The Quest For Air Superiority

I grok guns. Primer, powder, BANG, venison on a plate. It all makes sense.

However I just bought a cheap old air rifle (’cause “cheap” is a siren song). I don’t know squat about air rifles.

Also, and this is purely my own ignorance, I associate air rifles with toys. Probably because when I was a kid I got a plastic spring loaded wad of disappointment as a present. It made me loathe all non-real rifles from that day forward. Wait wait… put the mouse down and quit typing out hate mail. Yes, I know intellectually that air rifles are totally bitching adult sized powerful instruments of awesomeness and accuracy. Whatever. I’m just sayin’ I’ve always been a “burn powder or it bores me” kinda’ guy. So this is a new concept. Also, I can’t bring myself to ponder air rifles that cost as much as an actual… rifle. If an air rifle ‘aint cheap, I don’t see the advantage. I’m sure I’ll get over it but right now I’m still a Neanderthal. Bear with me

When I hear "air rifle" this is what comes to mind.

When I hear “air rifle” this is what comes to mind.

Now here’s the good part. I spent $25 on it. Less than I’d spend on a pizza dinner. So if it’s just a toy… I can live with that.

First question: What the hell is it? Firearms, by law, have shit carved into them that tell you what you’re holding. Stuff like “Remington Slayomatic, 1972, .280”. Thus telling me who made it, the model, when they made it, and what will make it go boom. This thing I bought, which presumably came from a factory, has no identifying marks on it whatsoever. Why?

I’m posting a few photos in case someone can tell me who made the little beast:

It's fairly solid. If I can't properly target a squirrel with it I'll just bludgeon one with the heavy stock.

It’s fairly solid. If I can’t properly target a squirrel with it I’ll just bludgeon one with the heavy stock.

It's kinda ugly but I like shooting it.

It’s kinda ugly but I like shooting it.

I not knowing anything other than where you insert the pellets and how you cock it, I set out to see if it’s any good.

First discovery. It’ll punch a 7.56 grain pellet all the way into an old barn door. (It’s my door, I’ll shoot it if I want.) I was impressed. Compared to a 40 grain .22 bullet it’s a little weak but if you’re a red squirrel trying to steal my pig feed it’ll jack you up. It seemed adequate.

Second discovery; it more or less hits where you’re aiming. The target on the left is my very first five shots, offhand, at a distance I was too lazy to measure. Based on that unscientific test I’m pretty sure the rifle, regardless of the idiot using it, is capable of punching holes in a golf ball sized area all day long. Cool!

More detailed testing yielded mixed results. This is because I was just foolin’ around and not getting all serious at a bench rest. The wind picked up and I didn’t quit. Nor did I use a bench or even a single stance. I just sent lead pellets flying any way that amused me. This is hardly the way to dial in a perfect sight picture. That’ll have to wait.

Also it has adjustable sights but I have no idea what range one sights in a cheapo air rifle.

Question: what range am I looking for from a dirt cheap air rifle like this?

I tested out ranges from “close enough it’s embarrassing” to “far enough that the pellet took a while to get there”. It seemed like if I stood too far back it might not drop a squirrel?

Also the wind got pretty bad. Being me, I just shot right through the gusts. I’m guessing those little pellets don’t handle wind well because I started to miss by an inch or so. Though it’s good to practice “doping” the wind and it was fun so why not keep shooting?

I kept switching back between flat nose pellets (“wadcutters”?) and pointy nose pellets and ones that were rounded and had “hunting'” written on them. There’s apparently a big difference in point of aim in the “wadcutters”. The pointy nose ones invariably shot higher. (Not a surprise finding, the science of physics is pretty solid on this.) I couldn’t tell “hunting” from “pointy non-hunting” and assume that’s mostly marketing. All pellets were the same weight. I wonder if the sights as they came were setup for a 10 grain pellet?

