Tech Force TF99 Premier air rifle: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier


The Tech Force TF99 Premier underlever air rifle is a large, powerful spring gun. This model has evolved a lot over the years.

Let’s begin a report that covers an air rifle I’ve watched since it was first developed. The Tech Force TF99 Premier underlever air rifle was a true blending of cultures — American and Chinese. The rifle started life as a much more austere underlever that the U.S. company, Compasseco (now owned by Pyramyd Air), developed into a powerful spring gun that could be sold here. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that the TF99 Premier had its beginnings with the old B3 underlever from China. That unique underlever spring rifle from China was sold in the U.S. by the boatload by Compasseco. I bought my first one from an ad in American Rifleman magazine in the mid 1980s because I was curious how much value they could put into a $49.00 air rifle. Those were the days before I knew anything about Chinese manufacturing; and, in fact, it was that very B3 air rifle that began my education.

Fast-forward to the late 1990s, and Compasseco had its own booth at the SHOT Show, where they held court for both U.S. buyers and Chinese manufacturers, alike. I got to know Duane Sorensen, one of their employees, and he told me each year of the improvements he was able to get his Chinese manufacturers to make in the basic gun. By now, the model had morphed into the B-36, which was a far cry from the B3 in terms of sophistication. It was finished better and had much greater attention to detail, but only an insider would have been able to spot the differences. The guns still looked rough as cobs, and the stocks resembled a chew stick a rabid beaver might enjoy. But Sorensen was bringing the model along, design point by design point, as he defined what eventually turned into the Tech Force TF97.

Several years later, he told me about a new gun Compaseco was having built. It would have the same features and general lines as the TF97 but incorporate a longer piston stroke for greater swept volume. In the world of spring guns, swept volume converts to power, so this new gun was to be a powerhouse.

I shot the couch
Then, I had the occasion to test a new TF99 for myself back in 2003. While shooting it inside my house, I’d decided not to move the sofa because it was four inches under the trajectory of the pellet. And that’s how I came to shoot the couch! Yes, that is supposed to be a punchline in a lounge-lizard’s repertoire, but I actually did shoot our couch and it still bears the hole to this day. Thank goodness for microfiber; the hole did not continue to tear. I still owe Edith a new couch and she has lately started reminding me of that fact.

Anyway, back to my story. I found that 2003 TF99 to be a better Chinese airgun than others I had tried, but still not up to par with even Spanish spring guns. The velocity was below the stated 1,100 f.p.s. by at least 200 f.p.s. (I used RWS Hobby pellets to test it), and the accuracy wasn’t there. At 25 yards, I was getting five-shot groups greater than one inch.

I’ve read many other reports of the TF99 that tout it as a powerful and accurate air rifle, but at the time I tested this first one I’d already tested two different TF97s and found them both wanting in the same areas. I was very critical of the 99, carefully noting every aspect of its performance.

Fast-forward to today. Michol Munson, one of the founders of Compasseco, passed away last year and I had lost touch with the company for several years. But when Pyramyd Air purchased the company, a collection of rifles was sent to me for testing, and I’m working my way through them now. The latest TF99 Premier looks different than the rifle I tested back in 2003.

General description
It comes in .177 and .22 calibers, but I’m testing a .177. This is a very large, heavy air rifle (serial No. 09301516 for the one I’m testing). It will dwarf your Winchester or Remington centerfire. The specs online say it should weigh 8 lbs. even, but I doubted that, so I weighed it on a balance beam scale and came up with 9 lbs., 2 ozs. The length that is given is 44.50 inches, but that’s about three-eighths of an inch short, as my test rifle measures 44.875 inches overall. In fairness to Pyramyd Air, these are the specs that Compasseco gave them, and in fairness to them, the TF99 Premier is a new and somewhat different airgun. (Edith has already corrected the specs to reflect the figures I gave her.)

The stock pull measures 14.75 inches, which puts it in the large category. And the rest of the stock is very full, giving the shooter the impression of a very large rifle.

The wood looks less like a Chinese stock and more like one from Germany. Apparently, they didn’t use pallet wood for this one — it really is a sharp-looking stock you can be proud of. The wood is deeply stained a dark reddish-brown and evenly finished. Only a few years ago, the best Chinese stocks still had wood filler in them, but I went over this one with a tactical flashlight and could find none. Nor were there any chatter marks in the wood from dull tools cutting too fast. Four panels of impressed checkering cover the sides of the pistol grip and forearm. The inletting is also tight and precise. The only flaw in the entire stock is a poorly fitted white line spacer at the butt.

