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Education / Training Testing a B3-1

Testing a B3-1

by B.B. Pelletier

Well, after two days of reading about what it takes to tune up a cheap Chinese air rifle, I thought I’d report on another one – the B3-1. One of our readers asked for it, so here goes.

I bought a B3 from around 1987. In those days, they sold for $49.00 through an ad in American Rifleman. I bought the gun because I had always found Chi-Com military firearms to be serviceable and adequate. Boy, was I in for an awakening! Chi-com firearms are made for the military. Airguns are made for export!

Trees don’t lie
That old B3 underlever was as rough and cobby as a product can get and still work. It was loaded with all sorts of odd lubricants that smelled strange every time it fired. Back in those days, I didn’t own a chronograph, so my way of testing airgun power was to see how deep it buried a pellet in a tree. I had a Blue Streak of known power, if Sheridan was to be believed, and it was .20 caliber. A smaller .177 pellet shot from a B3 at 125 f.p.s. faster should have penetrated approximately the same. It didn’t, of course. It didn’t even penetrate the tree at all. From the vibration, it felt like a magnum…but trees don’t lie!

Deja vu all over again
I got rid of that old B3 at a garage sale within a year and thought Chinese airguns were out of my life. So, how do I explain buying another one, a B3-1, just three years ago at a gun show? I guess it was the price – only $29. Yes, in over two decades the price had actually gone down! There is also nostalgia. The dealer had these rifles in boxes stacked ten high and four deep on his table – just like the old days. Like some of you who asked me for this report, I couldn’t walk away.

Something old, something new
Well, China has cleaned up its act in the past 20 years. This latest rifle is all the way up to NRA awful in the cosmetic department. We must be sending better wooden pallets to China, because the stock shows definite improvement over 1987. It’s still peppered with wood putty where the nail holes were, but it fits the action much closer now; and the finish is brown instead of orange. The bluing on the steel is even and nice! Most of the parts that were plastic and cracked on my B3 are now steel, and the few that are still plastic are made much better. The synthetic breech seal at the front of the sliding compression chamber is still made of Chinese ticky-tacky, and who knows how long it will last.

When you cock a B3-1, it sounds like an old sailing ship creaking at anchor. The mainspring must be completely dry, and I can hear each coil as it slips in the tube under increasing compression. But, the rifle cocks easily. The designers didn’t do anything foolish such as install an automatic safety or anti-beartrap mechanism, so the B3-1 remains one of the finest surgical instruments available to the general public. A little relaxation of care on the shooter’s part, and it will remove a digit as readily as a Civil War surgeon, and without the benefit of anesthesia! Seriously, when loading THIS AIR RIFLE, you tuck the butt in your armpit and keep one hand firmly on the underlever while the other one goes in harm’s way to feed the pellet. Some shooters who didn’t heed that warning are now called “Stumpy.”

The barrel seems to have some rifling! And, it seems to not be oversized, as they were in the past. The pellets fit in the breech as tight as they should, which is all you can ask from any rifle. That’s an improvement.

RWS Hobby pellets (7 grains) average 579 f.p.s., a gain from the past, though I can’t say how much. I don’t have that same tree anymore, so I’m guessing we’re up about 100 f.p.s. However, the variation is just 10 f.p.s., which is phenomenal. I was anxious to see how it shot. The rifle has no provision for a scope stop, so I shot with open sights. I’ll grant you that a scope would have done at least 50 percent better.

I shot the rifle at 20 yards on a perfect day. Shooting off a rest, I managed groups of 1″ to 1.5″. That’s not too bad. Not in the same class as a Benjamin 392, but not that much worse, either. So, the barrel is rifled and reasonably well at that.

Overall impression
Buy one, if that’s what you want. Just remember that no two Chinese airguns are alike. I may have gotten a great one and you could get a dog. But I think today’s dogs are farther along than they were 20 years ago. Someone over there is paying attention.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

38 thoughts on “Testing a B3-1”

  1. To all that are interested in the b3 ,It will cut your finger off!
    I bought mine at a tool show for $19.99 two years ago, A bargin ?
    $1900.00 doctor bill to reatach finger, Bad deal!!!!!
    At least I’m not a stummpy!
    If you do buy one ther are several mods. easly preformed to make this thing somewhat safer to use.
    By cross drilling a 1/4 hole thru reciver in front of chamber when cocked and place a STEEL dowl pin thru holes when loading, a pain in the butt but better tan a trip to the hospital and a numb finger tip for life!
    so i guess I’m a NUMBass

  2. Hey folks,
    I was just wondering, would it would be at all possible to build a pellet hand gun in the style of the benjamin pump pellet pistol? I have pretty good woodworking/metalworking skills and a well outfitted workshop.

