Beeman R1 FT Tune w/ New Athlon Midas Tac Scope--Finishing-Up Results
(Oh no, another long post. I promise there's some good reading to be had in here).
I recently got a request for a Field Target tune using the Beeman R1. It was nice for a change--a tune that was more about accuracy than it was velocity. I've had orders for high accuracy tunes before, but seldom from someone who actually wanted to compete--at his local club in this case.
I had a short little 'drought' in tuning projects to work on before this one, so I was happy for the challenge. In fact, when this one is gone in a few days, once again I'll be looking for another one.
Now, the scope: There was an added cherry or two on the top this time: The owner wanted to use a new model Athlon scope that is said to be near the top of their offerings in the way of features. So, I was eager to get a look at it.
When I checked the price, I phoned Athlon and asked why it was lower than some of the others they carried. The nice customer service lady told me that because of some of the manufacturing methods they used, they were able to pick some of the best features from other models, and combine them into one, at a good price. This job sounded like fun from the start. No suspense intended--we're talking about the Athlon Midas Tac 6-24x50 model, with MOA reticle. (You can also get it with a Mil Dot reticle). (The link to the scope on their site is near the bottom of this post, right above the first photo).
Anyway, before mounting the scope, I had to choose the tuning parts and get the rifle performing properly. As my good fortune would have it, I had already checked with James Maccari of ARH about his fairly-new R1 kit, to see what I could expect. I didn't want too-much kick on an FT gun. He told me it gave factory velocity, but with a milder spring than some of the kits he's produced in the past (the factory uses larger wire, too). You can read most of that in the description of the kit on his site:
As is my standard, the first thing I did when the rifle got here was to run it over my Chrony, recording the velocity of 3 or 4 pellets for a later comparison. Then I installed the spring kit with basic lubes and a few thin flat washers. Then, I re-ran the tests with the same pellets for a true 'apples-to-apples' comparison. Well, 'Mission accomplished', I'm happy to say. I got velocities within no more than a 10-15 fps difference, but with the use of 135" wire instead of .148" wire (or .150"?). The other good news there is that .135" wire is considered large-enough to stand-up to heavy pellets. The rifle produced a noticeably-smooth shot cycle with the new kit inside.
I figured I might as well do some preliminary accuracy testing at my 9 yard indoor 'range', and it was a promising specimen from the start.
Now it was time for the real tuning work to start, and I won't belabor the post with all the details. But, among the other things I did, I added a properly-sized ARH "426" Bullet Seal (concave seal face) to the piston for maximum performance at the lowest recoil. He has discontinued those. But, there are other choices, like his 'factory-similar' seal, or an OEM seal. The OEM seal in THIS rifle was too loose, but the Bullet Seal was properly-snug for long life. Yet, the finished tune still produced basically-identical velocity as where it started.
I'll add that a cupped-face, green 'Euro seal' is still around out there at a slightly-higher price (re: the word "pulse"). This new R1 kit has enough preload to take advantage of the also-concave-faced design.
Just to make sure, I lapped/ resurfaced the barrel crown right away for the sake of maximum target accuracy. I didn't want to have to take it all apart again later to do it.
When it was all done, I was getting ~13.5-14 FPE with it, using either H&N FTT or Baracuda Match pellets. I know the so-called holy grail for a target springer is often said to be 12 FPE, but this one is VERY-docile exactly as it is. More velocity is good if it doesn't hurt accuracy. It means a flatter trajectory, and less clicking. Maybe you'd say you can feel it move when it's fired, but I can't. Chalk that up to: 1. The R1 is a little heavier than other springers, and the extra weight adds stability, 2. A more-docile spring kit with lighter wire, 3. The cupped-face piston seal that gives a softer landing to the piston at the end of the shot cycle, and 4. A scope that comes in at about 1 1/2 lbs--at least a full half pound more than many others. Again, more weight means added stillness. I really can't feel it move when I shoot it. I've come to appreciate another reason why the R1 is called, 'The Workhorse' of springers.
It was apparent that a large side-wheel for better parallax resolution and better range-finding was going to be a must-have, I'm giving kudos to Eric Sanders at http://www.scope-werks.com , for designing and building a nice 5" custom wheel for this new scope model. I wanted to provide a wheel that could be adjusted when it came to the distance from the stock. I sent Eric photos, dimensions, and some rather crude hand drawings (i.e. no CAD), and he got it perfect the first time. The wheel arrived with a pretty black powder coat finish, and it looks as good on the rifle as it fits well. I'll probably be putting something about all of this on the FT Forum pretty soon, since it's directly-related.
I've got a little more shooting to do, because I want to put the scope through some more of its paces. But, things look good so far. I sure hope J.S. likes it.
With this one drawing to a close, I'll be looking for a new project. With all this recent talk of R10's, and with the parts I already have in stock, I'd really like it to be one of those, although I work on others. When my tuning hands are empty, they get itchy, and a discounted price and very-fast turnaround time are usually the result.
I used several levels and a plumb line to make sure the action was 'square', then to align the cross hairs of the scope. When I was sure that was right, I also installed 3 permanent, rifle-mounted levels for field use, and also aligned them to be true to the other levels. Three levels might be overkill, but maybe not. Depending on the shooter's head position, he might prefer to use one over the other--this way he has a choice. If he finds one to be distracting once he has the rifle back in his possession, he can simply remove it. Personally, after doing a little test shooting here, I found all 3 to be useful, depending on which stage of the sighting routine in which I was engaged. If he ever removes the scope for any reason, I feel sure he'll be glad he has the one nearest the front of the scope. Being attached to the scope tube, that's the only one that truly referenced the scope's cross hairs to a confirmed, vertical plumb line.
The photo showing the rifle on its side with 2 levels on it might seem confusing. But, it shows that the scope parallax side knob is square to the action, to double-check it. I also measured the distance from the top of the knob to the stock to give Eric at Scope-werks what he'd need to machine the wheel, to make sure it would clear the stock (the bottom of the wheel drops lower than the upper edge of the stock, and there could have been a fit conflict). Remember that this is a new scope model he'd never seen before, and he didn't have the rifle there to measure, either. Now he has the dimensions of the Midas Tac scope for supplying more side wheels for it.
I used a Maccari/ARH Apex brake on the end of a new carbine barrel for 3 reasons: 1. Hanging out the brake past the end of the barrel made for easier cocking; 2. While the brake is aluminum, adding a brass weight (with epoxy and screws) gave it enough heft for a little muzzle stability for better accuracy; and 3. I chose a brass tubing size that still kept some air space around the inside of the brake compared to the .177 bore, for noise reduction, and that reduction was requested by the owner. He didn't know how to achieve it, but I did--I've used this same brake and these methods before on other springers. Yes, the sound of a springer can also be moderated, believe it or not. Try taping an empty toilet paper roll with a piece of tape over one end to the end of a springer barrel, and you'll quickly see what I mean. The end of an Apex brake is a friction fit, and can be popped-off pretty-easily with a dowel rod, etc. Just to make sure, though, when I reinserted it, I used a couple of drops of Crazy Glue.
Athlon Midas Tac Scope w/MOA reticle:
The price that's showing in the link is MFR's list price. You can buy it for less at some of the well-known online vendors.
Again, great job by Eric Sanders at http://www.scope-werks.com for making a perfect and handsome side wheel for this new Athlon MT scope, based on only some rudimentary emailed photos and drawings from me.
Safe and Happy Shooting!
Ed, the Airgun TuneMeister