Authority to the Airgunning World

Where instigating argumentative debates and stepping on egos are the rule.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Airgun Tuning Buying Guide

This guide intends to inform the reader about professional airgun tuners in the marketplace. Its purpose is to provide questions to ask yourself before deciding to tune your airgun, a brief background in tunes, and vendors who offer tuning parts if you decide to go the DIY route.

In Internet airgun message boards, you will tend to see airgun tuners attaining celebrity status. Do not be fooled by this “elevated level” of authority. The tuning business is just like any other business. You need them and they need you. There is no divine appointment to this career path (unless you like to idolize machinist work). If you frequent these message boards, you’d think these tuners were national treasures.

Phase I: Qualify Needs

You have to decide if a tune is necessary. What expectations would you have for a tune? What would make it "worth it" to you? More power? Smoother? What would make you happy, and think it was worth the money? This URL is very helpful in asking these questions:

http://springgunning.com/tune.html

Custom spring guides: So many Internet posters talk about custom spring guides, but I don’t think they actually know what they are talking about. For some unknown reason, airgun tuners use buzzwords such as “custom spring guides”, “proprietary lubes”, and “hold sensitivity”. Try to omit them from your vocabulary. They will only get you nowhere.

For example, someone at Venom has actually taken the time to measure the inside of the R1/HW 80, which make an almost perfect fit in almost any one of these production guns. For example, JM sells “custom” kits. In reality, they are “custom” drop-in parts. Obviously, the term “custom” is often misleading in differentiating one tune from another.

Phase II: Cost Justify

Keep in mind the average tune job today is over a $125. Would you overhaul your car’s brand new engine off the showroom floor? I have a hard time justifying a tune when the gun is new, but some people insist on a tuned gun right from the start. From my experience, accuracy is negligible between an untuned and tuned gun. It’s the increased smoothness in the firing cycle that really matters (to me, at least).

Phase III: What is the risk of buying, or not buying?

Tuning is usually related to smoothing the firing cycle and sometimes increasing power output. Few tuners do a before and after accuracy test on the guns, and most will willingly tune just the action. In most cases, if you send an innaccurate gun for a tune, it will usually come back a smoother firing, innaccurate gun. It’s rare to see a gun that exhibits poor accuracy that is assembled correctly (screws tight, etc) become an accurate rifle after tuning. Although inherit accuracy can be affected to a degree by honing, etc, accuracy is most affected by the barrel and trigger. These two components must be attended to first if they are not up to production specifications.

If you want to see a comprehensive “real world” untuned vs. tuned R1, purchase the Beeman R1 Supermagnum Air Rifle book by Tom Gaylord. This book also compares tune kits as well. A must have book if you are interested in airgun tuning performance. At the time of the writing they are hard to come by. To my knowledge, your best chance of acquiring one is through Doug Law at http://www.bigspringguns.net

Summary of book:

http://www.beemans.net/odyssey_of_the_beeman_r1.htm

Another possible route:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0006F5BXA/qid=1102571020/sr=8-2/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i2_xgl14/002-2518135-4757668?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

to quickly search the net, copy/paste the ISBN (B0006F5BXA) into your favorite search engine, or at http://www.bookfinder.com

If you want to understand the mechanics of a spring gun in great detail, the best book to date is Cardew’s, “From Trigger to Target” available from airgun express.

http://www.airgunexpress.com/Accessories/booksandliterature.htm

The best book on hold, stance, and trigger techniques is undoubtably the ways of the rifle. Ways of the Rifle is available from either:

http://www.championshooters.com/books.htm

http://www.pilkguns.com/books.htm

Book overview:

http://www.mec-shot.com/products/waysoftherifle/index.html

If you decided a tune is for you, the following links will send you in the right direction.

A great place to visit up-to-date tuning links is (or at least used to be):

http://www.airguninfo.com/

Note: Jim Maccari (JM) doesn’t perform tunes. He has done this in the past, but has ceased this service since 2002. However, his spring kits are the foundation of many tunes in the market today. If you have the right tools, know how, and determination, you can do it yourself.

http://www.airguns.citymax.com/page/page/251327.htm

Pricing out a Tune Job

It is a good idea to compare a few tunes side-by-side. This research will become especially beneficial if you have a large collection of spring guns. Since this industry doesn’t change rapidly, you can refer to your initial research time and time again for many years to brush up when you’re ready to send another gun for a tune. Why research? Because research will reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly things you need to know about tunes before you buy.

