Chinese KL-3B Fast Deer sidelever: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle right
The Chinese Fast Deer sidelever air rifle is attractive. Does its performance live up to its looks?

I found this rifle at the 2012 Roanoke Airgun Expo a few weeks ago. The thing that caught my eye was the beauty of the finish — and that’s a stretch for most Chinese air rifles. Especially the vintage ones, which this most assuredly is.

I made the mistake of commenting to the dealer that it resembled an older TS-45 sidelever like the ones Randy Mitchell is selling, and I received an earful of protests that it was most definitely NOT a TS 45. And it really isn’t; but when you see the two guns side-by-side, you know their makers at least saw the competition.

TS 45 rifle right
The TS-45 appears to be the Fast Deer’s close relative. This test will determine how close.

The Fast Deer (or, as some call it, the Fast Dear — referring to their wives or girlfriends?) is finely finished, as I noted. The metal parts are deeply blued and the wood is very shiny. The fit of the action to the stock, however, leaves little doubt as to the rifle’s origins. The label on the box says the gun is made by the Zhongzhou Machinery Plant China North Industrial Corporation, or Norinco, as it is known in the U.S. Norinco is to China what Ishmash is to Russia — a huge arsenal that also makes items of a commercial nature.

When Mac first saw the gun, he remarked that the sidelever release appears similar to the one on the FWB 300S. Because this is a Chinese air rifle, you would expect the release to require a huge amount of pressure to operate, but it doesn’t. It’s smooth and as light as it can be for what it does.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle rear sight
The rear sight looks robust enough, but the adjustments are vague. You can make out the parallel dovetail grooves in the spring tube that might serve as a scope mount base. Also, note the sidelever release that works smoothly on the test rifle.

I haven’t removed the action from the stock, but so far the only marking I see on the gun is the serial number stamped into the left side of the spring tube. So, how do I know it’s a Fast Deer? Simple — it came in a Fast Deer box with a Fast Deer owner’s manual.

Fast Deer sidelever air right box graphics
The graphics on the box tell you the name of the rifle.

As I was admiring the rifle (I was not yet its owner), the dealer told me that it shoots at an honest-to-goodness 715 f.p.s. The TS-45 I tested for you earlier this year launched RWS Hobby pellets at an average 552 f.p.s. This gun may do a lot better than that.

Two things I can tell you for certain at this point. First, the rifle has an incredibly heavy trigger. It feels like at least 12 lbs., but it could be even more. There isn’t any creep in the single-stage pull, but the release is much heavier than it should be or even needs to be. The other thing I can say is that it feels like a tuned gun when it fires. It isn’t tuned, because it still smells like bacon frying after a few shots, and that smell is a telltale sign of Chinese grease. But there’s very little vibration and recoil with the shot. It feels like there’s a wonderful air rifle struggling to get out of the Fast Deer.

The sights are a hooded square blade in front and an adjustable rear notch that sits too close to the eye. Your eye cannot focus well on a notch that close, so aiming should be something of an adventure. I do note, however, that the TS-45 rear sight sits in the same place, and I managed to do okay with it. As nice and crisp as the rear sight appears, though, the detents on the windage adjustment knob are soft and mushy — and on elevation, they’re nonexistent.

The rear sight sits on parallel rails that might be pressed into service as a scope mount base. There doesn’t appear to be a scope stop on the gun, but as smooth as it shoots, maybe you don’t need one.

When the rifle is cocked, you can both hear and feel a ratchet dragging scross the coils of the mainspring. That ratchet holds the sidelever in case you slip before the gun is cocked. Once cocked, though, there doesn’t seem to be any anti-beartrap, so use the safe cocking method I recommended for the TS-45.

Restraining the TS 45 sidelever during loading
The sidelever is safely restrained by your arm during loading. If the sear should slip, you might get a welt on the arm, but your digits would have time to get away from the sliding compression chamber.

