Posts Tagged ‘Air Arms TX200 Mark III’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Happy Thanksgiving! This is the day Americans set aside to remember the things we’re thankful for as we eat a feast of traditional turkey.
A couple days ago, blog reader Rob asked for my list of most-favorite spring guns and why they’re my favorites, so I thought today would be a good day to do that. So, here goes. I’m doing only the springers, because that’s what he asked for. What you’re about to read is by no means a complete list of airguns that I like.
Diana model 27
I bought my first Diana model 27 air rifle from a pawn shop in Radcliff, Kentucky, when I was stationed at Fort Knox in the 1970s. It was tired-looking and rusty but still shot like every 27 does — smooth and straight. This one was a Hy Score 807. I never tuned it because I didn’t know about such things in those days. I just shot it offhand as a plinker. That rifle cocked so easily that shooting it was like eating peanuts — I just couldn’t stop! I never did figure out the trigger, though. It wasn’t until I read the owner’s manual for a Diana 35 about 20 years later that I figured out how to adjust the trigger on this rifle. Today, I own 2 model 27 rifles and a model 25 rifle that I’ve been testing. And these are some of my favorite airguns.
Because of my involvement with airguns, I’ve owned quite a few target air rifles over the years. There have been some real beauties, including FWB 150 rifles, Diana 75 airguns and Anschütz 250 air rifles. Because I’m always buying and selling, there have been several of each. But the FWB 300S, which I got a couple years ago from my good friend Mac, has come to stay. That’s because it’s the most accurate air rifle I’ve ever owned. By “most accurate,” I’m being extremely critical. I’m talking about the last thousandth of an inch. I have other 10-meter air rifles that are very accurate — and over the years, I’ve had many more that were also very accurate — but for some reason, this particular rifle is the best one I’ve come across.
Okay, here’s where I’ll have a problem as a writer. I’ve just said the FWB 300S is the most accurate air rifle I’ve ever owned, yet this R8 is a phenomenal shooter, as well. You last saw it in the report titled First shot: Yes or no?, where I fired 10 first shots at 25 yards to see how accurate they would be. But I did a three-part report for you back in 2010, where I showed the rifle to you. This rifle was a special gift that came at a particularly rough time in my life, and just the thought that came with it is enough to make it a favorite. But the way this finely-tuned rifle shoots makes it a keeper on its own merits. It cocks easily and puts each pellet exactly where I want it to go. The Tyrolean stock fits me very well, and I just smile every time I pick this one up. I cannot say enough good things about it. I’ve never even seen a plain Beeman R8 before, so I have no idea if they’re worthwhile or not. All I know is that this tuned one is a keeper!
I bought the Whiscombe air rifle to use as a testbed for airgun articles, and that’s how it’s been used over the years. You’ve seen it several times — most recently in the 11-part Pellet velocity versus accuracy test. Unlike my other favorites, I don’t shoot the Whiscombe that often. The size and weight of the rifle plus the need to cock the underlever three times per shot makes it less than convenient. But I rely on it a lot and would not like to be without it.
Air Arms TX200 Mark III
One spring rifle I own and love that is still available new is a TX200 Mark III. The Air Arms TX200 is simply the finest spring rifle being made today, in my opinion. It’s heavy and can be considered hard to cock; but it has the best trigger on the market, and the rifle is deadly accurate. This is another air rifle I don’t shoot a lot anymore, but that’s because I’m always testing something else. There is no time left to enjoy the stuff I really like. This is the last spring rifle I used for field target competition; and as far as I know, it’s second to none in that capacity. The thing I like best about the TX200 is that I know I can recommend it to someone and they won’t be disappointed. Right out of the box, it shoots like a finely tuned air rifle.
Daisy has changed the name of this BB gun several times over the years, but the Avanti Champion 499 is the gun I’m talking about. It’s a BB gun that can put 10 shots through a quarter-inch hole at the regulation competition distance of five meters — offhand! Like the TX200, the 499 is still available and is one of the best buys in airgundom, in my opinion. Adults can shoot it and have as much fun as the kids for whom it was built.
Air Venturi Bronco
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the Air Venturi Bronco on my list. This is a rifle I had a hand in creating, and I did so with the Diana 27 in mind. I wanted a modern rifle that incorporated as many of the 27’s fine features as possible and still held the price low enough to enjoy. The Bronco certainly is that rifle. The two-bladed trigger is especially clever and tells the shooter exactly when the shot is going off. I know some folks don’t like the blonde stock or the Western lines, but I personally like both features. There are too many air rifles with muddy brown stocks on the market, and every one of them seems to have a Monte Carlo comb. But not the Bronco. It’s an individual air rifle that stands on its own.
The one that got away
There’s always at least one, isn’t there? This one came and delighted me while I had it. It’s the Sterling HR-81 that I got in trade at the Roanoke airgun show. It wasn’t working well when I got it, but Vince fixed it for me; and afterward, it was a wonderful shooter. This rifle had sights that were cheap and prone to break, and the ones on my gun were already gone when I got it. But a scope fit well, and the low recoil of the gun made securing it to the rifle an easy task. The trigger is light and (after Vince looked at it) crisp.
