Friday, 24 October 2014

.22 Air Arms s410 Carbine Review pt2

I bought and reviewed the s410 very early on this year, which really could only be a cosmetic review. Now that I have owned and used it for nearly a year, I can give a more comprehensive practical review of this classic air rifle.

.22 Air Arms s410 carbine with Bushnell Trophy 3-9x40 scope.

This particular S410 is a pre-anti tamper model from 2002; the serial number to tell you this can be found on the hammer housing below the breech on the right hand side. 

Air Arms will be happy to let you know the age of your rifle.

The bolt handle on the right hand side curves upwards, almost as if someone had put a left handed bolt handle on by mistake, but this was how they were fitted from the factory for a short period. I perfer it this way as it feels a lot more solid and easier to use, it sticks out more but you can just tap it up with your palm and pull back. To cock and cycle the mag you need to use clear defined motions with a firm hand.

Bolt sticks out, but I actually prefer it that way.

There is no safety on the trigger blade which shows it's an earlier model, so I got into the habit of not cocking the rifle until I needed to take a shot. The trigger is two stage and adjustable in both, though it is set up perfectly as it is. There is is a shortish first stage travel and the second stage let off is crisp, predictable, and relatively light. I don't have any equipment to measure the trigger pull but I know a good trigger when I feel one!

Old style trigger with no safety, but still has all the adjustment you could ever want.

The Air Arms moderator is very good and on firing the rifle is whisper quiet, in fact the spring and hammer are heard over the report.  It slips over the end of the barrel and is secured with a grub screw, the fitting is 10 mm diameter.

Air Arms moderator

The barrel band at the front is secured by two grub screws and can shift if the moderator is knocked hard enough; this is sorted by loosening the grub screws, letting the barrel reset itself, then locking it in place by tightening the grub screws. You know this has happened if your POI has shifted over to the left or right for no apparent reason, though you can buy after market barrel bands that have three grub screws to hold it in place more securely.

One of the two barrel band securing grub screws,

Accuracy is very good, with the selection of .22 pellets I have tried in it so far giving half inch groups at 40 yards. Shots were taken sat down with my elbows supported on my thighs so could be improved upon if bench rested.

Pellets in order of accuracy.               Muzzle energy.

Air Arms diabolo's 16gr                            11 ft/lb

H&N Field Trophies 14.65gr                      11.3 ft/lb

Falcon Accuracy Plus 13.65gr                    10.2 ft/lb

RWS Superdomes 14.5gr                          10.5 ft/lb

Falcon Accuracy Plus being a lighter pellet will give less muzzle energy than a heavier pellet.

Until I recently got a new chronoscope I had been charging the rifle to 185 bar, shooting six or seven mags of 10 pellets, then topping up the cylinder when I got back home. The guage on the rifle will only give you a rough idea of how much air you have, after seven mags the rifle guage reads 100 bar but the more accurate pump guage reads 115 bar. One time air pressure in the rifle got so low that it dumped the rest of the air over the two hours before I got home to refill it, and this is why I now shoot no more than seventy shots.

On board pressure guage gives a rough guide.

I ran a shot string through the chronoscope recently with 5,51 AA diabolo's starting at 195 bar, pellets were straight from the tin and some of their skirts were not that round either. I measured one shot in every five, removing the mag and dry firing the other four. 18 shots were recorded giving the equivalent of a 90 shot string, I was mildly surprised and very happy with the results as there was only an extreme spread of 12 FPS.

The magazine is indexed by the rifle itself from a unit that runs along the right hand side of the action, and although the mag in it's plastic casing looks like a spring loaded magazine, it's not. 

Pellets are loaded nose first through the hole in the yellow plastic.

The casing keeps the pellets in the mag and helps it slide into the action and lock it in place, though sometimes the bolt slips forwards a little if not held back, and clashes with the mag when loading it. 

The tip of the bolt can get in the way of the magazine if you're not careful.

