For the Record: Rare Beeman Guns
by Robert Beeman
Reproduced from Beeman company reprint 8757 of an article in Beeman's Airgun Journal 4 (1): 2 pp. ,1983.
As a gun company grows, especially if that growth is rapid, the historical implications of model changes, new packaging, etc., are often not appreciated at the time they occur. It isn't until years, usually decades later, that collectors begin to try to sift out what has happened and determine which models came first, which are the rarest, and even which models existed. It frequently happens that the factory staff themselves actually have less knowledge of their own early models than do those later collectors.
Beeman discovered rather early that most of the factories that we deal with do not even have literature, much less specimens, of their earliest models. For instance, we discovered that we had more specimens and information about the early Benjamin airguns than the factory itself, and that our collection housed a pre-WWII Weihrauch repeating air pistol that the Weihrauchs had forgotten.
Because I am an avid airgun collector, I've been able to take more of a historical view in the development of our own company. Someday I'm going to work through our records and get exact details on serial numbers and production quantities of early Beeman airguns. In the meantime, perhaps I can do the collecting fraternity a favor by at least pointing out some rare Beeman models and variations.
Any gun that is produced in quantities less than 500 Is generally considered to be a very rare gun. Commemorative series are usually run in quantities of less than 2000. Virtually all of the guns which I will mention have been produced in quantities less than 500 and most of them in quantities under 100. A few of them existed only in "handful" quantities.
The first airguns that Beeman imported which bore factory Beeman markings were the Beeman/Feinwerkbau 124 sporter rifles. We were bringing these in when we were a very small company in a home shop in San Anselmo, California. Any such guns marked with the San Anselmo address must be considered quite rare. There was a later small run in which the "Inc." of the company name was incorrectly stamped as “Jnc." Less than 5% of the above variations were produced In .22" caliber, so a legitimate .22" caliber specimen with either of these marking is an exceptionally rare item.
When we first started importing airguns from the Dianawerk company in Germany, they were marked both with our name and the brand name ."Original." Almost as soon as we started to bring these "Beeman’s Original" models in, we negotiated with the factory to produce variations of these guns under the Beeman name only and under different model numbers. Therefore, we must consider Beeman's Original Models 27 and 35 air rifles and Beeman's Original Models 5, 6, and 10 air pistols as rare Items. Only a tiny series of Beeman's Original Model 10 air pistols were made with an eccentric sleeve around the rear of the receiver to provide for variable pressure against the web of the shooting hand. Again, .22" caliber versions were extremely rare versions of these scarce items. There are no legitimate specimens in .22" caliber of the Model 27 and 35 rifles nor of the Model 6 or 10 pistols. The very rarest legitimate version of this series would be a .22" caliber Beeman's Original Model 5 pistol. Beeman's Original Models 5 and 6 air pistols which bear genuine Beeman one piece walnut grips are extremely rare, especially if mounted with the removable Beeman wire shoulder stock. Variations of Beeman's Original pistols with a Beeman-supplied Schmeisser-type folding stock are the rarest versions of all. Only one specimen of Beeman's Original Model 5 in .22" caliber, with such a folding stock, is known to exist. There also is a Beeman's Original Model 75 match rifle. Few were made; perhaps less than six of these were made with a true left-hand action.
As noted, we started to import various Beeman model airguns from the Dianawerk factory, but none were highly popular* and all should be considered as desirable collectors' items. These were the Beeman Model 100. 200. 250 and 400 air rifles. and the Beeman Model 800, 850 and 900 air pistols. The Beeman Model 200 rifle was the very rarest of all; I recollect that less than 100, perhaps less than 50, such guns ever were made. All of the above Beeman model guns were made In .177" caliber only.
We discovered two successive defects in the operation of the large plastic safety mechanism of the Beeman Model 250 rifle. The first problem was that the original safety protruded so far that the hand of the shooter, even in a fairly normal shooting position, could inadvertently push the safety into the off position. In the safe position, that safety protruded 1 1/8“ (29mm) from the receiver. This was corrected by reducing the length of the huge safety bolt which protrudes from the rear of the receiver. Only a handful of guns came in with the long safety. One of these extremely rare early specimens was used in our cover catalog photograph of the 7th edition of the Beeman Precision Airgun Guide. If you have a Beeman Model 250 which has a safety like that illustrated in detail on page 36 of that catalog you have an extremely rare gun.
