The Bullshooter

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Filling Air Cylinders with a Hand Pump

High pressure hand pumps have been around for a number of years now, designed to fill high pressure cylinders on pre-charged air pistols and rifles. I get asked a lot about the liklihood of getting moisture in the cylinder when using these pumps. Of course it is possible, but if they are used in the way they were intended, I believe getting moisture is a pretty low possibility.

There have been a few generations of pump offered on the market over the years, starting with the Axsor. This had a matt black painted body, and was built in Sweden. Next to come along for a short time was the FX Vari-Pump, with metallic blue body and a knurled nut on the top of the handle to adjust the ease of operation. Of course if you opted for an easier pump, you had more strokes to the fill, as the nut bled off some of the pressure to make the compression stroke easier. The latest of the Swedish pumps is the new generation FX, also with a blue body. The reason I mention body color is any of the above could be tagged with a different brand... wholesalers such as Gehmann tend to market them under their own name.

The only other pump you're likely to see in use amongst ISSF shooters is the Hill Pump, made in England, with a black/gray specked body. Interestingly the Hill guys have watched all of the internet speculation about how hand pumps can potentially load damp air into cylinders and now offer a bolt-on accessory called a Dry-Pac that filters moisture out of the air at the intake. Great marketing, and possibly worthwhile for a lot of shooters just for their own peace of mind.

But even without the Dry-Pac, if you always follow these basic guidelines, you should never have any problems. I'm talking target airguns here, that use a fill adapter that mates to a 200 DIN fitting. Field Target air rifles use a quick disconnect fitting; the theory remains the same but I have no specific experience with this system.

1. Make sure the knurled nut below the pressure gauge on the pump is finger tight. This is the bleed valve for the water trap.
2. Attach your brass fill adapter to the DIN fitting on the pump. Again, finger tight is all you need. Then screw your empty or partially full cylinder to the adapter.
3. Fill the cylinder using smooth, full strokes. If you short stroke, you will take twice the time to fill it. I generally pump 50 BAR at a time to keep temperatures down (both me and the cylinder) - this keeps the chance of generating moisture to a minimum. Just take a break of a couple of minutes between each 50 BAR stage.
3A. With most cylinders you would stop at 200 BAR as this is full. These include such as FWB, Morini and Anschutz (M10 pistols and all air rifles). Be certain to open the bleed valve - this will remove any moisture from the water trap. Then you can remove the cylinder. Walther falls into the same category; although most of them are rated to 300 BAR, the pump can't go that high.
3B. I push Steyr (or Anschutz LP@ pistol) cylinders to around 210 BAR, then carefully open the valve on the water trap to bleed back to 200 before removing the cylinder from the pump. The reason for the difference is Steyr cylinders are mechanically held open by the adapter when they are screwed on. If you simply open the bleed valve after filling it, all the air will escape. The other brands rely on higher pressure to open or close the valve between cylinder and adapter.

Monday, August 21, 2006

T-Shirt of the Year

Maybe it's just me, but it makes me laugh uncontrollably every time I see it...

Monday, July 03, 2006

More on the Hammerli P240

It bugged me while writing the former blog on the P240 that I couldn't dig up information I knew I had. The following barrel specifications are as published by Hammerli in their tech sheet dated December, 1977.

Measurement32 S&W L38 Spl
Bore Diameter (lands).3052" + .001".3425" +.002"
Bore Diameter (grooves).3118" + .001".352" + .002"
Twist1 in 15.7"1 in 19.7"

This makes a standard .357 projectile at least .003" and probably .004" oversize, which only further illustrates how careful you must be while reloading for the P240 in 38 Special. The tech sheet says further:
And we do know of course that many of the SIG-Hammerli P240 owners reload their ammunition in cal. 38 Spl WC and 32 S&WL WC we should like to emphasize once again the fact that our barrels have a tighter bore than is normal. The choice of the bore dimension is due to the fact that top accuracy was obtained when using various brands of commercial factory-made ammunition. The handloader must however take into consideration the exact bore dimensions when making the bullets very carefully.

