Testing a tuned Tech Force 97
by B.B. Pelletier
Vince rebuilt a Tech Force 97 and offered to let Herb test it. This report is the result of that test. If you'd like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me.
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Testing a tuned Tech Force 97
Courtesy of Vince, I've had an opportunity to play with a .22 caliber Tech Force 97. According to Vince, this is a version of the standard Chinese QB36-1. Neither rifle is sold by Pyramyd Air. It's been fun and quite a surprise for me.
I've just been playing with lots inexpensive guns, trying to find one that I like. I bought a couple for various "experiments." Like most neophytes, I have now bought and tried enough inexpensive guns to determine that you get what you pay for. Actually, I've proven B.B.'s corollary--"You don’t get what you didn't pay for." So, there isn't a $100 gun that really performs as well as a $1,000 gun. At this point, I wish that I had just bought a Benjamin Discovery at the start, but that's how we all get educated--bad decisions.
Impressions of the rifle
The wood seems nice for a $100 gun. In this price range, plastic seems to dominate. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the feel of the wood on the TF 97 better than the synthetic stock on the Crosman G1, which I also have. I really liked the feel of my cheek to this rifle. It was just a perfect height for me with the scope. Although the TF97 has the same length of pull (LOP) as the Benjamin 392, the right-hand grip is sort of blocky and a bit large. The uniform extension of the forearm makes the gun nice to hold.
The front sight was sheared off when Vince shipped the rifle to me. The front sight is obviously cast, then finished with a bit of machine work. The damage was not a big deal for me since I wanted to scope the rifle anyway. Even though there is a parts diagram in the rifle manual, there isn't any place listed to buy the parts. Vince told me that there is a dealer that sells parts for the rifle, so the diagram does come in handy.
The front sight has three removable parts--two hollow ferrules and an aperture disc. It seems like a nice sight. I'm uncertain if apertures may be bought for the sight, but it would seem simple to make some of your own. A nice fiberoptic front sight and a peep sight would seem to be a very interesting possibility.
The rear sight seems to have quite a bit of adjustment with a very simple mechanism. I assume that the same rear sight is used on other Tech Force rifles. I wish the rear sight on my Benjamin 392 was this adjustable. Why doesn't Crosman spend just a tiny bit more and put better sights on the Benjamin 392/397?
I did notice scratches on the cocking lever where the linkage has rubbed the stock. I can't really tell if the extension of the stock is warped or if the metal parts are slightly crooked in the stock, but the left edge of the forearm rubs the cocking lever. I didn't notice the rubbing when cocking the rifle. Again, for a $100 gun, you can't expect super-fine master craftsmanship.
I like the notion of having a fixed barrel. I think the fixed barrel removes a source of error in shooting, and any error reduction is a good thing.
Adding a scope
I used an 8-inch 4x Beeman scope on the TF 97. It was the scope that originally came with my Beeman RS-1. The short Beeman scope ends right at the end of where the breech opens. This made it fairly easy to load pellets with the scope on the gun. I also ordered a CenterPoint scope for another pellet rifle, and it's a full 13 inches long. Had I installed it, it would have covered the breech, making loading very difficult.
Newbie lesson on ordering scopes
Here's a lesson for the newbies (like me). Even though all the scopes look the same size on the website, check the scope's length and weight before you buy. The CenterPoint scope, which I ordered for another gun, is much larger than I had expected. I didn’t even open the packaging. Pyramyd Air is willing to take back the scope for a full refund, but I created the problem when I ordered it. The length was given on their website.
Loading the TF 97
I loaded with the gun pointing straight up to balance the pellet on my thumb. Even though the TF 97 has an anti-beartrap mechanism, I held the cocking level with my left hand as I loaded a pellet with the right. I was careful not to pull the cocking lever all the way down with my left hand, but held it firmly at a loose position in the cocking stroke. I don't want the cocking lever bouncing on the anti-beartrap mechanism. The thought of getting a thumb stuck in the slamming breech is unnerving. With this rifle, take the simple extra precaution of always blocking the cocking lever while you the load pellets.
I had trouble a couple of times when cocking the rifle. The rifle seemed to be cocked, but I couldn't get the beartrap release to disengage. I then started cocking with a bit more authority, and the problem rarely occurred. Being able to get the gun partially cocked did nothing to bolster my confidence in the anti-beartrap mechanism.
Shooting the TF 97
The action has a nice solid thump. It doesn't seem as hard as the Crosman G1 or the Beeman RS-1 that I have. I'm guessing since this isn't a magnum trying to propel the pellet at the speed of light. The kick and recoil are somewhat subdued. The lower power level also makes cocking fairly easy. With the short cocking lever (about 14 inches), a magnum-power spring would make this rifle very hard to cock.
Vince also shared with me that the TF 97 has a leather seal on the piston. I guess a synthetic seal would require higher machining tolerances than this rifle has. Leather seals work and were used in a lot of airguns for a long time, so old technology isn't necessarily bad technology. The leather piston seals do need a lot of oil (this rifle smokes), but I never had a detonation. I assume that the modest power prevents that.
I tried shooting on a benchrest with the gun balanced at the balance point, on the end of the wooden forearm and by the band at the front of the barrel. There was some impact point variation with the holds, but it didn't seem to be particularly bad. I don't have much experience judging the hold sensitivity of springers, but I think the modest power kept the rifle from being too jumpy.
My biggest surprise? I really liked the trigger. I have no idea of how the trigger was before Vince tweaked it, but now it's sweet. It's the nicest one I've tried. It just seemed nice and crisp to me. A gentle squeeze and the trigger breaks. POW! Wish my Daisy 22SG was as nice. I've shot only cheap airguns, so don't be shocked that my standard isn't the two-stage Rekord. I don't know if I can afford to try one. If that gets to be the gold standard, like JSB pellets, this pastime is going to get even more expensive!
Vince also said he had cleaned the barrel before shipping me the gun. No surprise that JSB Exact Express pellets seemed to be the best of those I tested. The TF 97 doesn't shoot quite as well as my Daisy 22SG. With JSB Exact Express, 6 shots went into a less than dime-sized hole at 10 meters on Gamo Paper Targets. I like them because the center white spot is about quarter-sized, and the bold numbers make a good reference for the scope crosshairs. I won't claim to have the artillery hold down perfect, so the TF 97 might do even better in someone else's hands.
Ordering JSBs from Pyramyd Air is getting to be an expensive habit. How come no gun shoots the best with the cheap Walmart pellets?
In the table below are the chrony values that I obtained with the Alpha Master Chronograph. I can't explain why the 14.3-grain JSB Exact Express pellets don't follow the general curve of the other pellets, but I double-checked the values and they seemed consistent.
All-in-all, this has been quite fun. My impression is that the Tech Force 97 a nice plinker. Since the power seems a little low for hunting (but about the same as my favorite Daisy 22SG), I'd buy the .177 instead of the .22. The groups aren't PCP target-gun size; but for some good, plain fun, the rifle seems like a nice buy. With leather seals and a modest spring, this gun could easily be maintained for a long time. A little creativity in making some front sight apertures, a cheap rear peep sight and this might be a fun starting target gun too. Just remember to ALWAYS block the cocking lever when loading pellets!