Airgun springer advice and more in the latest Airgun Answers

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FAC springers

The large dimensions of the compression chamber of the super-solid HW80 make this rifle an excellent candidate for FAC power delivery

QUESTION: I shoot a CZ 512 .22 LR for vermin control, but have found myself in situations where it has been unwise to take the shot. I have a slot on my ticket for an FAC air rifle and would love some advice on a springer as I think this will provide more gun for the money.

MIKE MORTON SAYS: FAC springers can be quite hard to cock, depending on the amount of muzzle energy, so you’d probably want a break-barrel for extra leverage. But if you decide to choose an underlever it would be better to go for a full-length rifle rather than a carbine for the same reason.

One of my shooting buddies swears by his Weihrauch HW80. Even at FAC levels it can be tuned to make it fairly smooth, with the sweet spot for that particular rifle being 18 ft-lb. However, the HW80 is more than capable of handling greater levels of muzzle energy than this.

There is a downside for additional power though. Someone else I used to shoot with had a gas-ram (I forget the exact model) which was running at more than 24 ft-lb. That rifle really was a beast in every sense of the word. It was extremely slow and clumsy to operate, but did of course hit hard and was devastating on quarry. But the recoil was equally devastating to the shooter!

While it’s far easier to shoot a pre-charged pneumatic at FAC levels, sometimes it is nice to be able to dispense with the charging paraphernalia that’s associated with shooting a rifle like this, and I believe that a springer will give you what you’re looking for without breaking the bank.

Airgun tuning

Even high-quality spring-powered rifles like Weihrauch’s HW55 will benefit from the correct lubrication – which is almost a tune in itself

QUESTION: There was an article in Airgun Shooter a while ago regarding tuning a basic spring rifle. Where did the idea of tuning come from?

RAY GARNER SAYS: The concept of “tuning” probably has its origins in motor sport, from the early days when racing drivers sought to gain increased efficiency from their internal combustion engines, usually by modifying or replacing parts to improve gas flow, and to attain higher compression and better spark ignition. When applied to airguns the goal of increased efficiency is pretty much the same inasmuch as the mechanical systems involved are made to work better and in balance.

As early as the 1970s, enthusiasts, experimenters and tuners were trying specialised lubricants such as molybdenum and silicone oils and greases in place of traditional emollients on the moving parts of spring piston airguns in order to increase smoothness and longevity. 

A decade later, specialist tuners such as Venom Arms and Airmasters began fitting aftermarket parts such as mainsprings and pistons in order to gain an edge in performance. Many ideas were trialled, such as increased or decreased piston travel distance (stroke), piston weight and “gas flowed” transfer ports, as ways of reducing recoil or increasing shot velocity consistency or power. 

Today, many of the better quality airguns in production use the knowledge gained from the “good old boys” of tuning fame, to make sweet-shooting springers straight out of the box. A case of “racing improves the breed” maybe. 

When gas-ram rifles and pre-charged pneumatic guns came along in volume, the need for spring gun wisdom and an understanding of the dynamics of their internals diminished. Knowledge is never lost however, and today efficiency in pre-charged rifles is all about pressure regulators, clever valve design and fast lock times.

If your heart lies in grease and coil springs don’t despair. There are plenty of old spring piston airguns out there seeking improvers.

Airgun bluing

Jonathan was careful to support the parts on a piece of wire so they could be safely heated, dunked in the oil and then removed

QUESTION: What is oil bluing? Is it something I can do at home?

JONATHAN YOUNG SAYS: Oil bluing works well, especially on smaller parts that can be done at home. Heating up steel parts to high temperature, they are then dunked into oil as a coolant. This leaves a blue to black colouration depending on the steel, the temperature and possibly the type of oil used.

I remember watching a guy heating a freshly made steel screw. He held it in tweezers over a gas flame, then after only a minute or so dropped it into a small cup of oil. After the flames, hissing and smoke fumes had cleared, out came a beautifully blued gun screw.

Discarded mineral oil is normally suggested for this. This can be old car oil, but even vegetable chip oil can also be used. As for a heat source, the usual method is to use the flame from the torch on a pressurised gas canister. But the bigger the item, the less chance there is that the heat will be even, which will affect the outcome.

If you want to go really low-tech and not spend money on expensive gas canisters, a DIY furnace using a small garden incinerator can be a good choice of heat source.

He made a few practice runs moving the parts from the furnace to the cans of oil to ensure everything went according to plan and without any danger

I tried this method, feeding some metal parts onto some stiff wire that was bent at intervals to avoid the parts rubbing against each other, then hooked at the end to stop them dropping off. 

With enough wire, many parts can be heated at the same time this way. The other end of this wire allowed a handle to be fashioned that was long enough to allow me a safe approach and withdrawal of the parts from the heat source. 

Think about when you want to do this, as doing it outside in winter would mean a lower surface temperature, especially when transferring the wired parts over to the coolant, which could alter the final effect.

Two tin cans were then both filled with old oil and positioned in front of the incinerator, but far enough away for safety’s sake. 

These were placed to allow the wire frame to be hoisted out of the heat quickly and safely, but still allowing the fastest delivery into the oil. 

Let’s not forget the most important thing here is to minimise any danger. One soup can was filled with diesel oil and the other veg oil. I practised manoeuvring the wire holding the test pieces from the incinerator to the oil cans, ensuring there was no chance of making a mistake. 

At this stage it’s worth mentioning again that safety is paramount, so gloves, safety goggles and a face covering to protect against the heat or any burning, spitting oil, not to mention any fumes, are a total must.

There were a few imperfections, but the result was immediate and Jonathan was pleased with his first attempt at oil bluing

After filling the furnace with refuse and lighting it up, the heat really started to build. When the initial flames had died down and it was safe to proceed, the parts were lifted carefully over and into the incinerator and settled down into the red heat of the inferno.

Leaving the parts for some 10 minutes they were then withdrawn, and with speed being of the essence here, positioned over the oil and then quickly, but carefully, lowered down into it. This created much less of a commotion than expected, with just a little smoke and on this occasion no flames.

This indicated the parts were not as hot as they could be, but hey ho, you learn as you go. Very surprisingly the parts appeared to be an even brown when they were lifted out of the oil. This then darkened, turning to a deep rich black, which despite a few blotches, looked pretty decent.

One small part was kept back for trial in the veg oil can, which also created a lovely smell of cooking chips that was a little distracting. Oddly, this developed almost the same deep colour as those that had been dunked in the diesel oil, but with some surface impurities. 

I assume this would be due to all the potato gunk held in suspension in the oil from the many plates of fat, juicy, homemade chips.  But never mind – what could be better than airguns and chips?

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