The firing behavior is good, though the rifle has a pronounced forward jump. Besides that, the rifle lies dead in the hand when it fires. And the accuracy is quite surprising — fully equal to my Beeman R8. When you cock the underlever, the spring-loaded bolt pops open giving access to the loading trough, making loading very easy and convenient.
What the future holds
I currently have the Falke 90 stock being restored, which will be a blog of its own. If the job turns out well, I can see that rifle becoming a favorite. It started as a gun that was practically forced on me at an airgun show. It was so dog-ugly that despite the extreme rarity (fewer than 200 are believed to have been produced) that even collectors who know very well what it’s worth declined to even make an offer on it when I had it for sale at this year’s Roanoke show. So I thought, what the heck, I’ll have it restored and then we’ll see what people think. Blog reader Kevin turned me on to a wonderful stock restorer who has the entire rifle now. There are a huge number of critical faults with the stock, so he’s really up against it; but if he can do even half of what I see he’s done for other damaged stocks, this project will turn out very well.
What I didn’t include
What about the Beeman R1? I wrote a book about it, for gosh sakes. Surely, it has to be one of my favorites! Sorry to disappoint, but no, it isn’t. I still like it a lot, but it isn’t the gun I pick up when I want to have fun.
What about an HW55? They’re so accurate! Why aren’t they on the list? Don’t know, for sure. They just aren’t.
OMG — I overlooked the FWB 124! No, I didn’t. I thought about it a lot, and it just didn’t make the cut.
Rob asked me for my favorite spring airguns, and I’ve listed them. Maybe I forgot one, but I don’t think so. No, there aren’t any spring-piston pistols that I consider to be favorites.
Among my firearms, I have several rifles that are tackdrivers. Then there’s my dog-ugly, but nearly-new No. 4 Enfield. It’s not super-accurate and certainly no beauty. But for some reason, I can’t bear to part with it. So, it remains in my collection, getting shot once a year or so. Something I can’t define makes it a favorite, and I guess that will just have to suffice.
I have one last thing to say. Two years ago, I was recovering from a serious illness that brought me pretty close to the brink. I still had a drain in my pancreas, and there was an undiscovered hernia festering in me that wouldn’t surface until the night I was due to fly to the 2011 SHOT Show. My eyesight was degraded from dehydration and serious anemia, plus I was suffering from undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes. In short, it was a bad time.
You readers banded together and supported Edith and me for the long months it took to get through this tunnel of horrors. You put up with a lot, and we owe all of you a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid. For what you all did for us, we are very thankful.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, I’ll venture into an area where style and function can clash violently. Also, because every person is built differently, the things I say will not apply equally to all people. That is not to say they are untrue or vague enough to just be opinions; but because of differences in our bodies, each of us will have slightly different needs, and sometimes they won’t even be that slight!
As most countries do, the United States has a rich tradition of fielding infantry rifles with “one size fits none” stocks. I could criticize all of the Mosin Nagants or the K31 Schmidt-Rubin rifle of Switzerland, but I don’t need to look any farther than the dear old M1903A3 that was the last gasp of the famous Springfield rifle used at the start of World War II. The pull of this rifle is a ridiculous 12-3/4 inches in length that guaranteed to sock anyone in the kisser when the big round goes off. As if that weren’t enough, the stock also drops away from your face steeply to get a running start at your cheek when the recoil begins!
Even men of very small stature find the Springfield stock uncomfortably short. The spin doctors at the arsenal dreamed up an excuse: “The stock is designed for men wearing field jackets and winter uniforms.” Ha, ha!
[Parenthetically, I will say that two vintage U.S. battle rifles have had stocks of decent proportions -- the 1917 Enfield (the American Enfield) and the Garand. Both have acceptable pull lengths and good pistol grips. The Enfield's comb is a little low, but overall, it's a rifleman's stock. The Garand is as close to stock perfection as the United States ever came in the 20th century -- in my opinion. That's in spite of having a short pull of 13 inches.]
The Soviets said their Mosin stock had its short pull because “The Soviet Union is comprised of many different countries with soldiers of widely varying stature. The rifle was designed to fit as many different men as possible.” Again — ha, ha!
Why the Swiss skimped on the length of their buttstocks and dropped their combs so low is a mystery to me, because they do not have nearly the problem the Sovs did with ethnic differences. In sharp contrast to the too-short K31, their model 1911 rifle had a stock of more correct proportions.
What these nations really mean is that they build their battle rifles on a budget, and the bean counters thought the savings of an inch or two of wood, spread over millions of stocks, was worth it. Besides, making soldiers miserable is a time-honored right of passage.
Good stock equals reduced recoil
When I bought a German-made Mark V .270 Weatherby Magnum rifle for hunting, I was prepared to be laid low by the recoil. I had recently suffered with a Remington 788 in .308 Winchester caliber that about knocked me flat every time it went off. So, imagine my shock to discover that the Weatherby, with its more powerful belted magnum cartridge, did not kick as hard as the Remington! It actually kicked a lot harder, but the straight lines of the Weatherby stock coupled with the very shallow slant toward the butt kept the comb firmly in contact with my cheek the entire time. The rifle didn’t have the opportunity to get a running start at my face when it went off. I wound up loving the gentle Weatherby that others, who don’t know it, regard as a monster!
