Ny/Del Guides & Buttoned Piston

Why tune my Springer?

I'm often asked, "Why should I get my gun tuned?"  There are many reasons you would want to get your rifle tuned.  In this article I'm going to list them as an education page so you'll know more about what's being done here and why it's being done when you send your rifle in for a tune in our shop.  Often I'm asked, "what is a tune" only to describe something the listener is totally unfamiliar with, or can't picture at all.  Most of the time it's that the person calling wants to be sure about what they are spending their money on and will it be worth it.  Rest assured, if it's reservations about the amount of money spent for the work done, I'm not charging enough ;-)  R&D time, lathes, milling machines, honing equipment and tooling, raw material stock, mill and lathe tooling, stock working equip. etc. etc... All that coupled with the amount of time machining and fitting parts to your gun I'm not charging very much by the hour.  As for what is actually done, that is addressed at the bottom of this page.  So read on ;-)

Paul Watts

Gun lasts longer

Every gun on the market is mass produced and has some weak links that could stand some improvement.  Some gun makers use good quality springs.  Some others use oil hardened music wire.  They do this because "power hungry airgunners" want cheap power. Besides, in their opinion, how many people will even shoot their gun 2000 rounds as many do not. These springs are stressed to the max so as to give lots of power and fairly low cocking effort.  Small diameter spring wire treated this way has a fairly short life span in a spring rifles.  Especially, in guns that tend to diesel or has out of spec compression tubes.  A good bit of people feel that springers are only designed to operate at 12ftlbs or they wont last.  I believe the afore mentioned spring problems and out of spec receivers is why so many, early on in airgunning, held to this position.  That said, when I tune a gun I can often get 70-80fps more than a factory gun that was already hot and in so doing make the gun last ten times longer than even the same guns 12ftlb counterpart.  The ARH springs and seals I'm installing will outlast the factory springs and give vastly improved performance.  But more of performance aspect will be covered later.

In some guns there are contact points that can gall due to high loads and lack of lube.  Often, points like this can be re-machined or fitted with thrust bearings or buttons that will just about eliminate the problem.  Take for example the sides of the breech on barrel cocking guns.  I offer bronze inserts with custom machining to eliminate this problem.   On some rifles the piston can have flat bottomed holes machined into them synthetic buttons installed.  Buttons are usually delrin, inserted into the holes and machined to perfectly match a hone corrected receiver while also reducing the chance of any galling from unhardened or poorly hardened parts.  You won't get glue on buttons matched to back of the receiver only to have the piston free fall when they reach the cocking slot. 

Proper lubrication is a key element in a gun lasting longer too.  Too much lube in the compression chamber will burn seals, cause dieseling that will shorten the life of the spring or the wrong kind of lube will cause piston galling.  A spring that is lubed with too much "heavy" grease will have wide velocity changes from cold to hot weather.  You'll also be able to notice impact point changes from just the first few shots, until the gun settles in (low velocity starting out).  Of course not enough lube or the wrong kind can cause galling or accelerated wear throughout the rest of your gun as well.

Making sure the rifle is sealing correctly is the single biggest improvement that can be done to a spring rifle.  A spring guns ability to seal correctly is more important than any other single factor.  It's the heart and soul of how a spring rifle gets the job done.  It is by far the single most important issue when doing a tune and the most expensive to do correctly.  Selecting the right spring, seals and lube means nothing if the compression tube is out of spec. This is why correcting out of round or tapered compression tube inside diameters will do wonders for longevity.  I used to get calls all the time from people wanting me to put better parts in their rifles because the factory spring would break or take a massive set loosing one hundred to two hundred feet per second and in some cases the seal would burn prematurely all of which would happen in less than a thousand rounds.  Problem is, better parts alone would only last slightly longer in one of these rifles and then usually only for another five hundred rounds or so.  In a rifle with a suspect tube, honing the receiver with a precision hone eliminates this problem. Using a brake hone or flex hone simply won't get the job done.  In many cases it just makes it worse.  In every rifle that I corrected the receiver I've seen a night and day improvement with its ability to shoot at higher velocity and be able to keep that velocity over a long period of time.  If nothing else is done to a rifle this is the single biggest improvement you can do to make it last longer.


A tune can effect several areas of performance and not every gun is the same in responding to a given combination of parts.