Pulling the bolt back to change mags also cocks the rifle, so fitting a full mag will leave the rifle cocked and ready to fire. I usually leave the last chamber empty then fit the mag returning the bolt; firing the empty chamber leaves it ready to cock and load the next pellet and acts as a safety. Filling the mag with most .22 pellets is simple as they fall in leaving it free to click on to the next chamber, however pellets that are 5.52 mm tend to need a nudge in from the head of the next pellet to be loaded.

The brass pin moves up to cycle the magazine when cocking the rifle.

The rifle is light and has a compact feel to it even with the moderator fitted, with a bipod fitted it would need a sling but I am in no immediate rush for one. I have found that it's size and weight make it easy to carry over the most treacherous of ground, and it comes to the shoulder and aquires target easily whether standing, supported, kneeling, or prone. What would be a vast improvement would be an adjustable butt pad; the rifle tends to sit high in my shoulder most of the time. Everything else fits really well; the length of pull, the fit of the pistol grip, and the chequering on the forestock and pistol grip works well and is not too obtrusive on the laquered beech stock.

Simple chequering gives good grip, even when wet.

The Bushnell Throphy 3-9x40 scope has got to be the best scope I own, most of my other scopes are Nikko Sterling and as good as they are, you can see how much better this one is. The quality of the lenses is absolutely amazing by comparison, though to look at externally the low turrets would be the only indication that this is a more expensive scope. 

A rather splendid Bushnell Trophy scope.

The sight picture is crystal clear and at 9 mag there is no distortion around the rim of the lens, it transmits plenty of light well into dusk and in dark woods which is where I do a lot of shooting. It has a very fine half mil dot recticule, this also makes for a good aquisition of target in low lighting. It's sighted for 8 and 30 yards, around 20 yards is a mil dot above, 38 yards is a mil dot below and 45 yards is two generally.

Just to show the half mil dot recticule, the sight picture is really crystal clear. Honestly.

Admittedly I don't tend to shoot things as far out as I do my other Air Arms PCP which is the Shamal, but that one is .177 and the S410 is .22; the larger calibre with it's more pronounced trajectory hits home with more authority. There is room for improvement but Air Arms have addressed this over the years by bringing out the S510 and then the Ultimate Sporter, and the quality is reflected in the prices for these air rifles

Air Arms Shamal, one solid, accurate air rifle.

One niggle I do have is that when the end cap is removed to fill the rifle with air, if you are not careful the adapter on the pump can scratch the underside of the moderator when taking it off after charging. I have have to be really careful when doing this, although I could just wrap a piece of cloth around the moderator to protect it which is the better option all round.

Scuff marks on the moderator are caused when removing the charging adaptor.

So there you have it, a review on the Air Arms s410 Carbine after using it for ten months. I could have shown you some groupings with different pellets at different ranges, but truth be told the rifle easily outperforms my ability as a marksman.


Best wishes, Wing Commander Sir Nigel Tetlington-Smythe.

Using the Pro Chrono Digital

 An out of the box review.

Having already owned a chronograph which unfortunately met an untimely death, you end up wondering how you ever coped without one in the first place. But after six months without one, I am relieved to say I am now the proud owner of a brand new Competition Electronics Pro Chrono Digital, and bloody good it is too. There is another version which is not digital, but the advantage of going for the digital version is that it can be connected to a laptop and stores your info in a file. For an extra £60 (at time of writing), ProChrono will supply you with a cable to connect the unit to a computer, and a software disk which stores the full range of info in an easy to read format.

Well worth the wait.

On opening the box you see the 3 by 4 by 12 inch unit, two light diffusers, four metal rods and a booklet of easy to understand instructions in English. The body is a tough plastic and the whole unit is two lbs in weight. It is powered by one 9 volt battery with storage space for a spare which is handy in case you run out of power down the range, though a good battery should run for 10 hours solid. 