As far as minor options, such as types of lubes, custom spring guides, etc., don’t get too hung up on these features with professional tuners. You’ll only be making life very difficult for yourself when you start to shop. Just consider those minor options as window dressings. Don’t let window dressings become a deciding factor in your purchase. Remember, how well your gun has been cared for is what really decides how long it will last.

Asking around is a good way to get an honest opinion. People aren’t afraid to tell you their likes or dislikes about a tune. Try the honest approach: “I’m looking into getting a tune on my , have you had any problem with yours”? Obviously, the opinion of someone who has owned a tuned gun a few years holds more credit than the opinion of someone who’s had the same tuned gun just a few months. Another good question to ask is, ”Would you get another tune from ”?

Questions to ask the tuner on the phone or e-mail:

1. How long does this type of tune take you?

2. Will you be replacing the mainspring, or using the existing one?

3. What separates you from the rest of the tuners?

4. How many years have you been tuning professionally?

5. Are you negotiable in you price? How about a quantity discount if I send you two or more guns? It never hurts to ask. The worst thing that could happen is that they say no.

Whether you’ve just started looking or have been looking, don’t go tune shopping without a good excuse for a quick escape.

1. I just started looking, and I want to see what else is around before I make any decisions.

2. I have two other options, and I want to check those out before I make any decisions.

However, have the decency to tell them you’re not interested when you’re really not. If you don’t want to hurt their feelings, you can say:

1. You know, I really wanted a lazaglide tune, or a gas ram. Whatever they offer, you wanted the opposite.

2. It doesn’t sound like what I want. I’m going to have to pass.

3. I have to work out some finances before can commit.

There are basically three types of tunes in the market. They consist of various components depending on brand and model of gun. For example, a spring, top hat, guide, and breech seal are collectively known as a kit when it comes to an R-1:

1. Factory kit

2. Maccari kit

3. Venom kit

Your first step is to figure out how much these kits cost retail. For example, if you are tuning a Beeman gun using factory parts go to:

http://www.beeman.com

Call their 800 number, and ask how much a replacement spring, guide, piston seal, and breech seal cost. From what I remember the entire HW kit cost around $45.

If you want use Maccari internals, go to:

http://www.airguns.citymax.com/page/page/251327.htm

simply look up the parts or kits that match your gun.

For Venom internals, go to Mac1:

http://www.mac1airgun.com/venom.htm

I recommend Maccari’s internals over all others due to quality and performance. You will be hard pressed for more value from a tune kit.

As mentioned before, the R1 supermagnum book by Tom Gaylord compares all of these tunes back-to-back. The comparison is fairly accurate to this day.

4. After you have acquired and researched the tune kit you’d like to install in your gun, it is now time to do research on the tuners. First step is to find out the prices of their tunes on their websites. For example, Russ Best charges $130 for a JM kit installed in your gun. This price does not include shipping both ways. This will typically cost $30 UPS ground. If you want a trigger tune, this will cost extra. Any prices not listed, you’ll need to call or e-mail the tuner you’ve targeted.

Website:

Reputation:

Remember that a HW kit from Beeman direct costs about $45 retail. With JM springs, you have a choice: Full power or moderate high power. Keep in mind JM introduces new types of springs from time-to-time. Make sure to check out his website before contacting the tuner.

Make sure to ask if a tuner is installing a JM spring, if it is the spring only or a kit. A kit will normally cost 3 or 4 times more than the spring alone. Ask if your old parts will be re-installed. If you are me, you’d want new parts installed, not someone to hone the ends of your spring, re-lube it, then install it back into your gun. That’s called a synergy tune.

I wanted to include two other great tuners, Randy Bimrose and Jan Kraner, but they do not have websites that promote easy comparisons. They should definitely create a system online to make life easier for all parties involved. However, I’m sure they’re doing well enough with repeat and referral customers to keep them busy on a consistent basis.