POWER: Some guns respond well to bringing the power down but other guns have lots of potential for increased power while keeping the gun very shootable or pleasant to fire.  If a gun doesn't respond well to jacking the power up, I'm not going to do it for you, no matter how bad you want it.  I just don't want my name associated with that kind of work.  Some guns do respond well to power increases and I'm more than happy to do it.  The power I tune for, will also be determined by the caliber of the gun and the weight or particular pellet being used.  Generally, the larger the caliber, the smoother the gun will shoot and can thus be powered up (sometimes!).  I don't recommend high power R1's in 177cal for example.  In 22cal with the same tune you'll get more power, less recoil and less noise.  The power a rifle is able to produce is most often severely limited by the tolerances of the receiver.  I've had R9/HW95s go up over 100fps with a tube correction on a Sunnen hone.  I've seen the same thing on many, many other higher powered spring rifles.  On rifles with suspect receivers often putting in a more powerful spring will yield lower power not more.  This has been one of the biggest problems to face tuners who can only replace parts and not correct the underlying issues plaguing the rifle.  Often they search for the magic spring or seal that will resolve the issue to no avail or at best be a short term fix to get it out the door. 

RECOIL:  recoil can be reduced buy either using a weaker spring or by speeding the two way movement of recoil, up to where it is not as noticeable.  Sometimes you can get more power and less recoil. But you always want recoil to be controllable, or straight back if you can. It depends on the design of the gun and the tolerances of the receiver more than anything else. Some guns will not shoot smoothly no matter what you do if the receiver isn't corrected or the basic design isn't suitable for the power you're trying to achieve.  Oversized transfer ports, inside diameter of the barrel being oversized, or too loose a pellet fit can cause heavy recoil as well.  Sometimes a gun with a barrel problem can't be tuned smoothly until the owner is willing to opt for a new barrel.  Some guns are tight in the breech and open up only to have the choke slow the pellet down before exiting the barrel.  Chopping a barrel off on one of these guns will give you a vibrating heavy recoiling mess.  Some guns that have shortened barrels shoot fine.  This is something I heavily recommend that someone not do at home.  Another thing that is often overlooked is receivers that aren't sealing correctly can also cause heavy recoil or snappy firing behavior.  If the receiver is out of tolerance bad enough it'll basically be causing a partial dry fire.

VIBRATION:  TWAAAAANNGGGG! The noise the spring makes after the gun has fired.  This is not recoil as some keep alluding to.  It's the noise and buzz you feel during and after the gun has fired.  It is about 60-70% of the noise a spring gun makes.  It's also the single most noticeable improvement when tuning a rifle. Eliminating vibration is a by product of everything being precisely fitted in the rifle. Getting rid of or reducing vibration will reap you many benefits.  A quiet gun will often allow a follow up shot in some hunting situations.  Also, it'll make the gun less noticeable if you want to plink around the house without bothering the neighbors.  On long barreled, barrel cocking guns, I've noticed that a reduction or elimination of vibration will give a slight improvement in accuracy.  Carbine barrels are more rigid and tend to benefit less from this.  One of the biggest improvement in reducing vibration is that your stock screws tend to stay put.  If your stock is soft, wood can compress under the head of the screw due to recoil but most often I've found that reducing vibration with properly machined guides (not lube) with a drop of 242 loctite will just about solve this problem.  Besides, that smooth solid THUNK the gun makes without vibration just makes it feel better. EEEWW, IT'S CUSTOM!

ACCURACY:  Bottom line, less recoil that is straight back and tighter velocity spreads will give better accuracy.  15-20fps speed is acceptable and won't affect accuracy much.  Most of the guns I've tuned will get about a 3-10fps spread.  The exceptions are guns with loose fitting pellets due to oversized bores, inconsistent pellets or tap loading guns.  Tap loading guns are notorious for wide velocity spreads.  I for that reason do not work on them for accuracy problems.  They also tend to leak air and get low velocity.  Either by the tap being loose, or the bore being oversized, and the pellet's fit lets air bleed by.

SMOOTHNESS:  I have always tended to think smooth meant little to no noise when cocking, no vibration and muted recoil.  Like riding in a new car.  No squeaks rattles and everything goes snickt when you open or close it.  It's a quality that has to be appreciated in person and isn't easy to describe.

Resale Value

Putting tuned on an ad will not likely add much to the monetary value of a rifle.  Saying what was done will help some but it's often not a big selling point.  Mostly because the phrase "tune" can mean anything from precision machined to snake oil through the cocking slot.  With the vast majority of what's being done is the later or very similar ;-)

That said, it does help a lot if you're displaying a gun at a show or in person and a quality job was done.  If the person has any experience with the model of gun, he will immediately notice the quality difference.  I've had people try guns they had no interest in buying, then buy the gun because it shot so nice.  It is a big selling point if the person gets to shoot the gun!!   If they do shoot it you can usually recover the price of the tune in the selling price. 