I was about 24 years old when this discovery took place, and that was when I started paying attention to the shape and size of rifle stocks. I found that I liked a pull (the distance from the center of the butt to the center of the trigger blade) of 14-3/4 inches, which is a tad longer than most other men my size (5′11″ at the time). I guess my arms and neck were a little longer than the norm for my height.
What I’m trying to tell you is that you may not have the same body dimensions as me, but we will both do better with a stock that is straight versus one that drops low at the toe. And we will also do better with a stock that has the right length of pull for our frames — whatever that may be.
Correct length of pull is hard to measure
There’s an old method of measuring the correct length of pull on a rifle. The butt is rested on the crook of your arm and the trigger is supposed to come about halfway up your index finger when the finger points straight up.
This is the traditional way people measure the correct length of pull on a rifle. It works after a fashion, but only by holding the rifle offhand will you know for sure.
Hooey! This old method is ingrained into most shooters at a tender age, but I find it often doesn’t work. A better way to find the right length of pull is to shoulder the rifle and see how easily your trigger finger finds the trigger blade and your hand finds the pistol grip.
What fits feels good
Blog reader Kevin Lentz once asked me if I’d ever had a rifle whose stock fit me well. He knows that because I test so many different air rifles all the time that chances are that most of them don’t quite fit me. I answered him that my Weatherby was the best-fitting rifle I ever owned, and he understood — because he also owns a Mark V Weatherby in .300 Weatherby Magnum.
As far as airguns go, the TX200 fits about as well as a Weatherby. It has a very vertical pistol grip that invites a good hold, and the flat forearm helps stabilize the heavy rifle. The butt drops a bit far, but the TX recoils so soft that it doesn’t matter.
So, where does this leave us? Well, if we know that length of pull and the drop of the stock are important, it seems that we should be able to design stocks that fit us well. Enter the Air Venturi Bronco!
Air Venturi Bronco
Several years ago, I became exasperated by all the air rifles that were near-misses for stock fit, as far as I was concerned. I knew from conversations with other airgunners that what the world really wanted was another Diana 27. But Diana only wanted to make powerful spring rifles that were hard to cock.
The other airgun many shooters wanted was the Beeman R7, but for one-third the current price — the old five-cent cigar thing. There were long debates on this blog about whether this or that HW30 was equivalent to the R7. Remember that?
One day, I was sharing my feelings with the president of Pyramyd Air. I lamented that a company like Mendoza that made accurate barrels and good triggers didn’t have a nice youth airgun we could sell. That was when he told me that they did, indeed, have a youth airgun, but that it was too ugly to sell. I asked him to send me his sample, and a few days later I had it in my hands. It was called the Bronco. [Note from Edith: I always thought Tom made up that name. Now, I find out he didn't. What other things is he taking credit for that are not deserved?] It was exactly what I was looking for, only it had a stock so ugly that you needed a tetanus shot just to hold it!
The Bronco was an RM10-barreled action in a stock that had a huge kidney-shaped cutout in the butt. It was a stock by Salvador Dali that could only exist in an acid-trip fantasy, yet Mendoza had somehow managed to turn it out for real. The pull was just over 10 inches, as I recall.
Remembering the success of the Beeman C1 carbine, I suggested to Pyramyd Air that we have a stockmaker build a Western-style stock and that we make other changes to the powerplant at the same time. I was tasked with getting the stock made, and I found a custom stockmaker to do the work. We produced a stock in American maple that had a strawberry blonde finish and a 14-3/4 inch pull. I fell in love with it; but when we discussed the project at Pyramyd Air, we decided the stock had to be shorter to accommodate older kids and adults, alike. We settled on a 12-3/4-inch pull. The blonde finish was kept, though many people disliked it.
Mendoza took the sample we sent them and produced a gun for us to examine. A couple small changes were made to that prototype, and we were done! The result is the Air Venturi Bronco that you see today.
What’s good about the Bronco is that the comb is high without needing a Monte Carlo profile or a raised cheekpiece. It comes up to the shoulder fast and naturally for most shooters, and the sights are right in line with your eyes when your head is erect. Also, you don’t have to hold your head in a different place to use a scope. That’s the advantage of a straight-line stock that has very little drop at the toe.
The classic stock
Many times, I’ve mentioned the classic stock in the past. What is it? What makes it classic?
A classic stock is one that has a straight comb with no Monte Carlo profile. The stock line is very straight, so the toe doesn’t dip very low. That allows the recoil to be transmitted in a straight line instead of in a downward angle when it first comes back, then it rotates off the shoulder to rise upward and hit your cheek.
