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The IZH-46m Part II

In our last visit with the IZH-46m I’d just begun to reshape the grip. Here it is after several iterations with rasp and sandpaper:

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I’ve tapered the grip towards the rear, thinned the wood at the top of the grip, and carved finger grooves. Quite a bit more to do but it’s already a significant improvement. The tool I used to do this was a Nicholson #49 Cabinet Makers Rasp, a very fine rasp with hand-cut teeth. A hand cut rasp has an irregular, almost random pattern of teeth  that cuts very fast yet still cuts much more smoothly than the typical machine cut rasp. Unfortunately Nicholson moved production to Brazil a few years ago and their rasps are no longer the fine tools they once were. There are still good hand cut rasps available, though, from companies like Aurier and Liogier in France.

I also moved the trigger rearward about a quarter of an inch, which makes it easier to pull without rotating the gun. Dry firing, I noticed that I tended to rotate the gun ever so slightly to the left as I depressed the trigger- barely noticeable, but enough to push my groups left.

Next step is to further taper the grip, deepen the grooves, and refuse the shape until I get a perfect glove-like fit. Then I’ll sand out any scratches and work it down to a 320 grit. Last, I’ll add a Tru-Oil finish and when that sets up, apply stippling with a punch.

Further refinement:

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The taper from front to back turns out to be especially critical. By varying which side tapers more you can fine tune how the gun points and the sights align.

 

The IZH-46m Part I

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Having sold my Alfa Proj, I once again had money in my toy account (aka my PayPal account) and just as I was wondering what to try next a pair of clean IZH-46m pistols showed up on the TargetTalk forum. I jumped on one for a very reasonable $425 (they’re $599 new) and three days later it arrived on my front porch.

Russian match guns have a reputation for excellent performance coupled with crude workmanship, but this pistol looks like a piece of quality workmanship. About the only thing that’s not impressive when you pick this gun up is the grip, which is bulky and crudely shaped- but more about that in a minute. Shooting is simple: Open the cocking lever until the loading gate pops open, close the lever (which pressurizes the air chamber, insert a pellet, close the loading gate, and you’re ready to fire.

You can dry fire the 46m, too. There’s a small projection on the right side of the fitting at the breech end of the barrel:

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If you push forward on that tab,  the fitting moves forward and allows the breech block to pop open:

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This is a good way to store the gun, as it takes pressure off the breech seals. If you lift the breech block until it clicks, that cocks the trigger. You can then close the breech until it locks, and the trigger may be safely dry fired.

So how does it shoot? Not surprisingly, given its history in competition, it shoots as good as any match gun of its era and far better than I can. Here’s one of my first targets, shot while I was tweaking the sights:

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That shot on the upper left of the 10-ring was my last, after adding a couple of elevation clicks and adjusting my grip. Not Olympic quality, but not too bad a start.

About those grips: They’re intentionally left large and clunky because IZH expects the owner to carve and shape the grips to fit. Some owners spend a few hundred dollars to buy custom grips from Rink, but I decided to grab a rasp and dig in. After referring to Don Nygord’s invaluable “Nygord’s Notes” I grabbed my trusty Nicholson #49 Patternmakers Rasp and started removing wood.

Nygord emphasizes that a proper grip involves pressure at three points: The web between thumb and forefinger, where the second finger grasps the front of the grip, and the front of the palm shelf. A properly shaped grip will allow the shooter to grasp the pistol exactly the same way every time, locating on these three points.

The first step in shaping is to taper the grip front to back, so that it fits the tapered gap between thumb and forefinger.

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I’ve only removed about an eight of an inch of wood but it already fits my hand much better.  Note that I’m also thinning the section above the web of the hand to both enlarge the area and get my hand a bit closer to the barrel axis.

The second area that needs shaping is the side and front of the grip, where your fingers wrap around. The first step was just to break the hard edge, which made the grip much more comfortable:

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Just this small change made the grip much more comfortable. I plan on removing more wood in this area and adding finger grooves to improve the repeatability of my grip position. Once I have a good shape I’ll switch to sandpaper, starting with 150 and moving down to 320. I might do some stippling as well to improve the grip.

Should you decide to do some grip or stock shaping yourself, be advised that the Nicholson #49 hand-cut rasp I’m using is a made-in-USA model I bought in 1998 when I was fitting airgun field target stocks. A few years ago they moved production to Brazil, and the #49s and #50s they’re making now are junk. If you’re looking for a good stock shaping tool, look into the French rasps made by Auriou and Liogier, both available from several on-line sellers. Theyre expensive, but worth it. A rasp with hand cut teeth cuts much faster, and much smoother than any machine cut rasp. The secret is the randomized spacing of the teeth.