All this is further complicated by the fact that many "tuners" are opening up guns, dumping lube in them and calling them a professional tune or comparing them to a high quality tune. These guys always compare their lube tunes or economy tunes as just as good as mine.  When all the other things I do are mentioned they often say that the things I do aren't needed as a means to secure the selling of their service. Another short cut many economy minded tuners use is to match a spring to a factory guide and use a judicious amount of lube to mask any fit problems there are.  It will often get rid of twang but do little else to improve the life or quality of the tune.  Being that vibration is the single most easily identified result of a tune without disassembly many tricks like this are employed to keep their investment low, while charging the full price of a quality job.  It is also a way for them to get rifles out the door quicker.  There are many consumers that are only interested in getting things done quick and often they will sing the praises of these guys on all the message boards while mentioning how long I take.  With all that said, there is still a place for someone doing this type of work, but to compare it to and charge the same as something that takes a lot of time, experience and expense to do right is just bogus.  It is only compared that way to justify the prices being charged or to secure the sale.  That said there's a good place for even something basic like the lube tune.  It only becomes ridiculous when it's compared to being the equal of a higher quality professional job.  I started using the phrase Advanced Tune (ADV) back in 03 to try and differentiate what I was doing from everyone else but in time many others started using the same phrase.  So for now I will just have to use my page to explain the differences.

What do you do?

The rifle is disassembled and cleaned out in a emersion bath.  The receiver from your rifle has the cocking slot precision milled to be absolutely true and smooth and the receivers inside diameter it trued for it's entire length on a precision Sunnen hone.  It is then de-burred to remove all sharp edges that can cut a seal or make piston rings wear prematurely on rifles that use them. A new spring is selected for your gun depending on sevral things like the desired power and caliber or even the pellet to be used or something like the general use of the gun (i.e.. hunting, plinking or target).  Spring guides are made from steel, bronze, naval brass or the finest synthetics available depending on where it's going to be used.  They are fitted to the individual spring to be used to eliminate vibration and control recoil characteristics.  A better designed seal is used to often give higher power and tighten velocity spreads.  Sometimes they are designed to smooth the firing cycle or last longer as well.  The seal is always replaced with a new one.  Your old seal will never be reinstalled in your gun.  The trigger is disassembled and de-burred.  The sear rivets or pins are replaced with tool steel rivets on HW trigger units and the sears themselves are checked for hardness.  If the sears are soft or some of the case hardening is thin they are either kiln hardened "through hardened" and tempered or case hardened depending on which sear or catch it is.  The same is done for the detent or it is replaced with a in house made tool steel detent.  On single lever HW barrel cocking rifles the lever is machined and buttoned to eliminate any rattle.  The gun is then reassembled using several different lubes depending on the where they are going to be used and the material the guides are made of.  One type of moly is used for pressure points, while another is used for the compression chamber and piston seal.  Another lube is used on the receiver walls where the compression tube or piston slides.  The trigger is lubed with special oils as well.   All this takes a good bit of time to do right.  For the effort put into it, the money isn't very much.  If you were to sub all this out to dedicated machine shops the price would easily reach five to six times the price I charge.

I hope some of this helps explain some things you didn't understand before about what is done in my shop.  This is about what everyone that emails me, wants me to write or explain when they call.   I tried to remember everything (which I probably didn't.)  I just don't have the free time to go into this much detail with everyone who calls.  I hope this will help get me back in the shop and getting rifles back to their owners.

I tune higher end rifles that are made in Germany or the UK.  There is a place for tuning some of the economy rifles but at some point there is a law of dimishing returns.  You just don't invest more time and money than something is worth. The amount of work and time I invest to do the type work I'm offering is lost in the potential or monetary value of economy rifles.  I'm not looking down on them or running them down.  They give a dollar for dollar return in enjoyment that should be enjoyed for what they are.  If you do have a problem with one of these economy rifles you should find someone that does repairs on them or get into repairing them yourself.  Not a full custom shop with a heavy back log of work. 

I would only ad one more thing.  Tune work is best performed on a rifle that you want to keep and enjoy.  Preferably done to your favorite shooter as opposed to one that you never really could get used to or one that was never accurate.  Tuning is done to enhance your enjoyment of a favorite rifle.  It's not a silver bullet to make a problem rifle acceptable or accurate.  Some times accuracy problems can be cured with a good tune or adding a more aggresive choke to a barrel but it's not the norm.  Having your rifle tuned isn't for everyone, but if you're a person who likes quality and things being their best you likely won't go back once you have one done.

Many Tanks!

Paul Watts

Honed tube