The second problem that we discovered was that this safety could fail if the trigger had been pulled excessively hard. As required by law, we notified the Consumer Product Safety Commission and cooperated with them in an industry-wide recall of this and all related models. The safeties of all guns returned under this recall, and all guns in the stock of dealers and jobbers, were converted to a new form. They still had a large plastic mass protruding about 3/4" (20mm) from the receiver in the safe position, but were differently designed internally and bore an “N" at the rear. Many of the extra long safeties that had existed on the U.S. market were replaced with this new short “N" version, making the long safety versions even rarer. Any version of the Diana or RWS 45, Hy-Score 828, or Beeman 250 (which were all variations of the same gun) without the "N" marked safety must be considered an uncommon item, but the "long safety" Beeman 250 must be considered the rarest of all. Anyone having a gun with these old safeties should send it to Beeman or RWS, before using it again, for a free new safety. Ask for the old safety back to maintain the collectors' value. Do NOT use guns with the old safeties.
Two other versions of the Beeman 250 are extremely rare. Only 20 specimens of the factory commemorative model of the Beeman 250 were ever made and only 40 specimens of the .20" caliber (5mm) rifle were ever made. Made in such low numbers, these guns must be considered among the very rarest of all production guns. From 1979 to 1982, Beeman phased out all of the various Diana built Beeman guns*.
The new Beeman Rl magnum air rif1e already has a collectors' version. Only the very first production run of these guns had the Beeman logo on the left hand side of the receiver. Even the Beeman museum has only one or two specimens of this variation, and I'm not sure that any exist in .22" caliber. There certainly are no legitimate specimens of this variation in 5mm caliber.
Production of the Beeman C-l carbine began at serial no. 800001. The first 30 serial numbers of this interesting new gun were set aside for VIP's of the gun industry and collectors. These should be extremely desirable items in the future.
Any specimens of Weihrauch's Barakuda air rifle (which uses an ether injection mechanism to tremendously boost the spring piston compression power) are rare and highly desirable to collectors. Perhaps about 50 of them exist which were factory stamped with the Beeman name, so those are among the very rarest. Certainly the very rarest are Beeman/Weihrauch Barakuda rifles with chrome or gold plating. Only two or three of the factory chrome versions exist; a single gold plated version of this gun was presented to myself by the factory. Less than 20 factory chrome plated versions of any Beeman/HW gun exist. The very rarest versions are the ones that are factory stamped with my initials: " RDB 1". Of course, the very rarest versions of all are the single specimen of each model factory stamped RDB 1 and gold plated, made as presentation items to the Beeman collection.
Only a handful of Beeman/HW 35 rifles were ever made with a factory thumbhole stock. None of the Beeman/HW airguns bore the San Anselmo address, but the earliest ones had 13.5 mm wide dovetails on the receiver for scopes or peep sights. Beeman marked specimens of the HW 35 in .22" caliber are very rare and Beeman marked specimens of the HW30 and HW50 are uncommon.
I have no doubt that the Beeman/Feinwerkbau CO2 pistol is going to be an extremely important collectors’ item In the future. Certainly the rarest versions are the first six: low serial number guns which were factory marked "Beemann" instead of "Beeman". The factory engraver accidently made us honorary Germans for just six guns!
Among the Beeman/Webley items, there was very little production of the Beeman marked Webley Osprey rifles, especially in .22". There were only one or two specimens, completely unmarked prototype versions, of a "Super Osprey" rifle. Certainly the rarest of the Beeman/Webley items is the single specimen of a presentation version, illustrated on the back color cover of the 4th edition of the Beeman Guide. This was engraved by the late George Spring, Sr., complete with a rendition of Beeman's "Boswell" bear and finished with a frosted nickel plating and custom walnut grips by David Wayland. Finally, Robert D. Beeman received a presentation Beeman/Webley Vulcan, Serial No.1, from Keith S. Faulkner, who was then President of Webley (but is now Marketing Director of Beeman), at the 1980 SHOT Show.
Very few custom versions of the Beeman airguns have been made. Those with custom stocks such as illustrated in catalogs prior to Edition 10 must be considered as rare and very desirable items. The thumbhole stock versions are the rarest.
