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Education / Training Tuning a cheap Chinese airgun – Part 1

Tuning a cheap Chinese airgun – Part 1

by Tom Gaylord

This “deluxe version of the TS45 sidelever was supposed to be an 800 f.p.s. gun. I tested it thoroughly to discover if it was a diamond in the rough.

B.B. Pelletier turned the blog over to me today to address tuning an inexpensive Chinese spring-piston air rifle, because I did just that for The Airgun Letter, my monthly newsletter that ran from 1994 to 2002. I had a lot of inquiries asking me to test Chinese rifles, but I had owned several and found them to be unsatisfactory, so I was reluctant to put them into my newsletter. My readers pestered me until I finally gave in and ordered one – a TS45 sidelever. I had owned an older B3, but I knew that one was too primitive to work on safely, so I took the advice offered by Howard Montgomery of Reno Airguns and went with the 45.

What my readers said
My readers said that Chinese airguns were wood and steel and represented a good value for less than $40 – pretty much what people still say about the cheap ones today. The importer advertised that the rifle was capable of 800 f.p.s. in .177, which mine was, so the first thing I did was put it on a chronograph. Beeman H&N Match pellets (7.6 grains) delivered an average of 467 f.p.s. with a 43 f.p.s. spread over 10 shots! I figured I would hear all sorts of excuses as to why my gun was so slow, but I never heard a single one! The Chinese gun lovers were a forgiving lot! Well, they would have to be, wouldn’t they?

My rifle (if it was rifled – I never knew for sure) shot H&N Finale Match pellets into 2″ groups at 10 meters. That was the best it did. Other pellets grouped 3″ to 6″ at that distance. The bore was so large that pellets fell out of the breech after being seated flush. I had to hold the rifle level until the sliding breech was closed to keep the pellet in the barrel. I don’t know what your criteria is, but my expectations for a pellet rifle run higher than that.

Never stopped dieseling
That rifle smoked like a teenager at the mall! Every shot produced a cloud of smoke that smelled like bacon frying. Before chronographing, I shot 600 shots to break it in, but nothing changed, and it still smoked with every shot.

Huge transfer port!
The air transfer port was far too large for the power of the rifle, with the probable result that the piston was slamming against the end of the sliding compression chamber on every shot. The pellet offered no air resistance because of the oversized bore, so it’s a wonder this rifle was able to shoot at all!

Fit and finish
Ever see a grade school craft project done by some disinterested kids? That’s how this rifle looked. The “stock” appeared to have been gnawed by a rabid beaver, and the metal parts were left as they fell from the punch press and screw machine, where they don’t sharpen their bits very often. Nothing to be proud of.

The sights were pretty conventional, but the rear sight was placed inches from the shooter’s eye. That works with an aperture sight, but this was a notch and I couldn’t see it that close, which is probably the reason for a lot of the inaccuracy. It also told me that whoever was making this gun was not a shooter and had never tried to shoot with his product.

A formal dinner at the Munsters’ was my description of the trigger. It was both stiff and creepy. Not as heavy as I’d expected, but it made it impossible to do my best.

Overall impressions
My suggestion was to use the gun in lieu of a fence post, but I had a few readers who thought differently, so we soldiered on. I had purchased a Lothar Walther air rifle barrel for $20 (this was 1996, and the barrels were left over from when Benjamin stopped making the Sterling spring rifles), so after this introduction we were poised for part two – where the rifle got tuned. I know this is what you’ve been asking for, so stay tuned!

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.

51 thoughts on “Tuning a cheap Chinese airgun – Part 1”

  1. Greetings Gaylord AKA bb pelletier…

    I own several guns, HW80, HW45 HW40..and along with them a AK-b3 sidelever and a QB-57.

    I would put my AK-b3 up against any gamo rifle, its almost as accurate as my HW80, my ak-b3 shoots around 660fps.

    Maybe you got a lemon.

  2. BB and Tom Gaylord are the same person?

    In any event, I believe that the old TS45 comes out of a different factory than the B3(AK47)/B7 rifles. It looks more like what is now sold as the B4-1 (TF41), which is a Shanghai rifle.

    Never had an Xisico rifle that was a dog, and I never had a Shanghai rifle that was that good.

  3. me and my brother have been arguing about a topic. we were talking about handguns and he told me that the closer the rear sights are to your eye the more accurate the shot will be. and i’m not so sure he knows what hes talking about. your thoughts?