    Just asking,
    Dave (the other cf-x guy)

  3. This off the subject but I was wondering if Beeman has a complementary rifle to the HW80 or if it is only a Weihrauch product. I really like the HW77 but I also like my fingers so a breakbarrel is looking better all the time. Thanks!

  4. Thanks to all for reminding me why I’m sticking to break-barrels. Or at least avoinding sliding-breach guns.

    The only cheap one I’m reasonabley comfy with is the Fast Deer, it has weaker spring and a secondary sear that pops out to catch the piston if the trigger fails. And you can hear the second sear engage. It automatically disengages when you close the lever – kinda neat for a cheapie.

  5. Dave,

    Take a look at the Crosman 1377. It is easily modifed with lots of information on the web. It is a good gun to learn on. See BB’s blog on it at /blog/2005/8/1377-another-crosman-classic/

  6. As others have pointed out, one of the advantages of the B3 and its likes is learning. At their cost, they are no worry to take apart and learn about, even if you mess them up. After I tuned my B3 (lots of very clear, specific directions on the web about how to)I not only had a very neat little gun that is a pleasure to shoot, I couldn’t wait to try tuning again. I would not have been able to make myself risk opening a more expensive gun, as I had no confidence in my abilities. They are great “trainer” guns in that regard. I am, however, very cautious loading, just in case.

  7. Taking a spring gun apart can be dangerous because of all the latent energy in the spring.

    I just “tuned up” a Daisy 22SG and despite its tinny, flimsy feel, it is a much nicer gun than the horror stories from Shanghai. No buzz, no fancy hold, just shoot and watch the pellets go through one hole until you get bored (at 10yds).

    I tuned it up by using dabs of silicon putty to keep the barrel from vibrating inside its shroud; I guess you could also use an O-ring if you found the right fit. The fit of the muzzle into the muzzle cap/front sight assembly was improved with aluminum tape. Before the ultra simple tune, the barrel used to rattle when shook and the gun couldn’t hold 2 inches at 7 yards.

  8. B.B.

    First, let me say, “Thank You” for the wealth of information your blog holds. So much information in fact that I can’t process it all.

    I would like your advice on my situation. I’m interested in ridding my garden of small pests (crows, squirrel, etc). My garden is 50 yds from the back deck.

    What air rifle(s) would you recommend for my situaton?

    From what I’ve read the 22sg and the Shadow 1000 could do the job, but I’m not sure about the 50 yd. distance.

    Thank you for your time.

  9. B.B.
    Thanks for your time. I discovered this blog a little while ago and just started from the beginning and worked my way through. I’ve wanted to go back through and print all your posts that are of interest to me (I’m not a collector,airsoft or a pistol guy) so I could make a reference book. Have you thought about arranging your blog by topics and sections and printing a book? I’d buy it! I was the one who asked about the HW80. If it is a copy of the R1 then Pyramyd sells that thing for a great price compared to a R1. I don’t know if Beeman would like it but it would be interesting to see a post that lists which Beemans have a Weihrauch corollary. From reading previous posts you have made references to other guns like the R9/HW95? but it would be great to see that information in one post. My final comment is this. I want to get back into the sport after a long hiatus(48 years-used to hunt squirrels with an old Crosman multi-pump .22). I would really like to go somewhere and try out a few different guns before I make the plunge. I live in Florida and have been trying to search for an airgun club (there are some but none in my area and there is no guarantee that the members of a club would own the guns I’m interested in.) I guess I’m going to have to wait until Pyramyd builds their showroom range and fly up there. I’m old fashioned in that I think guns are like shoes-very hard to get the right fit without trying them on. Anyway, my apologies to everyone else that this post is so long! Thanks for your help BB and I really enjoy this blog!
    Fowlers Bluff guy

  10. Garden slayer,

    I’m not as much of an expert as B.B., by far. But I might be able to help a little.

