The legend of ‘the aristocrat’ lives on
By James E. House
Although there has been a great deal of interest in .20-caliber rifles recently, airgun enthusiasts have had a .20-caliber available for well over half a century. Benjamin introduced multi-pump rifles that fired pellets over a century ago, and Crosman Corporation launched a .22-caliber model in 1923.
Such airguns were rather common in the mid-1940s, but most were rather basic in appearance. Yet, in 1948 a totally new product was introduced by E.H. Wackerhagen and Robert Krause of Racine, Wisconsin, who endeavored to design an air rifle that would be comparable in quality to a sporting firearm.
The rifle produced by Wackerhagen and Krause was named the Sheridan Model A, and it sold for $56.50 in 1948. The rifle fired .20-caliber pellets, which was a totally new airgun caliber at the time. Sales were less than brisk, which resulted in the less-ornate and lower-priced Sheridan Model B being introduced a short time later.
As minor changes were made, the Sheridan became known as the Model C series, with the blue version dubbed the Blue Streak or CB9 and the nickel finish being called the Silver Streak or C9.
Although the Silver Streak has recently been discontinued, some are still available on dealers’ shelves. To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Sheridan, a special edition featuring a highly polished brass finish protected with a special lacquer finish was produced. Known as the Model C9PB, it is now a highly desired collectible by Sheridan fans.
COMPACT, YET POWERFUL
The Sheridan had a lot of desirable attributes in an airgun. First, it could be given up to eight pump strokes to vary power as the situation warranted. Second, the original .20-caliber pellets were solid instead of the hollow shells with large internal cavities that characterized most pellets at that time (and many produced today). The pellet was almost a cylinder with a rounded nose and a small flange around the base to provide an air seal. The weight was around 15 to 16 grains, and with the muzzle velocity being up to almost 700 fps, the Sheridan was a high-powered airgun.
Magazine ads showed how the Sheridan would put a pellet through a 1-inch pine board. The result was that the Sheridan became the airgun of choice for many people who used an airgun for getting rid of pests or hunting small game. Unlike many of the powerful airguns of today, the Sheridan measures only a yard in length and weighs only 5Â½ pounds. These characteristics make the Sheridan a logical choice for the airgun enthusiast.
Over the years, airgun pellets have changed drastically, with many new types being introduced. Although the usual types (wadcutter, domed, pointed and hollow point) are all available in .20 caliber, there are also some special versions. One of them is the Predator Polymag, a pellet that is essentially a hollow point with a polymer insert. This is a very-high-quality hunting pellet that weighs 13 grains and delivers near target accuracy in some guns. The 14.3-grain Field Target Premier from Crosman Corporation is an excellent domed pellet for both hunting and silhouette target shooting.
Some .20-caliber pellets weigh about the same as those having a similar shape in .22 caliber. As a result, the .20-caliber pellet generally has a higher ballistic coefficient than that of the larger diameter pellet and thus retains its velocity a little better. Moreover, the cross sectional area is considerably larger than that of a .177-caliber pellet, which generally weighs only around 8 grains, so the .20 caliber is more effective on game. The result is that the .20 caliber is a good choice for the small-game hunter and pest shooter.
To read this article in its entirety, pick up a copy of the August issue of Gun World magazine, available on newsstands now.