  4. Yeah they’re real shieces of pit, they are. Under the purple lacquer it looks like pine or something, maybe in Shanghai (or Kentucky where they write the ads) they think pine is a VERY hard wood like that guy keeps saying.

    Penetration testing showed my TF38 to be much much weaker than Uncas, my Crosman 2200.

    exposed welds, poor fit, and mega vibration, stronger than a 800fps gamo.

    It’s just odd, though, that someone goes to so much trouble to craft a gun from solid steel, but leaves some of the details so crappy that it’s worthless. Waiting to see the results of your tune (can you glasbed a piston for fit?)

  5. Brother,

    Distance from the eye to the rear sight doesn’t have a LOT to do with accuracy, but it does have SOME.

    It depends on what KIND of sight you are talking about.

    But with a handgun, you want the rear sight as far from you as possible – hence target guns are held at arm’s length.


  6. The Fast Deer and Cummins underlever rifles I had all used dovetail-mounted open iron rear sights. As Mr. Gaylord noted, it does make it difficult to focus.

    All guns improved with the simple expedient of mounting the sight “backwards”. This made it possible for me to get a better-defined sight picture.

  7. Off topic but I always wondered:

    Does any one make a shock absorbing scope mount for heavy spring airguns? Kind of like the RWS 54 where the barrel/spring are isolated on a rail so they can slide in the stock. Maybe they can do something like that and isolate the scope from the recoil. The scopes seem pretty expensive. For a $300 rifle I wouldn’t want to spend more than $100 on a scope, but thats just me.

    Also, I’m looking for left grips for the Diana P5 Magnum and sight inserts for an RWS 350. I couldn’t find these items on Pyramyd’s site. Airgun-Express had grips listed but they have been bought out by Pyramyd. My intent for the left grips are to make an ambidextrouse grip using the palm side of the left and right grips. I might end up shaving some wood end up making it myself.

    For the sights, I’m finding the included front sight hard to use. I would like to try the different style inserts. What I would really like is to convert to fiber optics if that is possible.

  8. well, if anyone thinks the chinese springers are disapointing, theyre getting on tom’s nerves! a gun which barely costs more than the piece of wood ans steel it came from is a blessing in itself. i heard the b3 is available for $30 bucks! i cant even get the receiver machined from the blank for that! just as the article reads, at the price point, i cant think of any gun that can compete. the only place i see a flaw is in the more expensive models. and, even then the price is right next to the original model.

    so, i gave the pcp article some thought, and what i dont understand, is how a C02 gun can be cheap, accurate, and reliable [1077] while a PCP cannot be as cheap [b50] coming from china. a c02 gun, in essence, is a pressure vessel, valve, barrel, and hammer/trigger assembly. a PCP is essentially the same thing, just reinforced to withstand the 3k of pressure. taking into account that pcps sell far less than c02 guns,
    there would still be a large price gap. and the cheaper rifle has crosman’s name behind it. i’m baffled.

  9. i had a few questions on the 392 peep sight.
    1. does it mount on the barrel or reciever
    2. do i need to take off the back sight to use it
    3. is it even possible to take off the rear sight
    4.how much will it improve my accuracy

  10. Crosman Phantom
    I do not know about other chinese air guns but as I said my Chinese Crosman Phantom shoots touching holes at 10 meters with crosman premiers. Maybe I’m just lucky on luck of the lot?.

  11. dm20,

    I thought the same thing… until I started a PCP modification for the RWS 850 AirMagnum rifle (which uses the Crosman AirSource). Here is what I discovered.

    A PCP air gun needs:
    1) A high pressure tank.
    This must be purchased from a company or designed yourself. A design must handle the specified pressure and withstand rigorous testing. Higher grade materials are needed to do this. The DOT (Dept. Of Transportation) also comes into play because some tanks need DOT rating/approval (I don’t know the details).
    2) A balanced valve design.
    That way you don’t lose too much power as you lose pressure. Either this or you need to use a regulator (regulators are expensive).
    3) More safety designed in.
    High pressure air is dangerous!
    4) Better overall quality.
    If you are going to spend the extra money to make a PCP, you have to add expense to make the rest of the gun worth it (trigger, sights, stock, etc.) or your buyer will ask, “Why did I spend so much and get a piece of junk”!