A Plethora of Pellets



These days almost all my shooting is done with a very few different pellets. For 0.177 field shooting, 7.5 and 10 grain round nosed pellets- Premiers or JSBs. For target guns, 7 and 8gr wadcutters, usually RWS Meisterkugeln. But after 40 years of air gunning I have a pretty big collection of pellets in various calibers, shapes, and weights. Here’s a small selection of interesting ones from my collection.

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These Crosmans, dating from the 60s, I think, are probably the oldest in my collection. They were made for the CO2 and pump-up Crosman guns, probably from dies Crosman had been using for decades. How accurate would they be from a modern gun? Hard to say. They’re so oxidized I wouldn’t put them in a good quality gun. I don’t know much more about them.

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These Eley Wasps look pretty old, but Eley sold the same pellet designs for decades. They also used the same dies to make them for many decades, which is not a good recipe for accuracy.  Eloy makes what is probably the finest .22 caliber target ammunition in the world, but urioyuslyt, they’ve never made target quality pellets. Still, their line of pellets were very popular in the days of inexpensive spring guns. When the high quality PCP guns started to appear on the market in the 1980s, buyers started looking for better pellets.

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These pellets win the prize for the worst quality pellets in my collection, I think. They came with a 1990s Chinese made TS-45 side lever spring gun I purchased back then. The TS-45 was very popular for a time as they could be purchased very cheaply, and were a good platform for experimentation. What they were not is very accurate. I think they were used in China as basic marksmanship trainers, although I recall the hang tag on the gun also suggested that they were also recommended “for elimination of vermin.”

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Before there was a Beeman Jet pellet there were these Japanese made pellets. A very light pellet with multiple delicate “fins” designed to provide a good air seal with low friction, the Jet was designed for the low power (4-5 foot pound) pump up guns that were then legal in Japan. Beeman later relabeled them and sold them as a general purpose pellet with “good penetration.” I tried the Beeman version in my Beeman R7 (HW 30) with so-so results. This package came from a friend who got to know Robert Law very well, and often visited him.

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These 0.177 round balls were made by H&N and other pellet makers for various repeating airguns like the Hakim military trainer. That didn’t stop airgunners from trying them in guns designed for Diablo-style pellets, and it didn’t stop Bob Beeman from recommending them as a safer, non-ricocheting alternative to steel BBs.  The problem with this advice is that BBs are smaller than .177, and these round balls will quickly jam most BB guns, as many trusting Beeman customers discovered. They don’t work very well in most single pellet shot guns, either,  as solid balls don’t provide as a good a seal  as do hollow base pellets. They’re still useful for the few repeating guns designed to use them.

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Another pellet see by many European shooters and the few North Americans who could get their hands on them in the 70s and 80s. Great graphics, average pellet.

 

Robert Law and Air Rifle Headquarters

Most air gunners today aren’t aware of Robert Law, the man who really introduced modern high quality European airguns to the American market. We had Daisy, of course, and Crosman, Sheridan, Benjamin, and a number of other domestic makers, but their guns were looked on largely as toys by most gun hobbyist. But in Europe, respected makers of high-quality firearms like Hermann Weirauch, Walther, Feinwerkbau, Diana, and others were making precision spring-air powered guns that cost as much as firearms- some of them as accurate as the finest target forearms.

Bob Law not only imported and sold these guns, he produced catalogs that were also manuals of how to tune and improve these guns for better performance and sold a variety of high-tech lubricants that could be used in these tunes. Building on the work of Ladd Fanta, he taught air gunners how to replace combustible petroleum based solvents with modern synthetics:

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He also marketed a variety of H&N and other pellets under the ARH brand:

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Air Rifle Headquarters was never a huge business, and when Robert Beeman entered the market he took advantage of the knowledge that Law had accumulated as well as the market Law had developed, and was able to grow his business to the point where he became the sole Importer of many of the guns Law was selling. Law decided to leave the business and devote us time to the ministry.

Beeman did do a lot to popularize quality airguns in this country, and even introduced some novel ideas, like putting European guns in quality American-styled walnut stocks instead of the utilitarian looking beech stocks that most came in. But we should remember that without Robert Law and the original Air Rifle Headquarters, there probably never would have been a Beeman.