    50 yards is a long way. Those guns could both more than likely take squirrels, maybe crows. But, I hightly doubt they could do it to that distance. The best I’ve ever had was I killed a squirrel at 60 yards with a gamo cf-x, but it was a luck, once in a lifetime shot.

    Looking at the guns you liked, it seems like you might be on a budget. But, have you considered a pcp gun? I think that would be the only thing capable of killing animals that tough at that range. Those guns might not even be accurate enough to hit them in a good area every time.

    I.E. my condor will shoot a 1 inch group at 60 yards, and that’s the farthest I’ve tested. Could do the same out to farther ranges as well. It will also tear through over an inch of wood. Plenty of power and range.

    If your looking at a springer, maybe a gamo 1250 or a rws 250 magnum. In .22 of course. I’m not sure about accuracy, but I’m willing to bet those have the power to do the job. Some of the other rws guns might be able to do it as well.

    Hopefully some of that helped. 😀


  11. i think we all know you dont write for profit, but if you got any category of book published, the entire airgun world would soon know, and try to get their hands on a copy. i know i would. having an airgun almanac is useful in everyway possible.

    i found something rather disconcerting today, that i never got to noticing before. it looked as af my breech seal was getting worn all the way down to the bare machined metal, so i put a fingernail to a spot where it had worn down and tried scraping it. turns out, it was a piece of steel! little flakes of metal were all over the breech face
    and i’m sure theyre not lead flash because of the striations, plus these flakes had been getting progressively worse. i also notice the mainspring is still smooth cocking, but the coils seem just the slightest bit dry, as i can hear it scraping the receiver walls. is my mainspring scraping off flakes of my reciever and leaving them on my breech, or is the breech face itself being worn down? it still shoots normally , but i wanted to make sure this isnt some sort of warning sign something bad is going to happen.

  12. DM20, what kind of gun is it? And what do you mean by “striations”? Unless you’ve magnetically verified these flakes as being steel, I’d suspect that they are really lead, after all. Same thing has happened to me if I didn’t seat tight-fitting pellets all the way in. Besides, I think steel would more likely come off as “filings”, not flakes.

    It’s hard to imagine that much steel coming from the compression tube and the gun still functioning normally. I had a Legacy 1000 start galling a compression tube once, and MAN was it notceable! And even then I didn’t have metal passing from the tube to the barrel.

    The spring itself isn’t likely to gall anything that badly, even if you hear it rubbing. Because it’s made of round wire, it just doesn’t make a very good file…

  13. B.B.

    After reading every blog you have written, I am still amazed at how much you must know. Please do write a book. I have a cheap break barrel that I want to experiment with and tine. Can this be done without spending a lot money, like Tom Gaylord did? If so, is there a book that I can purchase or should I just research your older blogs for instructions?


    Bill D

  14. B.B.,

    What is opinion on springer tuning? I thought about buying a kit and doing it myself but I think I might send my cfx off to charlie da tuna, do you think is worth it? Do you have any opinions on tuning and the maccari springs? I know youve done it all so you must have something to say! This is something Im looking to do down the road a bit not tomorrow


  15. Hey BB!

    What would be good pellets to hunt with a Daisy 953? (I know it’s not a hunting rifle but I am only going for tiny birds) Today I got 6 (tiny) birds. (1 in the kneeling and 5 in the standing position) With RWS superdome pellets, is there any others that I should try?

  16. its a diana 20. there are striations on the flakes that match those on the breech face, machining marks. they were kinda largeish, about 3/4 the size of a .177 wadcutter tip. i hadnt thought of using a magnet to check if they were steel… how absent minded of me. its going through some changes, most notably from a single stage to a faintly two stage trigger. makes me think something strange is going on, especially the machining marks made where the breech meets the transfer port. above, on the reciever, it looks like someone took a file to it to slope the metal down towards the breech block. same for both sides of the reciever where the breech block connecets to the reciever. poor metal work doesnt inspire confidence about the internals. i do hope its only lead.

