Terry R Robb, born in Dagenham, Essex (Parsloes Avenue near Martins Corner) in 1947
The Squatters is now a nature reserve.
When I was young, gambling was illegal and bookmakers would hang around a street corner. My Mum would ask me to run round the corner with a piece of paper with some money in it, to give to the man on the corner with a big coat. He was called a bookies runner. I thought I would mention this as the younger generation would not be aware of this activity. Gambling was made legal in the UK in 1960.
I saved up for a Webley Mk 3 and got one in .177. We put a new spring in it and it went very well for those days. Later I part exchanged it for a bigger rifle, because I was told I should have a .22 and this bigger rifle looked much more powerful. The gun was a Relum Tornado. Buying this gun was a very big mistake. The performance and quality was useless, bad enough to give up air gun shooting altogether, if I had to use one of them I would not bother to shoot an airgun. They do a break barrel version which is not as bad, cause it does not have the leaking tap. The washer is held onto the piston by a rivet. The washer is put on the piston inside out, so that the rough side is facing outwards. The quality of the Metal leaves a lot to be desired.
There were only a few air rifles that you could buy in the 1950s and 1960s, The main ones were BSA, Webley, Original, Diana, Relum and much rarer were the Weihrauch.
When I wanted to buy a Weihrauch HW 35 I had to go to Blands of London. It was called Thomas Blands of London, It cost about £24.00 which was a lot of money. I was disappointed with the performance, even after tuning it struggled to reach 12 foot pounds although the accuracy was good.
In the early sixties I swapped a set of drums for a Webley bolt action .410 there were no shotgun Certificates then, just the gun licence for ten bob or Ten Shillings (50 pence) Later I swapped a 410 magnum shotgun for a Crosman 140 .22 Pump up, this was later stolen from me at shotgun point, by a double barrel shotgun loaded and pointed at my head, and they also shot my dog with an air rifle. I was 14 years old at the time. The Brave men were up to 21 year old and there was eight of them of varying ages.
I bought a Mark 2 BSA Airsporter. I tried tuning this gun and managed to get it to go very well.
Those of you have read My Airgun Tuning Manual may remember me talking about tuning my Mk 2 Airsporter, I had kept the mention short but I had used more that two Airsporter's at that time. I was a teenager then and did not realise how well my Airsporter was going until I bought a Sheridan in about 1964. This was purchased from Brownings of Bristol with the intermount, 4 X 20 Mickey Mouse Scope, pellets in .20 (Bantam 5s) and Champion. These were the only two makes of pellets in .20 that were available then. I still remember the cost of £33.00 for all of this, but that was a lot of money. You could buy a gallon of petrol for 4/6p in old money (about 22pence) and that was a gallon, not one litre. You could get four star leaded petrol at 5/6 that is five shillings and sixpence. 23 pence in decimal money.
One of the Airsporter's had a poor leaking tap so I tried to cure it by buying a tap from my local gun shop, this was called Wells of Barking. The owners name was Cliff. He said BSA would not sell him a tap, and the gun would have to be sent to them. The cost in 1967 was £4.00 plus £2.00 Post. This was a lot of money back then, in relation to fuel it would have cost 24 gallons of petrol 126.00 quid.
After I sent it back, It took about two months before I got it back with its new tap fitted. It was very disappointing. When I did the tap test, it leaked the same as before. BSA could not be bothered or could not fix it.
When I was a Teenager I was trying to tune my air rifles, I would talk to my local gunsmith at the time and asked him about tuning airguns, I thought he was an airgun expert as he repaired them all the time. The information he gave me was totally wrong although he thought it was right, but this held me up for a year as I thought he knew the facts and disregarded my ideas at first.
In the late 1960s My gunsmith told me that BSA were bringing out a new model Airsporter and also a break barrel version (they called it a Mercury). It seemed like ages before he got them in, and I could not wait. When they came in I checked the taps on all the Airsporters he had, (useless) so I decided to buy the Mercury as I would not have any tap problems. (As all the taps leaked on the ones he had), I used it for a while and after using it for a while (about three days) to see how it performed, I stripped it down to see how it was made, and how I could tune it. What a disappointment. The design and quality was disappointing so I sold it.
When I had a gun stripped down, people used to say to me, I thought that was a new gun. They would be surprised that I had stripped it so early. But they used to be and still are put together without the correct lubrication. Sometimes they would even be rusty inside. I am not talking about cheap Guns, I used to always buy the best that was available.
I bought an Anschutz 250 Recoiless Spring Target Rifle when they came out. They were not very powerful at around 640 feet per second in .177, the higher figure when tuned. When I first shot a rabbit with it, I was very surprised that I saw the impact of the pellet strike. I had never seen this before. I realised that this was because you would never see this when you use a spring gun that jumps because the sight picture would be blurred when you fire. I won't shoot anything live now unless it is a Pest.