    The final cost of my AirMagnum modification will be around $175 – $200 (not including the mods I’ve discarded – even the simplest mod was $125 [using a remote paintball tank]). That puts the total cost at $415 – $440 (retail parts cost plus shipping). Fortunately the 850 AirMagnum is a nice gun and I’m sure it will be worth it when I am done.

    I now understand why PCPs are expensive! 🙁

    .22 multi-shot

  12. I’m looking for a break barrel/underlever target rifle, which would be MOST ACCURATE/RELIABLE out of these *these are all in my price range*

    Benjamin Sheridan – Legacy 1000
    Crosman – Qust 1000(same as Legacy?)
    Gamo – CFX
    Gamo – Shadow 1000
    IZH-Baikal – MP 513M
    RWS – Diana 34
    Benjamin Sheridan – AS392T

    I think the CFX would be most accurate out of these, but not sure…. power/cosmetics mean nothing, just plain out accuracy… what would you recommend? I already own a benjamin 392/397, and am getting a BAM B40 for my birthday, but want a break barrel to complete my airgun collection. Thank you!

  13. this question is a bit off topic, but I would like to know if airgun scopes are suitable for .22 rimfire firearms. I am thinking about getting a scope for a .22 and would like one with nice features without a high price. Specifically, I would like AO and variable power. The Leapers scopes such as the bugbuster tend to have both of those features, as well as an illuminated reticle, and mill dots, for a the same price as firearm scope without AO.

    As a side note, the illuminated reticle uses a battery, correct? And if I turn it off it will show up as a normal reticle?

    Thank you.

    • if you go to Sportsman Guide on line catalog you can find some real nice scopes there for less than 25.00 I have gotten 4-5 from them at and around 20.00 dollars some come with rings and covers..I have several of the Barski scopes, with mill dots and are really good scopes..RDS Lenoir NC

  14. samx

    My recommendation to you would be the 3-9×40 Leapers scope… leapers are well known for reliabilty at a fanstastic price, this scope will run about $70… And yes the illuminated reticle runs on a small battery, and when shut off, a normal mil-dot reticle will appear, the green/red reticle is just a source to make the crosshairs more viewable in low light conditions, personally, i never use the illumination anyways, i see no use for it. And yes you can use ANY leapers scope on a .22 rimfire. In fact, they would work fanstastic! Also, if the 3-9×40 is a little out of your price range, maybe take a look at the 3-9×32, same scope, but does not have illuminated reticle, and a smaller objective lens, but not too small to gather plenty of lighting for shooting.

  15. Shock-absorbing scope mount,

    Nice idea, but I doubt it will be made. Shooters like to keep their scope tied tight to the gun for which it is zeroed.

    The Theoben Dampa mount comes close. It’s a mount that’s floated in rubber bushings, but it really doesn’t offer any advantages.


  16. Sticky, for what it’s worth –

    In a nutshell, the 392 might tend to be more accurate, at least in real use. Pneumatics tend to be easier to shoot than mag springers, which start moving from piston recoil before the pellet even starts moving.

    As for the others, the Shadow will probably not be quite as good as a CFX, the Quest maybe a notch below that. The Legacy is NOT the same as the Quest by any stretch. Much harder to shoot, in my limited experience.

    According to BB, the MP513 is comparable to the Shadow, and I suspect the RWS34 is in the same league.

  17. The B40 is an underlever, not a break-barrel.

    To the guy with the Phantom (which is a Quest with a different stock) – your rifle is made by BAM (“Best Airgun Manufacturer”), not Shanghai. Generally speaking, BAM is better thought of, and the B19 (which was the Quest before it became the Quest) already had a fairly decent reputation before Crosman took it over.

    The trigger X-rays that got posted pretty much confirmed it – the TS45 is a Shanghai rifle. I believe you can tell by the sear. BAM uses one of a different shape.

  18. Sticky,

    The quest and the legacy are MUCH different guns, first off the quest is made for younger shooters, and the legacy is made for Adult shooters,the legacy is a more powerfull and more accurate gun then the quest and will last longer.

    But the quest is still a decent gun, but I found my legacy in .22 version(which is no longer sold as far as I know) to be a very good rifle for the money, its hard to learn how to shoot at first but is a very accurate gun once you get used to it.

