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The Daisy Avanti 747

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I decided to celebrate Michigan’s airgun law reform by buying a new Daisy Avanti 747 pellet pistol for basement winter and rainy day practice. I’d owned two of the simpler 717s, one of which I wrote about here a few months ago, and one back in the late 1980s. The 747 adds two improvements to the 717: An adjustable trigger, and a Lothar Walther barrel. While Don Nygord won a  California state air gun championship with a modified 717 having the stock Daisy barrel, and while the stock barrel no doubt shoots better than I can, it’s still nice knowing you have that little extra edge. 
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It even comes with its own special tool for adjusting the trigger and the piston:

 

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Thanks to the light trigger, I can shoot this gun much more accurately than I could ever shoot my 717s. I have it at minimum let off, which brings it to around 2-1/2 lbs, close to the trigger weight of my Rugers and my High Standard Supermatic. Trigger adjustment is easy- there’s a little screw head recessed in the front of the grip frame, just below the trigger guard:

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At $200 to $235, depending on where you buy it, the 747 remains the single outstanding bargain in competition air pistols. The next step up would be to an FAS ($385-500, depending on grips) and I’m not sure the novice would do any better with that gun. While there it much about  the way that that Daisy is made that looks kind of crude, nothing has been compromised as far as accuracy is concerned. The bolt is a rough looking piece of plastic that is a bit rough in operation, but smooths out with use. The piston is a zinc casting that again works just fine. The rear sight is plastic (!) but it’s adjustable, and anyway I’ll probably be mainly using the mini dot sight on mine  I do have some plans for eventually mounting a better sight, as Nygord did with his 717.)

First tests were very promising, with the gun grouping tightly off a rest in my basement range. After a few days of practice my groups were noticeably smaller, and that carried over to my  .22 Bullseye guns. Practice does make a difference!

I do have two minor complaints. One, the gun is very nose heavy, even more so than my High Standard. The mass does contribute to steadying the gun, though. Two, the grips just don’t fit my large hands very well. No one currently makes replacement grips, and Daisy quite making the wooden-gripped 777 version a long time ago, so they don’t have any spares. Sometime this year I’m going to try and carve myself a set that’ll fit me, but it may not be until Fall or Winter, when I’m looking for indoor projects. As for the balance- BME make a mount for the 747 that allows you to place the scope farther back- I might just get one. Adding an $83 mount and a $75-150 dot sight to a $200 gun does sound a bit excessive, but this gun is worth it.

PS: You can buy it at Amazon with free shipping here.  They also have the scope mount (it’s designed for the IZH 46 but works perfectly on the Daisy), and of course a great many reasonably priced dot sights, of which my favorite is the Millett SP-1. It costs less than a third of what I paid for the Ultradot 25 that’s on my High Standard, and on a non-recoiling air gun it should give many years of trouble-free service.

As for the mini dot sight shown on the Daisy: It’s unmarked, and I’m not sure of the brand; I think it was an eBay purchase. I might just mount a spare Millett SP-1 there next.

[About that barrel: A lot of people think Lothar Walther is part of the same Walther that makes guns- it’s not.  Lothar Walther was the youngest son of Carl Walther, the founder of the company that bears the Walther name. The Walther company was taken over by Carl’s eldest sone, Fritz, after Carl’s death in 1915. Ten years later, Lothar left to start his own firm.]

Good News for Michigan Airgunners

A few days ago- May 13th, 2015- Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill that removes airguns form being classified as firearms. That means that no longer will airliners have to go through the complex pistol buying process, they won’t run the risk of accidentally committing a felony while transporting an air pistol, and they’ll be able to buy mail order more easily. It might even make prices a bit more competitive.

