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DIY devices to make it easier to cock your break-barrel and pump-up rifles

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Cocking a break-barrel rifle and pumping up a pneumatic rifle never seemed like much work to me when I was a teenager. Most of the springers back then were low power and easy to cock. Same with the pump-up rifles, at least for the first 4 or 5 pumps anyway.

Much time passes... and then last year, after not having owned any break-barrels or pump-up rifles for decades, I got a couple of new model magnum gas-piston rifles and a pneumatic pump-up to try. And after a short afternoon cocking those new rifles I felt like the optimist who decides to start jogging again after 30 years away from it, because he remembered that he used to like it so much.     

I've never heard of any commercial devices which are specifically intended to make it easier to cock either break barrel rifles or pump up rifles. Maybe it's because break barrel airguns are often marketed to younger shooters in the US who have limited funds for airgun purchases, but plenty of muscle power to cock compressed piston rifles. Shift ahead 50 years and that same silver fox hasn't been using those old break barrel rifles or old muscles for awhile. Probably went over to the PCP side in a weak moment and never looked back.

The main problem I've had with cocking break-barrel and pump-up rifles has been in holding the rifle securely enough to prevent it from twisting around while it is being cocked. Some people prop the rifle butt on their knee and others prop it on the ground or wrap a leg around it. Those magnum gas piston rifles can still wobble around and be difficult to control.

Pump-up rifles have the additional, unique and unfortunate design feature of being ready to smash your fingertips if you accidentally wrap your pumping hand to far around the end of the handle to get a secure grip on it. There must be an easier and safer way to pump them up 8 to 10 without a struggle.

Here are some pics and ideas for simple DIY devices which can make the process of cocking those rifles physically easier. The goal was to either reduce, or to spread out the physical effort needed to cock the rifles. And to make something which would help my 80yo shooting partner to cock his old springer and Benjamin pump-up rifles again. None of the things below are very complicated to make. None of them require measurements, just try a few iterations until it works for you.

It's more a matter of looking at the topic of cocking these rifles in a broader way than usual. One which directly addresses the physical needs of people who don't have the arm strength to cock them comfortably any more.

I usually shoot from a static location like a shooting bench. So one simple approach is to make rifle stand, shaped somewhat like an umbrella stand, which holds a rifle stock secured in a padded slot with the barrel upright while you cock the rifle. (pictures at the end)

Something like this wouldn't usually be needed for the easy cocking 14fpe rifles. But I speak from experience when I say that it is a real help if you plan to shoot your new Hatsan 130s or Gamo Magnum 10x rifles a few dozen times in a short afternoon.

To use the stand, just drop the stock end into the padded and fitted slot in the stand as shown in the pictures. Then rest a foot on the wood base of the stand to prevent it from tipping when the rifle is cocked.

I use both arms and the entire weight of my upper body to press the barrel down as I lean over the rifle to cock it. After loading a pellet, the barrel is swung closed as the rifle lifted out of the stand. I tried several variations made from scrap pieces of 2x4 and plywood and lined with 1/4 foam sheet. This one has worked very well through thousands of shots.

This 2nd assist device (pictures attached at end) is small, portable, and most useful to someone who wants to perform extensive testing of the same break barrel rifle over a chronograph. It is just a hinged barrel clamp made from a piece of 2x4", mounted on a small plywood base. It is screwed securely to the top of a workbench, and used to lock the barrel of a test rifle into position for firing over a chronograph. This setup requires the least amount of physical effort possible to cock the rifle. That's because the rifle can only slide in 2 dimensions along the table top when being cocked. The table supports the rifle's weight and prevents it from twisting while being cocked.

Just lay a rifle on its side on a wood work bench with the barrel aimed towards a chronograph. Then clamp the barrel securely to the table so that the rifle is aimed to fire over the chronograph. If the barrel is secured with the end of the stock extending off the edge of the table, (see pictures) then a person can 'walk the rifle' around the corner of the table to cock it. It's immediately ready for firing after being loaded and swung closed.

I made a few different hinged barrel clamps out of scrap wood to fit different rifle barrels because I enjoy it, not because you need fancy clamps or hinges. It's easier to just cover part of the barrel with a piece of cloth to prevent scratches, and then position some short and narrow scrap boards tightly alongside the barrel. Temporarily screw them into the bench top to hold the barrel in place during the tests. Once the barrel has been secured, the entire rifle is swung in an arc to cock it. Works well at up to 90 shots per hour if a person is that ambitious.   