In this example, we are going to compare one of the most popular tunes: a Beeman R-9. I purposely focused on the most popular tunes to keep in simple. If you want a venom tune, for example, plug in the numbers once you find out the answers to questions in on the left side of the grid.

Tune with JM internals:

Tune Type

Paul Watt’s Basic Kit install

Paul Watt’s Basic Tune

Russ Best Synergy Tune

Russ Best Synergy Plus Tune

Ekmeister tuning option 1

Ekmister tuning option 2

Cost of “all-in” tune less trigger tune/structural repair

N/A

$125 -$145

$110

$130

N/A

$120

Purchase JM kit separately?

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

Cost of JM Kit

$69 + $7 ship = $77




$69 + $7 ship = $77


Possible top hat/breech seal costs

$10




$10


Labor to install JM kit

$50

N/A

N/A

N/A

$65

N/A

Trigger adjustment included

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Shipping

$30

$30

$30

$30

$30

$30








Total Cost (estimated)

$167

$155 - $175

$140

$160

$182

$150

Tune with factory internals:

If you do purchase a JM kit, then let a tuner install it, make sure to ask JM if all parts are in the kit. Sometimes the seals won’t be included, and you’ll have to order them direct from the factory.

Keep in mind various tuners span multiple headings. I attempted to keep it simple, but no matter how hard I tried many tuners are skilled in more than one area of airguns.

Vendor tuners

http://www.pomona-airguns.com/services_tunes_used_items.htm

http://www.mac1airgun.com/services.htm

http://www.airgunshop.net/index.html

http://www.gandlairguns.com/

http://www.beeman.com/sercust.htm

http://www.pilkguns.com

Non-vender tuners

European guns:

http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/ekreally/myhomepage/business.html?mtbrand=AOL_US

http://www.airgunshow.net/Bestunes.htm

http://paulwatts.netfirms.com/

Ken Reeves: Ken's Airsports 419-837-6459

Jan Kraner: jan@jsmcg.com; Janfkraner@aol.com

10M guns:

Randy Bimrose: barrelbender@earthlink.net

http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/Rapids/1691/slade1.html

PCP’s:

Allen Zasadny.: 847-838-0187. To my knowledge he tunes careers and Rapids. Considered by many to be the best tuner of PCP guns.


42678 N. Poplar Ave.
Antioch, Il 60002

Gas rams:

http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/Rapids/1691/slade1.html

Chinese:

http://www.charliedatuna.com

Domestic Guns: Crosman, daisy, Benjamin, Sheridan, etc.

http://www.airgunshop.net/index.html

http://www.daisyrepair.com/

http://home.att.net/~jjaxelrod/airarms.html

Chet Pauls: c.pauls@attbi.com

Co2

http://members.cox.net/co2une/index.html

Home Tuning

Is it worth the time and energy to perform a home tune? It comes down to time and cost. For professional tools, you are going to spend hundreds for initial setup. Spring compressor, punches, pins, screwdrivers, etc. You will also need the proper knowledge to do said tune. How long will it take you to figure out to take apart, hone and lube in the proper places, and put your gun back together? For example, a professional airgunsmith can rebuild an R-9 in one hour. With a trigger job, and additional 15 to 30 minutes.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Bill Liles said...

Thats a good read. I have always wondered why tuners were held in such high regard. I've heard all the this (insert favorite tuner here) tuned gun is butter smooth but none of these guys "the tuners" are known to be great shooters. I mean show me there record, a notable win in any dicipline would be enough to convince me. I will admit that Jan Kraner is by far the best trigger man out there as far as i'm concerned. His work on my TX trigger is the best i've experience on any gun from any tuner and Paul Cray has won the Nationals 2 years in a row shooting a JK tuned TX. No other tuner has that kind of credentials.

5:17 PM  
Anonymous paul cray said...

I must agree with Bill. Jan Kraners trigger work is second to none. He leaves it crisp and with absolutely no creep!
I have tried TXs that have been tuned by all the "name" tuners and Jans work seems tighter,smoother and all round just plain better.
There is also no bullshit with Jan. No witch doctor phrases and he doesn't menstrate!

Paul Cray

5:37 PM  

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