Tech Force TF89 Contender breakbarrel: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier


Tech Force Contender TF89 is a large, powerful breakbarrel spring rifle.

This report is a poignant one for me, because I also tested one of the first TF89 Contenders that came to this country. That was for the Compasseco website back in 2003, and I still remember that rifle. I said that the Chinese were finally nipping at the heels of Weihrauch, and that the Beeman R1 had reason to be concerned.

It’s now eight years later and the .177-caliber TF89 Contender I am looking at today (serial number 08638455) isn’t quite the same gun I saw in 2003. For starters, when I took this gun from the box, it was covered in thickened oil that had to be removed. I haven’t seen that in many years. A quick spritz of Ballistol over everything, followed by a thorough wipedown with a cotton rag removed the old oil and got the rifle to a clean, dry state; but it was something I haven’t had to do in a long time.

Fit and finish
The metal is no longer deeply polished like that first one was. This one has a matte finish on all the metal parts and an even black oxide over that. You could call it a hunter finish.

The wood is very well shaped, and I can find no spots of wood filler that used to be the forensic evidence of a Chinese airgun. The cheekpiece is low and looks melted into the butt like most European stocks these days. A Monte Carlo profile on the comb raises your eye to the requisite height for using a scope, though the rifle comes with open sights.

The wood stain is a very dark reddish-brown that is even everywhere. The stain is so dark that the grain is difficult to see outside of bright sunlight; but when you do see it, it appears to look like beech — a very tight grain.

There are panels of pressed checkering on both sides of the pistol grip and forearm. They’re shallow and the diamonds are small with rounded tops, so the effect is not very grippy.

The buttpad is not finished even with the stock, which is a surprise when everything else is done so well. It stands slightly proud of the stock in places and is separated from the wood by a thin black plastic spacer. At least it isn’t white! The pad is soft and gummy and looks like it will provide a smooth, non-slip surface for standing the rifle in the corner and on your shoulder.

As for the fit, it’s very nearly perfect. Where the Chinese breakbarrels used to fall down was their actions were always rotated a few degrees in the stock, so the cocking link rubbed one side of the cocking slot. Nothing like that here. Every place you look, the wood is fitted just as well as a European air rifle.

The triggerguard is the one piece of plastic that stands out on the whole rifle. It’s wide and well-shaped, so it doesn’t look bad — but a touch reveals what it’s made of.

Size and handling
This is a large air rifle. It’s certainly in the magnum class for length and weight. The rifle weighs almost 7-3/4 lbs., which is not heavy by magnum air rifle standards; but it’s big enough that you know you’re holding something substantial. The stock is wide, filling your hands and conveying the big-rifle feel. The length is a hair past 46 inches, which puts it two inches past the 03-A3 Springfield. Because we have a fair number of new readers coming over from the world of firearms, I think it’s important that they realize just how large these magnum spring rifles can be.

The pull of the stock is 14-7/8 inches, which makes it feel great to me, but may be a trifle too long for many shooters. The 03-A3 Springfield, by comparison, is only 12-3/4 inches, but they always did have a reputation for being too short in that department.

When I hold the rifle to my shoulder, it balances fine for me. It reminds me of an RWS Diana 350 Magnum, which is another rifle that feels great in the offhand position.

The ball detent that holds the breech shut has a very powerful spring behind it, requiring you to slap the top of the muzzle to break the barrel open for cocking. The specs say the cocking effort is 28 lbs., but it feels like a little more to me. I’ll measure it when I test the velocity.

Although the rifle is designed for a right-handed shooter, the stock is shaped to fit a left-handed shooter, as well. Since it’s a breakbarrel with a central safety ahead of the trigger, lefties should find it relatively comfortable to shoot.

Sights
The front and rear sights are fiberoptic, and the front has no protection for the red fiber element. Too often, I’ve seen these get damaged from normal handling. The front sight that holds the element is aluminum instead of the much more common plastic, so it may be a bit more rugged; but I’d still like to see a hood over the sight. There’s no groove in the ramp to accept one, however.


The front sight is a fiberoptic post in an aluminum mount on an aluminum ramp. No hood can be attached.