Extra battery storage is a clever idea.

The battery box is on the underside next to a brass screw-in connector which allows you to mount the unit on a camera tripod, this makes it easy to target shoot off hand and get a reading at the same time.

There is a tripod around, but the wifey tends to use it for photography.

The read-out on the front gives you the FPS read-out; it can be changed to MPS at the touch of a button and will tell you the high and low of each shot string. If you want ft/lb's you have to work it out yourself (I use this handy free online calculator: ), or buy the software supplied by ProChrono. The two buttons above the read-out and three below are easy to understand and use, and after one read of the instructions I understood their function completely.

Very wide sensors.

To set it up and use is simplicity itself; pop in a battery, turn it on at the side, shoot over the sensors on top and you get the speed of the projectile on the read-out. Next to the on/off button are two jack plug ports for the remote and PC cable, this is in a shallow recess which offers a degree of protection from damage when using outdoors.

This bit seems straightforward.

The two light diffusers front and back sit on two 13 inch rods and mount solidly into the unit, also giving a rough guide to a 12 inch ark of sensor coverage. When I used it for the first time, it was in the shadow of a woodland on a sunny day. I shot 5 20 shot strings without a single error from the chronograph. There was no need to calibrate anything, just put in the batteries, switch on and shoot. 

It really is a case of fit the batteries and you're ready to go.

The read-out gave the speed in FPS after every shot without having to reset, and stores the info even when the batteries are removed. The only time I have had an error was on one occasion when trying to measure a very slow moving pellet; although it should measure from 30 to 7000 FPS, more care must be taken over slower projectiles.

Chronoscope with light diffuser and poles

The five buttons around the read-out are used respectively to change the shot string, redisplay, review, delete shot, and delete string. The unit will store up to 9 strings - each string containing up to 99 shots - before it's full and needs deleting. This is where having the PC cable and ProChrono software come in handy. It would also be handy to be able to view a live readout on a computer screen.

It really isn't rocket science, in fact it's pretty self explanitory.

All in all I am utterly impressed by the ProChrono Digital, it can be set up in seconds and can be easily operated even by an idiot (which is just as well in my case). Now I can get to diagnosing problems in my old air rifles and make sure my favourite air rifles are still performing well. I may even test my crossbow and slingshot. Until then ...


Best wishes, Wing Comander Sir Nigel Tetlington- Smythe.

A Tale Of Two Chronoscopes

 The long, long wait ...

For the last six months I haven't written any blogs because I haven't really done any work on my air rifles, I have used them a little but there is only so much you can write about that. The reason is a little to do with work commitments and a lot to do with my old chronograph dying an untimely death last May. It was the Mk IV Combro chronoscope which attaches to the barrel of your rifle - a brilliant little device but if you're not extremely careful with it, you can shoot out a sensor, which is exactly what I managed to do.

The Mk IV Combro still gave a reading after shooting out this sensor.

Happily, the company which builds them will repair them very cheaply for you and I can highly recommend their service. In the case of my chrono however, the final nail in it's coffin came when it fell, in it's box, onto a hot plate on the cooker and was reduced to ash and melted plastic. Oopsy.

Shortly before it's untimely death.

I needed a new chronoscope, but this time I decided I would wait and save for a larger model, one that not only measures pellets and BB's whatever the barrel shape, but can also measure projectiles from bows, crossbows and slingshots. There are a few makes you can choose from. There is the Skan, which by all accounts is excellent but a bit expensive and doesn't do bolts and arrows. The Shooting Chrony range includes the Alpha, the Beta, and the F1, which are cheaper but a bit of a bugger about lighting conditions. There is also the American made Pro Chrono with the basic and digital models, which is a little more expensive than the Alpha but a lot more forgiving.

Ooh, Yes, that's the one I want.

After a lot of research and some brilliant advice from some of the airgun forums I decided to go for the Pro Chrono Digital. Little did I know it would be nigh on impossible to find anywhere in the UK which actually had them in stock!
Oh happy days.