I was ready to buy this rifle when I overheard another dealer telling this dealer that he also had a Fast Deer on his table. It didn’t have a box, but I thought I’d better check it out first. So, I wandered over to his table where there, indeed, was Fast Deer No. 2. It wasn’t in as good condition as this one, though, and the price was a little higher. I returned to the first dealer and bought the gun seen here for $40.

Some people might ask for a price break on a deal like that; but as far as I was concerned, the dealer had already marked it with his best price. It was cheaper than the other rifle in lesser condition and was only $40. That’s two trips for a couple to Pizza Hut. How could I go wrong?

What’s different?
The single standout difference in the Fast Deer over the TS-45, other than the overall level of quality, is the manual safety. On the Fast Deer, the safety is a switch on the rifle side of the stock, just above the trigger. The TS-45 has no safety.

Fast Deer sidelever air rifle safety
The safety is on the right side of the stock, above the trigger. It’s set to fire now.
There’s a red dot below the round black plate. When you move the lever clockwise, the fat part of the lever covers the red dot in the 6 o’clock position. Then, the gun is on safe. When you move the lever counterclockwise so the red dot shows, the gun is ready to fire.

I can tell you that the Chinese pellets I’ve used thus far fit the bore well, so it doesn’t seem to be oversized like so many Chinese air rifles are.

More cheap Chinese airguns, B.B.?
I think that hope springs eternal in the human breast. I know it does in mine! I always hope that I will find some overlooked little wonder than shoots well, is accurate and doesn’t cost a fortune. I have very high standards, and the trigger on this rifle is already a bust — but I’m curious to see if there’s a diamond somewhere amongst all this coal.

I would like to hear from those who own Fast Deer air rifles, because I think they must like them a lot. Either way, though, please let us know what you think of this airgun.

One last thing: Why “deer”?
Edith and I wondered why the term “deer” was used…and this also made us wonder why Leapers (makers of UTG optics, bipods and more) uses a deer for their logo. Plus, their name relates to the leaping of deer. After a bit of research, we found a site that explains this…if the data is true: The deer is a Chinese symbol for longevity. The word for “deer” in Chinese is “lu” which could also be translated to mean “revenue” or “earnings.” It’s a mark for desire for fame, recognition and enduring success. If any of you are fluent in Chinese culture and language, maybe you could shed some light on this.

64 thoughts on “Chinese KL-3B Fast Deer sidelever: Part 1

  1. Well a real trip down memory lane. I have one of these too, also bought in a ‘hope springs eternal’ frame of mind. Time was the various fora were full of tuning guides and write-ups.

    Mine shoots OK, in that it is farly accuate, but it rattles a twangs a lkot when fired and the trigger is out of this world, and not in a positive sense. It was bought with no box and had had some use and clealry neds atention. Still prefer the TS45, which also has a bad trigger but which overall is better imho. However, look forward to seeing your review of this.


  2. One day the Chinese will get it right. Of course by then all of our jobs will be over there or in Vietnam or somewhere and you may rest assured it will not have a $40 price tag on it so we will not be able to afford them.


  3. If you would want any help tuning it Tom please let me know, have done alot of them when you could still get them from the supplier. I think you will find they are accurate and the trigger will be better with a little work. Never will be a match grade but for what it is will be nice.



      • It is a direct sear, polish and lube. If you feel up to it you can also add a screw to adjust the engagement but thats one for a good machinist and improperly adjusted can result in a dangerous condition. An over travel screw can be added by drilling a hole in the guard and adding a screw and nut also.


  4. Yeah, these things were all the rage 8-9 years ago. They were extremely popular in .177 and I remember all the fuss about shooters trying to procure them in .22. But the small powerplant and light spring didn’t translate well to the larger caliber.

    There is no ratchet dragging over the spring coils. There’s a separate sawtooth bar and a paw that forms the ratchet, and it can all be removed to smooth out the cocking cycle.

