by B.B. Pelletier
Part 1 – How it all began
Part 2 – Targets
Part 3 – Targets – Part 2
Part 4 – Squads
This will be a mini-series within the series, because there is too much to cover on field target guns to put in a single post. Today, I’ll address the spring guns, which I can do in one post.
In the 1980s
The No. 1 spring rifle for field target during the 1980s was the HW77 carbine. All the top shooters used it, and its secrets were closely guarded by them. They found ways to improve the Rekord trigger and ways to quiet the spring buzz of the rifle. The barrel was already accurate enough.
Power boosts to 900 f.p.s. with Marksman FTS domes (THE FT pellet of that day) were very popular, and shooters were mounting larger scopes to help with rangefinding.
Other spring guns that competed well came from Air Arms. They were sidelevers that loaded from a tap. Guns such as the Khamsin and Mistral were nice and accurate but not up to competing with the HW77. In fact, the only rifle that gave the 77 any competition at all was the FWB 124 breakbarrel. It was just as accurate and could be tuned to reach the mid-800s (in the 1980s). However, being a breakbarrel, it required a lot more technique to shoot as well as the 77, so the game really belonged to Weihrauch.
Then came the TX200
Around 1989-1991, Air Arms brought out the TX200 and the field suddenly shifted in their favor. The TX has a trigger that’s patterned after the Rekord, but it’s assembled differently and it’s also capable of finer adjustments. The rifle is an underlever, like the HW77; but instead of having the 77’s offset transfer port, it has its transfer port centered in the compression chamber. This helps the airflow a lot and allows the TX to cock easier, yet generate greater power than the HW77. It does have one drawback, however. The barrel, which must be in line with the center of the compression chamber, is mounted lower than the top of the compression chamber, giving the rifle a hunchbacked profile. Shooters may not know why they don’t like it, but it does present a less-pleasing profile. Today this look is minimized through the use of a bull-barrel shroud, so the step-down is less pronounced.
Suddenly, the TX200 was winning most of the important matches, or at least placing in front of the HW77. By this time, PCPs were on the scene and TX200s couldn’t keep up with them. Still, the spring-gun era wasn’t over. The Crosman premier pellet hit the market, and Marksman’s grip was over. For the spring-powered TX200, the 7.9-grain pellet performed best. Throughout the 1990s, the TX200 reigned supreme. The most popular alteration was to fit an adjustable stock to the gun. Tuning was done, but never became very popular because the factory tune is already so nice. The TX200 Mark II came out in the mid-90s and added a safety ratchet to hold open the sliding compression chamber. As a side note, Robert Beeman carried the TX for a brief time when it first came out. Sales must have been sluggish, because he dropped the line before the company was sold in 1994. I cannot find it in any of his catalogs, but it appears as a “blowout sale” on several sales flyers. The price in 1993 was not much cheaper than today.
In the late ’90s, Air Arms added the semi-recoilless TX200SR to the line. It was available only as a 12 foot-pound gun at first, and I’m not certain they were ever sold any other way. I owned one and found that it cocked MUCH harder than the normal 15 foot-pound TX200 and was no more accurate. The trigger had to have a linkage to connect the blade in the stock with the action, which moved during recoil, so it was never as good as a normal TX trigger. I felt the SR was like the emperor’s new clothes, in that anyone who bought one defended it fiercely, but anyone who tried one before buying bought the regular TX instead.
The Pro Sport was also added to the line at this time. It was a copy of Ivan Hancock’s Venom Mach II, but it wasn’t as refined (not surprising, as Hancock’s gun was hand-fitted and cost thousands of dollars). The cocking linkage made cocking much heavier than a standard TX and there was no accuracy advantage. Many shooters liked the sleeker looks better than the TX.
When Weihrauch came out with their HW95 that Beeman lists as the R9, shooters went for it as a less-expensive alternative to the TX200. In that role, it’s about where the FWB 124 was with the HW77 – harder to shoot but very capable for those who can master it. It’s a gun to get into FT but not one for serious competition.
The only real challenger the TX200 has had in more than two decades has been the Whiscombe line of spring rifles. Whiscombes are about as accurate as PCPs, but they cost even more than the top precharged guns. That’s kept them out of the limelight. A Whiscombe is more than a match for a TX, but the cost will never allow it to rise to its true potential.