The metal is still finished very dull, as though tumbling is as far as it gets before the black oxide goes on. So, there’s still room for improvement. In general, this is the nicest Chinese underlever I’ve ever seen.

The gun has a sliding compression chamber, so it naturally also has an anti-beartrap device. Forget about trying to uncock it. If you cock it, you have to shoot it. There’s a small lever behind the trigger that must be pulled for the chamber to unlock and be returned to the front after loading.

Trigger and safety
The safety is automatic and must be pulled back before firing. It can be reset, but only when the gun is cocked. The trigger is not adjustable.


Three levers in the triggerguard. The longer one in the center is the trigger. The short one at the back (right in this photo) is the anti-beartrap release, and the automatic safety is the lever in front. Pull it back toward the trigger to take it off.

The loading port through which the breech is accessed is a uniform hole on top of the spring tube. Even though the rifle does have a vestigial cheekpiece on the left side of the butt, this is very much an ambidextrous rifle.

Sights
The open sights that come with the rifle are fiberoptic (what else?). The rear sight is fully adjustable with click detents at every stop. The front red dot doesn’t gather much light, so the sight can be used more precisely than if the red dot glowed brightly.

There’s also an 11mm dovetail cut into the top of the spring tube for mounting a scope. And the rifle has a scope stop built right in from the factory, which is the way I like to see it being done.

What I’m looking for
The things I will be most interested in when testing this rifle are accuracy and velocity stability after it gets broken in. It’s detonating at present, and from experience I know it should continue to diesel heavily for the first hundred shots or so. This one time, I’ll make an exception and fire the gun a hundred times before testing velocity.

I know that several readers own this rifle, and I would like to hear their experiences as we progress through this test. I would also like to hear from those who are considering the rifle, with any specific questions I might be able to answer while I have it.

There have been a lot of changes in this design over the year, and I can see that the manufacturers are really trying to make a worthy airgun here. They have the aesthetics pretty-well nailed, so it will come down to stability, the overall feel and accuracy.

50 thoughts on “Tech Force TF99 Premier air rifle: Part 1

  1. Compasseco was a Kentucky and I was sadden when I learned they had gone out of business. The news was somewhat softened when I learned Pyramyd Air had purchased the company. It was my understanding they had worked hard trying to get the Tech Force line established.


  2. B.B.,
    Thanks for reviewing this big beast. I’ve been mulling over this and the TF97 for quite a while. The leather seals are a bit of a turn off, but not a deal breaker as long as it shoots consistently. I keep wishing this was a pound lighter and shot 11-12ft/lbs. Maybe the 97 is more my speed.
    Hm



      • I have a TF99 that I got from Compasseco around 2006-7. Poorly cut leather seals and all the bad tool marks, pallet wood, etc that you mentioned. I’m happy to hear they’ve come up in workmanship! After much rework, I still have it and still enjoy it. I did make some custom seals from teflon and quad faced o-rings and put in a sqaure section die spring. Now it shoots nice. I got a decent barrel with mine. After re-crowning, it shoots about .13 ctc at ten yards with Meisters.

        /Dave


  3. In the UK we also have the TF99 (which is designated QB36 here). Its a beast of a rifle that gets up to the UK 12fpe with no trouble at all. With a little cleaning and polishing it becomes a very servicable rifle indeed. More recently we have also got an updated version, the QB38 which is in essence the self same gun but with very much improved finishing on th emetalwork and stock and which is extrememly smooth to fire. I was using mine recently and the cocking stroke was as smooth as glass.


  4. Edith ….

    The way these spammers have been hitting in the last few days I am starting to understand what they are up to. Same tactics every time. Same generic compliments on old blogs to test if their wording will get through. Less likely to be spotted on old blogs. Compliments that are less likely to be deleted if spotted by webmasters who have swelled heads. Then they put the bite on. Two of them today with links.

    Very cunning dirt bags.

    twotalon



    • twotalon,

      Whenever they succeed in posting, that’s usually the only time they succeed. We pull them off & I put them on the blacklist and the list that holds questionable comments for moderation before posting. This is a double safety process, but I think it’s best to have redundancies than risk having the blog littered with spam.

      Sometimes, we’ve gotten as many as 40 spams in a day…and those are the spams that don’t get posted because the system has automatically caught them without my intervention (known spammers and the wording they use are caught by the intuitive spam filter of WordPress). So, whatever spams you see, know that there are a whole bunch you haven’t seen because they got caught before being posted.

