Maybe it’s just me, but I have a certain level of emotional distress over probes.
If you’re new to airgunning, I’m talking about one of the most common methods of filling a pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) airgun with high-pressure air. A “probe” is that little brass bar or tube fitting on the end of your hand pump, air cylinder or compressor. In theory, you stick that into a matching port on the airgun and away you go with an easy refill. No fuss, muss, or tools required. Not so fast Ponch. What sounds great on paper often doesn’t survive the harsh adaptation to reality.
I love PCP rifles. Not only do they offer broad caliber flexibility from the classic .177 all the way up to .50 or more, but they also operate like a fine swiss watch. Cocking the airgun by operating a bolt or other similar action only has to perform the relatively simple and low-energy-required function of resetting the trigger and release mechanism. No big muscle compression of air or springs means simple operation shot-to-shot with none of those embarrassing “sproing” noises. And what’s not to love about repeating airguns? Easy cocking and reset, combined with an air supply capable of launching tens to near a hundred shots (depending on the caliber and model), makes magazine-fed designs feasible.
With all the joy and goodness available to us through PCP technology, why do we still suffer the lowly probe? I readily admit this is a first-world problem, and I’m being somewhat of a whiner, but can’t we all agree the world would likely live in perpetual harmony if we banished those hellion instruments of frustration?
Off the top of my head, I can think of five reasons we should take them to the next available bonfire and burn them en masse.
O-Rings Are Evil
Since both probe and probe receptacle are made of brass or some such similar gold-ish metal, the two don’t naturally create an airtight seal when jammed together in close proximity. Ipso facto e. pluribus unum, the design requires the use of little tiny O-rings to create a seal capable of preventing leakage of 4,500 psi air.
The engineering marvel behind O-ring technology is they’re made to self-destruct, usually by tearing, on first use. This is a conspiracy stemming from a real jerk who owns the ACME O-Ring company. I have it on good authority the owners of this enterprise are shielded behind dozens of layers of offshore shell corporations and three military dictatorships.
UPS and FedEx are co-conspirators with ACME. I can prove this by the number of special deliveries of replacement O-rings made to my home. I rest my case.
One would think that O-rings made of silicone, rubber, or whatever the heck they use would do a nifty job of sealing against air loss. Either I’m a spaz, or they don’t. I always seem to require a liberal application of silicone sealant gooped around the O-ring to get it to create a usable seal. And therein lies the problem.
Those goopy probes and O-rings tend to collect dust like the Kardashians collect ex-boyfriends and husbands. So, as that happens, they also tend to stop holding… air. Wash, rinse, repeat.
There’s a new crop of PCP airguns hitting the market designed to be hand pump friendly. This is a great innovation in my view as the lower cost and overall simplicity makes PCP airgunning accessible to more people.
The fly in the ointment is, and I can’t speak for you, I’ve never had much success with the combination of hand pumps and probe fill systems. Without the initial blast of a large volume of pressurized air to create an instant seal, it can be tricky to get started when using a hand pump with a probe-equipped airgun. It’s almost like trying to fill a completely flat wheelbarrow tire with a bicycle pump. You need that poof of air to set the tire on the rim.
Foster Connections Exist
The smartest engineer ever invented something called the Foster connection. Can I venture a guess the creator’s name was Foster? Anyway, this spring-loaded locking connection system has proven itself to be largely fail-safe for a hand pump, air cylinder, and compressor use. It’s not finicky to connect — it either locks in place or it doesn’t. If you hear and feel the satisfying “click” you’re in business.
Rant over. I’m off to consider shorting ACME O-Ring company and selling everything I own to invest in Foster Enterprises common stock.