Nearly all gunsmiths in them days did not pay much attention to airguns. When I would ask what is the difference between the different models, they would normally say that they are all much the same. To me they were vastly different.
There was a gunsmith in Southend on Sea called Tom Mallet, he was the only gunsmith that I knew that took airguns more seriously, he even used to collect the different models.
We would travel from London to Southend to visit his shop because he took them more seriously than any one else.
His wife worked in the shop but knew all the airgun parts.
The other Gunsmith I used to talk to was Welsley who wrote the Airgun Book. He used to advertise a break barrel spring gun as being the most powerful air rifle you can buy in the UK. he called it a JGA. When I spoke to him, (from a phone box) it worked out that this was the Anschutz 335. I had already tried these and knew that they would struggle to do 12.
I saved up for a Sheridan Blue Streak in 1964 because the Advert which had a Sheridan leaning against a large tree in Guns & Ammo said, if you want more power then buy a .22 rimfire. The Sheridan Blue Streak cost £33.00 (this included the post). and also included the inter mount and Telescopic sight with Sheridan Bantam five pellets. These were cylindrical more like a bullet. They also sold Champion in .20 so I bought some of them as well. The Champion were as bad or worse than the Bantam Fives for accuracy. Now you can get good pellets in .20.
I tried target shooting with the Sheridan with both types of pellets. When I missed I always thought it was me. I never suspected that the pellets or the gun were not accurate. But I was young. It is only when you get the high quality stuff that you realise that you are not as bad as you thought you were. You can now buy very high quality ammo in all calibres.
The top power guns before the law changed in 1968 were:
Sheridan - only made in .20 or 5 mm.
Benjamin - Very similar to the Sheridan and then bought out by Sheridan.
Crosman - Ended up buying out Sheridan.
Setra, - The Setra was a close copy of the Sheridan but it was available in .22 and .177.
BSF was another rifle that had a power reputation, so I bought one from Air Rifle Headquarters in the USA. The one I bought was the BSF 55N, which meant it had a walnut stock. It cost £22.00 which was cheap considering an Airsporter and Webley Mk 3 were about the same money new. Trouble was that I had to pay half as much again in purchase tax which made it £31.00. I have tried lots of them but they would struggle to exceed 12 ft lbs. I also did not like the trigger as it used to move down as well as back when you pulled it. I made mine adjustable to improve it. But it was not very good compared to what you can get now.
I have heard that the limit was brought in to give British Manufacturers a means of reducing the competition from abroad. That did not work though as they just made them weaker for the UK.
Some spring guns could be tuned to be more powerful than they were, but they were not designed to be too powerful as they could kill a human. Make no mistake a sub 12 foot pound could still be fatal when handled by idiots.
I had written to some of the manufacturers with some of my ideas about making guns more powerful but only one of them (British Webley) wrote back saying that there was a gentleman’s agreement with the Home Office not to increase the power too much as this would bring in legislation for Airguns (which came in anyway).
When I was a lot younger and missed targets, I would always think it was my fault for missing. I never thought that it could be the ammunition or the gun combination. This is a common mistake shooters make. It is best to check that your gun package and ammo is accurate. If your gun has a magazine then check it for accuracy by placing one in at a time to eliminate magazine indexing problems and scraping. If the gun is more accurate when loading it singly then it is the magazine index at fault.
You had to have a gun licence that cost ten shillings (50p or Ten Bob) from the Post Office. It was a small form on plain light coloured paper.
I bought these for quite a long time, until 1967. I was then told they don’t sell them anymore.
They were good years, and I remember going to the Post Office in 1967 - 1968 to get a Licence, when they said they don’t do them anymore. I asked where I could get one and she said I don't know. Nothing was published that I had seen. This is when the 1968 Act came into force. They then brought out the shotgun certificate. This was just a bit of paper, and you had to produce it to buy a shotgun but not the cartridges. The serial number was not put on the certificate, and you could buy as many as you wanted. You could buy shotgun shells without any thing so long as you were over 17 years old. We used to go shooting over a disused chalk quarry’s and fishing lakes (near Lakeside), and no one really bothered, unlike today.
One day I arrived home after going shooting around 1967 we stopped outside our house in Parsloes Avenue, but as we were getting the guns out of the car, an old Hillman Minx was passing, as they passed some youngish blokes started shouting out of the car windows. We did not take much notice but soon after we got indoors there was a knock on the door. I was greeted by the same blokes from the Hillman Minx who introduced themselves as police and said they saw us bringing guns in and wanted to see them. They asked to see my gun licence. When informed them that I did not have one, they said I was being reported for that offence of not having a gun licence. They obviously had not kept up to date with the new gun licence laws. I never herd any more so they must have found out when they got back to the station.