    The .22 version is more efficient thus more powerfull than the .117 version so thats probably why crosman stoped selling it in .22, they seem to be geared towards younger shooters so they probably figured this gun is a bit much for anyone less than Adult(unless closely supervised).

    So if your looking for an adult gun thats more like a firearm but yet not one, get the Legacy. if your looking for a decnt air rifle thats got power but made more for younger shooters, go for the quest.

    Ive used both guns alot so I would know on this one haha,

    BUT Ive never used the .117 version of the Legacy but I have the .22, so I am not sure how the .117 compares to the quest, because the Legacy in .22 appears to be quite a bit dfferent than its .117 counterpart( I have a friend who has one).

  19. B.B.,

    You got me thinking! 🙂
    My modification is variable power AND has shut off and bleed valves for safety and easy tank removal. I also had to adapt the AirSource connection to macroline. A manufacturer wouldn’t have to use an adapter like I did or make the tank removable.

    UmarexUSA should easily be able turn the AirMagnum into a PCP by adding a Catalina Cylinders 3000PSI tank and Nitro Duck 1000PSI iReg regulator for probably $80 – $100 wholesale cost. They would have to modify their connection to be a paintball ASA instead of AirSource and modify the stock to fit/hold the tank/regulator. That would produce a nice multi-shot PCP rifle for about $340, right in the price range of the BAM B50! Better quality too. 🙂

    .22 multi-shot

  20. I’d disagree that the Legacy is a superior rifle to the Quest… I had both in .177, and the Quest was definitely the better of the 2.

    The larger powerplant in the Legacy never translated into more muzzle energy in this caliber, even with a brand new spring and seal. Even though the trigger is a real 2-stage, it is stiffer, and I found the rifle harder to control during the firing cycle.

    My Legacy also developed a scored compression chamber, something that the Quest (with its Gamo-style articulated cocking link and less side loading) is far less prone to doing.

    I worked on both rifles quite a bit, and in general there didn’t seem to be much difference in anything that would give one the advantage in reliability or longevity – except that the Quest has a steel (vs plastic) trigger and the better cocking link design.

    Granted, the .22 Legacy probably has more energy – but then again, so does the Quest in .22. The Legacy stock is nicer, but the metal finish on the Quest is superior. The rear sights on both rifles are junk. The Quest definitely has a more “petite” feel to it, but it’s only about 1/2 lb lighter and is actually longer.

    Not saying that the Legacy is without its charm… but the gun costs twice as much as the Quest, and I really don’t think the shooter really gets any more gun for his money.

  21. Thanks for the recommendations, i pretty much figured the CFX would be most accurate seeing that it’s a fixed barrel design. What would be the most accurate break barrel though? I’m thinkin the MP 513M is but i think its a hideous rifle and want a NICE looking rifle. I really like the looks of the legacy, and the famous Benjamin Sheridan quality, but since crosman now owns benjamin sheridan im not so sure. Im getting the IZH 61 for 10 meter target * just practice no competitions*, but want a accurate powerfull break barrel for plinking/target practice. I like the gamo CFX but also want to know what the most accurate break barrel in my list is. My goal is to have a lil bit of every style of pellet rifle, i have a 392/397 (multi pump pnuematic) getting a BAM B40 (Underlever springer) getting the IZH 61 (Side lever springer) and want a break barrel. There for i have pretty much everything but a single stroke pneumatic and a PCP<--- waaay out of my price range. The main break bareels im looking at are the MP 513M, and the legacy. Which would any of you prefer, and why. Thank you again for all the replys, i really appreciate it.

  22. OOPS! I meant to say the ones im looking at are the MP 513M – Legacy 1000 – and the quest 1000. Is the Legacy 1000 really worth the extra money compared to the quest 1000?

  23. How would the CFX stack up against the AS392T for accuracy, cuz i know for a FACT the 392 is pretty durn accurate, and its easy to shoot accurate… I know springers take a lot of technique, but say i got the technique down on the CFX, would it be more or less accurate than the AS392?