      Edith


  5. The QB 36/36-2,TF 87/99,XS 46U and possibly other models are all the same basic design, just have different strokes and finishes to them. The new 99’s have synthetic seals for the piston (screw on type cup seal). Once run in most will come within 200 fps of stated velocities from the factory/dealer with normal weight pellets, the usually hype with light pellets. Due to the design of the piston/spring assembly it is possible to convert them easily to a Gas Ram type system.


    • I have a QB36-2 that I like a lot. It is picky about it’s pellets, but CPL’s group better than anything else I tried. If some airgunsmith out there would like to write a description of converting these guns to gas ram, I can guarantee that I will be very interested.

      Jim


  6. I came close to buying a Tech Force 99 as my first airgun. My parents lived in central Kentucky about an hour and a half from Compasseco back in the 90s. Reading a Compasseco advertisement was kind of like looking at a Herter’s Catalog. The advertisement was too good to be true. I drove up with my Dad to Compasseco and asked to look at one of the guns. The guy running it was nice enough to show me one and let me shoot it. I think what turned me off initially was him explaining that the main thing he did to make the 99 was to use his hand drill and drill out the transfer port. He explained that no one else knew what they were doing. I didn’t know anything about airguns but that smelled too much like snake oil to me so I didn’t buy one. Instead I started calling every Pawn Shop in the Dallas/Fort Worth area asking if they had any airguns and founds a nice HW55 with a Beeman 66R scope for about the price of a Tech Force 99.


    • Oh David! Now that IS a story with a happy ending.A HW55 and a sweet blue ribbon scope at that price level…..you can now call your car a “Getaway vehicle” LOL Well done.


    • David,

      Yes, Duane gave me the drill idea, too. Also he told me to put corn oil (Wesson Oil) into the chamber, because the wax buildup would fill the pores left by shoddy Chinese machining.

      Let’s see where they are today.

      B.B.


  7. Sadly,there are still thousands of 30$ boat oar versions of the B3 ancestor to this one sold here in the US. They are one of my greatest peeves,and knowing that my neighbor is “playing” with a finger guillotine scares the heck out of me.Last week an engineer acquaintence and regular at one of my restaurant haunts showed up with one.I have volunteered to tune it for free,just so I can make it
    somewhat safe.I feel resposible,having introduced him to adult airguns with the gift of a 1377.



      • That has already been done BB.I guess the tune is to satisfy myself that nothing else CAN be done
        in the area of safe operation.As a plus,even an engineer will have to defer to my reccomendations
        once he realises my knowledge base.I’m pretty certain he has taken me serious about the loading method. I plan to let him shoot my tuned Mod.61/HW77…..that should give him a good shove towards
        higher standards!


  8. B.B.

    You indicate that this one is a long stroker. Does it have a very long cocking stroke or does the shooter pay for this by a loss of leverage when cocking??

    twotalon




        • I think a lot of you have missed something.
          The only reason that I’m not seeing this doctor anymore is because the visits served no useful purpose.
          I still have a 50-50 of living another year according to statistics. Not great odds, but I have heard of others beating much worse odds. One of my own doctors is such a case. At birth he was given about 10% chance of surviving. He had a worse chance of not being retarded if he lived.

          twotalon


    • twotalon,

      The cocking stroke is very long and the cocking lever goes way past the point where most levers would stop. The leverage is adequate, although I doubt the gun cocks with the 21 lbs. that the specs say. That’s more incorrect carryover from Compasseco. I will measure the actual cocking force in Part 2.

      B.B.


  9. Okay, so I’m finally at the point where I think I’m ‘okay’ (I’m too much of a perfectionist to say happy) with the accuracy I’m getting with the Slavia at 30m.
    Was out again on the weekend and got a bunch of 1-1.25″ groups. The fellow next to me was shooting a scoped Savage (.22) of some sort and was getting the same sized groups and he seemed happy, so I figured…okay, maybe 1″ groups are all I’m going to get offhand (well, I’m seated and resting my elbows on the table…so I guess a mix of offhand and rested??)
    When I got home a friend of mine who know of my angst sent me this: http://www.longrangehunting.com/articles/degrees-rifle-accuracy-1.php
    which I found to be quite interesting.
    So I’ve decided…I’m going to spend the rest of the summer plinking with the boys and having fun. Until I get to the point where I want to spend the money on an Air Force Talon or Condor or some other PCP, I’ll give up on the 10 shots through 1 hole.
    Happy shooting everyone!!