    I used to turn the dovetail-mounted rear sight around to move it further from my eye. That helped a bit. That also means that the windage adjustment works backwards, but no biggee.

    There IS a beartrap. It consists of a 2nd sear located at the rear of the cocking slot, a little ahead of the cocking lever pivot. That sear pops into place when the lever is released for cocking, and you can see it flop around at the end of the cocking stroke when the piston rides over it. When the lever is returned to the firing position it pushes the sear out of the way.

    The fit and finish is far better than most $25 air rifles, and the beartrap and dovetail mounted sights are more than one would expect at that price range. But what you lose is in the trigger. I’ve not seen them prematurely wear as in the Industry B2 series, but production variances means some are quite decent while others need a sledge. As with all direct sears, a little dressing of the sear face can do wonders… if done carefully and in small stages.

    I had 3 of these at one point. Wish I had kept one.


    • Vince,

      I figured you had experience with these. Thanks for the correction about the bumpy feeling on cocking. And I will check for the anti-beartrap. I couldn’t find it on the first go-round.

      B.B.


      • Oh – and another thing – the compression chambers in these are notorious for having deep scratches parallel to the 25mm chamber that no amount of honing would remove. We just let the leather seal conform itself to them and leave it at that.


  5. I’ve got one in .22 cal. Nick Carter sent it my way many months ago. It does have a smooth firing characteristic–once it goes off. Trigger pull is in the neighborhood of 9 pounds. The left side of the barrel has shallow lathe tool marks down half it’s length. The recessed target-type crown is interesting, as is the tapered barrel. I need to tear it down and give it some love. Came with no sights, so I can’t comment on eye-relief. Maybe BB’s blog will push it up in the list of airgun projects.



      • Ha! Define “reasonable”. Actually, I’ve never shot it across the chronograph. I’ll go do that now. Are there any particular pellet(s) you want numbers from?


        • Derrick,

          Perhaps Premiers and Hobbys? That give me a good sense of where things are.

          I’m guessing the rifle is more powerful in .177 than in .22, because of the short piston stroke.

          Thank you for doing this. I didn’t mean to give you an assignment. :)

          B.B.


          • Well, the test went nowhere fast. Literally. H&N .22 wadcutters were blistering out of the barrel at around 432 fps. I stopped shooting it after a couple shots, thinking that it needs a tear down. Sorry. Maybe I’ll take it apart later this afternoon.



            • Don’t go hunting for more power. It just ain’t in the forest. Mine used to do about 450 with Crosman wadcutters. The powerplant is waaaayyyy to small to do a good job with .22′s.


              • I was expecting similar velocity to my .22 cal AK Style BAM B3-1 which is hitting 550′s with RWS Hobby pellets. The ultra low numbers threw me. I still think I need to tear it apart.


  6. Sorry to butt in, but I was wondering if any of the regulars here could suggest a busy-ish, active forum other than the ‘yellow’? I have questions that could be better answered in that type of setting rather than interrupting someone’s personal blog, and while the yellow’s content/membership is fine the layout is archaic.
    Thanks!


    • dangerdongle,
      Please, please do not feel that way. We will help you with any question pertaining to air guns (and anything else for that matter). Do not feel like you have to stay on topic. Most of us don’t anyway. That’s one of the features of this blog that makes it so appealing to me.
      -Chuckj


      • You guys aren’t getting rid of me that easily! It’s just that I’m so far behind the curve I really hate disrupting the flow, so to speak. BB’s blog and the resulting conversation is the first thing I look at in the morning, in that quiet time before the girls get up and I have to go back to my job slaving for Satan, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to give that up!
        But I’d rather silently absorb all the goodness here and ask the stupid n00b questions elsewhere.


        • DD,

          NO! It’s the Noobie questions we want! While we have about a hundred people commenting on this blog, in the wings there are tens of THOUSANDS. Many are new to the hobby and they need to see the questions asked and answered without heads rolling.

          Please, ask away!

          B.B.