The end result is that it seemed to aim high and I had a hard time guessing elevation (shooting off hand at random distances) so maybe “bullet drop” is a big deal. But angle seemed solid, provided I could compensate for the wind.

It’s all up from here. I’ve already had $25 worth of fun. Probably when I get the sights settled down I’ll be able to hit a squirrel but only at a shorter range than I’d shoot a .22 and further than I can throw a rock. Fair ’nuff.

Undocumented, uncontrolled experiments suggest that you can keep a guy like me busy all afternoon blasting the crap out of cardboard.

Undocumented, uncontrolled experiments suggest that you can keep a guy like me busy all afternoon blasting the crap out of cardboard.

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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22 Responses to The Quest For Air Superiority

  1. ILTim says:

    That’s an Industry Brand Chinese gun. Possibly from the 1960’s…. or last week. I’m no expert (I didn’t know anything about airguns until two weeks ago), but I’ve run across them recently:

    Your rear sight location probably means something, I’m guessing that will help identify the variant (B3-1 or B3-F ?).

    FYI – it may be as dangerous as your log splitter:

    • ILTim says:

      The muzzle energy even at 600fps in a .22 is pretty decent, problem with pellets is the light projectile rapidly loses speed and energy. People like the .177 because it has noticeably less arc in its ballistic lob than the 22. A powder burning .22lr shoots maybe ten times as far because at 40 grains, the projectile is a relative Minie ball to a badminton birdie.

      Every ten yards could be a new game, somewhere around 50-75 yards you might lose enough steam to make small furry game hunting a spotty proposition, definitely before 100 yards. I would guess accuracy probably limits you before power in that gun. When it comes to airguns lots of people consider them ‘only good for headshots’ while others have proven differently.

      Round nose pellets are supposed to be the best for longer ranges because they have a great ballistic coefficient, more retained energy and tighter groups I hear. Wadcutters are second best. I have found NO references anywhere that pointy pellets are actually good for anything. You aren’t pushing enough power for most hollowpoints, although there are some designs which ARE suited for low-vel guns. They open up rapidly, but will mutilate if fired from a magnum gun.

  2. colbrug says:

    You got an Amercian Camper Air Rifle. I paid $50 for one at an auction. It was for my daughter as a present a few weeks after she was born(she also got a .22 cricket that day). The air rifle has since been confiscated by me for shooting dove around the house, and ground squirrels, and anything else that I think can be taken out with “less than .22 power.”

    • colbrug says:

      Let me rephrase that. American Camper bought some air rifle from China. It was made by Shanghai Air Gun Factory. From what I can tell on the Google, it’s a B3-1 model.

  3. r says:

    looks like a Romak or the chicom copy (Norinco B3-2 )thereof nice little guns yes they will take your eye out wear saftey glasses!


  4. abnormalist says:

    I know nothing about the model of that one, but I have shot my fair share of squirrels with air guns.

    I find that while you CAN make shots beyond 50 yards, I limit myself to 25 yard shots on living things, and opt for head shots over everything else. A head shot on a squirrel with most pellets is almost akin to hitting them in the head with a ball peen hammer. Not horribly destructive, but certainly gets the job done.

    In my air rifles pointed pellets fly for crap. Probably a rate of spin/balance issue or something like that, I never looked into it. “These fly like crap, these don’t” was as far as I ever took it.

    For sighting in, I also opt for a 25 yard zero. Its a good range for squirrels, and most of the shorter shots still hit in the desired area.

    In my experiences though, even great shots past 35 yards are often not fatal on squirrels, this, combined with the slow follow up shot, is the reason I don’t care for air guns for serious bushy tail procurement.

  5. Doubletrouble says:

    If you don’t get any answers, drop a note to Butch Cassidy over at the Runt Compound. He’s big on the air gun thing.
    My guess is a Chinese knock-off of a RWS rifle.