The rear sight is all metal, and both adjustments have clicks that can be felt if not heard. The elevation is a wheel that needs no tools, but the windage does require a screwdriver. That isn’t so bad; because once you get the rifle sighted in, you don’t want that adjustment to move, anyway.


The rear sight adjusts in both directions with positive clicks.

Because it has such nice sights, I’m thinking that I’ll do an accuracy test at 10 meters with open sights before mounting a scope for a separate second accuracy test. That will give the rifle more of a chance to break in and me a better opportunity to become familiar with it.

A pair of 11mm dovetails is cut directly into the top of the spring tube. Tech Force provides a mounted scope stop from the factory. A rifle like this is expected to be scoped, so the presence of good open sights is a pleasant plus.

Safety
The safety, which is a short blade in front of the trigger, is automatic; but by cocking the barrel lightly, you can actually cock the gun without setting the safety. If that happens, it means there’s no anti-beartrap device; so it’s imperative that you hold the muzzle when loading the rifle. If you put your finger near the trigger when the barrel is open, the action could snap shut faster than you can react and damage or even remove digits from your hand.

I couldn’t resist shooting just a few shots to see how the rifle feels. There’s a lot of forward recoil and some vibration on the shot, though not as much as the power would make you believe. This rifle is advertised as 1,100 f.p.s. in the .177 caliber I’m testing. We’ll see how close it comes in part two.

The final observation I’ll make today is that the price of the rifle has dropped by $30 from 2003. That’s a plus you don’t see that often. If this turns out to be an accurate air rifle, it could easily move to a position of great importance, based on that price.

27 Responses to “Tech Force TF89 Contender breakbarrel: Part 1”

  • Frank B Says:

    I have mixed feelings about these rifles,and I may be the only one.I think most of it comes from the current state of our economy,and not the rifles themselves.That being said,I do see a big difference
    evolution-wise.I hope performance bears that out.

  • JMDavis Says:

    So, where’s the final portion of the TF99 report? The accuracy test is the most important part!

  • Robert from Arcade Says:

    Frank B. : I agree with you as just last night I re-sealed two guns, one a 50 year old Crosman 2nd varient 160 that cost about $25 when it was made. The other a QB78 from 2006, that cost $78. The 160′s original valve stem seal had finally failed, and I made a new one on my little lathe, which got it running again. The QB78 which could be scoped and was bought for my kids, took a lot of fiddling to get to seal again, and it’s quality makes me want to scream when I work on one. It struck me what we will settle for to arrive at a price point, and how dedicated those folks were to their jobs that made that Crosman back in the day, considering the wages they worked for.

    • Frank B Says:

      Robert,I really feel the same “pain”.It’s not about hating on another country or it’s people.My foster grandfather worked full time from the age of 11 (legal then) until he retired at 65,for W.R.Case and Sons making knives.Those same knives are among the most collected in history.Part of this is because of the actions of a corporate “raider”….but I believe most of it was the quality standard Case held for
      the better part of a century.Many American companies have similar stories.
      I won’t consider our economy fixed until this is possible again.I can’t bring myself to blame the working consumer for wanting a good deal….but I wish more folks could afford,and insist on quality.
      I know an engineer who just bought a 30$ pellet gun….and was shocked that it wasn’t any good!
      I turned him on to a used 1377.An older really solid model,that believe it or not I pulled out of a trash can 12 or 15 years ago.What a contrast! That’s it in a nutshell…..a quality American product thrown away by a member of the “disposable” generation.3 cents worth of oil and a 10 cent breech Oring and it’s working fine in it’s second decade after being thrown away.

  • Mike Says:

    I see by the comments posted that folks that own this rifle really like it. As other rifles do, this one has fiberoptic sites. I’m not a fan of them as it’s really hard to be precise with them do to the “glow” under normal lighting conditions.

    Mike

    • Wulfraed Says:

      Especially as the easily seen green (peak responsiveness of the human eye) is placed so close to the user, while the harder to see red is way out there… (at least they aren’t using blue; the hardest spectral color to focus — any one remember early calculators with the blue plasma/fluorescent displays?)