So I waited and waited and waited some more, but no joy, it would appear I was not destined for a Pro Chrono Digital. A few months before my birthday I notice a very good deal on the Shooting Chrony Beta with lighting unit, not what i'd originally wanted, but a good compromise. So when the Fed Ex lorry dropped off a large birthday present with my name on, I was expecting to unwrap the Beta, but, oh joy, it was actually the Pro Chrono Digital! The wifey had managed to find a store on ebay with a few available, bless her cotton socks.

Out of the box and looking damn fine.

Sadly it doesn't come with batteries included and I didn't have any to hand, so I made do with fondling the box and reading the instructions. Look out for my next post where I will put it to test - can't wait!


Best wishes, Wing Commander Sir Nigel Tetlington-Smythe.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Tools for Air Rifle Repairs .

Bits and bobs and odds and sods for fixing up air rifles.

Once upon a time not so long ago, my kit consisted of a couple of screwdrivers, some 3 in 1, a drill and an old Relum Telly .22 air rifle.

Ask any airgun tinkerer or tuner what the most important tool for working on an air rifle is, and you will be told it's the chronoscope. I would say that's true as you need to be able to diagnose the problem in the first place, as well as ensuring your rifle stays within legal limits - fixing a rifle so well it shoots over 12 ft/lb is not the fix at all!

This Combro Mk IV will cost you about £50.

Over the years as I have picked up old air rifles to work on, I have also had to buy, find, or make the tools to work on them. This has usually meant buying fairly inexpensive things like bit sets from Homebase, giving me a range of flat blades and hex's and providing a cheap alternative to expensive gunsmith screwdrivers,

These two bit sets tend to cover all needs

These dial calipers I got from a car boot sale, and are very useful for measuring main spring dimensions and the measurements of the finer tolerences found on some of the better quality air rifles I own.

Dial calipers are not only bloody useful but look a bit sexy as well.

I have found discount shops a good cheap supply of wire wool, white spirit, sand paper, craft knives, metal files and loads of other stuff that would otherwise have cost me a fortune.

Six mm ali tube with a slot cut in the end clamps around cheap wire wool and wet and dry,

I have also made a fair few tools as well, such as a spring compressor which is most certainly needed on most of my spring air rifles.

DIY spring compressor took an hour to knock up (and another hour to fix after 4 inches of pre load on a Titan main spring did it some mischief).

I even made up some parts to turn a drill driven wood lathe into a metal tuning lathe, though if truth be told it needs redesigning as it's currently only good enough for turning plastic bar, or aluminium at a push.

This lathe bodge is good enough for knocking up Delrin top hats and spring guides if needed.

The 'Fonely lathe ('fonely means 'if only', as in 'if only i had a lathe') also doubles for knife making.

Knife making jig will surfice til I get a belt sander.

And here is a large grinding wheel I picked up somewhere, however the law of momentum tends to have it's evil way if I haven't got anything pressed against it.

The momentum on this grinding wheel has been known to destroy a drill.

Full size and jewellery pliers, mallet, hammers, cheap O ring sets and a cheap Draper mini drill with accessories are just some of the tools i've collected , and of course a selection of moly and silicon greases and gun oils have all been acquired over the years.

Can't remember what this lot cost in all, but it wasn't a lot considering.

In the back garden I have a small shed where I test rifles and invent tools, but the kitchen table is by far the best place to work on air rifles. Some good music and a nice drink and you have the perfect working enviroment.

Good music to work to, and a single malt in the hand that isn't holding the camera.


Best wishes, Wing Commander Sir Nigel Tetlington-Smythe.