It would be interesting to know if any of those tests involved higher than normal temperatures, since a fast-burning powder tends to increase pressure dramatically in very hot conditions.

Just to round out this topic, I'd like to add some hopefully helpful information to any P240 owners, just in case`they have any misbehaving magazines. The following are the factory-recommended gaps between magazine lips:

Measurement38 Spl32 S&W L22 LR
Front lips.378".338".224"
Rear lips.295".295".204"

LP5 Match for Camp Perry

Once again I'll be taking my place on Commercial Row at this year's National Matches, held at Camp Perry, OH on the beautiful (if a little breezy) shore of Lake Erie. Look in the last building on the Row, I'm representing Pilkington Competition Equipment, and will have on display match air pistols, the Rika electronic trainer and a few used guns.

Sadly, Sallie the cockatoo won't be making the trip this year. It's a long way from Louisiana to Ohio, and she still gets car sick.

Following its popularity at the Bianchi Cup, we have been asked by NRA to supply targets and pistols for a fun LP5 match, that will be hosted in the airgun range. The course of fire is two 5-shot strings in 10 seconds at the biathlon-style knock-down targets. To make things fair, all three Steyr LP50s we are loaning will have 30mm dot sights fitted, and of course shooters will be allowed sighters. Details are:

Introducing the Pilkguns AirStrike
The Airstrike is a new event designed to allow you some extra fun in between relays. It is has been an official side match at the Bianchi Cup for the last four years. AirStrike uses semi-auto air pistols and is based on the provisional rules for an Olympic Rapid Fire Air Pistol event. Steyr LP50s are provided for your free use in this event, but you are welcome to compete with your own repeating air pistol. Five falling plate targets are arranged in a horizontal line. Cash prizes for the winners will be based on the number of entries. The winner will receive one half of the entrance fees. Entrance Fees are $5 for 50 shots. Multiple entries are allowed and encouraged. There will be a daily winner and an overall weekly winner.

Rules for this match are based on ISSF rules 8.20 governing the Five Shot Air Pistol Event.
The competitor will stand at the ready position, with the .177 caliber repeater Air pistol being held at 45 degrees. The pistol will be held with the dominant hand only. At the command to “Start” a buzzer will sound. Each competitor will have a ten second interval to shoot five plates during the five shot string. The end of the time period will be signaled by a buzzer. The competitor will then reload the pistol to shoot the next five shot string on command. Each plate falling within the ten second interval will give the shooter one point. Shots will be fired on falling plate targets meeting ISSF requirements. Scoring is either hit or miss. Diameter of the hole in the falling plate is 30mm, approximating the nine ring on a paper target. Distance to the target is 10 meters or 33 feet. Sighter targets will be provided.
The match will consist of ten record shots. Competitors are given 50 shots or 10 five shot strings and the score will be based on the best two consecutive strings. Daily ties will be decided by earliest score. Aggregate ties for the week will be determined by a shootoff.

The LP50 is a true semi-auto air pistol powered by compressed air. It was featured in the August 2005 Dope Bag in the American Rifleman. The LP50 and it’s predecessor the LP5 has been a favorite of Bullseye shooters for home training of the timed and rapid fire series. Superb accuracy and total commitment to quality make this gun just begs to be shot over and over again. This is the one gun that all your friends wish they could own. It is imported exclusively through Pilkington Competition.

AirStrike is sponsored by the NRA and Pilkington Competiton, LLC.

I look forward to seeing old friends and hopefully meeting a few new ones. I'll be setting up on Monday the 10th of July, and will be there through Sunday lunchtime.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

FAS Semi Autos

I recently had a request from a friend in NY for some guidance in making a FAS Rapid Fire pistol function reliably. I thought this would be a good opportunity to detail tricks of the trade for all of the FAS and Domino semis, as they each have their little quirks.