The final spring gun I will mention is the RWS Diana 54. It’s fully as accurate as a TX200 and easier to shoot accurately. However, it has some drawbacks of its own. It is bigger and fatter than the TX200 (though not any heavier) and it doesn’t feel as good in the hand. It’s somewhat harder to cock – not because the effort is any greater but because being a sidelever, it torques in the hand when the lever is pulled back. And, the flawed Diana scope-mounting solution probably keeps it out of the top position more than anything else. However, I know that 54 owners love their guns and would not part with them.
Spring guns are still viable
The spring gun hasn’t left the scene for FT shooting, nor is it ever likely to. It represents a less expensive way to get into the sport that is very desirable. And, TX 200s and Whiscombes are not the only spring guns in use, despite what I have just said. I was just reporting on the leaders in the field, but any spring gun can get you into the sport. The RWS Diana 48 and 52 are very often seen on the field, and others that crop up often are HW77s and HW97s, old FWB 124s and even Beeman R1s. There’s a separate spring gun class, so shooters aren’t pitted against PCPs, and some spring gun shooters do very well, even in stiff competition.
37 thoughts on “Field target – Part 5 The guns – starting with the springers”
Excellent and very informative blog as always.
I have a bit of an Off Topic Question. I have a Drulov DU 10 air pistol that I’m using (Loaded 1 at a time as a single shot)for 10 meter competition until I can afford a Baikal.
I would like to dry fire as part of my daily practice. Is it safe to dry fire this pistol or will it be damaged ?
The Drulov doesn’t have a dry-fire feature like most 10-meter pistols have, so you’ll be shooting it with gas an no pellet, I assume? That shouldn’t bother the gun, though it is a waste of gas.
I’ve never subjected a CO2 gun without the dry-fire feature to the thousands of shots per week that a 10-meter shooter does in dry-fire practice, so I don’t have experience with numbers that high, but a few now and then shouldn’t matter.
Thanks for the reply on the Drulov.
I meant dry firing it by cocking the cocking piece with no gas in it. According to my dealer this won’t harm it but I’m not sure since the valve must still be impacted.
The valve will be hit, but it is a hardened steel part that won’t distort. It might be harder on the valve spring when you shoot it without gas, but they can always be changed if there is a problem.
Once again, if the dry-fire isn’t excessive I don’t think there is a problem, but I wouldn’t subject the gun to thousands of dry shots per week. That level of use really should be reserved for a real 10-meter target pistol with a proper dry-fire feature.
Thanks again. And my apologies to everyone since my questions have nothing to do with Field Target and are therefore off topic.
Am I correct that the TAU 7 and Aeron Chameleon and the DU 10 have a similar cocking mechanism? I just read the the TAU 7 can be safely dry fired in the following manner:
“Cock the pistol by pulling forward on crossbar . Engage Safety. This will allow you to dry fire; the safety limits the rearward movement of the cocking piece, thereby preventing it from unseating the gas piston and expelling gas.”
This seems to work on the Drulov as well since I just tried it.
Dry firing wont be excessive probably around 20 a day since I have live fire sessions on the weekend.
The device you described for the Tau 7 is a real dry-fire device. I own a Chameleon and I have used the same dry-fire device thousands of times.
I was not aware that the Drulov DU-10 had this device, but if it does it should be spelled out in the owner’s manual.
The owner’s manual on the Pyramyd website is not correct, since it addresses loading BBs into the gun. It’s been cut-and-pasted from another airgun. But if you have the actual owner’s manual, it should tell you whether there is a dry-fire device.
I have the owners manual which came with the pistol but unfortunately it’s in Czech.
The safety appears to function the same way though.
From what I just tried: If the safety is engaged and the trigger pulled then the cross cocking piece doesn’t come all the way back. The trigger pull also feels the same. No idea if this is a dry fire device or just unintentional.
If the safety is an “L-shaped” piece on the right side of the receiver and if the lower leg of the L catches the hammer when you squeeze the trigger, you have a dry-fire device built in.
So the RWS 54 is more accurate than the 48/52 after all?
in reply to the guy asking about Dry Firing, you said “thousands of shots per week that a 10-meter shooter does in dry-fire practice”
Could you explain to the ignorant (yes, me) what someone would gain from dry firing their gun thousands of times?
i think the real advantage is practace without going to a range. also to wear in the gun. if you can sight it right while you dry fire you will hit the target when using ammo
Nate in Mass
I didn’t say that. The 54 is EASIER TO SHOOT ACCURATELY than a recoiling airgun like the 48 and even the TX200.