  10. BB,
    I think this is one of the best Chinese designs; even the trigger is pretty good despite its simplicity. I’ll be interested to see how your tests go — if the factory cleaned it up some compared to my older 36-2, it will be pretty impressive. The stock is huge — that is the one thing that most people won’t understand until they grab it. I’ve never seen anything even close, and that includes c/f’s and shotguns! Of course, I know most airgunners like big stocks and long pull lengths — I won’t go into my theory of why that is, but I can assure them that the TF99 won’t be too small or too short :)!


  11. I am one of the fortunate owners of a TF99, but I purchased mine from the wonderful wizard of airguns, Vince. I am not sure what work he did to it but I’m certain it is better than stock.

    I find the cocking effort to be fairly easy, and the single stage trigger to be very crisp and predictable. It is a powerhouse, so I use heavy pellets (CPH) to settle it down.

    This is a lot of rifle for the money. Hefting this beast is also good for bodybuilding.

    BG_Farmer has one of these as well if memory serves, and he likes it quite a bit.


  12. I have a question about trigger pull technique. I was getting frustrated this weekend because a known accurate rifle suddenly started shooting all over the place. I haven’t yet gotten it back where it was, but specifically what happened was that on one group at 20 yds I shot a 3/8″ 10 shot group, the best group yet wit this rifle and then the very next group was about 3″. My rundown on what might have happened yielded nothing. Out of frustration, I just put the scope on target and pulled the trigger very quickly without pausing at stage 2. Surprisingly the groups shrank (but not back to normal) This got me thinking, have I been practicing poor trigger technique all along? Should I be pausing at stage 2, or at least pausing as long as I do? I assume that pausing at stage 2 is important, or else why would it be there in the first place and why would it be so important to so many shooters. How long should I pause at stage 2? I cock the rifle, take a couple of deep breaths, get roughly on target and pull through stage 1, try to mentally relax and maintain target then release stage 2. This last stage varies, and I may be holding too long at that last stage. How long should I pause? Any input will be greatly appreciated.



      • TT, I thought about that and that’s where the fast trigger pull idea came from. Based on the feedback below, I am definitely holding the trigger too long. Very useful suggestions everybody – thanks. I am going to approach it like this: Cock the gun, take 2 deep breaths to relax, get on target and pull through stage 1, if nothing unusual happens (like sneezing or something), immediately release stage 2. I’ve also thought about adjusting most of stage 1 out of the trigger. I’m starting to wonder what the usefulness of stage 1 really is…



          • I may be a little thick today (ok, everyday) but I don’t understand. What are you supposed to be doing through stage 1 and then at stage 2? I was approaching it as stage 1 is a macro stage – generally getting in the target zone, stage 2 is a micro stage – fine tuning the POA and releasing when ready. This may be shooting 101, but I seemed to have missed that day.


            • Fused,

              You said it correctly. I pull through stage one as I am lowering the pistol on target, then I wait for the sights and bull to align for the break. It takes months of training to do it as fast as that, but once you get in the groove, it works very well.

              B.B.


    • Fused,

      In air pistol competition, the trick is to get the shot off in under five seconds, because the longer you hold it the more your arm shakes and the harder your heart beats.

      There was a Gun Digest article written decades ago by a gun writer who said he always fired as soon as he got on target. Overall, that technique caused his groups to be the smallest he could make.

      B.B.


      • Fused,

        if the rifle all of a sudden has gone inaccurate, start checking stock screws, rifle pivot screw, scope mounts and finally, does your barrel need a cleaning? I am currently re-reading “Pistol Shooting as a Sport” by Hans Standl. He was on the ’68 German Olympic team. His recommendation is that once on target, you need to shoot within 3 seconds otherwise as BB says, you start to shake too much and you have to put your arm down and start again.

        Fred PRoNJ


        • Fred,
          I am still in the process of figuring out what happened, it’s the timing that confused me at first – very next group after a great one was a terrible one. Stock screws are tight, pivot bolt is tight and has a locking screw to keep it there. This rifle has a shrouded barrel, so I started to wonder if something had moved internally which was contacting the pellet on its’ way out. I took the shroud apart and found no indication of this happening. What I did find was a lot of dull powdery residue, some of which was a little clumpy, which I take to be lead dust. I’m thinking now that this residue was floating around inside the barrel shroud and causing some sort of obstruction. I took the baffles out and shot 2 groups. The accuracy was much improved but I still have not repeated the best performance. One strange note is that with the baffles out and air diverter (muzzle break) off, the rifle shot 4″ low and accuracy was not great. Kept the baffles out but replaced the diverter and the shots went right back up on target and better group. I’m wondering how to keep from repeating this build up situation, maybe cutting the shroud down closer to the end of the actual barrel. But after seeing the relationship of having the diverter off and accuracy I’m a little spooked to change anything. I also thought about removing the shroud completely, but the design does not allow for this.