When I left school I got a job at Nelson and Fords of Goodmays, selling and working on motor bikes. After I left there I got a job in Fords of Dagenham in the Canteen where the foundry was. I was fifteen and you had to be eighteen to work in fords but this did not apply to contractors.
Started on the railway in 1964. You start as a cleaner, and then a Fireman at Ripple Lane. They still had Steam Locos around but ours was a Diesel- Electric Depot and then later we also had Electric Locos as well.
My main job was at Ripple Lane Loco Depot where I started as a fireman and then Driver, I worked with a lot of great men there. The money was very poor unlike today where train drivers earn good money. One of my last jobs on the railway was to take the Flying Scotsman (with a 350 shunt engine) to Tilbury docks to be put on a ship to tour Australia.
If you had a car or motor bike then you had to maintain it yourself as garage charges were and still are expensive. I also did car repairs to survive.
Also in the early 70s I worked Part time for Sterling's of Dagenham. They made the Sterling MK4 machine gun along with the Silenced Machine gun. They later started making Armalite machine guns, these fired semi automatic and full automatic. My job was to test them and that they operated semi and then full auto, if they functioned OK I would then zero them. It was Extremely rare for one of them to Jam. This was my one or two day a week job.
They had all types of guns in the Bond which was very secure large room with many shelves that were stacked full of guns. They had lots of different guns made by many manufacturers.
They imported Bennelli semi automatic shotguns that were very good, and fired five shots. I was going to demonstrate them at the game fair and get paid for it,and was really looking forward to it, but ended up in Hospital with U Colitis so could not do it. I had been looking forward for this for many Months.
In the early seventies I always used Eley Wasp Pellets and they used to be best that you could buy. But one day I had put a new scope on my Feinwerkbau sport and I could not get a group. So after giving up with the Wasp I though I would try some different pellets. I was surprised that the different pellets gave quite a good group. As I worked at Sterlings I took the tin of wasp into the inspection room where Rob was the Chief inspector. They had some incredible measuring equipment there. He found that the Pellets were all over the place. I am mentioning this to let you know that it pays to check your ammo occasionally to make sure it has not deteriorated.
If they don't renew the dies regularly then the pellets will not be consistent. I think they must have had several dies running and would replace one die when it was out of tolerance, but the trouble then was that all the pellets from the different dies would all end up mixed in the same tin. This is one of the reasons I made the adjustable pellet sizer so they could then be graded and sized. If you look at the rear of some pellets you can see that they are not even round.
They later made the Sterling Air Rifle called the HR 81 (1981) and then later the HR 83 (1983). The design of these limited the power, especially in .177. Sterlings asked me if the power could be increased as Beeman of the USA said the would buy a great deal more if they could have higher power. I got the .22 up to 625 fps and I got the .177 up to 800 fp. They wanted more but the design would not allow any more without redesigning the whole gun. its main design fault was the breech. This limited the maximum power.
In the 1960s I used to deal with Robert Law of Air Rifle Headquarters in west Virginia USA. I had bought a BSF 55N and lots of parts. I had bought a Feinwerkbau 110 from them, but the Feinwerkbau 110 never arrived, he said it got damaged in the post and was returned. I had to communicate by air mail. I bought lots of things from Robert Law that you could not purchase over here like Dri Slide, Jet pellets, ballistic putty and more. He was into Airguns like me and did it because he like Airguns and not for money, although you need to make a profit to carry on.
Robert Law from Virginia, USA and you could buy airguns and parts that were not readily available over here. I had purchased a BSF 55N in .177 from him, it came in without any problems except I had to pay import duty and purchase tax that amounted to a third more than the cost of the rifle. He was a very nice and genuine man.
Beeman started quite a while after Air Rifle Headquarters. and marketed on the same lines as precision adult air guns.
Air Rifle Headquarters of Virginia, was run by Robert Law.
I have found a link that mentions ARH below. http://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2010/06/a-brief-history-of-beeman-and-air-rifle-headquarters-part-1/
They produced a quarterly magazine that was written by Air-gunners for Air-gunners. This was a long time before Beeman and all the others started. At about this time there was another keen air gunner called DR Hughes he used to import the rarer guns like the HW 55 T, this was a semi target spring gun that had a locking breech lever that worked very well unlike the HW 35 barrel lock that is not very good.
This was run by a Mr Cummins who also wrote for the Guns Review magazine.
There were quite a few stalls there including a keen airgun supplier called DR Hughes who imported the HW 55 and 55T. They used to shoot bell target there, the name of the group was called NARPA National Air Rifle and Pistol Association. I still have the badge. This is how Field Target Shooting came from.