Even sights** are now collected; both as authentic accessories for early gun models and as items in themselves. Any Beeman aperture sight without adjustable dovetails must be considered as a rare item as well as the early Beeman model 5001, 5002, 5003, and 5004 riflescopes and model 5010 pistolscopes.
Pellet collectors have already noted the variations in our pellet labels. I'm not going to cover those here, except to alert you as to their existence and to note that Beeman is now phasing out all pellet labels in which the Beeman name is curved over the top of the label. As these are replaced by the labels which are illustrated in the l0th and later editions of the Beeman Guide, the old version labels will become collectors’ items. Especially rare are the now discontinued 5mm Beeman Silver Sting pointed pellets. Beeman Perfect Rounds lead balls, other than .177" caliber, have all been discontinued. They were never made in very large numbers and are thus definitely highly desirable. Even the labels on the Beeman quick cleaning pellets and our Magnum Jet CO2 cylinders are in the process of being changed. The old versions will become matters of history rather soon, as will the few specimens of the old Beeman Pellet Sampler labels. The old versions of the labels, and the discontinued Perfect Round labels, are illustrated on pages 62-63 of the 8th edition of the Beeman Guide.
Of course. the early editions of the Beeman Precision Airgun Guides themselves are already much sought after. Less than 500 of the first edition were printed and only a handful are now known to exist. A few of these early catalogs have my autograph, but I guess I'll have to pass away to make them more valuable! The Airgun Digest, published by Digest Books, edited by myself, is already out of print and will probably soon become a scarce item, valuable in itself and for its large amounts of information on now obsolete models.
This short report should give those now holding Beeman guns, or other items
mentioned above, some idea of their relative scarcity. I hope that gathering
these bits of information at this time will help historically-minded collectors
in the future when they try to sort out old Beeman products.
*The Diana airguns (=RWS airguns) were never good sellers when they were in the Beeman catalogs because there they had to go head-to-head with the Beeman/Weihrauch airguns, such as the Beeman R1 and R7. After having the opportunity to really compare them, the great majority of the catalog readers would decide to go for the considerably higher quality Beeman/Weihrauch airguns, even though they had to pay somewhat more for them. An exception was the Beeman Model 800 (=Diana Model 6, RWS Model 6 series); its special Giss patent recoilless action had no parallel in any other brand.
Editor's note: The original article had several interesting illustrations which could not be reproduced for this presentation. And please note that the above article was written almost two decades ago. It is very good that such a record was made at that time; otherwise, much of this information simply would have been lost. However, many more Beeman guns have been introduced since that time. Some of them are especially desirable to collectors, as well as to shooters. You can get the best presently available view of which of these more recent Beeman models and literature items are scarce, or truly rare, by studying old Beeman catalogs (especially the 17th edition with its illustrations and descriptions of really rare Beeman guns such as the Beeman SPX firearm pistol, Beeman Adder and Wolverine PCP air pistols, Beeman Air Wolf and Wolf Pup PCP air rifles, and the elegant Beeman Gamekeeper PCP air rifle) and the "Rare Air" article and the Beeman section of the Blue Book of Airguns. There just isn't a good guide yet to collecting airgun pellets, but pellet tins and cartons with the Santa Rosa address, and especially the old San Rafael address, and those tins with the Beeman name curved and with a picture of Boswell clearly are the most desirable of the Beeman pellet collectibles.
**The prediction that
sights would become collectible is interesting to consider now when, almost two
decades later, the company is under new management. The new management
apparently did not like dealing with the details of the specialized scope
business and/or the foreign suppliers. Most of the Beeman designed scopes were
dropped in favor of regular Bushnell scopes, often made in China or Korea, but
available through California offices. Literally by popular demand, several of
the most popular Beeman design scopes were reinstated into the Beeman line after
a change in Beeman managers. The super popular Beeman Blue Ribbon Model 66RL (Skylite
2-7X) and the unique, and tank-tough Beeman Blue Ribbon SS-2L short 4X
Skylite models were brought back. The somewhat more functional 3X SS-2 models
and the neat little rubber armored Blue Ribbon SS-1 and the tiny, 1.5-4X
Blue Ribbon SS-3 scopes and the Blue Ribbon 68R 4-12x scope and several other
fine scopes disappeared - to be sought by collectors and shooters alike at gun
shows and on the internet.