by B.B. Pelletier
I’m taking a nostalgia trip today, looking at an American air pistol from the 1950s. The Hy-Score 800 is one of several airguns made by the Hy-Score firm, which also imported a great number of air pistols and rifles from Europe.
Hy-Score’s 800 is a classic air pistol with innovations seen nowhere else! The rear sight elevator is missing.
Designed & made in America!
The Hy-Score pistols of the 700- and 800-series are unique, in that they are the only adult spring pistols made in this country. And, they all have innovations galore, which we will explore today. Of all the pistols made, and hundreds of thousands were produced between 1947 and 1970, the model 800 is by far the most common – though you wouldn’t know it to look at the web auction sites. Dealers too young to remember when these guns were new have decided they MUST be rare and are starting their auctions with prices of $150 and more. At an airgun show, a good shooter brings $80, while one that’s NIB will fetch $175. Blue Book of Airguns says the range spans from $40 to $180, which is right on the money.
Model 700 was the first
Designed by Andrew Lawrence, the model 700 was the first iteration of the pistol. It was produced in 1947 only, and today commands about twice what an 800 brings. Also, the 700s don’t lose as much value as their condition deteriorates. If you’ve seen an 800, the 700 will look very familiar. The biggest differences were in the methods of manufacture, with the 700 being made more of solid steel and requiring more machining time. When held next to an 800, a 700 looks more substantial; but if there is no 800 around, you’d swear it was the same gun.
Model 800 (1948-1970)
The model 800 is made from materials that require less machine time – hence, the price could be held lower. Drawn tubing instead of machined steel was used for the powerplant housing. The piston was fitted around the rear of a very long 10.25″ barrel and used it as a spring guide. This design was borrowed from the British, who used it in several airguns, notably the Acvoke. The breech was accessed by a novel mechanism housed inside the swelling at the rear of the receiver. It acted something like a camera shutter and sealed the breech when closed. Twist in one direction to open for loading and back to close the breech. The gun was held with the muzzle pointed straight down to load, because the pellet had to drop through the loading port and into the back of the barrel.
Novel cocking, too
A latch unlocks the powerplant tube, allowing the shooter to lift it up and tilt it forward. A link in the frame drags the piston forward during this motion until the sear catches it. This is reminiscent of the Beeman P1 (HW45) cocking process. The trigger uses leverage to reduce the pull, but nothing reduces a rather long, creepy movement. It is certainly not a target trigger, despite the word “target” in the pistol’s name. There is no adjustment; by opening the gun a small amount, you do get a dry-fire capability.
Both calibers had adequate power
The first pistols used automotive-type piston rings. When these proved too unreliable, an O-ring was substituted. Hy-Score pistols develop velocity in the high 300 f.p.s. region in .22 caliber, which is all I ever tested. They do exist in .177 as well as a smoothbore for BBs. For the power potential of their mainspring, they were a little on the weak side. I’ve attribute that to the breech sealing mechanism.
A repeating mechanism was available on the model 802. It held the pellets inside the breech mechanism, and they rotated around to the loading port. When opened, the next pellet dropped into the breech if the pistol was held correctly.
Like the trigger, the available accuracy is not indicative of the word “target” on the box. I used to get 2.5″ groups at 10 meters. It’s a pretty poor pistol that can be beat by a Webley Senior – but the Hy-Score can.
More innovation: changeable barrels!
The model 803 Sportster is a short-barrelled single-shot with all three calibers as interchangeable barrels. They’re much more scarce and having one in the box with all the barrels and paper is a real find! A model 804 is the same gun with the repeating mechanism.
The Sportster model came with .177 and .22 rifled barrels and a smoothbore barrel for BBs. Though it looks short, the barrel extends all the way to the back of the pistol.
The last guns that were made have impressed engraving on their frames. All metal parts are well blued, and the Tenite plastic grips come in a variety of colors. The rear sight riser is pretty loose, and many guns will be missing it. Blue Book says they were also chromed, but I wonder if that should be nickelplated, instead. Chrome plating on guns is very rare and doesn’t look nearly as good as nickel, which has a slight golden cast to it.
If you want to own America’s only adult spring-pistol air pistol, this is the one to get.