        • dangerdongle,
          Well, OK, if that’s what you want, but just know, we thrive on stupid n00b questions. It helps feed our egos :-) In fact I’ve wanted to ask a really stupid question just to make sure everyone is well fed.
          -Chuckj


        • Be careful about asking stupid questions (or otherwise) on some of the websites. You might get a bunch of stupid or worthless answers. A lot of people do.

          twotalon


    • dangerdongle,

      Yes, just ask your questions. We will either answer them or steer you to the right place to get an answer.

      B.B.


      • Actually there is something I’ve been very curious about but unable to find an answer for anywhere.
        Could anyone explain Umarex to me?
        “They” build a 22lr copy of H&K’s MP5 PDW….”They” also appear to build the majority of air pistols, and air pistol replicas on the market today, under license from all the big firearm names. “They” import some of the higher-end German airguns and would appear to be, at first glance, nothing more than a distributor. From what I gather, their low priced gear is made in China while the ‘good’ stuff comes from Germany or Turkey. I put the “they” in quotation marks because I suspect Umarex is really more than one entity, and here’s what I don’t understand. While our own Crosman gets slammed for manufacturing in China, Umarex appears to be fairly well-regarded. BUT, every Crosman product I own happens to work flawlessly, while everything I’ve tried from the big U has been what I would consider the equivalent of cheap Chinese junk.
        I ask because I am a HUGE pistol nut, and I’m getting ready to drop a large chunk of change on a few pistols in preparation for the indoor shooting season. With few exceptions Umarex is pretty much the only game in town-are they worth it? Or am I looking at big-buck disposables?


        • dangerdongle,

          Umarex is the large parent company that owns Walther, Hammerli and several other brands outright. They do manufacture firearms and high-grade airguns in Germany. They also do import many of their guns from China, with their name on them.

          Umarex is just one company, but they are very large and they have several divisions. They got their start exporting blank-firing guns throughout Europe, where they are a lot more popular than in the U.S.

          What else would you like to know about them?

          B.B.


          • Thank you BB, I guess I’ll just have to assume it’s going to be hit or miss with Umarex products and take advantage of Pyramyd’s return policy when necessary.
            Speaking of which, how are you involved with Pyramyd, if you don’t mind my asking?


            • dangerdongle,

              I write this blog for them, plus I do other things, such as giving them advice and writing the copy for promotions, etc.

              B.B.


  7. I have something to report on pistol practice that I just implemented. I have already mentioned this to Victor, who is giving me tips on target shooting, and I thought I’d pass it along because it has helped me a lot these last two days.

    I recently uncovered a laser sight I bought a while back but never mounted. I began to wonder if it would help me with my pistol shooting. As you may know the IZH-46M does not have a scope rail so I never thought of using the laser for that pistol.

    The other day I got the idea of taping the laser to the pistol to see how that would work, and if it would work in conjunction with the pistol’s notch and post sight. I removed the mounting bracket from the laser and using merely one strip of Scotch tape, and I taped the laser to the side of the pistol nestled in between the barrel and the air tube. I chose a spot that would not interfere with the cocking mechanism. There is a large area under the barrel where the tape won’t interfere with the cocking lever nor the air transfer locking mechanism. That one strip of tape holds it very secure there. I’m able to operate the on/off button just fine without disturbing the location of the laser beam.

    I can’t adjust the laser to match the pistol sight point-of-aim/point-of-impact with this configuration because it doesn’t have that much adjustment in it. I have shimmed it a bit, but, really, I don’t want it to match. I found that having it about an inch to the side of the poa is sufficient for my purpose and very revealing. It is close enough to the poa to be plainly visible even while concentrating on the sight picture. The laser displays very brightly even with two 500w shop light bulbs shining on it.

    What it does is gives me an excellent visual of how steady my aim is, how much of an effect my trigger pull has on the shot, and how good my follow-through is. If any of these are not done correctly that laser spot will jump dramatically letting me know when and who the culprit is. It also lets me know how many cups of coffee I had to drink that morning.