There are relatively few FAS pistols being used on a regular basis in the States. Those who know them, generally love them, but they do have reliability problems. Much like an expensive Italian sports car, when they go, they really go. When they decide to be hateful, they can be infuriating.

Domino was the original company, starting production in the 70s, and they changed their name to FAS (Fabrica Armi Sportive from memory, but my Italian is not that great) in the mid-80s. They are based in Milan, Italy. Various companies have imported them over the years, but their reliability in both function and for spare parts supply was sporadic, so importers did not last very long. Nobody has acted as their agent for almost 10 years now.

The basic design of their semis has not changed drastically since the first model was introduced. It features a top-loaded magazine that allows more rake angle in the grip without losing barrel length like the forward-mounted mag pistols (Walther GSP, Pardini, Benelli, Hammerli 280 and SP20, etc). Companies like Britarms, Unique (with the DES96U) and now Walther (with its SSP) have tried to emulate this format, with varying success. Trigger is designed to have a long rolling release, with either two or three stages. This is excellent for sustained or rapid fire, especially since the pistols point so well. The late Donald Hamilton apparently loved his 603 Center Fire pistol, and recent Olympian John McNally used a 601 Rapid Fire for many years.

I'll start by listing specific traits of each model, and end with problems common to all models.

Domino and FAS 601 22 Short Rapid Fire

Choice of ammunition is probably the biggest factor. The 601 does not like a lot of brands of 22 Short ammo. Obviously you should stick with target or standard velocity, as high velocity could lead to damaging the slide. Fiocchi ammo is most reliable, followed by RWS. CCI Standard and Winchester Rapid Fire Black (may not be available here in the States) can work okay, but here's the twist. It needs lubrication.

Contrary to all that is accepted in shooting, it seems that some Rapid Fire pistols function more reliably with oiled ammo. Many top shooters (when 22 Short was still used for Rapid Fire) would load their magazine, then take an oil bottle and put a drop on the middle of the top round before inserting the mag into the pistol. Obviously with the top-loading FAS you could do so after it was inserted, just before letting the slide forward. This extra lubrication seemed to allow the rounds to more reliably seat in the chamber. This fixes a bunch of FAS symptoms; the misfeeding, failure to properly eject, and most commonly the light strike (see below for more on that).

Also, some ammo comes with a hard, gummy lube. This can gum up the action and cause all manner of feeding problems. The drop of oil may not be enough to overcome this. It may be necessary to clean the bulk of the lube off the outside of the ammo before use. Dumping the packet into an old tea towel and a light spray of WD40, followed by a quick towel rub generally fixes the problem.

Domino 602, FAS 602 and FAS 607 22LR Sport/Standard Pistol

No surprise that the 22LR version is also very ammunition sensitive. Many people still maintain FAS stands for Fussy As S**t. In general it does not like American ammo. I have had most success with SK, Lapua, RWS, Eley, PMC and Aguila. CCI does give problems, and it seems to have a lot to do with the overall length of the bullet. The longer ammo rubs its lubricated nose against the inside of the mag body, leaving a buildup that slows down the upward movement. Obviously this results in mis-feeds.

For late model 602 and all 607 guns, the factory came out with a modified follower, that had a pin protruding out front to run up the inside of the mag body. This stopped the follower from fouling on the bullet lube buildup.

FAS 603 Center Fire 32 S&W Long Wadcutter

The most reliable of all the FAS autos, the only advice I have specific to this model is related to the reloads you may develop. In my experience it is a waste of time trying to get a decent group out of a solid base wadcutter. It seems hollow based are the best option for accuracy.

There is a tendency for the 32 to loosen screws. Something in the vibration under recoil, always double check grip screws and the front sight screw before a match.

All Models

Make sure you hold your hand over the mag when pressing the mag release button. It can easily ping out and hit the floor, possibly damaging the feed lips.