A classic stock has a pistol grip in a place where you can grasp it when holding the rifle to your shoulder. Many larger air rifle stocks, such as the one on the Hatsan Torpedo 155, have pistol grips — but their proportions are too large for 95 percent of the population, with the result that the shooter cannot grasp the grip when holding the gun normally. The grip is set too far to the rear and out of reach for most people. A TX200, in contrast, has a pistol grip in exactly the place where most shooters’ hands expect it to be. The result is that the rifle seems to fit better and is easier to hold, even if the shooter isn’t aware of the reasons why.
Perhaps the best example of a classic air rifle stock I can give you is the wood stock that comes on the RWS Diana 34 breakbarrel. There’s no Monte Carlo comb and the pistol grip is in pretty much the right place.
For an even better example of a classic stock done right, you need look no farther than the Ruger M77 rifle. While their pistol grips come back a bit too far, these stocks are about the best ones on today’s market. Sako of Finland is another maker that had a remarkable line of good stocks in decades past; and in recent times, they’ve taken the classic proportions and put them into synthetic stocks. And I must include the iconic Winchester model 70 in the small list of classics.
A classic stock does not have a thumbhole. Instead, the pistol grip is proportioned so well that it feels good in the hand. I personally don’t like thumbhole stocks because they usually prevent my thumb from being placed where I like it. On the whole, I do find that most thumbhole stocks fit better than most non-thumbhole stocks. That’s because most of those stocks without thumbholes are cut with the wrong angles and proportions.
A Western-style stock like the one found on the Bronco and the Walther Lever Action rifle is not a classic rifle stock. The straight wrist isn’t as easy to hold as a well-formed pistol grip. But the Western-style stock does fit more people better, because there are so many classic-cut stocks that miss the mark.
The bottom line
I wrote this article for those new airgunners who are researching airguns to buy right now. The size and shape of the stock plays an important part in how well your gun will fit; and that, in turn, affects how much you enjoy shooting it. Don’t just buy an airgun based on the velocity, because that will lead you astray. Unless the gun also fits you and feels good, it will not do well in your hands.
If you don’t know how different guns feel, you might try visiting a gun store or pawn shop and try a few different rifles for their fit. Your friends may have different guns than you do…so try on some of those to see which ones fit you better. Yes, you can even try firearms and transfer their fit over to air rifles. If you have no other frame of reference, this will at least give you a starting point. And don’t forget to read everything you can about the fit of a good rifle, because this is an area that will never stand out but will make a big difference in how much you like or dislike a particular rifle.
Every airgun show is unique. I’ve said that many times before, but it’s always true — and this one was no different. What I look for when I try to describe an airgun show is how it stood out from all the others. That’s what I’ll do today.
An airgun show is small, in comparison to0 a regular gun show, but there are more airguns on a single table then you’ll see at most big gun shows. And the guns range from inexpensive Daisys and Crosmans to then most exotic airguns imaginable. So go to gun shows for and crowded aisles, but to airgun shows to find airguns.
I didn’t get away from my table for the first half of the first day. When I finally did, the show immediately began to reveal itself. It was jam-packed with big bore air rifles! I mean jammed! Dennis Quackenbush and Eric Henderson are always the mainstays of the show; but this time I met Robert Vogel, whose business is Mr. Hollowpoint. Robert casts each bullet by hand from lead as pure as he can make it. His bullets mushroom on game perfectly and rip huge holes in living flesh, making the most humane kills possible. I bought a bag of 68-grain .308-caliber hollowpoints for the Quackenbush .308 test I’m conducting, and he threw in a second bag of .22 pellets for free. These will have a special debut in a smallbore test in the near future.
Robert Vogel (standing) is Mr. Hollowpoint. He has thousands of different bullets for big bore shooters to try.
But Mr. Hollowpoint wasn’t the only bullet maker at the show. Seth Rowland, the show’s host and promoter, also supplies the big bore airgunning community with cast bullets in numerous sizes and shapes. And their customers can hardly appreciate the untold hours they spend at the lead pot, casting and sizing these silver slugs one by one.
Need bullets? Seth Rowland has them in different sizes, shapes and weights.
Another theme that’s common to all airgun shows is 10-meter target guns. This year’s Arkansas show had plenty of them, both from dealers like Scott Pilkington of Pilkington Competition Equipment in Tennessee, as well as numerous private individuals. I mentioned several weeks ago that Mac was bringing some recently overhauled FWB rifles to this show, and on day one an interested buyer sought him out. This man was serious about buying a target rifle, and he had done his research on the internet. But this was the first time he’d seen, felt and shot these rifles.
Mac took him out to the shooting range to try out an FWB 150 and a 300; and from his testing, he decided the 300 was the gun he wanted. Because it lacks the barrel jacket, it’s lighter than a standard 300S. He was buying the rifle for his wife to shoot in competition. They made a deal, and he went home with the exact target rifle he wanted — an overhauled ex-club rifle at a price that was several hundred dollars below what he would have paid for a gamble on the internet. For this man, driving all the way to Arkansas made good sense.
I’m sure that same scenario was played out numerous times at this show, because that’s what happens at an airgun show that also has a shooting range. You get to try out the guns before you buy — something that’s impossible at a regular gun show.