          • Wait a minute. Wait a minute.
            A springer? When my 97K ate the centerpoint, everything seemed fine until after one shot when the scope went out of focus. Did you blow the scope, provided you are using one? Breech seal fall out? Spring break? Possible thing about the trigger pull difference may have been because you got rattled over the sudden accuracy change.

            twotalon


            • TT, breach seal still ok. Have not checked the spring and piston seal, I’m trying to go through the simple things first. I have not checked the scope, but my next step will be to temporarily put on a known good scope and test again.


    • Fused,
      As you know, follow through is very important. It sounds like you are doing that in regard to how you hold the second stage, but are you still LOOKING at your impact point after you pull the trigger. As easy as that sounds it it still so easy lose concentration and briefly glance away after trigger pull. This is akin to flinching. For breathing, take those two deep breaths you mention, exhale about a third of that, holding the rest, pull through first stage until you feel the second,and pull the second stage STRAIGHT BACK, keeping your eye on your expected point of impact. That should get you a nice group.


  13. Way off topic,but….I just made a trip to Wallyworld in search of an inexpensive light source for my new Alpha Chrony.I found some power outage rechargeable led lights,four leds down the side.They have a retractable pair of plug blades,and two zip ties or rubber bands mount them to the sky screens.No batteries to contend with,cheap and compact! For 7$ each,they are a perfect “light kit”,and automatically come on in a power outage when plugged in!


  14. Twotalon,so sorry I jumped the gun,so to speak…..but I stand by the sentiment.I think alot of you,and you bring great stuff to us fellow airgunners attention.Here’s to your continued improvement.
    (favorite beverage elevated here….)


    • TwoTalon,

      Clearly, it seems I missed some big news about you recently that a lot of the guys are commenting on. Reading between the lines it sounds very scary. I trust all is looking up now and add my best wishes for a speedy, permanent, and twitchless recovery!

      AlanL


  15. A repost from YESTERDAY, in case anyone knows Karl Kenyon, or has used any of his products.
    ———————————————————————————————
    I just got word that Karl Kenyon had passed away today, the 31st of July.
    Reportedly the funeral will be in Eley on Friday the 11th of August.

    I was very fortunate to have been provided with used Anschutz 1413 that came with a Kenyon trigger when I was only around 15 years old. I had good success with that rifle at a very young age. That trigger was a detail that mattered.

    I remember when electronic triggers first started showing up in then ISU (now ISSF) matches, Kenyon triggers were the only triggers worthy of comparison. Karl Kenyon was similarly famous, and respected for pretty much everything he did, including barrels.

    Although Karl retired over a decade ago, the sport of competitive marksmanship has lost an invaluable member of this community. He was, I believe, a national treasure, as many national records, world records, national championships, and world class championships were won as a direct consequence of work done personally by Karl Kenyon.

    God bless you Karl, as we were blessed by your love and devotion to producing the best. The source of all creation is love. I believe that this is what connects us with God. Karl is well connected.

    Victor


    • Victor,thanks for sharing that information.I’ve not been aware of him,but it sounds as if he was an artisan that affected the path of many,and a treasure shooting will be hard pressed to replace.May he rest in peace.


  16. B.B.,
    Months ago, you reviewed the Tech Force TF-87, a more expensive model. This review is starting out to look more favorable. The 87 and 99 look very similar, with identical advertised velocities, and yet the 87 is much more expensive. How are they so different? The accuracy tests of the 99 will tell a lot, because the 99 was, apparently, difficult to shoot well.
    Victor




    • Victor,
      The 87 is newer, with an updated trigger design, and has what looks to be a third longer compression chamber, so it may meet its ratings with real, lead, though light, pellets, whereas the 99 needs trick pellets to hit its rated velocity, but is still plenty powerful. Interestingly, the factory (Shanghai) specifications for 36-2 (generic model TF99 is based on) are — or at least were — more in line with reality. I think the 87’s problem was that it was throwing .177 pellets too fast for good accuracy — we’ll have to see what BB gets with the 99. If the barrels are good and the assembly is competent, these are nice shooting rifles, in my humble opinion, regardless of port of origin.



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