If you ever take a shot without the mag inserted, remember that the empty will now be sitting in the base of the mag well. The ejector is part of the mag. So the next time you try to insert a mag, it won't go in, and you will look like a goose when the range office comes over and finally works out what the problem is. Speaking from prior experience...

Getting light strikes does not mean the hammer spring must be replaced. This happens very rarely. In most cases the slide is not going forward completely, so when the hammer hits it pushes the round the last little bit into the chamber. Of course then the strike looks light. But the problem can be caused by a partial misfeed (which can also be in turn caused by the mag problem mentioned above) or a weak slide spring. If neither of these fixes the problem, the feed ramp may need to be polished, or in some cases filed to a more gradual angle so the nose of the bullet does not push up too quickly and foul on the top lip of the chamber.

If one mag is not reliable, you may compare the feed lips to see if one has been bent out of shape.

When adjusting the trigger it is possible to have too little first stage, or takeup movement. If you shorten this movement too much, the trigger transfer bar does not have room to reset itself, and the trigger will simply not engage.

When the gun gets a lot of fouling, there could be a problem with the trigger not re-setting itself. If you squeeze the trigger and there is nothing there (no stages, and nothing happens), chances are if you release and pull, release and pull a few times, it will eventually fire. When this happens, the slot that the trigger transfer bar slides along will have a buildup of possibly carbon and gun oil, creating a sticky paste. This paste prevents the bar from springing upwards to re-set and come into contact with the sear pin. It is simply a matter of stripping the pistol and cleaning the slot inside the frame. Of course, if you let it get to that stage, you may have a costly alibi in a match. It pays not to use too thick a gun oil; a light coating of a light oil is best.

I hope this brief guide is helpful. For more info on sight and trigger adjustments for all FAS pistols, see the Pilkguns TenP Files.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Where Do All the Juniors Go?

Apart from sounding like a new verse to an old Bob Dillon song, I'm sure this rings true for many of the shooting disciplines.

There are thousands of junior rifle programs all over the US, which lead to numerous National Championships for both precision and sporter rifle shooting, leading to NCAA rifle shooting in college, from which a lot of America's best shooters of today have emerged.

Pistol has less framework, but USA Shooting and NRA both are fostering the growth of junior programs. The Junior Olympics are gaining momentum (as is the pistol section of the NRA Airgun Nationals), and of course pistol is a collegiate sport sponsored by the NRA.

Out of all the thousands of kids who participate in these programs, how many of them stay with the sport? Should we not be knee deep in twentysomethings at our clubs? Why does it seem every year that our active shooters are getting older? Is all the time and money poured into junior programs a complete waste of time?

A long time ago I was one of those juniors. Actually, that's not entirely true. In New Zealand at that time I was pretty much a lonely junior. From age 11 to 15 I was active at club level, then until age 20 I was active in any major competition within 500 miles, as well as a few Internationals. In junior ranks I was a big fish, and amongst adult shooters I could pretty much hold my own, but was no threat to the big players. On turning 21 I fell victim to the myriad of life changes that come with coming of age. Having to pay my own way in the big world. Trying to find direction and stability in the workplace. Discovering that there are not so many hours in the day when you don't have a live-in cook and laundry service. Trying to fathom the greatest of all mysteries, the female psyche. On top of that, after years of winning matches, becoming an also-ran.

Luckily for me I stayed licensed, and shot for fun occasionally at my local range. I also stayed close to the sport after I started working in the gun trade. But it was to be ten years later that I regained my competitive edge and started competing again in earnest.

Maybe it's true that attrition due to coming of age is a natural thing. When lifestyle and circumstances change, many of them may come back to our sport. But even if they don't, all is not lost.