  6. Here you go.

    Chinese B3 177

  7. MaxDamage says:

    Who cares? An air rifle operates the same as a black powder or smokeless rifle, pressure hits the back of a bullet and sends it down a rifled barrel and out to where you’re aiming. You’re just dealing with less pressure and less bullet so you have to limit your shots to effective range. There’s probably somebody who thinks a .30-30 is good to 400 yards; surely limiting yourself to 25 or 50 yards would be a show of proper restraint in comparison. 50 feet is my preference.
    Like all rifles, if you up the pressure you up the velocity and hence lessen the drop due to gravity over a distance. Forget about that stuff. Find where it hits where you aim it and try to shoot at that distance consistently. Given the low velocity, consistent hits are your goal — you can’t depend upon energy or some Crouching Tiger Hidden Black Ninja Ginsu Bass-O-Matic bullet to make up for shot placement.

    For $25 you got yourself one heckuva fun toy you can use to kill squirrels or send that mangy yap-dog from up the road back to his home yelping with a welt on his side. As for stray cats, let’s just say pest control means shoot, shovel and shut up. You’re probably going to want something else for moose.

    Never let a lack of power be a detriment, consider it an opportunity to be both silent and subtle while deadly.

    – Max

  8. Matt says:

    I had that model until early this spring when I traded it to a buddy for bacon and whisky. Shoots great, deadly on packrats and other small gritters to 10yards or so. I don’t know what the FPS was, never chronoe’d it. Don’t know its mechanical accuracy definitively since sights hit where I aimed out of the box. Heavy, noisy and very much fun.

    • Trading an old air rifle for bacon and whiskey is about the best phrase I’ve heard in years. Actually trading anything for bacon and whiskey is a cause to smile.

      I’ve already gotten hooked. I like this litter critter and forsee I’ll need another .177 air rifle sometime in the future (probably next year). (It’s not like you can have too many.) They really are fun to shoot.

  9. MaxDamage says:

    Speaking of air rifles, I remembered that the Lewis and Clark expedition carried one. Apparently 200 years ago they made them to fire 46-caliber lead balls with an effective range of 150 yards. Magazine-fed, 20-round capacity.

    Such a rifle could be useful on most anything to be found roaming these plains.

  10. MaxDamage says:

    Compared to black powder the air rifles had some advantages. You could see your target after the first shot, you could reload without having to stand up and operate a ramrod, you only had to carry half the provisions since powder and ball were replaced with a little pump and a couple flasks of compressed air. Down-sides? It took 1500 pumps to fill a flask, high-pressure air is hard to hold in with soldering, and being Austrians they filled the air flasks with brandy.
    OK, I made that last part up.

    I find it amazing that 200 years ago you could fell a deer at 100 yards with an air rifle and today the best we have can barely bark a squirrel at 50 yards. I suspect lawyers — nobody wants to make an air rifle of any power lest the thing blow up like.

    • Air rifles do indeed have many advantages. Or thinking more broadly, burning powder in a chemical raction to make air pressure has manifold disadvantages we tend to overlook. It only seems natural to us because of how history played out.

      I’ve been watching air rifles get more and more powerful and enjoying the show. I assume a commercially available (i.e. not rediculously expensive) air rifle that can drop a deer is on the way. I’m just too cheap to be an early adopter. I’m guessing the next few of our nation’s periodic gun control kerfluffles will perturb economics enough to make air rifle deer hunting a decent seller. My guess is that the biggest limit to mass markets for air rifles is that they’re single shot.

      It’s not as silly as it sounds. I’ve seen bowhunting, blackpowder, and more recently crossbows all go through a “renaissance”. All three changed from a somewhat obscure hobby to something far more impressive and technologically advanced. (Particularly for blackpowder, which was a matter of making your own kit back in the 1970’s.)

      That said, I’ve been ignoring air rifles until the time was “ripe”. I planned to keep doing so. The little junker I just got may have changed my plans. It has been so fun to shoot I may embrace them.

