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1) Shots per charge: this topic causes folks more grief than all the other questions wrapped together.
"How many shots does it get?" This is the #2 most frequently asked question.
Answer - it's all relative to the power level of the rifle and the bulk you wish to carry. Everyone sees (in their mind's eye) this beautiful sleek, light weight rifle. And, quite frankly, they wish I'd just lie to them and tell them it gets 'x' number of shots. Everyone would be so much happier. The fact is, you determine how many shots you get by the features you choose.
That opens a big can of worms. Naturally people begin to research all of those features. "BUT", the trouble is that they often research the features ONLY as they relate to "How many shots can it get?" We're back there again already.
The person asking the question, almost always has a number in mind that they hope to hear. The problem isn't in the exact number, but the "concept" of seeking a particular number. We all know that there are salesmen who will tell you whatever you want to hear. "Yes Sir, that 20 year old car there has thirty five thousand original miles on it". "Hey - that's just the number I had written all over my face - wow!" The truth is: Shots per charge is related to the weight of the projectile, the velocity at which it's fired, the size of the air storage reservoir, and (to a lesser degree) the efficiency of the valving.
There are a staggering number of variables which come into play when designing a pcp rifle. They all effect how many shots per charge it will get. The length and diameter of the pressure tube alone will make a vast difference. The caliber and power level will make a vast difference. It's most important to achieve the proportions and performance you seek. The shots you get will be an end result - not the other way around.
A given set of variables will yield a given number of shots, at a particular performance level. Alter only a single feature, and that number will change. I make unique rifles. Many different calibers, sizes, and power ranges. I can tell you a rough bracket that the rifle we are designing will fit into, but the exact number of shots, no. At the end of the day, who knows that fifteen shots are not enough and twenty five would be perfect?
There are three common ways to add air storage in a pcp rifle. 1). Multiple air tubes - I've never talked to anyone who liked this look. 2). Fatter air tube. Fine, up to a point, then the rifle looks like a guppy. 3). Bottle guns. Graft a small scuba bottle to the forestock or make a scuba bottle serve as a butt stock for the rifle. (You can get away with this in a paramilitary design).
I personally prefer my choice #4: Relax. With modern quick couplers, filling a pcp rifle is, literally, a snap. Hook up, bleed in the fill, disconnect. You've invested less than a minute, even if you took it slow. Second, consider this: I've never gone hunting and shot more than a few shots in my life. If you feel you will, take along a small six or thirteen cubic foot tank in your pack. What's the point of attempting to duplicate this equipment within the rifle itself?
If you are at the range for a session, you'll have a bulk tank there. Most likely a 30 or 80 cubic foot tank. What difference will it make if you charge the gun four times while you are there, or just three times? It takes less than a minute per fill and the tank needed to be there anyway. I mean, you're not going to eliminate the tank altogether.
So, personally, I relax on the issue of charging. I think it's quite handy to have a small 6-13 cubic foot tank for a field trip. But, I sure don't want the thing grafted onto the front of my rifle. It's there twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Why? - so I don't have to hook it up for a minute every once in awhile? I don't think so.
Buy an attractive, balanced rifle: Choice #4 - When it needs a charge of air - charge it. Don't get lost in the "shot's per charge" game. Purchase performance. Buy what you need to accomplish the task. Don't buy less performance than you need just to get a few more shots per charge. What good are a bunch of extra inadequate shots?
Establish your priority. It's like this: if you were to design a car, based upon MPG, you'd end up with a little urban scooter. If you build a car, based upon handling, you'll get a Sports Car. If it performs well, you'll take whatever MPG it yields. You must decide what's most important to you. Once again, I repeat that "If you can pay the fiddler with air, that's not a bad price".
2) Big Bore: what do you do with them anyway?
I mean you can't shoot them in the back yard or the basement - right?
