by B.B. Pelletier
For all who celebrate the birth of Jesus, Merry Christmas. For everyone else, happy Friday. You know I like to give you something interesting to talk about on Fridays, and today will be no exception. This airgun was literally thrust upon me at the Roanoke airgun show this year. I was charged with telling the tale of a strange and interesting airgun that was modified to do a special job.
Modified airguns are no big deal. You see them all the time. Perhaps the most modified guns of all are the ones from Crosman and from their two subsidiary brands, Benjamin and Sheridan. Not only is there a red-hot aftermarket of tuners, customizers and boutique parts sellers, Crosman also operates a custom shop and sells parts to the public for just this reason. So, encountering a customized Crosman, Benjamin or Sheridan isn’t that unusual.
What’s unusual is to find a gun that’s been modified for use by a government–local, state or federal. Oh, they exist, too, but they’re not exactly selling on craigslist. Whether it’s an AirForce Talon SS used by the USDA to kill nutria in Oregon or a Career 707 .22 repeater used by NASA to keep woodpeckers from poking holes in spacecraft insulation when they’re on the pad for launch, these guns do exist, but as you can imagine, are not publicized in the literature.
What I have to show you today, however, is different. It’s a stock pneumatic that someone deliberately cut down for reasons I cannot determine. And from the markings that tell us the most about the gun, it may not be the only one.
The subject gun is a Crosman 760 Pumpmaster, which is a standard gun and rarely worthy of special interest. This model is an older one, a single-shot with wood on both the butt and pump/forearm. We know it was probably made between 1966 and 1970 and is considered a first variation of the model. That triples the value, according to the Blue Book, which gets it up close to $100 in 100 percent condition. In truth, a standard 760 first variation would bring a little more than that, but I am going by the Blue Book entry.
However, this isn’t a standard gun. The smoothbore (confirmed by me) barrel has been cut back to 12 inches, leaving just enough room for the pump handle anchor to remain–unaltered. The carbine that was an adaptation of the Crosman 130 pistol has been castrated back to pistol power by virtue of a shortened barrel. If you’re a new reader, a shortened barrel reduces the power that a pneumatic can attain.
It would be easy to criticize the gun for the shorter barrel, but the information engraved on the right side of the receiver indicates that this gun was once the property of the Oconee County, South Carolina, Game Control Department. It also has the number .37 engraved on the side of the gun. That appears to be a rack number or a property number, which is why I made the assumption that there could be other airguns just like it. However, the decimal before the number may mean that it’s something else.
Whoever shortened the barrel did a workmanlike job. Good enough work that Crosman could have done it themselves. Then, they replaced the sight, which is a plastic blade on a ramp. There are sights front and rear, so there was some semblance of shooting to hit a mark. Smoothbore 760s are not that accurate, and short-barreled pneumatics would have very little in the way of muzzle energy. I think it’s safe to assume that this gun was not meant to kill anything. In fact, it’s almost as if they were trying to reduce the velocity to as low as it would go, and of course the multi-pump design would help with that, as well.
I’m guessing that this gun was used to motivate larger animals. Like an extended cattle prod, the game officer could put in three pumps and whack the errant bull in the butt without breaking the skin. These were the 1970s, and little was known about the relative power of airguns, but it’s a cinch they knew that this one was not lethal or humane.
But 37 of the same gun for one county? Somebody, please tell me what’s up with that? That number must mean something else.
I must be wrong about the gun. Maybe it was used to anger hornets or wild bees, but duh! And 37 of them?
Maybe the rack number was just a serial applied to all guns owned by the county and this was just No. 37. No. 36 might have been a Remington Gamemaster in .30-06.
Is it obvious that I’m grasping at straws? I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Exactly how fast it shoots, I can’t say because the mechanism isn’t working. And the owner doesn’t care whether it shoots or not. Besides, breaking it down for repairs would probably mark up the near-perfect finish. If I had to guess, I’d say it probably pops out a pellet at 400 f.p.s and a BB a little faster. Sort of like returning to its 130 roots.
The gun’s owner doesn’t want to sell it. It’s probably not worth a lot, but there’s a certain oddity value in a gun like this, and this one has a bucket of it. Things like this appear at airgun shows all the time, where collectors of the odd and eclectic are glad to acquire them.