by Tom Gaylord
Exclusively for PyramydAir.com. Copyright ©2007. All Rights Reserved.
I'm a doubting Thomas, to say the least. I must be convinced that something is true before I will display any enthusiasm for it, but in the case of the Air Arms TX200 spring-piston air rifle, I was overwhelmed from the start.
The Beeman company began pushing TX200s in the U.S. back in the late 1980s. Yes, the air rifle has been around that long. Back then, precharged air rifles had not quite come into their own in the United States, and certainly not with me. I loved spring-piston air rifles, and among them perhaps two stood out as the best - the Weihrauch HW 77 and the Beeman R1 that Weihrauch also made in lower-powered versions as the HW80. I loved the R1 for its power, but it was impossible to pick up a British airgun magazine in 1990 without reading something about the HW77. It was one of the rifles of choice among hunters and THE spring rifle for field target. Then Air Arms came out with the TX200.
After that, you couldn't pick up a British airgun magazine that wasn't ga-ga over the TX. Anyone who's read the British mags knows to take what they say with a grain of salt, because they really never tested an airgun they didn't love - or one that didn't advertise in them, for that matter. But the ink spilled on behalf of the TX200 was embarrassing, even for the Brits. In 1992, Robert Beeman got on the bandwagon. It looked like Beeman might add the TX200 to their catalog, but it never made it in. It was listed in special supplements in 1992, but by 1993, Beeman was blowing them out at clearance prices. All this hooplah made me curious, but I still had my doubts.
The earth circled the sun several more times, and suddenly it was the mid-1990s. I wasn't just reading airgun articles anymore - I was writing them, too. Though I avoided it at first, the readers of The Airgun Letter began to ask me when I was going to review the TX200. It's one thing to avoid testing an airgun because you're stubborn, but when you publish a monthly newsletter about airgunning, you have to think in broader terms. Before the first year was over, The Airgun Letter had purchased a TX200.
When I first shot the air rifle, I felt cheated. Not by others - by myself. My rigid refusal to buy the rifle in the first place had denied me the chance to shoot what I have ever since described as the perfect spring airgun. Twelve years later, I'm sticking to that description, and the rifle has been improved. In my opinion, you cannot buy a better spring air rifle than the TX200 - even at twice the price. In fact, let me just say this now and get it out of the way - of all spring-piston air rifles, only the handmade Whiscombe rifle is more accurate than the TX200. I've never seen a bad one. This rifle is so good that even the gun-wreckers who will normally botch almost any airgun made will usually leave their hands off the TXs, because even they can see that perfection has been achieved.
The gun I purchased in October 1994 was a Mark II TX200, built to U.S. specifications (i.e., over 12 foot-pounds). It had a beautiful dark walnut stock and the most gorgeous deep bluing over all the metal. The trigger was a copy of the famous Rekord, but improved somewhat by making it more adjustable. It also had the first anti-beartrap device that held the sliding chamber open even if the sear slipped.
The smaller barrel is centered on the air transfer port, which is centered on the compression cylinder. This creates a step-down from cylinder to barrel that some find unattractive. The fatter barrel shroud on the Mark III makes the step-down less noticeable.
Another unique feature is the piston, which is able to rotate freely inside the compression chamber. I don't know what advantage this is supposed to bring, but apparently there is one, because it is touted in all the technical articles about the rifle.
A final major feature is the stock profile that was created for the sport of field target. It is very well suited for shooting from the seated position and for the use of a high-power scope with a large optical package. Such scopes have to be mounted very high, and the TX200 stock has a very high Monte Carlo cheekpiece to elevate the sighting eye to the scope's exit pupil. The pistol grip is almost vertical and the forearm is flat, just forward of the triggerguard, which helps the field target competitor balance the rifle on his own forearm or knee.
My older TX200 Mark III has the older checkered beech stock.
From the first shot, I knew the TX200 was a special rifle. The perfect fit of the stock, the sculpting of the trigger blade and the smoothness of the powerplant were none-too-subtle clues that whoever designed the gun knew what they were doing. Not only that, but they were experts at it! Once the gun settled down after a few hundred break-in shots, velocity registered 890 f.p.s. with 7.9-grain Crosman Premiers. I was so satisfied that I immediately sold off an HW77 that was fully tuned for field target, because I didn't need two perfect rifles.