Well, no, you can't. It's about like that 30-06 in the gun safe there. And that lever action 30-30. Also that .22 for that matter. You take them to the rifle range or, if you are truly blessed, out into the back forty, and enjoy the heck out of them. When I'm at the range, I never fail to amaze the other fellows there who are enjoying shooting target with their rifles. Firearms, black powder rifles, and . . . what's that there????
When they hear a powerful big bore pneumatic go off and it sounds about like their black powder rifle, you get a few raised eyebrows. When you drop a 418 grain slug into their hand (and they are shooting 250 grains), you can't help but smile at the dumbfounded look that crosses their face. When you outshoot them at fifty, seventy five, even one hundred yards, it makes for a fine afternoon.
Come on, who drives their Porsche to the limit? Who "needs" titanium golf clubs? We're not really a nation which builds to the minimum requirement. So, the call to moderation is fairly weak in this culture. I guess the Hoover Dam could have been constructed only half as tall and we'd have saved a heck of alot of concrete. Humans have always liked the game to be intense, and, the game here is projecting energy at distance with a pneumatic rifle. We're only punching paper mostly - sure. You can punch small holes at the same range with far less gun - correct. But, we're continuing a fine gentleman's sport of long range large bore target shooting. This is the real thing. Real energy - real accuracy. It's a rush.
And: when you have opportunity to boar hunt or deer hunt in the proper location, with the proper authority, you have the proper humane "shock power" to cleanly dispatch game. Don't be fooled. You can't imagine the difference between the "sting" of a 60 grain pellet and the "train wreck shock" of 400 grains.
Oh, by the way, what do you "do" with that one ton, dual wheel, crew cab, turbo diesel pickup there? Fishin' trips you say. Fine.
3) How about this waiting time?
This is the biggest "catch 22" that I fight. I'm just one person. That's part of what makes my work unique. I do it all myself. If the guns were laying here, on the shelf, it would be a pretty fair indication that nobody wanted them because something was wrong with the quality and/or price structure.
Well, they're not laying here. And, the folks who have one aren't selling. That's a pretty good indication that they think they've found something special that they'll just keep.
Occasionally, someone will explain to me that I should simply expand my operation. Relocate to an industrial park. Tool up with a dozen pcs. of CNC equipment. Hire on, say, six machinists and some office help. Standardize my designs so that programing could be written to teach the computer driven machines to make each of the one hundred parts which go into an airgun. Sounds simple and direct. I'll think about it.
Until that time, I'll make, by hand and manual feed machine tools, each component of each individual rifle I produce. Customers will receive, after a considerable wait, an air rifle completely unique. A true heirloom quality artifact which may be enjoyed for a lifetime and passed along for the next owner's lifetime.
What I find is this: Folks wait, to whatever degree of patience they are able, and finally the day comes, the case arrives, and the air gun is examined. At that point, the wait is over and immediately forgotten. From that time, until they choose to part with it, they own a unique example of quality craftsmanship which will never fail to provoke a conversation.
Let me ask you: When was the last time you had this experience? You are in the midst of a conversation with a friend or family member. You bring up a particular event which you both remember. Then, you or the other party says something like, "Good Heavens, was that really ten years ago?" Time passes very quickly.
I've developed some good friends by learning to know them during the time they waited for a rifle. Quite a few pleasant conversations have passed between those on the waiting list now and myself. By the time I get to making their rifle, most times, I'm making it for a friend. They get my best work and something they tell me they treasure.
4) How Much???!!
"How long does it take you to build one of these rifles?" The #1 most frequently asked question.
Answer: I don't keep track of the hours. I couldn't stand to be so depressed as to know exactly what I make per hour. You see, it's not like I can quit when the bell goes off and the announcement says: "Ding! - Two Hundred Hours Have Now Elapsed Since Construction Began!" It's finished when it's finished. THEN, testing begins. You see, I actually spend about 30% of my time fabricating parts. I speak to each and every customer who wishes to order a rifle. Usually, several times. I write and maintain my web site in order that fresh, current, information is available 24 hours every day of the year. I order the raw materials and maintain the equipment and tooling. I range test the rifles multiple times. This is a very demanding commitment which yields a product completely unique.
