Installing Peeps on the Barra 1866

I’m not the greatest shot with open sights, but I was pretty certain I could get better than 1.2″ groups at 25 yards with the Barra Cowboy Series 1866 with a better set of open sights. It is nothing for me to spend a good chunk of cash mounting a scope on an air rifle, but the 1866 lacks a scope mount. Instead, I decided to order a Williams 5D receiver sight designed for the Winchester 94/36 rifles.

The Barra 1866 with a custom set of sights.

There were several challenges that had to be overcome to make this work. The sight was designed for rifles with a thinner receiver than the 1866. To overcome this, I carefully sanded material from the mounting plate:

Note the unfinished surface. This is necessary to give extra sight adjustment to the right.

Now that the mount was sanded down, I could get a little more adjustment to the right. The peep section was reinstalled in the lowest setting. I then added a small amount of super glue to the mount and carefully positioned it on the side of the receiver with the peep section resting on the top of the receiver. Once the glue cured, the peep section was removed in preparation for screw holes to be drilled and tapped into the receiver. The left hand receiver is also removed at this time:

The sight base ready for the next step.

I took a #31 drill bit and carefully drilled holes through the holes in the sight base. It is important to drill these as square as possible. The holes were then threaded with a 6-48 tap. A tiny drop of superglue was added to the threads of the screws before securing the sight base to the receiver:

The sight base and left hand receiver in place.

With the 1866 put back together and the peep installed into the base, the stock rear sight was removed from the barrel shroud. Testing the peep sight with the stock front sight showed improvement, shrinking my groups at 25 yards down to .98″ CTC. I did run into a new problem at this point – the front sight is too low for this peep sight, causing my groups to be high.

I designed and 3D printed a new front sight that doubles as a LDC that backdrafts into the shroud. To keep this backdraft contained in the shroud, I also designed and 3D printed a barrel stabilizer. A collar was also printed and installed inside the shroud to cover the holes from removing the front sight and faux magazine. I used a glazing putty to make those holes flush with the rest of the shroud and hit it with a quick spray of gloss black spray paint to blend everything in.

The result of all this work? The LDC isn’t mouse fart quiet since it is only 45 mm long. It does take the pop out of the shot at full power and makes the gun very backyard friendly. The barrel stabilizer combined with the LDC and upgraded sights certainly paid off, check out this group at 25 yards:

.640-.177= .463″ CTC! A huge improvement over the stock sights at 25 yards!

There’s a fair amount of work that goes into this modification, but it is worth every bit of it. Being able to shoot groups like that at 25 yards makes the Barra 1866 a solid hunting platform and a real performer in the backyard range. If you’d like to do this modification to your 1866 and need some help, feel free to send me a message.

Beeman P17 Pistol Project

I’m not one to make a huge todo about my own birthdays, but when I saw a Beeman P17 for sale at a local store, my birthday was all the excuse I needed to justify another airgun purchase. It has been about 2.5 years since I bought one of these, and I was kind of surprised to see it lubricated with something that reminded me of cosmoline. I cleaned up all the nasty lubrication, replaced the pison o-ring, and lightly lubed it with some air tool oil. At this point, it was shooting 7.4 grain wadcutters at 410 fps, just as the package said it would.

I’ve decided to leave this one as a pistol, but I wanted a longer barrel for a little added speed. My original 880 has gotten worn out from being taken apart and stressed to the limit, so I decided to take its barrel and use it for my new P17. I cut it to 10″, polished the barrel and ends, recrowned and added a leade to the barrel. Six applications of cold blue were made, finishing a beautiful barrel.

Barrel stays in place with 220 grit wet/dry sandpaper

Barrel retention was a problem that had an easy solution – 220 grit sandpaper applied with grit facing barrel. The stock clamp is then applied, locking the barrel in tight for good accuracy and a tight seal. Here’s how I secured the barrel toward the muzzle end:

Note the silicone tubing

A .25″ length of 3/16″ x 5/16″ silicone tubing was stretched over the barrel and pressed into the end of the “slide”. It provides a tight fit and keeps everything centered. From the above picture, you can see the custom 65mm long LDC that I built to make this even quieter for indoor target practice. The P17 has quite a pop even with the longer barrel and this LDC turns it into a mouse fart.

Silent but deadly

With the trigger adjustment screw backed out a bit, it has a nice long first stage, hits a wall, and the second stage breaks almost like glass. Combined with a new muzzle velocity of 450 fps with 7.4 grain pellets and 400 fps with 10 grain pellets, this is a accurate, quiet shooter, perfect for target practice or hunting very small pests.

The beautiful thing about this build is that the P17 can be cocked without the need to backdraft or make major modifications to the frame. It can be done with a very limited supply of tools and an assortment of sandpaper and steel wool. If you have any questions on this build or would like to purchase a LDC for your P17, head over to my contact page and I’ll be happy to answer your questions or build you a LDC.

Waking up the Bear River Sportsman 900

In my last post about the Bear River Sportsman 900, I fixed a intake leak, reduced headspace, and ended up with a rifle that shot on par with a stock Daisy Powerline 880. Kind of disappointing, since I really like the handling characteristics and accuracy of the Sportsman 900. I’m not one to give up, so the story continues here.

I tore down the Sportsman 900 once more, determined to squeeze out the power potential that I know is there. As I mentioned previously, the mods I had done opened up some valve volume. To take up some volume, I took a 3/8″ length of some 3/16″ round stock and placed it inside the spring. This gives enough room for the valve to open and reduces volume allowing pressure to build quicker:

Stuffed the part of the valve inside the spring

I reassembled and got no more velocity than before. There’s foolery at play and I’m going to get to the heart of it. As mentioned in my previous post, I hadn’t done anything with the two dimples in the pump head. This time, the pump head was removed from the piston, chucked in a power drill, and ground down against a belt sander. Once the dimples were gone, I polished the face with a piece of fine sandpaper against some glass.

This further reduces headspace, but not enough to account for the lack of power. I then turned my attention to the rubber bumper between the piston and pump head. It is a very soft material, and I suspect it is giving me grief. In its place, I inserted a nut that was ground down just enough to provide tension against the pump head pin:

There will be minimal play with this setup

I went ahead and replaced all o rings before I put it together once more. Ten pumps were put in and a 7.4 grain wadcutter loaded. This time, I got what I was after!

8.71 FPE with 10 pumps and light pellets

I gained nearly 85 fps and 2 FPE over my previous mods using the same pellet. The shot to shot velocity is very consistent. I haven’t tested heavier pellets yet, but I suspect they’ll produce even more energy than these light ones do. We are now looking at reliable squirrel and rabbit hunting energy.

There are many other things I’d like to do with these rifles. I just might have to pick up another refurb or two!