CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Airgun titles today CLICK HERE

Stripping a spring-piston rifle

09:39 31 October 2011

Stripping a spring-piston rifle

Stripping a spring-piston rifle

Having spent a decade and more taking guns apart, I know that each of them has its own identity and design quirks...

Having spent a decade and more taking guns apart, I know that each of them has its own identity and design quirks. Yet very few guns are entirely revolutionary in their design and almost all tend to follow a number of basic principles. So, whilst its never a case of done one, done em all, you do seem to get a sense of deja-vu after youve stripped a dozen or so. If I had to distil my experience into a single one size fits most strip, then here are my suggestions which should provide some useful guidelines.

First and foremost, always check that the gun is unloaded. It should go without saying, but you must check that its neither cocked nor loaded with a pellet. I know of shooters who have stripped guns down with a pellet in the breech, only to have it fire when the gun was assembled and tested, one such breaking a window in the process. It could have been far worse

When working on the action its always advisable to remove the scope and any open sights as much as is practicable. Sights get in the way and are very easily damaged if the gun slips on the bench or the action rests upon them.

Always keep a set of clean containers into which parts and assemblies can be placed. You also need to have spare containers into which components can be transferred after being cleaned and degreased. Clear plastic bags also work well to hold small components such as trigger mechanism parts.

Actions are invariably held in with three or four screws. I cant emphasise enough how important close-fitting screwdrivers, or turnscrews to give them their proper name, are to prevent damage.

A proper service will start with a quick check over the chronograph, to see how the power is doing before doing any work. The chrono will show up problems such as loss of power and inconsistency, and it may also give an indication as to the condition of the mainspring. If the power is acceptable and the mainspring is still looking straight when inspected, then you neednt replace the item just for the sake of it.

Getting at the internals usually involves removing the back end, generally referred to as the cylinder block. Most airguns have a pin running transverse through the rear of the cylinder to hold this block in place though others, such as the older BSAs and many Weihrauchs, have the trigger block screwing directly on the rear of the cylinder. Almost all airguns have some form of pre-load on the spring - so it will come out to bite you if youre not careful.

A spring compressor is the safest tool to use but failing that, replace the main axis pin with a drift a tad smaller which will allow you to gauge the pre-load within by the movement of the smaller drift.

If unsure, or if the back end unscrews and therefore gives you no warning of pressure, put the action on a padded workbench, wrap the back end in a towel and wear thick gardening gloves. Unscrew the back end and let the innards meet the padding of the towel rather than the bare skin of your hand.

With the back end away, the spring and guide usually come out cleanly well, not always what youd call clean! with no problem. Check the springs condition by looking for bends, kinks or, worst of all, breaks. Replace if necessary.

You can check the piston seal to a lesser extent by tipping the gun up and seeing if the piston falls out. If it should slide out slowly, this is acceptable, but if it still falls out when you have a finger blocking the transfer port, its very likely that a replacement is needed.

Getting pistons out is usually involves removing the cocking link and sliding it out of the cocking slot. If you have a break-barrel gun, I would recommend removing the barrel rather than drifting out any pins in linkages. These pins have a habit of sliding out once disturbed and need peening over again which can mark the surface, so use some judgement.

Pistons usually meet up with the trigger mechanism as they are extracted from the cylinder. If the mechanism is a stand-alone assembly, such as you find on the Gamo series of rifles, then this is no problem, just remove it. If the mechanism is built into a welded trigger cage, look into the cylinder to find the sear jutting up slightly. Find this component in the trigger cage and try to remove this single item rather than the whole assembly, invariably thats all thats required.

Piston seals are most commonly push-fit but there are numerous and obvious variations. Piston washers that are difficult to fit usually can be softened in hot water if needed, though this rare these days. Sometimes you will find that seal is an O-ring, such as on BSA Mercurys and later Airsporters.

Breech seals are often overlooked but need replacing if worn since they allow air to escape and thus reduce power. At least its a simple job, just pick out the old one and push-fit the new one. Fairly obvious stuff really.

Lubrication is essential for smooth and consistent running and the basic rules are straightforward enough.

1. Nothing down the transfer port - even if the old instruction booklet might suggest it! Dieseling, the explosion of minute particles of lubricant under pressure, will occur which is most undesirable

2. A smear of grease wiped onto the side of the piston washer and then wiped off will help ease it in to the cylinder.

3. A wipe of moly-grease around the piston sides is sufficient, as is a very small teaspoon of grease distributed around the mainspring and spring guide.

4. Pins and links like a drop of light oil to keep them moving. A general rule is oil for small parts and grease for the larger load-bearing parts.

Reassembly is almost always the same procedure in reverse so just remember the sequence and then do it backwards.

The final bit of advice is to check your rifle over the chrono again after carrying out any servicing work. That new spring or a packing washer here and there might have sent the power wayward, in either direction, so do consult the chrono to be sure your rifle is safe and legal.


  • Hi all newbie, to airguns after almost 45 years time flys!!! last gun was Relum tornado under lever .22 smashing gun. have just been given, Webley Hawk mk 2 with .177 and .22 barrels have stripped down, forgot how fiddly trigger mechanisms are (hope i can reassemble) ha ha need new mainspring piston seals plus barrels need tidying up rust patches not too bad but also mole grip marks on .177 barrel where some Neanderthal has gripped without padding etc to change barrel advice please. regards old timer

    Add your comment |


    Saturday, January 4, 2014

  • I have owned many rifles and decided AA are the easiest to work on. However i have just bought a Carmague. I have searched for info and will have a go shortly. Any chance of Neil Price stripping one in the workshop? By the way i am no expert and found the above article useful. I was hoping to remove the spring and piston without stripping the trigger. The article suggests this may be possible,nice one.

    Add your comment |


    Monday, December 26, 2011

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

More from Expert Advice

Friday, November 25, 2016

Gary’s bending to the task of testing deformed pellets at long range

Read more
Thursday, November 24, 2016

Reading the wind is a skill every outdoor airgun shooter needs to master, whether they hunt or shoot targets. Jim Tyler explores

Read more
Thursday, November 17, 2016

Some people lubricate pellets while others don’t bother, but one reader wants to know if it has any tangible effects

Read more
Friday, November 4, 2016

John Milewski has a piece of history in his hands

Read more
Thursday, November 3, 2016

When he realises he’s doing something wrong when shooting, the editor has to go back to school

Read more
Friday, October 28, 2016

What are CO2 guns all about? The editor gives his view

Read more
Monday, October 24, 2016

Jim Tyler investigates whether this can actually happen, or if it’s just another spring airgun myth

Read more
Friday, October 21, 2016

A reader is thinking of adding a chronoscope to their kit bag, but is unsure whether it merits the money, considering it may not be used much

Read more
Friday, October 21, 2016

Phil Hardman treads carefully among the trees on the hunt for woodpigeon

Read more
Friday, October 14, 2016

Mick Garvey finds himself commissioned to test a rather special new rifle

Read more

Subscribe today

Air Gunner Application Link
Airgun World Application Link

Follow Our Titles

Airgun World
Air Gunner

Newsletter Sign Up

Most Read

Latest news