  17. Fowler’s Bluff Guy wrote,
    “…From reading previous posts you have made references to other guns like the R9/HW95?…”

    ‘Scuse me for butting in, but I was doing some research of my own along the same lines as your question to BB. I stumble across the following URL, remembered you asking the question, and thought the cross-reference chart might be helpful… http://www.airguninfo.com/models.htm

    Airguninfo.com has some great information, but I seem to have a hard time remembering to check it out before I go for a Google search. Since you’re looking to catch up from a 48 year hiatus maybe bookmarking that web site would help.


    P.S.- Weird… a posting security update! Blogger.com must be having trouble with ‘web-bots’ posting to blogs?

  18. dm20, what can happen is this – if a pellet skirt is not seated all the way in the breach, or if it’s loose and it starts falling out of the breach as you close it, the receiver face or the transfer port edge can shave or mush over a little lead from the end of the pellet. This lead then gets trapped between the breach and receiver faces, where it gets smushed real good.

    This way even a little piece of lead can get flattened out into a fairly large flake, and if there’s any machining or wear marks in either surface these will be imprinted in the lead.

    Do the magnet check. I think you’ll be happy with the results.

  19. if only i had half a mind like you, i think i’d save bb a ton of headaches.
    thanks vince, you just saved me about 2 weeks worth of
    “its your fault, diana”
    “no, you did it”
    “trust me, it was you”
    “fine, pay shipping”

  20. Fowlers Bluff guy,

    You’re welcome! After my recently ended 10+ years vacation from airgunning, I can appreciate what you may be going through. There’s a lot of… well, ‘goofy’ is as good a word as any… goofy information available on the Internet. Thankfully, Pyramyd AIR Report is one dependable source of good, down-to-earth, fundamental, experienced (and sometimes quite detailed) information on a wide variety of airgun sports topics.


  21. I just bought a b3-1 from amazon for 29.99. I seems to be more like your description of the 1987 model. Orange scrached up stock, strong smelling grease, and it has a wobbly cocking lever. Granted I haven’t shot it yet and I dont know how it will perform. HOPE ITS AT LEAST SUFFICIENT AS FAR AS ACCURACY AND POWER

  22. great buddy,,,,, i was a little doubtful about this thing,,,coz last day i found it in a store and the shopkeeper offered it as a good gun worth $35,,,i liked the design but didnt know anything further….thanx for such a good review

  23. There are 3 manufacturers that make this B3 air rifles.

    01)Industry Brand
    03)(don't no the exact name but the logo is a eagle/Falcon)

    Industry brand rifles are made from carbon steel parts and have great durability and maintenance in longer use.

    But in my experience, in other two brands that i mentioned above (rpl and the falcon) has no guarantee in durability and safety.I bought a rpl b3-2 rifle and it broke after i fired only 32 pellets!The problem was the trigger and it fires the gun automatically when i reattach the under lever to it's starting position.

    Please make sure to buy a original b3 rifle and avoid getting the copies from other anonymous brands such as RPL etc.

  24. Hello,

    – Just for info, there is slight physical differences in the B3 series as well as caliber. But they are all under lever.
    – You can get them off of Amazon, but prepare for shipping charges… even if the warehouse in the U.S.A. is in California.
    – Unless you make a rig, you should not take the rifle apart as the compression spring will shoot and make a nice hole in your ceiling or wall.
    – There “is” a lot of “packing grease” that they use “on” and “in” these guns. Get a Air Rifle cleaning kit from Hoppe’s and use those cleaning patches that comes with the kit. Lightly damp the patches with “napatha” the only ingredient that should be listed on charcoal lighter fluid. After using the cleaning rod (gently) to push the cleaning patches thru a few times, just use the cleaning patches again with only damp “water” when they start coming out of the bore with hardly no brown on them (or very light tint), then use just dry cleaning patches. That will clean the barrel out enough.
    – After that, use a few 100 rounds of “LEAD PELLETS” only… The reason for that, is it will season the inside barrel. You can use alloy pellets after that.. but always remember to use some lead pellets from time to time as the alloy ones will scrape off the protective deposits that the lead ones leave inside the barrel. Only clean the barrel if the accuracy of your rifle goes “way off” the mark.
    The slight smoke from the packing grease internally will go away.. after a “long time” of use.
    – The other pellet rifle that you should really look for, is the B1 series.. those are break barrel, not under lever and the .22 versions.. just like the .22 version of the B3.. have “a lot” of power and the price is worth buying.

    My 2 cents.. – H.T.

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