  • kevin Says:

    All of the reviews about this gun on the Pyramyd Air website are 5 stars. Pretty good.

    One of the reviewers is getting “1/2 inch groups at 60 yards using Gamo Hunter pellets”. Be interesting to see if B.B. can shoot his gun that well using gamo hunter pellets.

    kevin

    • Vince Says:

      Perhaps that fellow took 10-20 shots, picked the 2 closest, and called it a “group”. I suspect Hunter’s are not capable of that sort of accuracy. In fact, I think that Gamo itself only claims an accuracy of about .39 at 10 yards for that pellet, and just about an inch at 30 yards.

      • kevin Says:

        Vince,

        Agreed.

        I still have leftovers from a gamo 4 pack of pellets purchased years ago. I’ve tried these in many guns and I don’t remember any of them being better than 4th or 5th best pellet.

        Guess I need to use the smiley face emoticon more often in my comments. ;-)

        kevin

  • Edith Gaylord Says:

    CowBoyStarDad,

    A while ago, your avatar stopped showing up when you posted a comment. In order for it to show up, you must log-in to your account. Use the log-in link in the upper right column. Then, post your message and the avatar will appear.

    I’ve searched older blog comments and found your avatar continues to be associated with your name…but you were logged-in when you posted those comments. The times when you did not log-in, your avatar did not appear. I know this because as the administrator of this blog, there’s an “Edit” link that appears next to each blog comment. When I click on the blog comments that still have your avatar, your name and email address appear. When I click on the blog comments that do not have your avatar, your name appears but not your email address. Logging-in is the one difference between these situations.

    Thanks,
    Edith

  • Desertdweller Says:

    B.B.,

    Thanks for picking this gun to review. It sounds like a rifle with a reasonable balance of quality and price.

    There shouldn’t be a problem with the barrel snapping shut when loading, if the basic safety precaution of keeping one hand on the barrel is followed. This should be SOP for any breakbarrel.

    Perhaps some day guns like this will be produced domestically again. A lot of us US customers are willing to pay a little more for a product made here, within reason.

    Last month I purchased a tin of .177 pellets at Cabala’s. When I checked their country of manufacture, it turned out to be right here. A step in the right direction, at least.

    Les

  • Matt61 Says:

    B.B., well it looks like things have gone up and down with this rifle since its introduction but still solid in the important parts. That business about clipping off fingers would be a big disqualifier for me.

    So, odd about my memory of a mysterious Korean big bore shooting comparable to your 10/22. I remember it vividly as being extremely loud but very accurate. But naturally a Google search didn’t turn up anything, and you would know anyway. That’s interesting to know that big bores cannot keep up with the accurized rimfires at 50 yards. I didn’t know that.

    I wonder if anyone can think of a list of cult airguns that people just prize for no obvious reason? The one example I can think of is the QB78 which has a big aftermarket industry; that would be one criteria. Is there anything else like that? Maybe the Beeman R-series springers, the Crosman 1377 and the other CO2 pistol that is so popular.

    Victor, you mentioned that you have not seen anyone with pure natural shooting talent. I take that to mean someone who can perform at the highest level without practice since people must have different ability levels as in anything else. So, what do you make of this case? My Dad knew a recruit in army boot camp who was not physically impressive or very interested in the army. Had no background with guns. But he broke the range record with the M1. The sergeant commanding the range over the loudspeaker was going berserk, and the sergeants all went up afterwards, grudgingly, to congratulate him. He, however, didn’t think it was a big deal (which irritated them even more). He didn’t pay any attention to the steady hold factors and just said it seemed easy. Fast forward to his military specialization as an MP where he was trained in the 1911 and couldn’t hit anything. Finally, the instructor told him that he should throw it at an assailant. On the one hand, the rifle achievements seem to have natural talent written all over them. On the other, I understand that people who are good at shooting are good at all kinds of shooting. Naturally there is some variation between types of weapons and maybe even particular models but not like this. So, natural talent, flash in the pan, lucky? What do you think?