It appears as if folks either immediately "bond with" what I'm doing here or they don't. I cannot twist someone's arm into wanting my product. Some people immediately see that I'm starting from raw materials and fashioning a world class artifact with a lifetime build. Some people cannot, for the life of them, see any difference between what I do and the fellow that swaps out a few springs and adds a regulator to a production rifle during a "tune". I've read article after article which declared that when so and so gets finished with that factory rifle, it is completely handmade! Is that right? Amazing. They actually throw out 100% of those factory parts? Seems like an odd approach. Wouldn't it be more accurate to say they end up with a "custom rifle"? You see, the media knows the true value of a handmade product. They've been known to stretch the facts to provide one too . . . that's what the public "wants" to hear.
I can explain what I do, and some will learn to appreciate that. Some will see it as foolish - "Why not start with an action from . . .?" What I actually and truly do is to manufacture handmade rifles. If my work "speaks to you", then you are the one I work for. I don't have to sell you my product.
5) When you hire the Caterer, just specify Chicken, Fish, or Beef
I've spent many years now developing my craft. I'm quite familiar with how to get from point A to point B. Many folks drive themselves to distraction trying to duplicate my entire experience before they are satisfied to place their order. They wish to understand "all" of the possibilities and how each inner-relates with all other possible combinations of features. They fear that, upon arrival, they'll open the rifle case and find an aberration with six triggers, the scope under the barrel, a fifty pound stock, and no way to load the rifle.
You don't have to become an airgunsmith in order to purchase a handmade pneumatic rifle from me. Relax. That's my job. I'm not going to make up some crazy nut case of a rifle. Just tell me what you wish to do with it and your approximate (realistic) budget. I'll tell you if you have conflicting goals. We'll sort it out. But, I can't turn you into an airgunsmith. Relax and allow me to tell you what you need to reach your goal.
Then, before we can really work together, you'll need to decide that I might just know what I'm talking about and can actually do the job. Once in awhile, a fella will drop in who's spent a lifetime shooting firearms. We get to talking and pretty soon it comes out that he has this rifle in mind. Just like one of his light weight, long range, firearm varmint rifles. "All I have to do is make it shoot with air" . . . nothing fancy.
So, I begin to explain how absolutely everything about pcp rifles is different from firearms. You need an air storage reservoir and intake valves and firing valves and powerful mechanisms to fire the rifle. The trigger assembly must handle tremendous pressure and certain things must be in certain places. Etc., Etc.
I can tell the fella thinks I'm just making excuses. He moves on to talking about fluted barrels and glass bedding and six pound magnum carbines. I go back to saying that we don't have to deal with heat build up or barrels warping and, for power, we need the barrel length. We move on to trajectory. He thinks 2,500 fps is slow and I think 900 fps is fast. Etc., Etc.
Well, you guessed it. Pretty soon, he decides that I'm just plain too dumb to make the rifle correctly anyway, and he gets tired of trying to teach me things everybody else already knows.
On the other hand, if you want a pcp rifle and trust that I might know alittle bit about same, I can show you those options which you may wish to consider.
6) Is the Newest Model the Best?
Short answer - no. The best model for you is the one which meets your needs.
My mind is always working on new ideas. It sort of develops them in a back room somewhere. Then; when it's ready, it calls a meeting and brings the whole thing to my attention (usually at some awkward time when I'm trying to concentrate on something else). We argue over it for awhile and, finally, decide to run with it or not. That's the closest thing to an "apprentice" or a "clone" I want at this time. It's exhausting.
Please don't rob yourself of the pleasure of ordering just what you want. You know, my wife and I just bought a new minivan. We have all these shows to do you know. Getting a taxi to stop out front for a guy with a bunch of rifle cases under his arm is getting harder and harder! (yes, I'm kidding). Yes, we did buy the new van. And, I didn't feel in the least obligated to buy the biggest engine, or the leather seats. Now, I didn't buy the smallest engine either. I bought just what we decided we needed to do the job well.
