How long will a CO2 airgun last? – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

How long will a spring airgun last?

This is the second in the series of how long airguns last. The first post dealt with spring guns, and we saw that they can last for centuries, with care. CO2 guns are different, though, and this post is larger to discuss all of them.

CO2 guns are different
CO2 guns span a wide range of construction methods, and some of the modern ones will be hard-pressed to last. Let’s start with the oldest types and work our way forward to the most modern guns, with observations on longevity along the way.

Giffard was first
Paul Giffard was the first successful maker of CO2 guns. In the 1880s, he converted some of his pneumatic guns to operate on carbonic gas (CO2) and began selling them in both 8mm and 6mm calibers. They had removable tanks that held enough liquid for 150 shots.

Giffard guns are still in operation today. All their seals have all been replaced. There’s a specialty aftermarket parts supply for them, but their owners don’t shoot the guns that often. It’s more of a “gee whiz” thing than an actual airgun in demand. But, the point is that the guns still work.

Swedish Excellent
In fact, Crosman was not really the second company to market CO2 guns. Sweden’s Excellent company made CO2 guns as early as 1909, and the Swedish military looked into their use as trainers in 1910! So, a lot of water passed under the bridge before Crosman began their experiments with the gas in the 1930s.

Crosman
When Crosman came on board, they made up for lost time. They had working gallery gas guns prior to World War II, but the war effort stopped the recreational airgun industry cold. The OSS purchase of several thousand Crosman pneumatics for use in Asia was the only significant wartime airgun contract they had.


Crosman CG was a gallery gun made to use WWII surplus CO2 tanks from large life rafts.

After the war was over, though, Crosman rebounded in a big way, and CO2 was at the forefront. Now, this post is about longevity, not the history of airguns, but the methods of construction in the 1940s and the early ’50s were not that much different than they were in Giffard’s day. Perhaps, they used some brass and aluminum instead of steel, but brass doesn’t corrode with water as easily as steel. It’s even better for a CO2 gun, where condensation is the name of the game. All those guns can be rebuilt today and will continue to function for hundreds of years. If they’re kept charged with CO2 all the time, they last for decades. to this point, CO2 guns are very long-lived.

The cheapening of the 1950s
In the ’50s, industry around the world was scrambling to make consumer products cheaper. That was when Daisy turned from wood to plastic and from blued steel to electrostatic paint. It was also the time when a number of small manufacturers decided to get into airguns, and they used modern production methods to lower their costs. The Schimel pistol will serve for this discussion. Schimel made guns with zinc diecast parts – what we call potmetal today. They are complex shapes that are difficult to machine. When one fails, making a replacement isn’t economically feasible.

A second problem zinc parts have is that they bond with other metals through electrolysis over time. So, there are Schimels that cannot be fully disassembled any longer. I’ve used Schimel as an illustration, but there are dozens of CO2 guns from this timeframe that are in the same boat.


The Schimel was made of cast zinc parts that lacked strength. Over the years, they’ve failed and/or welded to steel parts. Either way, the guns are next to impossible to repair if these parts are missing or broken.

Other guns of the 1950s are made of steel, such as Crosman’s model 150 pistol and their 160 and 180 rifles. These will last as long as the Giffards. A day may come when 12-gram powerlets are no longer available, but any of these guns can easily be converted to use bulk gas.

More on this subject tomorrow.

25 thoughts on “How long will a CO2 airgun last? – Part 1

  1. *Please explain what the OSS did with pellet guns

    *Maybe I’d change my mind if I saw the part, but you won’t convince me you can’t cast a duplicate of a Schimel part. You might have to go through a few iterations before you got the shrinkage and metal flow/mold fillout right.


  2. Interesting article. Will you be covering Umarex CO2 pistols tommorrow? I’m curious as to what kind of metal they use and how long they will last.


  3. I must say i am not a fan of CO2 air LONG GUNS. They are inconsistant with temperature and lack power. This is true for CO2 pistols aswell but i still like them.

    BB did not say its imposible to cast a Schimel part he said, “When one fails, making a replacement isn’t economically feasible.”

    -sumo


  4. Hello B.B.,

    Just an off topic observation.

    Received my Gamo CFX .22 cal today, sighted the scope and loving it. Less hold sensitive than the .177 CFX. Haven’t chronied it yet (yes, bought a chrony, and my .177 CFX shooting 16.1gr Eun Jins between 575-600fps consistently; suprisingly .177 850 magnum in the same fps range with Eun Jins on the 5th loaded magazine, its a very suprising CO2 rifle once I chronied it with other ammo too). Interesting thing about a chrony is it can open your eyes on all of your guns.

    Interesting observation while sighting the .22 cal CFX. Initially sighted inside the house at 10 yards using 14.6gr H&N Field Target Trophy ammo, and all was well. I then put in a 15.8gr JSB Exact Jumbo, and the pellet landed 3″ to the left and 3″ down from the aim point (keep in mind, I’m shooting at just 30 feet!?!). I told myself this was a fluke, loaded another, and it grouped with the preceding JSB. Consistently, each subsequent JSB was to the left and down, but in varying locations.