    Duskwight, so what kind of access do you have to firearms in Russia? Is it just for people with a hunting license? Any restrictions like for assault rifles? I’m forewarned with your experience about the Mosin. That metal buttplate over the lengthy heavy stock looks like it could do serious damage, as it was probably intended to, but that includes to the shooter as well. I remember a horror movie with Telly Savalas playing a Cossack leader. He was interrogating some British adventurers in Russia who were giving him answers that he didn’t like. So, he turned away very nonchalantly, reached down to grab the Mosin of one of his soldiers and yanked the buttstock backwards right into the solar plexus of the British fellow. Unnnhhhh. Down for the count.

    Matt61

    • Victor Says:

      Matt61,

      I think it’s a matter of degree. Lloyd and I discussed this August 22. Lloyd suggested that shooters could be screened for aptitude with a personality test. However, I also explained that even a seemingly good shooter would drop between 80 and 120 points in their first 4 position match. Without a lot of training, practice, and experience, you might be able to easily beat everyone that you know, but that doesn’t put you in the same league as a Master class competitive marksman. In case you didn’t know, you don’t get bumped to Master class just because you shot a great score in a particular type of competition. Each type of competition is determined individually over several tournaments until your average over some number of recent tournaments has reached, or exceeded, the required average. For major tournaments, you can’t win on a lucky day. You have to win over 3 days for international type competition, and 4 days for national (in the case of prone – two days for 4 position).

      What this says about the one guy who broke a range record is that he may have a great aptitude for shooting, but doing it in competition can change everything. You never know until you try. I knew a guy who was the best hitter in the batting cage in college, but couldn’t hit a baseball in a league game if his life depended on it. In any case, crossing the higher plateaus require a great deal of dedication by EVERYONE, and I think that ALL competitive marksmen would have to agree on this. No one with a high aptitude just starts shooting over NRA Sharpshooter. Shooting qualifications like NRA qualifications (i.e., Pro-Marksman, Marksman First Class, Sharpshooter, Expert, and Distinguished Expert), are very different from competition. If I recall, when I got my Distinguished Expert, I was still barely shooting Sharpshooter class.

      In any case, the examples that you cited likely indicate that these are shooters with a high aptitude for shooting, but it will still take years for them to be any threat to guys at the top, even at the State level. BTW, in some states, and for some tournaments, competition can be tougher than at the national level. I don’t even think that their accomplishment at such an early stage guarantees that they’ll be some fellow qualifiers in the future. Some people just take more time to discover their talent. It’s like everything else in life. Only time will tell, and as I said in my discussion with Lloyd, it also depends on who REALLY WANTS IT. That’s where dedication comes in.

      I was once told by mathematics professor that genius’s aren’t always the most accomplished mathematicians, because they grew up getting used to the idea that things came easy. But when you get to the “Big Leagues”, you’re learning the works of the great genius’s of the past, and their works often took them a lifetime. So the Johnny come lately genius is now going to have to work hard, no way around it, because he’s not smarter than the subject at hand, and often more easily bores/tires in his efforts. On the other hand, the guy who is not so smart, but worked all his life to climb the latter of success in his field, is use to working very hard and is working off a solid foundation, is not so easy to deter. The world does not turn because of the smartest people, but rather by the hardest working. Shooting is no different.

      Victor

    • duskwight Says:

      Matt,

      Hunting license, self-defence license or security license (for handguns, security personnel). Assault rifles are for cops and military, bolt-actions, semi-auto, pump-action and the rest are for civilians.

      I don’t know if it’s a legend, but Mosin stock was planned to be able to be used as a ram to break open an average door and still retain its integrity. Not sure about doors, however I’m quite sure about skulls, a hit with a stock’s butt is a standard issue in bayonet fencing.

      duskwight

      • B.B. Pelletier Says:

        duskwight,

        In the U.S. Army we call that move a vertical butt stroke. I learned it when I went through basic training and we were given Garands to train with because M14s were considered too new and fragile. I don’t know if they even train with bayonets on the M16/M4 anymore.

        B.B.

  • Victor Says:

    B.B.,

    I like the rear sight of this rifle. If I’m not mistaken, this rifle is designed so that the sights (both) stay out of the way of even a low-profile scope installation. The rear sight looks tighter, and possibly more precise. I found that the rear sights of too many springer’s are not particularly solid nor precise, and wobble a bit. Maybe this rifle was intended to be shot with open sights as well as any sights.

