by B.B. Pelletier
Update on Tom/B.B.: Progress is very good. I don’t have a definite date for him to come home. His pancreas is still somewhat inflamed, but nothing like it was before. So, he has to wait a little while before he has his gallbladder removed, which is an outpatient procedure.
Now, on to today’s blog.
Here’s an article about a highly collectible gun. This originally appeared in Airgun Revue #2, which was published in 1998.
The Crosman Town & Country is a short pneumatic rifle that’s very robust. The wood stock has some fullness to it.
Many companies took the model name Town & Country for their top-of-the-line models during the ’40s and ’50s, but I suppose it was the Chrysler Corporation that made it the most memorable with their wood-sided station wagons. The name bespoke quality and a wealth that was measured more by comfort and rural gentility than by mere money. When I hear the name Town & Country, I immediately get an image of the movie White Christmas, with der Bingle and his Broadway troupe helping General Waverly fill his inn. That’s a nice image, so the name Town & Country has always meant something extra special and nice to me.
The Crosman Corporation made its Town & Country pneumatic air rifle from 1948 until some time in the early 1950s. It was their first really new design for pneumatic rifles since the 100-series guns came into being in 1924. And, although the flavor of the Town & Country styling hung around in the Crosman line for decades, the model was quite short-lived. Hence, it’s somewhat scarce. And, being scarce, it has collector value well above contemporary Crosman guns.
The T&C came in both .177 and .22, but the latter was by far the more popular caliber in the U.S., at that time. As a consequence, the .177 caliber model 107 is quite a bit harder to find than the .22 caliber model 108. A 107 will often bring $400 to $500 when in excellent condition, compared to $300 to $350 for its big brother. This trend is actually common to all the Crosman rifles produced during this era–the .177 seems to bring a little more than the .22. It holds for some vintage Crosman pistols, as well, but not for others. Go figure!
The action also has some mass–as if to suggest the lines of the Sheridan Supergrade.
I jumped at the chance to test a model 108 T&C because of all the mystique that has been built up about it. Certainly, the gun has some unique features worthy of examination on its own merits, but the special aura of its rarity tends to push all that aside. Then, there’s the sheer physical size of the gun. Although not overly long, the T&C is very thick and robust, which tends to convey a feeling of power. Like the Sheridan Supergrade, the T&C has a more well-proportioned stock than the air rifles that followed it. It also has a larger action, almost as if to suggest a Supergrade, though the resemblance ends there.
With the tall “town” sight up, the rifle shoots low–for close-up shots.
The knurled nut twists out, freeing the tall sight to pivot to the right…
…where it reveals the short “country” sight for longer ranges.
The front sight is certainly the most interesting single feature of the gun, because there are really TWO front sight blades instead of one! One for town, and the other for the country. To change blades, the shooter loosens a jamb nut with fine threads in front of the fixed low front sight blade. This allows the sight to spring forward and unlocks the taller blade in the rear, which can then be rotated to the right and locked against the stock. With the short front blade revealed, the rifle is suited to the longer ranges of the country.
Not only is there an aperture sight, above it there’s an open notch. For people who want it all!
The rear sight is almost as curious as the front. It’s an adjustable peep that slides in a vertical slot along the left side of the receiver. A coin-slotted knurled screw provides a friction stop, and there are unnumbered index lines along the sight slide for reference. An L-shaped crosspiece at the top has an elongated slot in which the knurled aperture adjusts, but the really unique feature of this sight is that there is a notch above the peep to allow for rapid open sighting. The T&C isn’t the only air rifle to have this feature, but it’s still very different from sights normally found on airguns.
As robust as the stock appears, the pump lever is surprisingly short. It reminds me more of the little model 760 that came a decade later than it does a 100-series pneumatic that was its immediate predecessor. The short throw of the lever makes for easy pump strokes, so you can quickly build up to the recommended 8-10 pump maximum; but when you do, the rifle doesn’t have the same power as other Crosman pneumatics–at least the one I tested didn’t. In a moment, I’ll tell you why I believe this is so; but now, let’s look at the performance:
66 degrees F, point-blank range
Crosman Premier–14.3 grains
Muzzle energy….6.52 ft. lbs.
Muzzle energy….8.56 ft. lbs.
RWS Superdome–14.5 grains
Muzzle energy….6.04 ft. lbs.
RWS Superpoint–14.5 grains
Muzzle energy….8.12 ft. lbs.
These velocity figures seem low, when other Crosman pneumatics deliver 12 foot-pounds and often more. I believe the reason for this is the method of breech sealing employed by the T&C. On the rear of the bolt, a protruding pin slips into a cam slot in the rear of the receiver when the bolt is rotated closed. As this pin engages the cam, it forces the ground bolt face forward into a mating section of the breech. In other words, the T&C seals with a metal-to-metal contact at the bolt/barrel interface. Now, that fact, by itself, is nothing new to airgunning. Airgun makers have been using this design for some time. But to effect a good seal this way, both pieces of metal must be ground to fit, and the cam must be a positive one; it has to hold the bolt in place. On the rifle I tested, the cam was so steep that the bolt could not help but rotate open slightly under the force of the air blast. In short, it wouldn’t stay closed.
I noticed a puff of air around my right hand every time the rifle fired, which I initially blamed on the recent resealing job my test rifle had gotten before the test. Then, I examined the bolt lockup more closely and discovered that the real problem was a loose bolt seal. No matter how hard I closed the bolt, that steep cam slot invited it to spring back just enough to exhaust some air. The problem was solved by manually holding the bolt closed with the thumb of my shooting hand as I pulled the trigger. There was still a small puff of air, but it was greatly diminished from what it had been. A real fanatic might have used some automotive valve-grinding compound to hand-lap the front of the bolt into the rear of the barrel; but this wasn’t my rifle, so I left it at that.
Hobby pellets grouped okay 10 meters, but with one flyer.
Premiers worked good, too, but had the same problem with flyers.
Accuracy wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t that great when compared to what other vintage Crosman rifles can do. RWS Hobbys were the best, shooting a dime-sized group of five off a rest at 10 meters. Five Premiers went into a slightly larger hole, but both pellets shot groups with a tight cluster of four plus one flyer. Surprisingly, the best accuracy with both pellets was at a full eight pumps. Usually, I’ve found that pneumatics prefer the middle of their power range. Perhaps, the T&C, being so tame, is better able to handle pellets at its top power.
So, if you’re thinking about adding a T&C to your airgun collection, do it for the nostalgia rather than the power potential.