Don't feel pressured to buy the extra hundred foot pounds of muzzle energy if you won't need it. It's sort of like those big magnum V-8's, you have to feed them with fuel. I always say that our pcp fuel is just air, and that's pretty fine, but; in order to produce monster power in a pcp rifle, I must build some complex machinery. You can have it - I just can't give it away. So, if you don't need it - don't buy it. Go with the one which will meet your needs. They will all be finely handcrafted from raw materials.
I do have some folks suffer alittle when I come out with a new model. Some fear that they must then rethink their entire game plan. Not necessarily so. If I've developed an additional feature which you wish to enjoy, then; by all means, add it on. If not, stick with your current plan. I hope you realize just how rare these rifles really are. So long as we both live, no matter the model, if you own a handmade Barnes pcp rifle, you will be part of a very small and select family.
7) Shop Visits?
It seems like a fine idea on the surface. However; I'm just one guy and I never have enough time. The shop visit and chat takes the productivity out of an entire day. There are the directions to the shop, the appointment, the waiting, the introductions, the preparations, the demonstrations, the discussions, the questions, the conclusion, and then - the attempt to get back on track.
I sincerely hope it does not seem "cold". Yet; my customers want me to be working on their projects. I spend a great amount of effort, money, and time, to attend the approx. five shows I do each year. This is the time to talk about, handle, and demonstrate my work. I don't ever have an inventory of completed work at the shop anyway. For shows, I go to alot of effort to complete something fresh and to borrow back examples of my work to show. I sincerely appreciate all the effort folks invest to meet me and see my work first hand. I simply cannot schedule the private sessions anymore. I'd never get anything else done. I hope you understand.
8) Drawings, Plans, Kits, Parts?
"I'm looking for detailed shop drawings and explanations on how to build big bore pcp rifles". "Yeah, I thought it might be fun to just build a couple of those . . . as a hobby project you know." "I can't seem to find any books that tell you all this stuff and I don't know where to get the materials."
Before you go on reading here, there aren't any books or plans. For very good reason. This is not a artifact which can be approached in a hobby manner. It requires an extensive knowledge of machining skills. It requires an extensive knowledge of engineering skills. It requires a vast array of machine tools. It requires a wide network of quality and appropriate material's suppliers. To suggest that a quality pcp rifle might be casually manufactured as an entertaining project, vastly minimizes the skill of those few artists who do make such products.
I've gotten this e-mail and/or phone call a hundred times over. I'm always fairly amazed that the question is asked in such a casual manner. When I say that there aren't any books on the subject and that a tremendous number of tools (requiring many years of experience to operate) are required, the next question is generally something like . . . "Then can I just buy the valve assembly from you, and I'll just make the rest . . .?" The assumption is that there's only "one" complex part and that everything else will simply fall into line after that. Nothing is farther from the truth. A quality PCP rifle is a "host" of systems, all working in harmony, to accomplish one goal - accurate projection of a lead projectile.
Nobody would approach a concert musician, a doctor, an investment banker, an architect, a marine salvage expert, etc., etc.; and suggest that they disclose a simple method of accomplishing what's taken them thirty years to learn, in such terms that their results could be accomplished as the result of a casual, entertaining project.
If someone is truly an expert machinist / tool and die maker, with access to a complete machine shop, then; they'll know how to research the rest. In short, those who are qualified to do the work, won't be asking how. They will have a vast experience behind them and be equipped to reason through the tangle of conflicting requirements present in a state of the art PCP rifle. I have indeed been thirty years acquiring my skills. I've assembled a very complete machine shop as the result of a very considerable capital investment. In addition; the tooling, jigs, cutters, etc., which run on the machines and actually hold and/or cut the steel, always cost far more than the machinery upon which they are used.