    Victor

  • Vince Says:

    I had an early AR1000 bought from Dauven’s Fishing Hole (long since out of business), and the barrel was poor. Since then I’ve had a number of variants in both calibers with varying levels of QC… on one or two the front sight hit the stock due to insufficient relieving. But the most recent ones seem to be devoid of major issues.

    This is pretty much a carbon copy of a Norica gun (the Marvic?) sold as the Beeman S1/GS950/1000 and there’s significant parts interchangeability between them. In fact, I was able to swap the barrel out of an S1 I had at the time into the AR1000 to see if it shot any better (it did). Variants of this Chinese gun have been sold as Industry, Walther, Beeman, and probably one or two others that I’m forgetting.

    The killer on these is the trigger… even if it’s a bit rough from the factory it doesn’t take much work to make it into a real sweetheart. You can get a very light pull with a fully resetting 1st stage and almost no creep in the 2nd. I don’t think that there’s anything outside a Rekord that can beat it.

    When it’s working right it is absolutely unbeatable in the value-for-the-money department in magnum springers. I’ll be curious to see what BB gets, but my TF89 in .22 can get close to 20ft-lbs, and my Walther Force 1000 in .177 almost 17.

  • JohnG10 Says:

    It seems like a lot of you have experience with many rifles. What do you think the average 50 yard group size would be for the following rifles ?

    RWS 34
    BEEMAN R9
    TX 200
    MARAUDER

    Ie; How much do their differences in recoil, hold sensitivity, and trigger effect group size ?

    Thanks,
    John

    • Vince Says:

      I’d guess that the last 3 should be able to hold 5 inside an inch, with the ’34 doing, maybe, 50% more than that. This is based on some 60-yard shooting I did a while back.

      As far as differences in the recoil, etc… none at all, IF the shooter knows how to compensate! And lots, if he doesn’t…

    • Wulfraed Says:

      Can’t help on group size since I never fully got them sighted in (trying to sight in 6 rifles all on one day at the range) — with the result that my Browning A-Bolt Varmint in .308Win (firing 7.62NATO ball) grouped better at 50 yards (I was rushed sighting this one as there were only two 15minute shooting sessions left before the range closed… It says something disgusting when the .308Win is grouping solid body hits on a hefty squirrel while the airguns are having troubles shaving hares) than either the Condor .22 or the Marauder .177 (or my Ruger 77/17).

      Off-hand, I’d rank them:
      Marauder first (PCP — no bouncy-bouncy spring action) as most likely best,
      TX200 (under-lever cocking, fixed barrel) second,
      RWS 34/Beeman R9 as a tie (the trigger of the R9 may give it an edge; I have no experience with it)

      I have a Gamo NRA 1000 Special (.177 Shadow variant) and RWS model 54… I tend to think of them as 25 yard guns due to the fact that they favor lighter pellet weights, which are more affected by cross wind, and likely lose velocity faster than the PCPs (aforesaid Condor .22 and Marauder .177 which match the velocities using 50% heavier pellets). I’d rank the PCPs as 50yard guns. Never did get the .308Win or .17HMR out to the 100 yard range.

  • Richard Says:

    Hi, Extremely late to this conversation, but new to the sight. I just bought this TF 89 .177 from Pyramid Air.com. I searched and researched for a couple weeks before my purchase. This is the first air gun for me since the many BB guns I owned from child hood up through high school ( many years ago). While I can definitely afford a higher priced/ quality gun, I found the sale price of $99 very reasonable for my first venture back to the air gun world. I ordered it as a package deal which included the rifle, TF 1 pc. mount, TF 3-9x-32 scope, Plano case, and H&N Field Target Trophy pellets. Sight unseen I am very happy with this purchase for < 185.00 and free shipping.

    Anyway, since the order I have had second thoughts as to a possible Nito Piston conversion (Again, this is just thinking out loud). Have you had or heard of any experiences this? I know the 89 come in gas piston and is reportedly a extremely fine gun in this configuration, but did not want to invest the extra 200 for a starter gun. Just thought I would start my research now.

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