Sunday, 5 October 2014

More Stuff on the SMK B45-3

SMK B45-3 after lots of messing about.
It's not the prettiest air rifle and i'm constantly replacing the air inlet valve seal, but for some reason I really like this cheap Chinese multi pump. It's simple to dismantle, which is just as well, because finding the right size and material for the air inlet valve seal has been an ongoing mission over the last year or so. Too thin and the sealing collar cuts right through it, too hard and it doesn't hold air. But with a lot of trial and error I have found something that holds a lot longer than the simple rubber flap washer I used originally. Now I use a thicker, harder rubbery plastic, found on a cheap head torch, which I cut to shape. It is holding up well so far.

A selection of different materials and sizes for the inlet valve in the centre of the picture.

The original stock and pump arm are butt ugly and so is the action if truth be told, but at least I can do something about the stock. I have made a new stock and pump arm which lends more weight and balance, and a raised comb making it a lot easier to shoot.

The trigger gets heavier the more you pump as it releases air from a dump valve/exhaust valve. It would be more accurate if the trigger was a lot lighter. And actually, the thing about this little rifle is that it IS accurate, that is why I have persevered with tinkering with it and will continue to do so. If I go down to the woods with an air rifle, this one always comes along. It is great fun for a plink on my permission woods.

Recently I had found that it was not as accurate as it used to be, so I had a look for the cause of this. On close inspection I discovered that the barrel was slipping out of the breech and that it was also moving slightly in the sight housing/support. 

The barrel loose in the breech block has shifted 2 mm.

The barrel has a thinner diameter where it fits into the breech and is held in tight with a screw from above, this screws into a hole that runs top to bottom which acts as transfer port, and a screw hole underneath for holding the firing pin housing in the right position. Some screws were missing when I got the rifle, and the screw that holds the barrel tight was one of them. I found a screw to replace this and turned it into a grub screw so it wouldn't clash with the scope mounts.

Brass grub screw that secures the barrel.

Once I had loosened the grub screw out, I found I needed to deepen the slot for the flat head screwdriver blade, then it was matter of tapping the barrel back to it's true position. 

Tapping the barrel into the breech while the front sight housing is attached.

The crown of the barrel is recessed so is hard to damage, so tapping it through the sight housing wasn't a problem. 

The barrel crown is not really the crown as the rifling stops 5mm into the barrel.

With the barrel back in place, I checked it was aligned by poking a small hex key up from underneath the breech with the firing pin removed; it was, so no adjustment was needed. Then the grub screw on top was tightened securely against the barrel, which, judging by how far it screwed in, was not secured before.

This was when I noticed that the barrel was not such a snug fit in the sight housing and would move around if I applied pressure from side to side. It was barely noticeable but it was movement all the same. As there is a barrel band, it is not supposed to be a free floating barrel, and a lot of force is placed around here through the use of the pump arm. 

Pump arm pivot pin and securing screws removed.

I removed the pump arm pivot pin and securing screws so the sight housing could be taken off, and replaced the plastic cone that fits over the barrel - i'd originally assumed this was there for an aesthetic purpose and had left it off. The barrel still had movement in it with the cone replaced, but it meant I could wedge a sliver of rubber between the underside of the cone and pump tube. 

Small piece of rubber stops the barrel moving about when using the pump arm.

This pushed the barrel upwards and stopped all movement.

The small cross-head screw that holds the pump arm pivot pin secure in the pump tube is not original, this replacement has the habit of working loose and letting the pivot pin move back so slightly, adjusting the length of the pump stroke. There was a marked difference in point of impact when pumped seven times with the pivot pin secure and seven times with the pin loose. So I decided to use Loctite thread glue to hold the screw in place, and this appears to have done the job.

This stuff really works.

I am happy to say that these small jobs have not only restored it's original accuracy, but have even improved upon it. If I could somehow make the trigger pull lighter the accuracy would be even better, as I have the tendency to pull some shots to the left with it as stiff as it is. But saying that, it wouldn't be too hard to build a replacement trigger for it, such is the simplicity of this rifle's design.


Best wishes, Wing Commander Sir Nigel Tetlington-Smythe