of the page) at speeds about 1,000 f.p.s., so they will have a flatter trajectory and require less range estimation over longer distances.

A BIG air rifle!
When I wrote about the RWS Diana 350 Magnum air rifle on January 2, I said it's a big gun. Well, this one is even bigger. It's 48.5" long and weighs 9 lbs., give or take for the density of the wood stock. Cocking effort is about 60 lbs., which is almost double that of the RWS Diana 350 Magnum (second gun down). This isn't a casual air rifle for plinking at tin cans. It's a serious hunting rifle that can humanely take game as large as woodchucks and raccoons, as long as the right pellets are used.

Which caliber - .177 or .22?
You probably know that any airgun is about 20 percent more powerful in .22 caliber than it is in .177. It's just the nature of the beast. Well, in a rifle with this kind of power potential, I sure would think twice about getting the .22. The velocity will still be high enough for those long-range flat shots, and you're going to have smashing power on target! The Beeman Kodiak Match pellet in .22 is a great choice, but don't overlook the Beeman Crow Magnum hollowpoint (third pellet down) and Gamo's Magnum pellet (second pellet down). Both are lighter than the Kodiak, which means higher velocity for those longer shots.

Should you scope it?
Although the 1250 comes with open sights, it's really meant to be scoped. In order to reach out to the long ranges this rifle is capable of, you need the extra precision of a good scope. It won't make the rifle any more accurate, but it will help you sight more accurately. I recommend a Tech Force 3-12x44mm scope (5th scope down), mounted in B-Square Air Match 1" rings (high) (4th item from the bottom). You need the high rings to accommodate the larger (44mm) objective lens, and you'll want that large objective for the extra light it passes. More light means longer hunting, which means more game harvested.

Do you REALLY NEED this airgun?
That's a question we all have to ask with each new purchase we make. You may be doing well right now with a Benjamin Sheridan 392 (third rifle down), so why would you spend the money for a new 1250 - even if it IS on sale? With almost twice the muzzle energy of your current rifle, the 1250 is lets you reach those squirrels that taunt you from 100 feet up in the trees! And, it's going to reach out and touch that tough old woodchuck you've been after for the last three years. He knows exactly how close you need to be with your current rifle, so imagine his surprise when you open up from 20 yards farther back! If your hunting experiences dictate a more powerful rifle, they don't come much better than this one!

Last, but not least, is Gamo's quality
Gamo has been steadily improving the quality of their spring-piston air rifles over the past decade. The 1250 Hunter is their flagship rifle, and they put everything they had into it to make an owner proud. Despite the smashing power, this rifle is not a bit harsh to shoot. Oh, it does recoil, but the spring buzzing you may have felt in other powerful springers is tamed by the Gamo powerplant, which gets smoother with every shot. The only fact you must consider is the cocking effort it requires. Hunters usually don't shoot that many shots per session, but know that this is not a gun you are going to just plink with. All that power comes at the price of some extra cocking effort. Still, if you want the absolute power champion in a springer, this is it!