      That said, my most recent rifle purchase (not counting the impuls buy air rifle) is still a powder burner. I’ll post about it sometime.

  11. Tennessee Budd says:

    I have the same air rifle. I bought it 15 years ago at a trailer sale they used to run annually near me; usually came to the VFW or the armory.
    Can’t tell you the brand, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a Chicom air rifle,sold to whatever companies wanted to market it.
    I was as surprised as you by the power of the thing. It is a heavy bastard, isn’t it?
    No idea about fps,range, or anything else. When I bought it, I had a garden about 50 yards down a slight slope out back. With the rear sight @ max elevation, I could pick birds out of there, & annoy anything larger (when I didn’t let the larger sit there ’til I arrived with something noisier).
    I like the round-nosed pellets, but that’s just me. I’ll look at the air rifle to see if I can discover any markings: I’ve spent the weekend moving (after getting back from vacation Wed. night–I’m great at planning), & it’s at the old place.

  12. Angus says:

    Air rifles are not necessarily single shot. The precharged one are mainly bolt action but LOGUN originally made a semi auto/ possible full auto. However to pass UK firearms laws it had to be converted and now has a cocking slide. The precharged ones with a silencer are so quiet you will hear only the impact. Shooting pigeons you can het five or six before they even realise anything is wrong.

  13. Pingback: Chickadees And Squirrels: Part 3 | The Adaptive Curmudgeon's Blog

  14. Bo says:

    Did you ever find out what you have there? I have one just like it but know nothing about make, model, cal, year, where it was made? What do we have here?

    • The only information I’ve got the same as what you see in the comments. It was most certainly made in China and sold in America under any one of a dozen names. There are a bunch of them floating around and they were made about the same for many years. Try this link or this link to a .22 model.

      I think the secret to these crude little beasts is to not overthink it. Who cares where it was made or how? Just get a bunch of pellets and see what works. Have fun with it.

      I’ve “tested” mine quite a bit and it’s been dirt simple reliable and far more accurate than I’ve a right to expect from it. Mine shows no signs of wearing out. The rear sight came loose once and five minutes with a screwdriver fixed it. That’s the only maintenance I’ve done.

      Mine is .177, which seems to be a more popular air rifle caliber than .22. It’s a no-brainer that .177 pellets can’t fly very far and stiff wind will blow them off course. I’ve had fair luck with Gamo “hunting” pellets in terms of accuracy but I didn’t do careful testing of alternative pellet styles and brands. It’s not necessarily a big deal if you switch pellet shape but it does move point of aim (very slightly). I didn’t like the “wadcutter” pellet but YMMV. Virtually any .177 pellet will drop a red squirrel out to maybe 100′. Also, if a red squirrel is mucking about in your bird feeder and you miss you’ve just put a hole the clear plexiglass window of your feeder… guess how I know that? (I swear that particular squirrel gave me the finger.)

      It’s one of the most “fun” firearms I’ve had. One pump per shot is ideal. The report is quiet enough that it doesn’t scare your target critters away; they’ll calm down in a minute or less and you can try again. Pellets are practically free. You can hunt with it, though it’s at a different scale than elk. 🙂 It’s perfect for keeping red squirrels out of the pig feed. Grey squirrels are bit bigger so you’ve got to be a little more careful to put the pellet where it needs to go. (Seems to me that greys are a little more wary and it takes a smidge more effort to get close but that could be my bias.) Also, and this is just logic and ballistics, if either of them gets up the trunk into the crown of a tall tree they’re out of range. The air rifle gives ’em a fighting chance.

      I’ve been super impressed with what looks like a hunk of junk. You’ll probably enjoy yours too. My only complaint is mine has a trigger pull like dragging a plow through rocks. I’m too lazy to try “upgrading” this one’s trigger. Instead I plan on getting a nicer air rifle some day and maybe try rabbit hunting. Even if I do, this old Chinese rifle will have a long career of defending livestock feed from thievin’ critters.

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