Airgun ‘Smithing

Here are the top tools that experts use to maintain spring-powered airguns.

by Gene Salvino

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Airguns have been around since the late 16th century and have been improved upon as technology and designs have advanced. Nowadays there are many different airgun power plants that range from beginner-level to world competition. The most common has been the spring-powered (often referred to as “springers”).

A springer is an airgun that is operated by a spring-piston that is housed within a compression chamber. This is located separately from the gun’s barrel. Unlike some of the other power plants, the spring is cocked by the shooter themselves. A lever cocking mechanism pulls the piston rearwards and compresses the spring, cocking the gun, which sends a pellet downrange at the pull of a trigger.

The spring-powered airgun has stood the test of time due to the ease of maintaining and repairing the firearm anytime there is an issue. If you have a need to repair a springer, make your life a little easier by reviewing some of the tools that help service the spring compressor and pins as well as the best lubrication to keep your rifle operating smoothly. Proceed cautiously as the springs are dangerous. Keep in mind they will come apart easily due to a broken or just worn spring; reassembly is another matter. In most cases you are better off to have a professional service the rifle so it is cleaned, re-lubed correctly, and critical wear parts inspected for wear. With the better materials in modern seals and advanced metallurgy of new springs, the parts will last longer between repairs.

Springer Tools

If you are going to attempt to service any spring-powered air rifle a spring compressor is a must. In spring guns some models will only have about 1-2 inches of preload but a compressor is still useful. This can be as simple as a carpenter’s clamp for guns without much preload or something more professional-grade such as the Air Venturi Rail Lock Compressor available at Pyramyd Air (PyramydAir.com, 888/262-4867). The main advantage of this unit is it fits many models of guns and it can be put in your toolbox/range bag. I also have two bench mounted compressors to allow working with both hands safely. The first one I use is made out of Uni-Strut with a screw jack and it is adjustable for everything from a Webley Patriot down to a Diana air pistol. The other compressor is a factory Weihrauch tool; this compressor allows you to push in the mainspring and allows you to thread the end cap at the same time.

Next up are pins. We’ll cover the basic types used in airguns and the tools you should have to remove/ install them correctly. Pins are used to connect two pieces of the rifle together. There are three types of pins used in airguns: straight, roll, and splined pins. When dealing with these pins the two types of fit are slip fit or interference fit depending upon the use in the mechanism. A standard pin punch and hammer will be needed for the interference fit. Usually, a slip fit can just be pushed out.

The straight pin is the most common. Every airgun made has these somewhere and will mostly be found in the trigger mechanisms. These are the easiest to remove and replace, requireing just some elbow grease to push them out and a couple of minutes replacing.

Next is the roll pin, also known as a spring pin. This pin is split longitudinally and is used to hold two or more parts together that do not need to rotate. The force of the spring digs into the hole to hold. These will not come out easily and requires a ball peen hammer used with a good punch or, better yet, an actual roll pin punch that has a ball in its face to keep it centered and not allow the pin to collapse. Benjamin pump mechanisms use this type of pin as well as scope stop pins in mounts.

Last up are splined pins. Splines are in one end of the pin for retention and stability. Upon reinsertion, you have to make sure the splines go into the same side they came out of. They are used to retain end caps and trigger modules in Spanish guns such as from Gamo and Beeman.

Having a good hammer is necessary if you do a lot of pin work. The Brownells hammer is a great option due to it being non-marring and the ability to flip to the brass side to drive out pins. My hammer is well used and has been re-faced many times.

Be very careful when removing tight pins. Make sure the work is secure and solid to avoid denting or marring the finish of the gun. I have seen way too many damaged guns from amateurish repair attempts. Remember to wear your safety glasses.

Lubrication

It seems like an easy thing to do but so many airgunners overlook lubrication as a crucial part of maintenance. In a spring gun the grease does two very important things. First, it provides barrier lubrication to allow easy cocking and consistent velocities. Second, lube dampens vibrations on the mainspring guide to prevent unwanted oscillation and vibration. Grease must have good barrier lubrication additives and tackifiers to help it stay put and dampen the spring vibrations. Air Venturi has done all the homework for us with their Tune-in-a-Tube lubricant. I have seen many spring guns come into my shop lubed with products such as moly, gear oil, or just plain oil, and these guns sound like a $3.00 dollar toy gun. Tune-in-Tube is an ideal option that assures proper springer function, lubrication, and a smooth shot cycle. The syringe packaging allows greasing the mainspring and guide by applying it through the cocking lever slot. This product is a lifesaver and is used every day at Pyramyd Air’s repair shop.

Don’t forget about oil as it is just as important. Ballistol is an ideal choice being a mineral-based oil that is safe on wood, leather, and any firearms finish. Ballistol was developed in Germany in 1905 by the Klever Company. The German Army wanted one oil to do lock, stock, and barrel and this is what they used. There are two major advantages of Ballistol. First, it has a neutral pH so it neutralizes acids and corrosive residues leftover from blackpowder or corrosive primers used in old military ammunition. The second is Ballistol will not resinify, which is great as resinification is bad in the intricate mechanisms of a firearm or airgun.

A gun oiled with Ballistol can be trusted to function even after long-term storage. As airgunners, Ballistol can save old leather seals that dry out and cause loss of compression. It is also a great oil to preserve your bluing and protect the stock. You should always have a cleaning kit and oil in your range or hunting bag and your fellow shooters will appreciate it when a little bit gets their gun going again.

We looked at some great tools to help maintain and repair spring-powered airguns. This isn’t a comprehensive list and there are always little gremlins that take time and experience to sort out but it handles the big issues. Before starting repairs, talk to a professional and get a second opinion before delving into do-it-yourself work. Springs and pins can be very dangerous, especially without the proper tools and knowledge. This will help you work on spring guns for yourself and your customers. Work smarter, not harder, and safety first!

Read more in the August 2022 issue.

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