Even if not one of them ever fire another shot down range, they will have been educated about the true nature of target shooting. They will be well-versed in firearm safety, and will be a positive influence on everybody they come into contact with in this regard. One day they too will be parents. Every one of them is a walking and talking advocate for the positive side of gun ownership, and their cumulative value in neutralizing media hysteria on this issue is priceless.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Professional Kangaroo Shooting Part 2

The most popular calibers I've seen used by pro shooters are 222 and 223. A few shooters use larger case calibers like 22-250 and 243, but these are relatively uncommon. You can always tell if the shooter uses anything that big, since you have to yell to hold a conversation.

Each caliber has its pluses and minuses. The 222 is relatively quiet, and does not unduly scare the wildlife. Consequently the roos are not spooked so much, resulting in closer shots. It's also an inherently accurate round. It has to be a dog of a 222 not to hold minute of angle or better. I once shot a Sako 222 that had so much rust pitting inside the barrel it looked like a lunar landscape... guess what? Still shot 1" groups at 100 yards. Most 222 barrels hold up well over 5000 shots, in some cases (using moderate loads and a relatively slow burning powder) 7-8000.
The 223 is not quite so economical to run as far as the powder charge is concerned, but it is possible to find good quality ex-military brass. The extra 30 or 40 yards in effective range can be handy in clear, open country.

The 22-250 has even greater effective range. Not so many pro shooters use this caliber. It could be argued that it's so loud that it needs the extra legs to get out there, since the kangaroos can hear it from miles away and are a little more wary. It also burns out barrels a lot quicker, between 2000 and 3000 shots.

Reloading practices are a little different in Australia. Twenty years ago and more, a company called Simplex manufactured a lightweight turret press (three and six position), designed to take 5/8" threaded dies. This system became wildly popular. Only neck sizers were made for bottle necked cases, since the turret press lacked the rigidity to full length size - although a vice type full length sizer was available (slow but effective). Die size was similar to the old Lyman tong tool dies, but I don't believe they were interchangeable. Pro shooters typically neck size cases until they start to get a little sticky to extract, then full length size.

A typical reloading bench would include a Super Simplex press and some form of standard 7/8"x14 O-frame press pretty much for the full length sizing. The Super Simplex bullet seater is marvelously direct and simple to use. Unlike the clumsy 7/8"x14 seating dies, where you have to balance the bullet on top of the case and hope it doesn't teeter to one side as the ram pushes the case way inside the die, you can hold the bullet on the case mouth all the way to the seating plug, ensuring far more reliably concentric rounds. The other neat feature of the old Super Simplex is an adjustable depth primer seater, so the need for "feel" is not required.

Powder measurement can be a little on the agricultural side. Because many of their reloading benches may be somewhere like the corner of a tractor shed, setting up a set of scales is pointless. Even a slight breeze will upset the readings. I've seen widespread use of the Lee powder scoops, and a lot of cut off cartridge cases with a handle brazed on. These are surprisingly accurate if used with a consistent technique, and of course the load should be mild enough to make it nigh on impossible to overload even with a heaped scoop.

Choice of rifle is always a good way to start an argument among pro shooters. They all have their favorite, as well as their own reasons for their selection. Tikkas are very popular due to their detachable magazine, however the earlier LSA55/65 was more prized for its all-steel construction. Plastic pieces don't last too well in the bush. Sako, although a little pricey, has a slick little action with less bolt lift than the twin lockers. There are a lot of Winchesters in use, despite the long throw of the action even for the shorter shells. In the larger calibers there are still some Parker Hale (Mauser 98 actions) in use. The Brno Fox (CZ) was a cute little rifle, again the detachable magazine was a great feature, although the double set trigger was not always appreciated. Also notable are the Zastava Mini Mauser, Howa (in various brands), Parker Hale Midland, Anschutz in 222 and the Remington 788. The Remington 700 had the disadvantage of so little bolt tolerance that a small amount of sand or grit could lock up the action. I even remember trying to fit the bolt in a brand new rifle, to find a minute piece of packing foam had stuck to the bolt head and would not permit the action to close.