  24. I had the TS 45 or a rifle that was pracically a clone of the airgun reviewed here. This rifle was a piece of junk. The spring broke after some 500 shots. It was low and inconsistent. LAST BUT NOT LEAST : I red several reviews where the reviewers complained about the fact THEY WOUNDED THEMSELVE SERIOUSLY using chinese airguns ! I would believe it ! Don’t you think that a weapon poorly finished like this one could be dangerous for the user himself ? ERIC / BELGIUM

  25. B.B.

    Ok, i know im probably bugging the heck out of you, but im really picky about what i spend my money on. Just to make it easier, what is “THE BEST” break barrel for $200 or under? Sorry for so many questions, its just that there are soooo many good guns in the price range and i cant figure out what i want.

  26. Sticky – I ain’t BB, but I might be able to add something useful.

    First, when I asked him earlier about the MP513 vs. the Shadow, he suggested that the 513 MIGHT be a smidgen more accurate. Power-wise, they are comparable. Parts support for the 513 at the moment seems to be superior to Gamo’s.

    The Quest is a Gamo copy. Generally it is not made quite as well, but it can perform as decently if you get a good ‘un.

    BTW – right now, one of the best deals has to be the refurbished Gamo 220 for $80…


    But the 220 is no longer a current model, and the refurbs come and go.

    The 220, if you’re not familiar with the model, is a Shadow with a slightly shorter wood stock.

  27. Bout the cheapest PCP
    $55 Crosman 2240
    $10 14.5″ Crosman barrel
    $25 Cooper-T 12grm eliminator
    $5 two 1/8npt 90 degree elbows
    $10 quick disconnect
    $15 Palmers male 1/8npt to ASA
    $125 Pepperball tank & reg
    $20 mounting hardware
    total $265

  28. The XS-B3-1’s are amazing for the price. I currently own a B5-10, a B3-1, an RWS34, and a QB57. I use the B5 as a primary pump gun and the B3-1 as my primary spring gun. I’ve chopped 8 inches off the 15″ B3 barrel and it still performs flawlessly if not better. Quarter-sized groupings at 20 yards (I use a 4×27 Barska SKS electro on the B3).

    If you want something out of the ordinary, get a B3-1 and if you have the extra money, a B5-10.

    However, if you’re looking for a cheap, long-range airgun, these aren’t it. These are only good to about 50 yards, good only for backyard plinking.

  29. This thread started out about Fast Deers, with a terrible evaluation.

    For whatever it’s worth, my brand new FD seems quite accurate, it’s definitely pleasant to shoot since we did the trigger, and it’s making 670 fps with 7.1 gr. Silver Bears.

    I have a .177 Quest too, and think very highly of it—with the Charliedatuna trigger. It makes 955 fps average with Silver Bears, is pellet-stacking accurate, easy to cock and pleasant to shoot. That’s ahead of our RWS 34, Steutzen 46, Beeman GS1000 in power.

    The Quest might not suit everybody, but there’s no doubt it is an excellent base air rifle.


  30. The AS392T can probably be tuned a little, but because it uses CO2, there are limits. The gun now shoots Premiers at 610 f.p.s. I imagine with some careful polishing and porting of the valve it might get up to 675 f.p.s.


  31. This is a an old thread so here goes. I have a Chinese airgun I believe a 41(maybe earlier). Under cocking. I was a little disappointed initially, but could group pellets within a half inch at the 10 meter mark. After I put moly on the trigger pull and lubed it and put a 100 pellets through it it continued to get better. My friend an Army guy just shot at a target about 20 yards away and could group the pellets within a dime sized pattern. I have no way to measure the power, but a target pellet drops about 2 inch in 40 yards and can almost go through a 1/4 inch piece of plywood. For a target gun for fun rifle it works well for me. I did try to put a scope on it once, but the recoil and lack of vision made me go back to the sights.

  32. Well, that's where you are wrong. If you read this blog you would know that we tell the truth here. We want you to be satisfied and enjoy airguns — and we don't care how much they cost. But they DO have to shoot well, and as you read in this report, this one didn't.

    Also, you have only read Part 1. That is just the discovery part. Why not hold your opinion until you have read them all?



  33. I got 2 d3s and found them 2 be very acurate i also got a gamo cfx .22 and o well its also very acurate whit expensive ammo but only whit expensiv ammo . if i had 2 mak a coice i wold take the d3 its better it lodes better it soots better its a user frendly desine the cfx is not its dificult 2 load its slo 2 load and it shoots crap whit normal ammo the d3 shoots strait whit most expesif and ceap ammo u can call it an ak if u like its good value for mony the cfx is sadly over rated!!!

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