    Just thought I’d pass that along.

    -Chuckj


  8. Matt61 had encouraged me to make it to the Men’s Top Shot event. Events included rock throwing, knife throwing, sling shot, archery using a bow with no nock point set and three events using firearms. I am going to recommend that airguns be part of future events. The four firearms events were shooting suckers with a .22 rifle, skeet shooting and target shooting with two pistols (a 9mm auto and a S&W 686 using .38 special rounds).

    B.B., I learned a bit more about double action/single action. I only fired one round from the CZ 75B. Not much of a test, but I like it. I am unable to name the 9mm we used for the competition (apparently, that isn’t where my attention was focused). However, it could use double action for the first shot. I learned that this pistol had no manual safety. I surmise that this explains the initial double action. I failed to understand this until now.

    And now I come to the part about airgun pistols. I felt comfortable with both 9mm and with the 686. Even so, I couldn’t hit non moving full faced clay pigeon at 10 yards and only got one scoring hit with the 686. I am not overly depressed, my experiences are limited and all have been equally dismal. This just won’t stand.

    I believe I need to start with an airgun pistol and work on this. I’m not sure which pistol may be a good learning tool. I thought about the auto replicas and even the blowback models, but I question whether another may be better for just learning to hit the target (hopefully with some carry over to other pistols). I am looking at your blog on dry firing and the series on 10 meter pistol shooting. I’m sure I’ll find a few more.

    Regarding today blog, it has become my mantra at the flea markets, surplus stores, and the like that I am looking for a Chinese air rifle.

    Update: I still have some radiculopathy symptoms, mostly on my left side, but they are dampened by Lyrica. Otherwise, the slow healing process appears to be moving in the right direction. I hope all is going well for my fellow bloggers who have had things that need healing.

    ~Ken


  9. I was wondering about the deer name myself since one is definitely not going to hunt deer with this rifle. If it’s about a Fast Dear, then maybe we need another one about the Excellent Horse-Type Lady. This is supposedly part of the title of a song sung by the current wife of the North Korean leader before she got married. That’s definitely state-supported music.

    I’m glad to see that I’ve evolved more or less the sidelever cocking technique in the photo. Say, how does one lubricate the spring inside of a sliding compression chamber? Is there a hole in the face of the compression chamber where you can squirt in Ballistol?

    That blog about bug-out bags was just in time. All of you in the path of the Frankenstorm watch yourselves.

    John, yes, I think you qualify for the living and breathing of guns. Say, would you know if it’s possible to remove the AK 74 style muzzle break that is fitted on many AKs and replace it with a Vortex flash hider? The muzzle break, while effective, amplifies the flash apparently. Just curious.

    Sent my Enfield No. 4 Mk I* off in the mail to the gunsmith. I had to do some reboxing at the post office desk which gave me a chance to flip open my Voyager folder. How the attendant squeaked. :-)

    Matt61

    Matt61


  10. I bought a Fast Deer in .177 back when they were being liquidated for $25. It’s an interesting cross of refinement and crudeness. The tapered barrel is nicely finished, but in stark contrast to the rest of the gun. Mine was quite accurate inside of 20 yds.

    As others have said, there is little hope for the trigger. Don Raitzer refers to these as classic three-stage triggers: First you pull for a while, then you pull a little stronger, then you yank the hell out of it and it lets go. A trigger shoe helps a little, as does a trigger stop screw, but you can never get the stop screw quite as close as you’d like, because the trigger actually moves out of the way of the cocking latch when you cock the rifle, so you can never get ALL the overtravel out.

    I experimented extensively with this gun, because it was quite easy to work on. Mine had the long groove in the compression chamber as well, but the leather seal seemed to conform and work just fine. I buttoned every metal-to-metal contact point, including the cocking lever pivot. It was quite smooth, both cocking and firing.

