Return to Complete Index Page


Playing One String


I love the phrase. I must give a recent customer the credit for using it. It's a perfect word picture of a very common issue I deal with. As you know: Songs are made up of "chords", which are a co-operation between notes from all the strings.

There's a Barnes family story that goes something like this: When my cousin was very young, his family went on a trip to New York City. That was a big deal 40 years ago. I'm sure they saw Radio City Music Hall, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, etc. The thing my cousin talked about the most was a dead rat they saw floating in the harbor beside a passenger ship . . .

There's always something that gets your attention more than all of the rest put together.

Many people are simply "Ga-ga" over fine wood. You could inlay a length of water pipe into a nice pc. of figured walnut and alot of folks would be thrilled with it. There's nothing quite like engineering a state of the art mechanical / pneumatic wonder . . . investing 250 hours of labor . . . and then being upstaged by a pc. of wood. So; I hand pick each stock blank, I offer a couple of grades, and, I go to alot of trouble to work them well. But; for those who would be satisfied with nothing short of a plank from Noah's Ark, I find that a bit too "focused" for the overall balance and cost structure of my projects.

One of the "Strings" that gets played alot around here is that of airgun silencers. I've been told a hundred times, by readers of this site, that they appreciate my - (quote) - "No BS Approach" to the topics. In that tradition, I must tell you that there are days when I could run, scream, and tear at my hair if I had to talk about airgun silencers just one more time. On a priority list of requested airgun features, they would be right at the top of the list - waaaay above accuracy. Adjustable triggers are a popular string too. I found that I needed to start putting several "Placebo Screws" on my trigger blocks. They don't do anything at all but they satisfy those trying to find that perfect adjustment combination. (That's humor ... have to have some fun ya know?)

Next String: "How many shots does it get?" The underlying theory here must be that, with enough comparison, a fella could find one particular rifle that cheats physics and gives you a whole bunch of free shots. I always hate to be in the position of bursting bubbles, but there is no free lunch. Actually; we can have all the shots we want if we just keep increasing the size of the reservoir, and lowering the power level of the rifle. If we were satisfied with just "popping" plastic beads out the end of the barrel, I could build in a thousand shots per fill. Otherwise: 1). We decide the scale (mass) of the rifle we are comfortable with. 2). We choose the power range we wish to enjoy. 3). After that, we take the number of shots that combination yields. There's no magic - just physics. We must be honest with ourselves. We don't want to get all excited about how many shots a 12 ft. lb. pcp gets and then expect my 60 ft. lb. pcp to have just as many. In the same manner, if we insist my 60 ft. lb. version must carry the same magic number of shots, then we shouldn't seem surprised that it needs a huge reservoir. It's human nature to pick the "gee wiz" numbers out of advertising and want to talk about them. You'd think it couldn't be more clear that the bottle guns get alot of shots because they shoot at low power levels and have a huge bottle grafted onto the rifle. People never seem to read the fine print which tells them that; when turned up to high power, these rifles get about 80% less shots. Still: every week people come looking for that magic number - all Misty eyed about some rifle that's supposed to get more shots per fill. It's sort of an immediate "Pass/Fail" test my models are asked to take. No matter that the lighter rifle of the comparison could hardly "float" a pellet out a hundred yards and mine is shooting MOA @ 100 yards. Still, that old "shot per fill" string is going "Twang, twang, twang".

So, just for fun; we've established that the ideal project would be a huge airgun silencer with a figured walnut stock, that gets a thousand shots per fill, and has an infinitely adjustable trigger! Ha ha. I get all choked up just thinking about it. ;?) Trouble is all the extra "stuff" I have to make to fill the spaces in between. And, I can't just fill it with "fluff". It's a Barnes PCP - it better be accurate. It's a Barnes PCP - it better have excellent performance.

Some folks will not really care about 90% of the effort I go to. For them, the bluing is everything. Or the stock is everything. For these folks (who just want to hear one or two strings) there are fine companies who take a commercial rifle out of the box, polish it up, and restock it in nice wood. For about the same price as one of my 100% handmade rifles, these others sell you a nice stock and bluing job on a thousand dollar commercial action. Beautiful rifle - shoots real nice too. Those who don't see the difference, wouldn't want to wait for one of mine. As you can calculate; in such a project, you're paying a couple of grand for a custom stock, and you're paying a couple of grand for the polishing job. If you are going to pay that well to hear just two strings, they really should be pretty nice. It's a different game altogether to write the entire song and perform it live.

The place we're heading with this is that the customer must be honest with themselves (and me) regarding the thing that has brought them to request information on a handmade pcp rifle. Otherwise, I work my heart out making a fine balanced pcp project. I take it to the range numerous times and test it well. If it's a long range target rifle, I'll shoot it MOA @ 100 yards. Finally, it's ready. Everything is just right and I send the rifle off grinning from ear to ear. Boy, this fella is going to be "thrilled"! Only to get a call three days later and hear, ". . . how do you adjust this trigger release weight . . . and, can't the first stage be set shorter . . . blade angle . . . trigger shoe . . . 2nd stage . . . over travel . . . crisp . . . creep . . . and what's that screw . . .?" Oooops . . . you see, there we had a "trigger collector" who only needed the rest of the rifle to keep the trigger from falling onto the floor. He really wanted me to spend 235 hours on the trigger and just toss together something to mount it on. When I ask about the fit and finish, the power, the accuracy, smooth operation, shot to shot consistency, etc., I hear . . . "Yeah . . . that's all fine . . . but this second screw from the back, on the intermediate link, up inside the trigger housing . . . Hey! - do you have to take that figured walnut silencer off to adjust this thing . . .?" (that's more humor . . .)

Let me try, one more time, to wrap up what I do with a couple of thought provoking images: It's the difference between excellent paint on a Dodge Viper and museum quality paint on a family sedan. It's the difference between an excellent Oil Portrait and the exact perfection of a photograph. It's the difference between a live orchestra and a filtered, balanced, digitized, remixed CD. It's all in the "soul" of the thing. That's where the project lives. I was indeed born with all the baggage that goes along with being an artist. I have the endless ideas. I have the photo image imagination. The determined drive and relentless attention span needed to turn an idea into concrete reality. I envision complete projects - I must build complete projects. I have very high standards which I work to. My projects are all built to a state of "balance". I can't pull out just the one string and pluck it like mad, to the detriment of all the other strings.

Contrary to the problem of never having an original thought, I "file away" about ten good ideas to every one I have the time to build. Therefore; I don't care to build a copy of any commercially available product. Also, I'm just not much of a "One String" sort of guy. I sort of write my own and then give a live performance. By doing so, I've demonstrated "State of the Art" results in many areas of the field. You'll know if my work appeals to you without having to labor over the issue.


(Probably a record regarding cliche's per page . . . but the title was irresistible)

Direct e-mail link:

Back to Daily Briefing Page