The odd and wonderful
You never know what you’re going to see at one of these shows, but there are a few people who always seem to have interesting things. Larry Hannusch, the top airgun writer for the past 30 years, is one person who can always surprise you. This year, our tables were together, giving me the opportunity to look at his guns more closely than normal. He had a Crosman 113 bulk-fill CO2 rifle, which isn’t unusual, except the owner of this one had inlet a pellet box into the right side of the stock — much like the patchbox found on certain muzzleloading rifles.
Some owner made this patchbox in the stock of his Crosman 113 bulk-fill rifle.
He built the “patchbox” with a built-in spring. There were pellets inside.
When was the last time you saw one of these? A French ball-flask pistol from the 1700s.
The big find
Often there will be a big find of some certain airgun that shows up at a particular show. I remember one year someone was selling piles of brand-new-in-the-box S&W 78G and 79G pistols. There were at least 50, but as my memory serves there might have been as many as 100 brand-new guns that were at least 20 years old at the time. Another year, it was Scott Pilkington who brought almost 300 club target guns for sale. You could buy an FWB 300 for $150-$200! Of course, it would have been a beater and would have needed to be resealed, but it certainly was the budget way into a 10-meter gun.
Then there was the year that someone had over 20 Johnson Target Guns, the submachinegun-looking plastic catapult BB gun from the late 1940s. They were all new in the box, and the cloth backstop that was in the box to stop the BBs inside the box lid that also served as a backstop had turned to dust. But they were complete. To collectors, they were a wonderful find. I actually saw two of these at this year’s Arkansas show; so even after more than 10 years, they’re still slowly dissolving into the collector population.
Two brand-new Johnson Target Guns in the box with all the literature and accessories.
When I walked into the second large room in this show and turned the corner, I ran into Randy Mitchell’s booth, where he was selling a pile of recently discovered TS45 sidelever air rifles for $20 each! I blogged this rifle several years ago, and Vince also wrote a guest blog about the same rifle. Until now, there were no new guns you could buy. You had to find one by chance and would always be one somebody had owned and possibly modified. Now, Randy Mitchell, who runs his Adventures in Airguns store, has a huge pile of these rifles to sell. They aren’t very safe and are the very guns that chopped off thumbs when their anti-beartraps failed; but if you cock them safely and load while restraining the sidelever, they’re fun to shoot and are often accurate.
Randy Mitchell found these old/new TS45 sidelevers and brought them to the show. It’s stuff like this that keeps me going to every airgun show I can make!
Of course, there are too many modern guns to name here, but know that at any show you’ll find almost every modern classic airgun for sale. If you’re looking for good TX200s or old R7s, they’re usually available — and they were at this show, too. But what you also see are airguns that are so rare and hard to find that some of them won’t even be seen in airgun books. This yearm Ingvar Alm had both a Winsel CO2 pistol in the box and a Giffard CO2 pistol from the 1870s on his table. Giffard invented the application of CO2 for gun use, and Winsel made only 50 guns in the early 1950s. Neither gun is represented well in any airgun book I know.
The Winsel pistol was a bulk-filled CO2 pistol that required the owner to mail his tank back to the company to be filled. Yeah, that’s going to work! They made 50 and quit. Today, they’re a prized collectible.
Giffard pioneered the use of CO2 in guns in the 1870s. His pistols are many times rarer than his rifles. The empty pop bottle is for contrast — like Cindy Crawford’s mole.
There were more big bores at this show than I see at other shows. Perhaps, that’s because the focus of big bore airgunning seems to center around Texas, where the LASSO match is held. Dennis Quackenbush delivered his guns to eager buyers, but the only rifle he had to show was his own .308, which he doesn’t want to sell. Eric Henderson and Big Bore Bob Dean were both there with some guns to sell, as well as Robert Vogel. But the one maker with a lot of guns on display was Jack Haley, whose table was a rainbow of laminated stocks.
Jack Haley’s table was a colorful display of big bore rifles.
Then there was the big bore that has been a joke in the airgun community for many years. The gun itself is fine. It was made back in the 1980s by Ben Patron, whose name is clearly on the side of the receiver. Somewhere along the line, some person got ahold of it and displayed it at the Springfield, Missouri, gun show as a “U.S. military .50-caliber sniper air rifle.” The label for that display was still inside the guitar box that held the gun, and Dennis Quackenbush remembers seeing it at the Springfield show. After that, it somehow ended up in an Arkansas pawn shop where Big Bore Bob found it and bought it.
Some previous owner had concocted a colorful background story for the Patron big bore of the 1980s.
Many shows have a drawing, but airgun shows are so lightly attended that you actually have a chance of winning! This year, they gave away several very nice prizes at the close of the show, including a scoped TalonP pistol from AirForce! Then came the drawing for the frame-extended silencer for the Talon SS. I knew before the little girl picked my ticket that I would win it. How ironic is that? I’m testing a Talon SS with a bloop tube right now, so of course I’m going to win another one! But the supreme irony came when Randy Mitchell, a big bore hunter, won the .50-caliber Dragon Claw donated by Pyramyd Air.