There are other simple devices which could be screwed into a wall or post and control the barrel while the rifle is being cocked. Something as simple as a PVC tube can help, though it might be too light weight for a magnum. (picture at end)

With the tube mounted in a 2:00 position, slide the barrel into the tube with the stock pointing up. Gravity is your friend as you hang onto the rifle stock with both hands and swing it down into cocked position. Line the inside edges of the PVC tube with some thin foam sheet to prevent scratching of the rifle. The tube doesn't need to be a tight fit, all of the pressure will be concentrated on the inside edges of the top and bottom ends of the tube, so put some extra foam at those points.

I'd want something more robust for a magnum. Something simple, like a couple of 12 long pieces of 2x4s, mounted on edge and parallel to each to make a rifle barrel sized trough. If you use thin top boards to narrow the access slot you'll be able to slide the rifle barrel into the device and cock the rifle without the barrel popping out of the barrel holder while it's being cocked. The picture shows a version with a large C clamp added to control the width of the slot but that's not necessary. All you need is something simple to slide the barrel into so it stays in place while you hold the stock to cock the rifle.   

Mounting it on a plywood base allows something like this it to be screwed into a wall or tree, or mounted on a workbench with the open barrel slot facing up for horizontal cocking.

Check out the attached pictures. And then check out the next part about a similar assist device which secures the handle of a pump-up rifle so the rifle can be easily and more safely controlled as it is pumped up.

But is there any help for pumping up that Benjamin pump-up I got last year? I wanted to like it. I remember liking my original one back in the day. But pumping it up to maximum power ~8 to 10 just isn't an efficient use of effort compared to a break barrel rifle. The main thing it has going for it is the ability to control the shot power by the number of pumps. The big concern for me is that it's too easy for me to get my fingertips mashed between the pump handle and the barrel when the handle snaps shut. I don't understand why there isn't a simple hand swell on the end of that pump lever to hold onto and keep fingers safe.   

Apparently I used to worry about that same thing 35 years ago because I found this picture of a pump arm extension I'd made back then for my old Benjamin pump-up. Very simple to make, just got a short piece of copper tubing and cut it open along one side. Then bent it open to fit screwed it into the forearm. It extended the length of the pump handle which made it much easier to cock. Plus that slightly steampunk knob on the end gave me something safe to hold onto. (picture at end)

This time a around I wanted something which would work for all pump-up rifles, not a one-off Mod like that. None of the gadgets I'd made for the break-barrels rifles worked on a pump-up rifle. What I wanted was a way to clamp the end of the pump handle steady, not the barrel but the pump handle itself. That way the whole body of the rifle can be easily swung back and forth in an arc to pump it.

The large C shaped adjustable screw clamp in the last attached picture allows for easy control of the fit of the clamp on different sizes of pump-up rifle handles. It didn't need to be adjusted after being set. Wasn't needed at all really, just made things a bit easier to adjust. The gap is slightly wider at one end than the other. That way, when the rifle is placed into the trough in the clamp and then pulled back firmly into position, the pump handle is squeezed securely into the clamp and held there by simple pressure on the thin foam lining the clamp.

Sounds complicated, and probably like a solution in search of a problem. But it's simple enough and it actually works quickly and easily once you adjust the gap in the pump handle clamp to the correct width and angle. The main benefit isn't so much in making pumps #8 thru #12 easier, though it does. Mostly it helps to prevent me from accidentally pinching my fingers again while I'm struggling with that 7th or maybe 10th pump. It works surprisingly well since you can use your entire upper body to control the rifle as it is being pumped up.

I wanted this to be a quick summary, but it's too late for that now so I'll end it here. I included some pictures which I already had on hand. But it's the underlying idea behind each one which matters the most, the pictures just provide a few basic ideas on where to begin.

Thanks for having a look


Piper, you might be a single stroke kind of guy.

Airguns and guitars are two things I like working on. I can usually hit the target if not the bullseye and can carry a tune after a fashion. But much prefer using power tools trying to 'improve' them instead of just using them both in the usual way.       

I was going to ask you how many times you're pumping every time, but remembered a favorite quote ( favorite because I said it ) ;)

" They might sound like a lot of work till you realize you only need 3-4 pumps for plinking "


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