Next, I had Jim Maccari tune the rifle down to 13 foot-pounds (865 f.p.s. with 7.9-grain Premiers), seeking to learn whether lower power might help accuracy. It didn't, though the cocking effort dropped by 9 lbs.
Then, I sent the rifle to Ohio-based airgun tuner Ken Reeves, who had a great reputation for tuning TX200s. Ken put an Ox square-section mainspring and a thrust roller bearing in the rifle that boosted the velocity back up to 905 f.p.s. When his tune was new, it got 23 f.p.s. extreme spread with Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets. Four years (and 4,000 to 6,000 shots) later, it was up to 930 f.p.s. and the spread was under 20 f.p.s. with weight-sorted pellets. His tune raised the cocking effort by 4 lbs. from the 13 foot-pound level, but of course he also boosted the output to over 15 foot-pounds. Cocking was still lighter than it had been when the gun was new. It was so smooth and powerful that I thought I would never get rid of that rifle. Never say never!
In the year 2000, Air Arms World Class Air Rifles brought out the Mark III - the rifle that is still current today. There have been some airgunsmiths who have offered their own proprietary tunes they called the Mark IV and the Mark V, but the most current Air Arms model designation for the rifle is the Mark III.
The Mark III air rifle was a real improvement, though I didn't see much room for it when it came out, but living with one for many years has brought out all of its finer traits. First, it has a shrouded and baffled barrel, bringing the muzzle report down to a whisper. The powerplant that makes most of the noise in a spring-piston gun was already smooth and quiet, so the Mark III is noticeably quieter than any TX200 before it. The shroud also added fatness to the barrel, making the "hump" much less noticeable. The smoothness of the factory rifle rivaled Ken Reeves' tune to the extent that I have never worked on the rifle. Everything has been left just as it came from the box nearly 8 years ago.
Power is up on the new rifle. Once again, mine is box-stock and pumps out a Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellet at an average of 930 f.p.s. after about 4,000 shots. My Mark II had to be tuned to do that well.
Another advantage of the Mark III is the anti-beartrap release. On the Mark II, it was a loud ratcheting mechanism that shooters hated so much that they learned to hold it down as they cocked their guns. The new release has but a few ratchet teeth that kick in near the end of the cocking stoke, so there's hardly any additional noise.
The beartrap release is on the right side of the receiver behind the breech opening. In this view, the rifle is cocked, moving the sliding compression chamber back out of the way so the breech can be seen. My older Mark III has nice checkering, but the latest models are even nicer.
The final plus for the new model is the fatter barrel brought about by the barrel shroud. What you see from the outside isn't the real barrel. It's just a jacket around it for noise reduction. It is baffled and really does a number on the short 9" barrel's report. That fatter shrouded barrel has the look of a bull barrel, which is very right for this rifle.
All TXs have had a wonderful scope-mounting setup that many scope rings are made for.
The trigger on the TX200 is superb! It's a copy of the legendary Weihrauch Rekord trigger, but Air Arms made theirs much more adjustable. The position of the second stage is easily adjusted to suit, and the all-important pull weight is, as well. I have mine releasing at an incredible 8 ozs., yet it is perfectly safe. It releases crisply without a hint of creep. Like the Rekord, a safety goes on automatically as the spring-piston air rifle is cocked, so you have to remember to release it before every shot. The safety can only be reapplied by recocking the gun, even though it may not have been fired yet.
The finish of any Air Arms air rifle is top-notch, and the TX200 is certainly right up there. The wood is well-stained and beautifully carved, as you can see in the close-up photos on the Pyramyd Air website. This fish-scale carving is new for 2007 and is considered a refined version of checkering.
The metal parts are highly polished and deeply blued. They convey to any owner a sense of perfection that the performance of the rifle delivers.
As I write this, the TX200 sells for $559.00 with a right-hand beech stock. That's about $110 more than I paid for mine many years ago. Nothing has diminished in all the years the rifle has been produced, so there is no benefit to acquiring an older model. In fact, the latest version is the one with all the best features, such as fish-scale checkering, a shrouded barrel and the quiet sliding chamber lock.
That is a lot of money, without a doubt, but it's money well-spent. I have yet to meet a TX200 owner who isn't proud of his rifle and pleased he made the stretch to buy it.
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