Randy Mitchell (right) won the Dragon Claw. Show host, Seth Rowland, standing, ran the drawing. The young lady added a lot of sparkle and enthusiasm to the show. I see an airgunner in the making!
On the trip home, Mac and I relived the show many times. That’s another benefit. I can remember snippets from most past shows, and this one will now be filed away in the library.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, we begin our look at the accuracy of the legendary TX200 Mark III. Since the rifle has no sights, I mounted a Hawke 4.5-14×42 Sidewinder Tactical scope in two-piece UTG Accushot 30mm medium rings. These rings are tall for a medium-height ring, but the TX200 cheekpiece is so high that many higher rings will be just right and fit the shooter perfectly. I know they come very close to a perfect fit for me, and the 42mm objective bell still clears the spring tube by a lot.
I’m showing a photo of the rifle with the scope mounted because you’ll see that the end of the scope hangs over the back of the loading port. In a TX200, that isn’t a problem unless you have summer sausages for fingers, because the loading port is very large — but on other underlevers and some sidelevers it may be. The Hawke is not a long scope, so this clearance is something a new TX owner needs to consider.
What pellets to shoot?
This question is the one every shooter asks whenever they get a new gun — air or firearm. I have a lot of history with this rifle, but in the time since I last shot it many good pellets have come to the forefront. The JSB Exact RS is just one example. I know that Crosman Premier 7.9-grain domed pellets are averaging 958 f.p.s. in my rifle, and that means the lighter 7.3-grain JSB Exact RS will probably top 1,000 f.p.s. Six months ago, that might have turned me off; but after the exciting 11-part “Pellet velocity versus accuracy test” proved that harmonics and not velocity is what causes inaccuracy, I see no reason not to try a faster pellet.
I sighted in with Beeman Kodiaks, just because I used to shoot them in my other TX for field target, and they always worked well. But in reviewing my past reports, I see that this will be the first time I’ve shot 10-shot groups for a report. What a difference that makes!
Naturally, group one was with the Kodiaks. I had hoped to shoot around my aim point, but as you’ll see, that didn’t happen. The group may be a trifle larger than it should be, because for the last four shots I was guessing where to put the crosshairs.
Notice how round the group is? Actually only the first shot went low and right — the rest made that small hole you see. And that was exactly where the aim point was, so after six pellets there was nothing to guide on. Nine of the ten pellets went into a group measuring 0.302 inches!
Next, I tried 10.34-grain JSB Exact Heavies. Often, I get the best results with this pellet in an accurate .177 rifle. Ten shots in the TX made a group that measures 0.523 inches. Let’s see what that looks like.
Next, I tried the light JSB Exact RS pellet. The point of impact shifted up about an inch, and the group opened to 0.687 inches. It’s still fairly round, but more open than the first two by a lot. The RS probably isn’t the pellet for this TX.
Then, I tried 10 Crosman Premier lites, just to see what they would do. They made a pleasing group that measures 0.559 inches between centers.
By this time, I was remembering everything I liked about a TX200. For one thing, it’s not at all sensitive to the hold. In fact, this is one of the very few spring-piston air rifles that can be shot while rested directly on a sandbag. To demonstrate that, I shot 10 more Premier lites with the rifle rested on the bag. I had run out of targets on this sheet, so I used a single pellet hole for my aim point. Ten shots went into a group measuring 0.414 inches between centers — the smallest group of the entire session!
Ten 7.9-grain Crosman Premier pellets made this 0.414-inch group at 25 yards when the rifle was rested directly on a sandbag. The hole at the 7 o’clock position and outside the group was the aim point and is not a part of this group.
The bottom line
I hope this test demonstrates the accuracy potential of the TX200. Also, I hope you appreciate how important it is that the rifle isn’t sensitive to hold. It will make a better shooter of almost anyone! Of course, I used the very best scope I have for this test; but besides that, nothing special was done. I didn’t even use a scope level.
Have you noticed how similar in size all the groups seem to be? The rifle seems to like a lot of different pellets. That’s another plus, and a good reason why this rifle is worth the price.
I love this rifle because it doesn’t fight me. I can relax almost as though I was shooting an accurate PCP. And I’ve adjusted the trigger to such a fine point that it doesn’t disturb the finest aim when it’s pulled. No wonder I compare other spring rifles to this one!
We now have a baseline for the TX200; so when the Benjamin MAV 77 becomes available, we can compare it.
by B.B. Pelletier
Let’s look at the velocity of my .177-caliber TX200 Mark III. My gun is more than a decade old, and it didn’t always perform like it does today. When it was new, it was 60-70 f.p.s. slower than what you’ll see today; but as I shot it over time, the rifle broke in and became faster. This gun is still in its original factory tune. It hasn’t been shot that much — perhaps 2,000 shots or so since new. I was no longer competing with a spring-piston rifle in field target when I got this one, so it sat around a lot. In fact, I think most of its life has been spent in tests like this one.