Potentially the 48 and 54 have the same accuracy, however more shooters will do better with a 54 than with a 48.
The TX200 is easier to get used to than the 48/52. So of all the recoilling spring guns, it is about the easiest to shoot.
Some shooting magazine, perhaps Vizier, did a study that determined that a 10-meter competitor shoots 5 times as many shots dry-fire as live each week. Since most competitors shoot at least a full match a day (I used to) that’s about 300 dry-fire shots in addition to the 60 with pellets every day.
The benefit of dry-fire practice is twofold. First, it strengthens and trains the muscles of the arm and shoulder and second, it trains your muscles and neural paths to the trigger of your gun. When you shoot live the trigger ceases to be something to think about and the gun fires by itself – or so it seems with enough practice.
Another small benefit is you can dry-fire anywhere. You don’t need a 10-meter range. You can practice dry-fire in a closet large enough to permit you to assume the proper stance with the pistol or rifle. All you need is a well-lit target of proportional size.
For this reason, the dry-fire function on a 10-meter gun is called the practice mode.
You always tell people to keep a pump or 2 of air in their multi-pump pneumatics. What abut sigle pump pneumatics, like the Beeman P17? Also, what about CO2 guns?
Don’t leave air in single-strokes. Leave CO2 in gas guns.
I get the most accuracy out of my HW97K with it directly resting on a rice bag.
Is that just my rifle or is that normal?
Well, it isn’t thought to be normal, but if that’s what you get, it must be true.
The common wisdom says you should lay the forearm on the flat of your hand and rest your hand on the bag.
In between practice sessions, I rest the rifles on their butts, two pumps or a co2 charge in them, muzzles covered by an old athletic sock sprayed with silicone.
What�s the best way to rest pistols in between practice sessions?
Are synthetic seals made to replace old leather seals?
I’d like to rebuild my Diana 35.
I’ve since changed pellets to JSB exact .20 and now I have to use the artillery hold as per normal. With the stock of the rifle on my hand on the bag.
With the Beeman FTS .20 the HW97K was easiest and most accurate with it directly on the bag.
I’m guessing time of pellet in the barrel or just lucky harmonics perhaps?
Certainly the Exacts are tighter in the barrel, and heavier.
I am looking for a realiable and accurate air rifle for under $140.
What would be the best air rifle in this range. Preferably .177 cal and springer.
It doesn’t need to include a scope, as I already have a 3-9×40 BSA scope.
I have looked at the Quest 1000, but would like to know what you suggest.
The best way to store air pistols is with air or gas unless they are single strokes. I lay mine on a shelf in a closet that all my guns are kept in.
No, it’s not easy to replace leather seals with synthetic unless the piston is also replaced. Fortunately, a leather seal is easy to make from an old belt.
Contact this man for parts:
I have to agree with your observation that the accuracy difference is because of vibration differences and some fortunate harmonics in your particular rifle.
With your price limit the Quest is probably the best buy. Either clean the barrel the way I recommend or be prepared to shoot it at least 500 shots before the final accuracy is established.
What do you think of the BAM B26 and the RWS 34? And with the 34, would you get the panther or the wood stock?
I figure I can get these guns for just about $140. Would you recommend these models and how does the quest stack up against them?
The B26 has the better trigger but the Panther will out-shoot it.
Go with the Panther.
So do you think that the synthetic stock on the 34 is better than the wood stock?
Also, I am getting the RWS 34 directly from Umarex…as refurbished…so there is no warranty. Should I be worried?
That’s entirely up to you. No warranty means it’s yours to fix if it breaks.
What about the differences between the wood 34 and the panther 34?
I recommended the Panther because I like it better than wood. But it’s your choice.
So the stock is the only difference between the two? The rest of the gun is the same?
Yes, I believe so.
I guess this is my final question…..so B.B.
If you were me, would you buy a Crosman Quest 1000 for $95 or a RWS 34 refurb for $130?
and please give reason why.
I would get the Diana 34 because it has a German barrel. Chinese barrels are sometimes good (like the BAM B40), but you have to pay for it. The spring guns in the $100 price range are simply not as accurate as the Diana 34.
I’ve noticed when looking at pictures from field target matches, the scopes on the guns have very long sunshades or multiple shades stacked onto eachother. Is ther any reason for this besides blocking the sun out?
I was at the range today and had my 8-40-power scope cranked all the way up. Without the sunshade I couldn’t have see the target.
Thoise shades are essential in a match.