by B.B. Pelletier
We’re talking about how long CO2 guns will last, and I said that the answer isn’t as straightforward as it was for spring guns. That’s because CO2 guns have used all sorts of construction methods in the 120 years that they’ve been produced. We left off with the guns of the 1950s, which was when some companies started to see how inexpensively they could build guns.
The 1960s bring more problems
Diecast metal continued into the 1960s, but it got stronger, and makers got smarter about designing the parts that use it. However, the problem of difficult machining is still very real. When a complex part breaks or wears out, it usually isn’t worth the effort to try to reproduce it in steel. This is now causing problems for aging Crosman 600 semiautomtic pistols that have a steel cam and a cast metal cam follower. If that follower breaks, it’s difficult to replace. And, the 600 is such a popular shooting gun that they’ll continue to wear out and fail at an accelerated pace until the gun is too rare to shoot.
In the late ’60s and through the ’70s, they started playing with new seal designs that arent traditional. The Daisy 100/200/300 falls into this category. When new, the guns worked fine. Once they start leaking, however, not even the maker would repair them. They’re wonderful fast-action semiautomatic BB guns with light triggers and great handling characteristics, and today they can be bought as parts by the pound at every airgun show. The problem with each one is always the seal, and they can’t be rebuilt, as far as I know of.
The ’80s are worse!
In the 1980s, some makers began substituting plastic for diecast metal. They reinforced the plastic with thin steel stampings at critical wear points, but the net result is that these guns don’t have a hopeful outlook for longevity.
In the late 1990s, we had yet another revolution – this time in the direction of quality, for a change. Umarex (Walther) began to produce the most realistic air pistols (and one replica air rifle) that had been seen in CO2 guns. They are diecast construction, but that technology has come a long way since 1950. However, the problem of specialized parts still remains. When a diecast part breaks, it is quite difficult to make unless the design is very simple. And the realism of the replicas goes against simplicity.
Guns built to last
CO2 target guns are built to last. They do have complex parts, but they’re mostly made of steel and therefore are easier to make. The receivers are machined from aluminum blocks and are complex, but receivers are usually not the parts that wear out and the seals are all straightforward.
Another kind of CO2 gun that will last is based on easily manufactured parts, such as Crosman’s 2240 pistol and 2260 rifle. The round tubing-based assemblies in these guns assures their longevity, as long as tubing continues to be made and lathes still work. A look at the success of the Crosman 160 and 150 pistol shows just how good this type of construction is. Even when the guns are originally made of some plastic parts, like both models just mentioned, someone with a lathe and mill can replicate those parts in steel to make the gun last indefinitely. The Chinese QB-78 follows in the 160’s footsteps, with interchangeable parts, making this family of guns virtually immortal.
Airgun makers such as Dennis Quackenbush and Gary Barnes work in steel (Barnes also uses aluminum) and make their parts on simple machines. That assures that their guns can be repaired for a long time to come.
The longevity question has many answers when it comes to CO2 guns. Unlike springers, CO2 guns have been made by many different methods, each of which carries it’s own genes for longevity.