In the description in Part 1, I forgot to mention that the pistol grip of the stock is shaped for either right or left hands. You must buy the specific stock you need. It has a swell that fills your palm as you hold the rifle, and Air Arms made the grip fit well for most shooters. The grip is very vertical, which is perfect for a target-type trigger because it allows the best control over the trigger-pull.
I also didn’t mention the latch that holds the underlever. I have seen everything from a complicated spring-loaded catch that has to be pulled back or pushed forward to release the lever, to a friction fit that can wear out and drop the lever at the wrong time. The TX200 has a spring-loaded ball bearing that holds the underlever tight, yet releases it easily when you pinch between the barrel and lever with your fingers. It is the best underlever latch I’ve seen. The only thing better is using over-center geometry to eliminate the need for the latch altogether.
My TX200 cocks with 34 lbs. of effort. Cocking is smooth, and the three detents that hold the sliding compression chamber don’t start catching until the last part of the cocking arc. The rifle is agreeably quiet when cocked, yet also reasonably safe from a beartrap accident, where the sear slips and the compression chamber slams forward on fingers that are loading pellets.
Another thing I’ve been adamant about is the superb trigger on the TX. In Part, 1 I showed a schematic of the trigger and the adjustment screws. I have mine set for a long first stage (which I like), and a second stage that releases at 9 OUNCES! I believe Paul Watts is able to tune a Rekord trigger this light, but not too many other people are. And all I did with this one was adjust the stage one and stage two trigger screws! It was nothing special.
There’s also a trigger-pull weight adjustment screw located behind the trigger blade. You can lower or increase the trigger-pull weight with this screw, though the limits on both ends are finite. However, look again at what I have been able to achieve and see if that isn’t what you want.
Jerry, how about taking a stab at adjusting your trigger and telling us what you discover?
The first pellet I tried was the Beeman Kodiak that weighs 10.2 grains. They average 842 f.p.s. with a 10 f.p.s. spread from 837 to 847. At the average velocity, they generate 16.06 foot-pounds. I felt a slight buzzing at the end of the shot cycle, which is very unusual for this rifle, so I think these may be a bit too heavy for the powerplant. They’re very accurate, however.
Next, I tested the time-honored Crosman Premier 7.9-grain domed pellet. They averaged 958 f.p.s., with a spread from 952 to 967 f.p.s. The shot cycle smoothed out with these, and they felt great! At the average velocity, they generate 16.1 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.
The final pellet I tried was the 8.4-grain JSB Exact. They fit the breech loosely and also varied a lot in size (from the feel at loading). They averaged 918 f.p.s., but the spread went from 897 to 929 f.p.s. Compared to the other two pellets, that’s large. At the average velocity, this pellet generates 15.72 foot-pounds at the muzzle.
My rifle is stronger!
This is hard to believe, but my rifle is even stronger than it was the last time I tested it in 2006. Then, it shot Premier Lites at an average 933 f.p.s., with a 19 f.p.s. spread and delivering 15.27 foot-pounds. It’s increased 0.80 foot-pounds over the past six years — mostly while lying dormant in my closet! But it’s not going to be dormant for long, because we’re going to see at least one accuracy test — and maybe two — from this air rifle.
As I mentioned in Part 1, one of our new readers — Jerry — recently bought a TX200 MK III. I saw it at the LASSO big bore shoot, and Jerry let me shoot it. The rifle is gorgeous, and today Jerry has been kind enough to submit a couple pictures to show us what he received. He bought the walnut stock on the advice of many, both for the looks and for the lighter weight. Here, now, is Jerry’s new rifle.
I said in Part 1 that the barrel is nine inches long. That was a mistake. It’s just over 13 inches — a fact I confirmed by measuring mine. The TX200 Hunter Carbine has the shorter barrel. I tested one of those and didn’t care for the extra effort it takes to cock because the underlever is shorter than the one on the standard TX200. But the Hunter Carbine develops the same power as the larger rifle.
I’m going to mount my best scope on the rifle for the next test. Hoo-boy!
by B.B. Pelletier
I’ve reviewed this rifle before, but it’s been a long time and many of you are asking about it again, plus I’m going to look at the Benjamin MAV 77 later this year, and I promised a comparison with this rifle. So, for those reasons, I decided that it’s time to look at the Air Arms TX200 Mark III, again.
Some of you may know that Bill Sanders, the managing director of Air Arms, passed away recently. Bill was very uncharacteristically enthusiastic about all the guns he made. I say that because most principals in this industry are not shooters, nor do they own the guns they make. But Bill did, and he also knew how to use them. Maybe that’s why, in the more than 20 years the TX has been around, the quality has only gone up.
The TX200 came about in the late 1980s as an improvement on the design of the HW77, which was considered the best spring rifle around at the time. The first model was simply called the TX200. But after several years, Air Arms added a ratcheting catch to hold the sliding compression chamber from slamming closed during loading. That rifle was called the Mark II. I bought one and competed with it in field target for a couple of years, until I switched over to a PCP. My rifle was tuned first by Jim Maccari and then by Ken Reeves so I could write about each of the tunes. In truth, the TX was pretty smooth right out of the box, but the Reeves tune did make it just a bit smoother.