In rifle scopes Tasco World Class took a lot of beating, if only for the unlimited lifetime warranty. I remember this being something of a millstone to the company at one stage, as their manufacturing base moved from Japan to Taiwan to Korea, and finally to China. I've been out of that part of the trade for a few years now, but still see the Tascos widely advertised, so I guess the quality control must have improved.

Since all their shooting is done in the hours of darkness, light gathering is of utmost importance to pro shooters. A surprising number of them used high quality and even higher priced European scopes with a 56mm objective. The 8x56 Kahles was so bright you could almost use it without a spotlight under a full moon. Pecars were popular, and I even saw an occasional Zeiss. Some were so old they had friction screws for adjustments, and were not image-moving (the crosshairs actually moved, so you may be shooting in the bottom corner of the image). But we had a very good instrument repair company in Brisbane who would strip these old scopes completely and clean up the optics to give them a new lease of life.

Lightforce probably owes its existence today to the success of its 100w spotlight system. Originally called Nightforce, they were a remarkably bright light in a very lightweight plastic housing. I remember the sales rep had a set performance where he would throw one of their spotlights along the length of the shop floor as he walked in to prove how tough and durable it was. It was also cheap enough to replace if it got smashed by driving too close under a tree.

But the best light available (and I heard at the time possibly the second best hand held spotlight in the world) was the Nighteater. Made by an eccentric Victorian farmer in his spare time, these had a distinctive orange housing. They would darn near start fires (and would easily melt the vinyl of your car seat if you put it face down too quickly). Smarter pro shooters know the value of a strong beam. If it had one disadvantage, it was that you could easily spot roos that were way past the range of your rifle.

Professional kangaroo shooters have a tough life. To make a good go of it they have to work ridiculously long hours while staying alert. To goof off mentally could result in serious damage to his vehicle, or get him lost with little chance of ever being found - unless cell phone coverage has improved about a million percent. There's also the chance of being wounded by a kangaroo that is still alive... a buck can rip you open from throat to navel if he grabs you with his fore arms and rakes you with his hind legs. One old shooter I knew always carried a stick and a tire lever when he went out to pick up carcasses. If the roo bounded upright he could poke the stick in front of him to give it something to grab with its paws, then conk it on the head with the tire lever. He said he learned this from a scary prior engagement.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

It's April 1st!

Exciting Sixgun Developments

Great news for anybody looking for the ultimate in revolvers for the Harry Reeves match at Camp Perry. An imaginative new reworking of the single action Russian match pistol, the Toz 36, has resulted in an amazing unit that should be unbeatable on the firing line.

Rechambered and rebarreled in 38 S&W Special Wadcutter, the new Toz 38M will be available sometime in the next two months. But what makes it exceptional is the gas-operated piston that recocks the action and rotates the cylinder, using a measured charge of gas bled from the barrel. Once the hammer is cocked for the first shot, it operates exactly as a semi auto for the rest of the five-shot series. This makes it a more sophisticated concept than the Italian Mateba that was launched a few years back.

Most of the original features of the Nagant-inspired Toz revolver remain the same. When cocked, the cylinder slides forward to seal against the barrel, thereby eliminating the bullet jump to the forcing cone. This makes for much improved accuracy over the standard revolver design.

The gas port in the barrel is "cut" with an EDM (spark eroder) to eliminate any possibility of a burr in the bore, leading to lead buildup. The gas system borrows from the M14 rifle, an ingenious hollow piston that cuts off the gas that is bled from the barrel as soon as the piston has moved a few millimeters, thus preventing any excess pressure of an overload from causing damage to the internal parts of the action.

This exciting new model will revolutionize the target revolver market. While primarily designed for the ISSF Center Fire event, there is no doubt of its potential in NRA 3-Gun matches.

Left Handed S&W Model 14

You heard it here first. Now lefties aren't left out in the cold, with the imminent release of a left-handed version of the famous K38 Masterpiece. It's very important that you contact your dealer today for more details on either of these special models.