So What Is The Meaning Of PCP?

HAM contributor Bernard Fouché brings us details of his journey into the world of Precharged Compressed Pneumatics (PCP) and filling with a booster pump. He also finds many answers to the question – what is the meaning of PCP?

As Bernard lives in France, he uses Metric measurements. We show them converted (approximately) to US units for the benefit of our U.S. readers.

This is Part One of his journey. It’s a great read! Take it away Bernard…

Lockdown Blues

A few months ago I was stuck at home during lockdown, a concept that until 2020 seemed to be reserved to science fiction stories.

Like so many people during this time, I was working in front of a screen during the day. Having not much else to do during the evening, I would read books or continue to look at a display.

Thanks to the magic of the Internet (imagine confinement without the Internet…), and for no particular reason I can now remember, I wandered into websites about airgunning.

I had had air guns before, all springers, and I was stunned to read about PCPs. Power, accuracy and multi round magazines, that was a real surprise. Could this be the the meaning of PCP? – Providentially Close to Perfection?

Locked down but having a backyard, I wondered. Why not try out some occupation that would draw me away from the screen ? After a few evenings reading everything I could find about airguns, I was hooked!

Soon I joined the army of people buying their first PCP airgun with no idea of what PCP really means to newbies.

Once I got my Benjamin Armada, my first PCP ever, I was confronted with the harsh reality of one of the many meanings of the acronym. The Pathetic Chore of Pumping.

The Pain of Pumping

I had read that there were other ways to fill a PCP air gun, but at that time I considered air filling to be a trivial problem. Like everybody, I had used a pump to inflate a bike tire. Surely a high pressure pump is more or less identical in shape, so what could be the problem ?

I felt fit, those guys complaining about pumping were just ridiculous. I was such a Pretentious Clueless Punk. Could this be the meaning of PCP?

After a few pumping sessions, an unexpected side effect was the triggering of different thoughts that never crossed my mind before…

First, high pressure pumping is such a pain that no fitness center ever considered buying some of those instruments and not only because they aren’t looking medieval enough. What is medieval is what a manual pump can do to you if the pumping movements required doesn’t fit exactly the height of your body.

Second, being able to shoot accurately after raising an air gun tank to 200 bar / 4350 PSI clearly is accessible only to a very limited circle of people. I never planned to be a member of such an elite!

Third, I felt that for the first time I understood what biathlon is all about and how brilliant my decision was to never try it.

I wanted the fun of shooting, it never occurred to me that a session of bench rest would first require Particular Cardio Practice.

Being lucky to live close to dive shops, I bought a 15 liter (915 Cu. In.) tank that could be filled to 300 bar (4350 PSI).

(I didn’t bin or sell the manual pump, I saved it as the perfect tool to perform a test of Psychological Commitment to Pain for my daughter’s new boyfriend, if ever he was considering moving to in-law status.)

I lived quite happily with the Armada, after having added an internal regulator and fixing some details.

A Prophet For More Power

After some time I decided that as air gun shooting was really enjoyable, I would keep it as a long term activity. To be freed from the power limitation we have here in France, I would get my FAC, which I obtained a few weeks later.

Background. In France a FAC is required for powder burners (although not for black powder guns). It’s also required for airguns with a Muzzle Energy of greater than 20 Joules (14.75 Ft/Lbs).

The FAC itself is easy to get once you are accepted in a shooting range, as long as you have no criminal record and you take no medication that would forbid you to do shooting. The certificate depends on a medical exam. (Further reading of this text indicates that the medical screening is quite light.)

However there is another phase to pass if you are interested in having a handgun firearm. You must have a good reason, be it safety (very rarely accepted) or competitive shooting. I didn’t go that way yet, I’m not interested in handgun firearms at the moment.

Since I decided to get a more powerful airgun, I started looking for one. I read about EBR, especially EBR 2019, and read about the RTI Prophet Carbon Prototype shown. (More screen time..).

Some high end air guns are so expensive that People Can’t Pay for them. Could that be another meaning of PCP? I was looking for a reasonably priced rifle.

Being of a technical nature, I always liked Saint Exupery’s citation (he is the author of The Little Prince) “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”.

So the RTI Prophet was the obvious choice for me.

So What Is The Meaning Of PCP?

The Booster Pump Appears

But once again, I was facing an air filling challenge. My 300 bar cylinder with its external regulator was perfect to fill the Armada’s 200 bar (3000 PSI) tank, but the Prophet requires 300 bar.

With a 300 bar cylinder, I would never be able to Provide Complete Pressure into the rifle! Since pressure would equalize into a greater volume when filling, the overall pressure would drop once connected to the airgun. At each refill I would have less and less pressure going into the RTI’s carbon bottle…

Not counting the fact that dive stations are sometimes in a hurry, they don’t always wait for tanks to cool down after filling. This means that the theoretical 300 bar (4350 PSI) fill is sometimes transformed into 280 bar (4060 PSI) fill, sometimes even less.

Previously, I had chosen a big 15L cylinder instead of a small, affordable (Chinese) compressor. This was because I figured that such a compressor would require babysitting (slow refill times) and water cooling (yet another swimming pool for mosquitoes). Worst of all, I would have to do the inevitable maintenance myself!!!

Getting older, at last I start to know my own limits. I already have different things awaiting to be fixed, sometimes for years. I may lose interest and end up with a broken something I keep for ages.

I know what it means to wait for days for DHL to get spare parts I have incorrectly selected and will never return.

Also I know about buying 20 cheap parts to try to amortize the shipping costs, to replace a part that broke just once. Then having to store 19 samples of something I won’t ever use again.

My guess is that such behavior is frequent….

I always wonder when broken objects are found close to the sarcophagus of a pharaoh, if he was not supposed to repair them at a later time and just gave up thousands of years ago? Or the parcel holding the parts was stuck at some Roman Empire customs checkpoint? Or if the delivery guy didn’t find the entrance of the Pharaoh’s Confusing Pyramid. Ah, yet another possible meaning of PCP?

Overall I didn’t want to add a new item to my purgatory for objects. The less there is to fix, the best it is. The conclusion was obvious: I would do everything I can to not buy a compressor. I Phased out Chinese Products.

However with the Prophet and its 300 bar fill, 70 shots in .22 and enough power to fully use the caliber up to the sound barrier, I had to find a solution to get 300 bar pressure from my 200 bar tank. Without that, I couldn’t fully benefit of that piece of brilliant Slovenian design.

“Reasonable 300 bar” became my pressure goal.

Then I came across the booster pump concept. Yes it is a compressor. But with slow moving parts, no temperature to manage, no water cooling.

So What Is The Meaning Of PCP?

I could continue to use my 15L tank and its clean, breathable air I get from dive shops, with no moisture of any kind, no moisture filter at all. At worst an O-ring would meet its maker. But I already have a nice collection of those, ready to be bathed in silicon oil at the first puff of air that would go out of the booster from an unauthorized orifice.

This is Professional Care Planned, at least in my opinion. Another meaning of PCP?

Tomorrow, Bernard dives into his experience of the booster pump in detail. As he explains, booster pumps are Pretty Cool Products!