I’ve been tempted to order one of Crosman’s customized 2240 variants but their policy has been not to ship to Michigan, even if you shipped them a properly filled out purchase permit or RI-061 form. I sent the an email yesterday, advising them of the change, and received this nice reply:

Yes, our legal department is aware of the recent changes regarding airguns in Michigan. However, our shipping policy will probably not change until the beginning of next month or possibly not until the beginning of the next fiscal year which starts July 1st.

So a custom 2240 may yet be in my future.

High Scope Mounts for Airguns?

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The usual advice in mounting a scope or sights is to get as close to the barrel as possible. For a scope, that means selecting a mount that just allows the bell of the scope to clear the receiver, with maybe enough space to allow a scope cover to slide over. The reason is simple: the farther apart the axes of the scope and the barrel, the greater the error in aiming if the rifle isn’t held perfectly level.

There are, however, some cases in which there’s an advantage to a high mount. One is with air rifles, like the Air Arms Pro Sport seen above. Pellets travel a lot slower than bullets, and have a lot more drag. Consequently their trajectories are not as flat over their useful range as would be a .22 or a small caliber, high velocity rifle bullet. A 12-16 foot-pound gun like this Pro Sport, if zeroed at 22 yards, is going to see a drop of close to two inches between that distance and the maximum useful range of 50 yards. That’s a lot of correction to dial into a scope- 16 clicks in a quarter minute of angle adjustable scope.

But if the scope is mounted two inches above the barrel, it’s alignment is going to be a lot closer to the downward arc of the pellet than if it was mounted lower. A lot of field target shooters and some airgun hunters mount their scopes high for this reason. A second advantage is that on some stocks it’s easier to get a good sight picture with a high mount.

There are some disadvantages. The earlier mentioned problem of error increasing as the gun is tilted is one. Another is that some scopes don’t have enough adjustment range to deal with a high mount; in those case scope rings can be shimmed, or you can purchase an intermount from Barska and other suppliers that has a built-in angle correction. Such mounts are designed to correct for the “barrel droop” seen in some break barrel guns, but they work well in this application, too. High scope mounting isn’t appropriate for all applications, but it might solve a scope problem you have. Don’t be afraid to try it just because the experts say you should always mount a scope as low as possible.

The HW Barakuda

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I first came across this unusual gun in the pages of W.H.B. Smith’s Gas and Spring Air Guns of the World. (I traded my somewhat rare copy away, but I see you can now order a nice reissue from Stackpole books for much less than originals are selling for.)  Getting back to the Barakuda: It’s perhaps the only air gun that was designed with dieseling in mind.

Normally dieseling is the result of an excess of a hydrocarbon in the chamber, and it’s something you want to avoid. In the Barakuda, a measure amount of a very light hydrocarbon is injected into the chamber behind the pellet. The heat from the compression of air ignites the ether-air miix, and you get an extra boost of several hundred feet per second. If you look at the above photo, you’ll see what looks more or less like a common HW 35 but with a tube running alongside the barrel. Here’s a view from above:

 

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A glass ampule containing ether was placed in the tube and crushed, releasing the liquid. Pulling back on the “bolt” would inject some of the vaporized ether  into the compression chamber. The combination of spring plus ether-air combustion was supposed to result in velocities of over 1,000 fps, but in practice this was rarely (if ever) achieved.  More often than not the result was pellets blown apart (you were supposed to use round balls for this reason), blown seals, and sometimes broken springs. The heavyweight HW Barakuda pellet was reportedly developed in order to create a pellet that could stand up to the explosive force of this gun.

I’ve read that the gun was in production from 1954 to 1981, but I’ve also read that it’s fairly rare, with only a few hundred having been made.  Some “Barakudas” were reportedly made by dealers and gunsmiths by modifying a standard HW 35, but I’ve never actually seen an example or even a picture of one, which is not to say they don’t exist. If you find you have a hankering to own one, be advised that you’ll probably have to pay well in excess of $1,000 to get a working one- probably a lot more. The last one I saw being offered for sale had a price tag of $1,800. I suppose for the collector who has to have one of everything it might be worth it.