    So then I was wondering which of the two the gun didn’t like, and if I had sighted errantly with the H&N’s first. I started shooting 16.36gr H&N Field & Target, and they were fine. I then cycled through all of my .22 ammo, and consistently it was the JSB’s that were terribly inaccurate with this gun. This was an eye opener, since the JSB’s appeared to fit just like the other ammo, and my .177 CFX loves the 10.2gr JSB Exacts. The one thing I noticed though, was that the skirts on the .22 cal JSB’s were not as thick as the H&N and Beeman ammo, which reminded me of one of your most recent blogs (pellet fit, lead softness, skirt thickness).

    Just thought I would share, because I have never experienced one particular brand of ammo get thrown around so much at such a very close distance. Maybe others might experience something different, but beware of JSB ammo in the .22cal CFX. If I was initially sighting at a greater distance, who knows where the errant JSB’s would have landed.

    Thanks


  5. Squirrelkiller
    My TX200 HC .22 is the same as your CFX. The best I got with JSB Jumbos at 20 yards was 3″. but with H&N Trophys I can get <1" groups at 35 yards (10 shots/group).
    MCA


  6. MCA,

    Those are some nice groups at 35 yards. What amazed me was that the JSB’s were 3″ left and 3″ down from the point of aim at just 30 FEET. All my other guns like/love the JSB’s in .177 and .22, but the .22 CFX just plain hates them.


  7. R9 Owner,

    When shooting air rifles aiming straight up or high at an angle, at what velocities will the pellets hit the ground? (assuming the power of a rifle is 1000 fps)

    In other words, is it safe to shoot lead pellets into the sky without worrying about where the shot might land?


  8. Mythbusters did a program on just this with firearms. They showed that if fired straight up, and returning with terminal velocity, a 9mm bullet for example, might hurt, but can’t kill. A pellet would have far less energy due to the lower mass and would be a minor distraction at most…


  9. hi bb!
    i have spent enough money on crap airguns! im fed up and want something good!
    well anyways i was wondering whether to get a weirauch 50s in .22 or .177 for plinking, target shooting, and pest removal.
    liked todays report
    thanks


  10. Yes, but mythbusters did not bust any myths with this one.

    Yes, they found that if a bullet was fired straight up it would tumble and come down much slower. However, if fired at an angle (as most “in the air” shots tend to be), the bullet could easily maintain its orientation for the entire flight path, and retain lethal energy when it came back down.


  11. Sure wish you would look at the Hammerli Razor in .22. The Storm review was kind of a bust, what with the junk trigger. Understand the Razor trigger is actually useable…





  12. OSS,

    Nobody knows for sure what the OSS did with the 2,000 Crosman pump guns they bought, but most people think they were used as gifts for A sian tribal leaders. One story has they as silent assasination weapons, but as they are not silent, most people doubt that.

    Now for the parts. Yes, anything can be replicated but at what cost? No doubt a talented machinist could make most of the parts, but it isn’t economically feasible to make them in low qualitiies just so they can sit on some shelf to be sold in handfuls a year.

    B.B.




  13. i know ppl that write on this blog have said they own a phantom, so a ? to you guys…what pellet do you find works well with it?



  14. OSS,

    What do you do about replicating a worn part? You have no master to model.

    That’s the problem. While casting technology is relatively simple, creatinmg a new perfect master with gear teeth in perfect alignment, or a cam angle to the correct original degree is next to impossible, without machining a new master. When a complex part is broken or worn out, you have nothing to go by.

    B.B.




  15. Vince said:
    “Yes, but mythbusters did not bust any myths with this one.”

    I bet that an airgun pellet at any angle would lose its orientation pretty quickly and just tumble. It might not even be noticed unless it bounced of bare skin.


  16. I asked a question in another sectionof BB blog,can’t find it!anyway Irecently bought a Crosman Sierra Pro, which I am told by Crosman, is a Remington Summit. It came with a 3x9x40 AO scope after I installed the scope I went to the range to sight it in at 25 yrds,I was dissapointed,initially 12in. low and 8 inches to left.Afterabout 50 shots with considerable adjustmentsstarted closing in on bull, but I quit causeI wastired and hot, 102 Degrees f.

    Question,should I exchange the gun for a Gamo or a Beeman? I am new to airguns but not to shooting, sighting in rifles(30-06), 357 4″ colt, 9 mm browning, 38 s&w special,2 in,and 22′s.


  17. Bernie,

    This is my answer to the question you asked.

    Bernie,

    I can’t tell from your question whether your problem is sighting-in or accuracy. If sighting-in, know that all breakbarrels droop and you probably need to use an adjustable scope mount. If accuracy, are you holding the rifle very loosely and letting it recoil as much as it can? That’s the only way to be accurate with a breakbarrel spring rifle. It’s the same hold used by rimfire target shooters, except aigunners never grip the stock. They allow the stock to float on their open palm. Never rest the gun directly on sandbags.

    B.B.


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