Air Arms TX200: Part 1
by B.B. Pelletier
A light walnut stock is very handsome against the richly blued metal of the TX200.
There has been lots of interest in this report. So much has been requested that I will have to break it into two parts. Today, we'll look at the .177 TX200 Mark III.
The TX200 Mark III is the latest version of the underlever spring rifle that came to market in the early 1990s. It replaced a number of earlier Air Arms sidelever spring guns, such as the Bora, Camargue, Khamsin and Mistral. The first TX200 did not have a safe way to catch the sliding compression chamber. So, if it slipped off the sear while you were loading a pellet, you could lose fingers. The Mark II corrected this with the first ratcheting anti-beartrap catch positioned on the outside of the mainspring tube, but it ratcheted all the time the gun was cocked. Shooters thought it was too noisy, so they learned to hold the catch until the gun was almost cocked. The Mark III changed the ratchet so it only clicks a few times toward the end of the cocking stroke.
This view of the open breech of my TX shows the exposed barrel extending back (the silver tube at the upper right) and the anti-beartrap latch (center of picture) that must be depressed and held when closing the breech.
The big change in the Mark III is the baffled barrel. Although the outside of the barrel appears to be about 14" long, (and Air Arms says the barrel is 357mm, which is just over 14") the actual length of the rifled Lothar Walther tube is under 10". What appears to be the barrel on the outside is a hollow steel tube with baffles in it to muffle the sound of the report. The real barrel is housed inside this tube. The shooter will not be able to hear a noise reduction because the sound of the action travels through the bones in his face, but bystanders will notice that the rifle is quieter than most spring guns of equal power. The Mark II version had an exposed steel barrel with no baffling. The value of this sound reduction is small, since the TX is a quiet springer to begin with, but it is executed quite well and looks great.
Mark III is the latest!
You will hear American shooters refer to a Mark IV and especially a Mark V TX200, but these are not factory models. They are the products of aftermarket customization by American custom tuner Jim Maccari, who gave them those designations. The Mark III is the very latest model from the factory and has been around for several years.
The rifle is an underlever spring rifle with a sliding compression chamber. As the underlever is retracted all the way, the compression chamber slides back to expose the rear of the barrel. You reach in and load the pellet directly into the breech. It's a little tight for large fingers, so most shooters develop a loading technique. I like to hold the rifle butt on my leg and load with the muzzle sticking nearly straight up. I've learned how to hold the pellet so it enters the breech nose-first, and I find it easy to load the rifle. But it did take some learning! You will notice that the TX seems to have a pronounced hump where the barrel meets the breech. That's because they aligned the bore with the center of the piston, so the compressed air flows straight ahead. On most underlevers and nearly all breakbarrels, the transfer port is drilled on an upward angle to correct for the offset of the bore and compression chamber. Many experts believe that the Air Arms design increases efficiency.
What makes the TX200 worth so much?
Good question. When a Gamo CF-X sells for about $200, why does a TX200 cost $479, more than twice as much? I can't answer that question completely, but I can show you all the features the TX has that the CF-X lacks.
First, the metal finish of a TX is at the top of current spring rifles. The CF-X is somewhere slightly below the middle. Next, the woodwork is very nice. I own the beech version, though I have also owned walnut TXs. The shaping of the stock is perfect for a shooter, in that everything fits as it should. This is also a strong point of the CF-X, so the TX isn't that far ahead of it, however the checkering on the TX is laser-cut and near-perfect. It's just a little slippery. Third, the internal powerplant parts are fitted much closer in the TX. When you shoot, the feeling is very dead - exactly like a tuned gun. The CF-X is good for a Gamo, but it's not in the same class as the TX. I will call the TX's beartrap safety catch a wash, because the rotary breech on the CF-X negates it. Finally, there is the trigger. The TX200 trigger works like a custom-tuned Rekord trigger, while the Gamo trigger is Third World. It does get better with time, but it will never become a TX trigger. The trigger, stock fit and better firing behavior combine to make shooting a TX200 a rewarding experience. I would call shooting the CF-X a surprising experience, because the rifle performed better than I thought any Gamo could, but it is not in the same class as the TX200.
When you retract the cocking lever of the Gamo, the mechanism is relatively quiet. When you cock the TX200, it is absolutely silent. This difference is brought to you by the better-fitting powerplant parts. The Gamo cocks with little effort. The TX200 requires more effort, but it is progressive - coming at that point in the cocking stroke where you have the most power to give.
Power is roughly the same
If one gun has an edge, it's the TX200. Mine gets about 30 f.p.s. higher velocity than the Gamo with the same Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellet. However, I must point out that my TX has 6,000 to 10,000 shots on it, while the CF-X I'm testing has only a few hundred. According to the Air Arms website, the TX200 in .177 is supposed to be a 17.5 foot-pound gun. That would be a 7.9-grain Crosman Premier traveling 999 f.p.s. That would be way too fast for good accuracy, so thankfully the rifle doesn't live up to it. My gun delivers about 960 with a 7.9-grain Premier, which is 16.17 foot-pounds. That's more like it, and even then a trifle too fast.
I don't like to compare one airgun to another, but in this instance so many of you CF-X owners are thinking about getting a TX200 that I have to compare these two. If I owned a CF-X (the one I'm testing is just on loan), I would keep it. I think it's a classic airgun worthy of a spot in my collection. However, I would shoot the TX200 over the CF-X almost every time. It's that much nicer, in my opinion. I have owned both an HW 77 and an HW 97. The TX beats them both - even though my 77 was a tuned gun with superior performance.
I've not yet addressed the TX200SR, a recoilless version of the rifle that's no longer made, nor the TX200 Hunter Carbine, an alternative model that is still available. I also have not commented on the .22-caliber version of the rifle. I will cover all of these things tomorrow.