Mr Cummins wrote for the magazine that is still going called Guns Review, in the early days they did not give airguns much coverage, there is a lot more about airguns in there now, especially compared to today. It was probably that interest that Started Airgun World.
My Friend had an Heirinken 120x
Japanese air rifle which caused a lot of interest as they are extremely rare. Apparently the Japanese firm were closed down soon after they were made because they could exceed the limit of Japan.
For more info about NARPA click on the link below. Or copy and paste.
How I came to buy a lathe and machinery.
I needed to make some parts so I could experiment and make parts for my airguns.
I had saved up to buy an old lathe, with this I could make some airgun parts for my friends and mine. While I had this I was on the lookout for a better lathe, I would wander round engineering companies asking if they had any old lathes to sell. On one of these trips I had called into a large engineering firm near Progress Rd Southend. The chap in charge said yes we have an old three phase Smart & Brown Screw cutting lathe for £250.00 in the early 70s that was a lot of money. I was checking it out and found that it would just rotate in back gear with no power transfer, and he said I can see you are keen so if you buy this lathe and there is anything broken then we will make you new ones. So on this basis I agreed to buy it. When I got it home I started to take it apart to find out why it would not work. When I took the cover off the back gear I found that it was full of bronze Chippings. These were the exact width of the largest helical back gear. So I had to take all the lathe back gear and head apart to get the Mandrel out. The helical gear was large with all the teeth missing. This was caused by the users not making sure that the gear was fully engaged so it was just taking the tops off the gear until there were no teeth left.
I got the large gear wheel out to take back to the man in charge, expecting him to come up with excuses as to why he cannot make it or to give me the run around. After looking at it for a while he really surprised me by saying is this Thursday OK. So when I went back on the Thursday I was still thinking it may not be ready but he bought out this lovely new phosphor bronze helical gear. Over the next few days I was putting it all together and now I could make parts that had worn out.
The three jaw chuck was not very accurate so I enquired about buying a new one. A new Pratt Burnerd was £150.00 and in the seventies that was a great deal of money. Now in 2015 they are still around the same price.
This is when I first starting advertising the parts I was making so I could buy a new chuck.
The Motor cycles I had over the years started with a Norman Nippy, Harley Davidson Scooter 150cc, Triumph Tiger 100 500cc, BSA Bantam 175cc (one of the worst), Honda 50 OHV 50cc, Honda 50 OVC 50cc, Honda 70cc Honda 750cc, Norton Commando 850cc, Norton Atlas 750cc, Ducati 900cc, BMW 600cc, Suzuki 750cc (kettle), Honda 400cc, Honda Fireblade 900cc, Suzuki 1100cc X 3, ZZR 1100cc, Yamaha R1 1000cc, Yamaha Fazer 600cc Suzuki Bergman 400cc Scooter, Yamaha Tmax 500cc scooter, probably some more I have forgot, Suzuki K5+K7 1000cc the K7 I still have along with a Honda 125cc scooter.
Took my Car test in a Comma Cobb.
The Cars I have owned over the years started with a Ford Zephyr 6 but the insurance was to dear, so I chopped it in for a Vauxhaull Victor, Austin A35 (worst) Hillman Minx X 3, Morris Minor, Vauxhaull Viva Van (Beagle), Ford Capri, Mini, Sunbeam Alpine, Datsun 120Y, Ford Escort 1300, Renault 4, Renault 4 canvas roof, Renault 4, Renault 9 or 11, Renault 21 X 2.
I thought that every one had the same procedure of hanging the key through the letter box, so most kids when they got home would put their hand through the letter box to get the key and let themselves in.
It would also happen that when Mum shouted Ferguson or Provident, then it was time to hide behind the settee, because most of the time she could not pay the man who called every week for his payment, usually for furniture or clothing or whatever. This was normal for most on the Dagenham Council estate in the 50s. Money was short and times were hard for most people.
You don't get it now but it was common for around once a week a neighbour would knock on the door and ask to borrow a cup of sugar or tea, milk whatever and give it back when they bought some more. Or it could be us knocking on their door to to borrow a cup os something. Money was tight and the shops were not open all the time like they are now.
I used to build model Planes as a kid, they were made from a kit with balsa wood and tissue. You could get Jetex Motors or they could be rubber band powered. The kits were made by Keil Kraft. Later I started to do Control line and then we would do combat, where you would have a streamer on your tail and the idea was to cut your opponents tail with your propeller. This was really good fun.
I do like Chinese food and My favourite Chinese is Chans, in High Road North, Manor Park. E6 and Café de China also Chopsticks in Canterbury is good.
Hobbies, is Obviously Shooting, Fishing, Boating, Motorcycling, Cats, Dogs, Photography, Drone Photography, Model Engineering, Real Tea (not tea bags), and more but don't have the time for most as I would like.