    If you do a tear-down, pay careful attention to the anti-beartrap, or second sear as Vince calls it. There is a very fine sort of L-shaped spring behind it that is easily lost. It’s really a rather surprisingly intricate mechanism to be found on such a crude rifle.

    A short while back I bought the TS-45 three-pack, and was able to make one functioning gun. While similar, the Fast Deer is in my opinion, superior to the TS-45. While I don’t particularly miss my Fast Deer, I did enjoy it while I had it.

    In the world of turd-polishing and diamonds in the rough, I’ve found much more success buying old tired Relums, Luczniks and Haenels, than anything Chinese.


    • Jim,

      I have to agree with you on the Relum and Haenel brands (I don’t have a Lucznik yet). They were obviously made by people who took pride in their work. The Haenels especially surprised me with the level of finish on the interior parts, parts you cannot see without taking the gun apart. Both model 303′s I have worked on were wonderfully accurate, too.

      Paul in Liberty County


  11. I hope everyone’s all right in the US, as news of Sandy’s rampage can make anyone nervous, to say the least. I pray for this situation to be over as soon as possible and weather’s fury to be spent on nothing in some wasteland away from people and their homes.

    duskwight


    • duskwight,
      You know there has been a lot of speculation as to what happened to the Myan civilization. Personally I think it would take only one Sandy.
      -Chuckj



  12. I have an air rifle that looks like the one you show the only mark on it is the s.n. 9510621. Can you tell me anything about it? It is a 22 cal side lever.



  13. And the ratchet sound on mine comes from a ratchet bar and the cocking lever is safe until fully cocked. It won’t release until fully cocked.




    • Simon,

      Your rifle appears to be a Fast Deer, just like the one in this report. It’s a .22 caliber spring piston rifle with a sliding compression chamber. The rifle is more common in .177 caliber, though the .22 is not rare.

      It has an anti-beartrap device that prevents the gun from firing until the sliding compression chamber is closed, but never trust it. People have amputated their thumbs that way. Always restrain the cocking lever when you load your gun, as I show in this report.

      The Fast Deer is a higher-quality of Chinese air rifle. It resembles the TS-45, but is made better.

      What else do you need to know?

      B.B.



    • I don’t think there are any registries showing serial numbers and production dates – this gun is not really a collectable that people cherish for generations!

      Regardless, I believe it’s safe to say that the gun is about 8-10 years old. I think the Fast Deer’s showed up in the early 2000′s, and more or less disappeared by about 2006.



    • Simon,

      There are no “kits” for this, any more than there are “kits” to rebuild a 1959 Rambler station wagon. You make the leather piston seal yourself. You locate a mainspring and cut it down to fit the gun. And you fashion all the other parts that are needed yourself.

      There are no books telling you how to do this. You learn by doing. Therefore, if your gun is working well, it’s best to leave it alone and enjoy shooting it. Or if you are curious, buy a second and even a third gun and take it apart. That’s how we learn.

      There are hundreds of blog articles to help you with this. You might start with this one that has 13 parts:

      http://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2006/08/spring-gun-tune-part-13-range-testing.html

      B.B.





    • Emmanuel,

      The Fast Deer is no longer being made. It was available up through the 1990s but is now gone from the market.

      To get one you have to look for a used one.

      B.B.


  14. i have been following this thread and am learning a lot about my little Chinese rifle. I have two actually (thanks BB for redirecting me), but mine isnt a fast deer. It has a cocking mechanism like fast deer but comes from the bottom. Is that a TS45? I sighted it in today (after having it for decades) at about 75 feet and got them within a dime. The other one is the BAM B-3 with a folding stock. It needs sighted in as well. i hope to upgrade rifles soon to something more modern and quality (Crosman, Webley, Winchester) and I am thinking multi pump. But having started with a clunky loud and obnoxious chinese rifle it will be like driving a sportscar after years with my GMC Pacer. Thanks for the education in air rifles.



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