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:
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.
I recently received this photo of a reloading tool designed for the Crosman Trapmaster 1100 from Toby Koehn, who inherited the tool from his grandfather, who built it. Pretty impressive. I’ve owned two 1100s, and I’ve never seen anything similar. Have any of our readers seen one like it?
Toby also notes that his grandfather had a number of “magnum” shotshells for the 1100 that are about 1/4″ longer than the standard shells. He wonders if they were a stock item, or another of his grandfather’s clever creations.
(For those unfamiliar with the Trapmaster 1100, we looked at it in detail in an earlier post.)
Update: Here’s a link to another reloading tool built by a Crosman owner: 1100ShotShellLoadingPress.jpg
Here’s another gun from the back of the cabinet that hasn’t been out in the field in a long time. It’s an original Beeman C1 carbine in .177 that I bought used in the late 1980s from a fellow airgunner who’d done some tuning on it- I think he relubed it and did a little trigger tuning. It also had a pellet reservoir mortised into the stock- a handy feature for hunters:
But the most unusual modification on this gun is one that was done after I acquired it. I was writing for US Airguns magazine around 1988-89, and I was contacted by gunsmith Kevin Knight of High Performance Gunsmithing, in Hamilton, Montana, who’d read some of my articles. He was in the business of making custom muzzle brakes for firearms, and wondered if there’d be interest in the airgun community for these brakes. Was I interested in having a gun modified for test?
Well, sure. I mailed him the barrel from my C1, and when he returned it, the end of the barrel had been turned down and threaded, and a matching muzzle brake had been fabricated that looked like an extension of the barrel:
Subsequent testing showed that the brake did, in fact, result in a small but statistically significant improvement in the accuracy of the C1- though at $200, it was a lot more expensive than any of the functional muzzle brakes available from Vortek and others at the time. I wrote up the article, US Airgun ran it, and whether anyone else had their airgun done, I don’t know.
Regardless, it’s a neat custom touch to the gun, and I think a lot sharper looking that the typical Beeman non-functional “muzzle brake” often found on these guns. And since it hadn’t been fired much in the last decade, I decided it was time to sell it, and buy another interesting gun to write about, so off it went. Maybe I’ll around get to restoring the other C1 that’s sitting in the back of the safe.
I caught this today at a web site that also sells airguns:
“While RWS spring-piston models do rely on a tiny diesel effect to produce full power, sever (sic) dieseling must be avoided.”
Elsewhere in this company’s web site they recommend that “One or two drops every 5,000 to 6,000 rounds, or each 8-12 months, should be plenty.”
Modern airguns are lubricated with very tiny amounts silicone-based oils that have a flashpoint of between 450 and 550F, and simply do not burn any significant amounts of oil- unless the owner squirts excess down the barrel, as Beeman still recommends. Many guns use a silicone-molybdenum disulfide paste that will not vaporize under any circumstances.
Supposing the oil did burn. Given that they say a properly lubricated spring piston airgun can fire at least 5,000 shots before needing a tear down and relubrication, how much oil do you imagine could burn on each shot? Those two drops of oil- about 100 mm^3, weigh roughly 7.15×10^-5 grams, which, divided by 5000 shots comes to 1.43×10^-8, or 0.0000000143 grams per shot.
You could be lubricating the gun with gasoline, and you’re still not going to get very much energy from 0.0000000143 grams per shot! Note that Beeman, who used to recommend two drops of oil with every tin of pellets, now say that:
The piston seal in most modern air guns is made of a synthetic material that is self lubricating. It should only be lubricated during routine maintenance performed by an authorized service shop.
So there you have it. No oil, and no dieseling.