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.

Beeman R7/HW30 upgrade: Vortek tune kit

My Beeman R7 is the first quality airgun I ever bought, way back in the early 1980s. It  was a smooth shooting, highly accurate gun when new. When it was about 20 years old the original spring had lost a lot of its power, so I replaced the spring with an aftermarket spring. That restored the power, but not the smoothness. Since then it’s mostly stayed in the safe.

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A few months ago I started thinking about giving it a serious tune, with new spring, piston seal, spring guides, and so forth. There are two main sources in this country for the DIY airgun tunes, Jim Maccari, who has assumed the old Air Rifle Headquarters name, and Vortek, run by an engineer by the name of Tom Gore. I had a Maccabi-tune Air Arms TX-200 that was a fantastic gun, and I’d purchased various parts and a stock from Maccabi,  but I’d never tried any Vortek parts aside from a muzzle brake they used to make back in the 1990s. I’ve been reading a lot of good things about Tom’s scientific approach to air gun tuning, so I ordered one of his kits. It arrived last Thursday and that evening I set about installing it.

First piece of business, of course, was to disassemble the gun. Three screw release it from the stock, and the first part removed from the receiver is the end ca, which is just a press fit:

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Drive out the two roll pins that hold the trigger assembly in place with a punch. This only takes a few light taps:

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Place the receiver  in your handy homemade spring vise and tighten it up to contain the spring you’re about to release. Mine is built on a few thicknesses of plywood and uses a pipe clamp for compression and a few basswood blocks to center and hold the barrel and action:

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Now you can remove the screw that holds the tube that retains the spring:

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…back off the clamp on your spring compressor to ease the tension…

 

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And remove the tube and spring. If you’re just replacing the spring and guides you can stop here, but to clean out the old lubrication and relubricate the seal, or to replace the compression seal, you’ll need to remove the piston, and that takes a bit more work. You’ll need to disconnect the cocking arm or take apart the barrel pivot, which was the route I took:

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What looks like a pair of slotted screws, one on each side, is actually a bolt that shreds through from the left side, and a slotted capscrew on the right side. Remove the right side first, then the left. Reverse that order when putting the gun back together.

You’ll also have to drive out the pin that keeps the cocking arm in place:

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Slide the barrel pivot enough to line up the end of the cocking arm with the enlarged part of the slot, and lift it clear. When you do this, you’ll notice that there are one or more paper-thin steel washers that are used to get rid of any play when the gun was assembled. Try not to damage them, especially when you’re reassembling the gun.

Now you can slide out the piston assembly:

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Here you can see I’ve already pried the old seal off but haven’t yet installed the new one. It’s often recommended that you soften the new seal with gentle heat- hot water or a hair drier- but I had no problem just snapping it on, after wiping off the old lube with a cloth lightly moistened with solvent.

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Clean the cylinder with a rag wrapped around a dowel, and lubricate the new seal, piston, spring, and guides per the instructions included with the kit. Insert the piston and seal, being careful to the line the slot in the piston up with the slot in the receiver, followed by the spring assembly.

Here’s the new assembly from Vortek (bottom) next to the original. Instead of a steel spring guid and washer, the Vortek kit uses a synthetic sleeve and machined synthetic inserts at either end. The spring is shorter, too.

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As long as I was replacing the seal, I also replaced the breech seal with a Vortek unit:

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After the first few shots you might see some  dieseling, as excess lube is pushed into the barrel and ignited. I got a few smoke rings on my first shot, a few whisps on the next two, and that was about it. From the very first shot, the gun was easier to cock and a lot smoother than it had been. I fired a total of about 40 shots to break it in.

I’m really impressed with the Vortek kit. It’s just about foolproof to install, if you take your time and follow instructions closely. It’s turned my R7 back from being a safe queen into one of my favorite air guns again- I’ve even order a new scope for it. More on that later.

Making a rear sight for a Slavia ZVP

Just about a year ago I posted an item about a Slavia ZVP I was restoring that was lacking the rear sight. Today I was visiting a superb website by an an amateur airgunsmith that I linked to previously, and lo and behold, he’s crafted a replacement rear sight for his Slavia entirely from scratch- that’s it above.

I doubt I can do half well as he did, but I’m inspired to try.

Customizing the QB-78 Rifle

QB-78 CO2 powered rifleOne of the most popular inexpensive air guns around is the Chinese-made QB-78, a clone of a classic Crosman design, the 160. The original QB-78s were kind of crude, but later models have been better made, and ever since Crosman finally discontinued the 160 there’s been a big demand for the Chinese clone.

The gun is popular enough that a regular cottage industry has emerged in custom and replacement parts for this gun, and recently I came across Archer Air Guns, who offer a wide range of QB-8 parts, including stocks, valve and trigger upgrades, custom barrels in various calibers and more. MOst are factory alternatives designed for the QB-78 and other guns from the same maker. You can see the various parts they offer by clicking here

If you’re interested in a custom stock for your gun, D&H Woodcrafters offers finished and unfinished stocks in various woods and styles. And if you’d like someone else to tune the gun for you, there are many tuners like Charlie Pitts, aka “Charlie da Tuna”, who can get your QB78 shooting up to its full potential.

My own QB-78 has been sitting in a corner of the basement for a few years. Maybe I’ll make tuning and customizing it a summer project.