When the TX200 Mark III came out, I bought one to test for The Airgun Letter. I found that rifle to be just as smooth as the Reeves-tuned Mark II, plus it had a shrouded 9-inch barrel, which made it very quiet, to boot. I didn’t need two perfect guns, and the Mark II was sold. I still have the Mark III, which is the gun I’m testing for you here.
I recently had the opportunity to shoot a brand-new Mark III, and I see that the performance and looks of the gun are unchanged, except for better checkering on the new model. Instead of diamonds, they now have a fish-scale pattern that usually comes only on very costly guns.
Hump-backed look for high-tech design
When Beeman Precision Airguns started selling TX200 air rifles in the U.S., the first thing I noticed was that the rifle had a definite hump-backed profile. Why? Remember I said the barrel is 9 inches long? Guess what? All the science you have been reading about on this blog really works. And Air Arms applied it to its maximum in the TX200.
They put the center of the barrel in the center of the compression chamber, so the air transfer port aligns with the bore. That gives the most efficient airflow, but it also means the barrel, which is a smaller diameter than the spring tube, has to be mounted lower than the top of the spring tube. Hence, the hump-backed profile. Study the first photo, and you’ll see what I mean. Look at the place where the barrel connects to the spring tube. On most other guns, they’re level.
A 9-inch barrel prevents friction from slowing the pellet after it’s accelerated to maximum velocity. A spring-piston gun develops maximum velocity in the first 6-9 inches of barrel. After that, the pellet is just coasting. The baffled shroud that houses the short barrel is much longer and gives the appearance of a bull barrel, hence the barrel length is often listed as longer than it really is.
Air Arms has used everything that’s known about spring-piston guns to wring the maximum performance from a relatively short stroke and small piston bore. They do it without fanfare, but anyone who works on spring guns knows what they’ve done.
The TX200 Mark III is an underlever spring-piston rifle that has a sliding compression chamber. The chamber slides back, giving access to the rear of the barrel for loading. Then it slides forward again, once the anti-beartrap latch is held down. The old Mark II has many stops in the ratchet, causing it to click loudly when cocked. Shooters objected to that noise. The Mark III has just three notches and is much quieter.
All metal parts, except the trigger and safety button, are highly polished and deeply blued, resulting in one of the finest finishes in the airgun world. The standard stock is beech, but the wood is shaped very sharply for either a right- or left-handed shooters. No compromise here. Fish-scale checkering roughens both grip panels and the forearm. The optional walnut stock is a good choice because it subtracts weight from the gun as well as adding interest. Blog reader Jerry got a walnut stock on his TX, and it looks very similar to the rifle pictured above.
The long lever, located behind the silver sliding compression chamber, is the beartrap release. After cocking, this lever is held down to close the sliding chamber, as the cocking lever returns to the stored position.
The TX trigger is not just an improved Rekord, it’s a new design that offers greater flexibility when adjusting, so you can get the pull weight and release down to a finer, lighter value than with a standard Rekord.
Years ago when Ivan Hancock was still building airguns, I bought one of his Mach II trigger, which are handmade copies of the TX trigger to replace the Rekord unit in my Beeman R1. That trigger cost half as much as the entire rifle, but it was very finely adjustable. The current trigger in my TX200 is the standard one that comes with the rifle, yet it’s just as fine. When I report on its performance, I think you’ll be surprised.
Several “truths” negated
The success of the TX200 reminds me of a friend who built engines for Formula Vee racing. Those cars look like Formula 1 racers, but they’re much slower. However, this builder’s engines were always in demand because they out-performed the others. Everybody was always looking for his “secret.” The secret, of course, was that there was no secret! What he did was pay scrupulous attention to detail when building his engines. All parts were balanced to the last gram, and all tolerances and torque specifications were followed. The engines were what racers refer to as blueprinted, and that, alone, gave them their edge.
Well, you may think of a TX200 as an air rifle that’s been blueprinted. The piston isn’t wide and the stroke isn’t long, yet the rifle develops remarkable velocity. The trigger appears dirt-simple, yet it can out-perform so-called “target” triggers in much more expensive guns. The mainspring isn’t under much pre-tension, yet the rifle doesn’t buzz when it shoots. Everything is just right.
Rolls Royce is the standard by which all cars are compared, and the TX200 is the standard for spring-piston air rifles. Even when the Whiscombe was being made, I used to say that the TX200 was its equal for accuracy.
Yes, this air rifle is heavy. Especially the model with the beech stock. But for its purpose, which is field target first and hunting second, the weight is ideal because it promotes stability.
It’s hard to cock!
It will seem hard to cock a TX if you’re used to a smaller rifle like a Diana 27. But compared to the current magnums, the TX cocks easily. How it feels depends on your experience. I’ll publish the cocking effort of mine in Part 2.
It has been several years since I shot my TX, so this is a chance to get behind the trigger, again. I expect to find a pellet that will give around 1/4- to 1/3-inch 10-shot groups at 25 yards. That’s a tall order for any spring gun, but we shall see!