The assumption that someone, who's developed a world class product, would simply send out detailed blueprints and include "how-to" dialog, is beyond my understanding. There's a very good reason that more people do not manufacture fine PCP rifles from raw materials. It's difficult. It's quite complex. It requires a vast experience in a multitude of areas. It requires a huge investment in tools and tooling. It requires an understanding of the principles of engineering and design.
This is truly one area where, if someone is qualified to perform, they will not need ask. Those who would actually attempt to hobby-build a high pressure PCP rifle, are saved from themselves by the lack of formal information available. As the old saying goes . . . "Don't try this at home!"
Pause and Note: I spend a great amount of every week being a huge wet blanket to people's great ideas. People are always trying to help me out by re-designing all of the rifles I offer and pointing out what people really want. It then becomes my job to carefully explain to them why their latest idea is "more complex than they thought / more expensive than they dreamed / impossible / dangerous / and/or in conflict with their last idea. I become this giant "downer" to everybody's excited dreams and design alterations. It's depressing. And; I then have to try to figure out a way to explain all of this, and not make the person asking the question feel bad. Well, that's what I get paid for - the airguns are pretty much free . . .
The thing that always gets overlooked is that I've designed, prototyped, tested, refined, and released certain models. There's a reason for that. There's a hundred reasons for every decision I made regarding the development of each model. Each model is a harmony and balance of a given set of characteristics. You'll understand that we cannot simply mix and match features like a Mr. Potato Head doll. Still: the "State of the Art" model I release today, I must usually defend tomorrow.
9) Quiet Big Bore PCP Rifles?
This is a question I get a couple of times each week. No, it's not a good idea. Here's why . . .
10) Barrel / Caliber Swaps?
One of the most frequently asked questions. No, it's not simple. It's only simple on the straight through light powered designs such as a spring piston airgun or the "Stealth" type pcp design. In these, there's no loading mechanism. You manually stick the pellet into the back of the barrel. Also, on these rifles, the "Caliber Swap" you are talking about is going from a .177 to a .22. or .22 to .25. Hardly any change at all. Compare this to my constant requests for 56/32 or 45/25 barrel swaps. People want to shoot 45 caliber 500 ft. lbs. on Monday and 25 caliber 60 ft. lbs. on Tuesday - with the same rifle. You can't make a PCP power plant balance out over this vast huge difference in power ranges.
Sure; with a bolt action pcp rifle, you could easily screw on another barrel - but then how do you feed it? The bolt is now the wrong diameter. The receiver loading trough is now the wrong diameter. You can't seal the barrel. You can't get to the breech to load the round. The barrel is now a vastly different diameter so you need all new barrel rings. The transfer port is now the wrong size. All of the internal porting and carefully computed valve components are now unbalanced. AND, if you'd manage to address all of these things; you'd still need to start all over to sight in the rifle's new trajectory.
This isn't what anyone has in mind. In their mind's eye, they see a "Click / Snap" - bang / bang - perfect accuracy swap out. Don't feel bad for asking. Everyone does. I don't know where the idea is coming from but evidently 9/10 people are watching the same movies. It is simply two vastly different ends of the spectrum to design a 25 caliber rifle and a 45 or 56 caliber rifle. Look at the long range target records. You can't have a mix and match "Lego" set rifle and hit anything. Even going from a bolt action rifle to a semi-auto loader opens up the groups by several times!
One of the things that confuse folks is that the old air canes had rifled brass barrel inserts. Thing is, these were muzzle loaders. That simplifies everything. And then, please understand that the cane was only putting out about 100 ft. lbs. anyway. It's not like trying to "snuffle down" a 500-600 ft. lb. beast into a squirrel gun in a few minutes. And, nobody was trying to shoot 100 yd. MOA with a cane. Today's expectations are quite a bit different. Yes, you could make a rifle shoot two different calibers (with a vast amount of work and expense). But; you'd never be happy with either caliber.