by B.B. Pelletier
I’m writing this report for C-S and for all the other readers who ask about the Chinese airguns. I go back to the 1980s with the B3 design, because I bought one of the first ones through an ad in American Rifleman in the mid-1980s.
That rifle was the epitome of crude! It had poorly finished, poorly fitted metal parts sitting in a pallet-wood stock finished with too much orange shellac. The front sight was rotated to one side, and the synthetic breech seal was cracked and flaking off. The metal parts looked as if they had been dragged behind a tractor a few days, then given a blue from the 14th use of the salts. The word I’m searching for is disgusting.
And it shot like it looked. It was very buzzy; and although I did not own a chronograph back then, I’m quite sure it wasn’t producing more than half its rated 800 f.p.s. velocity. I base that on my back-door-to-the-hickory-tree chronograph.
Want to know why I bought it? Curiosity, pure and simple. Here was a Chinese air rifle selling for $49 that claimed to be made of all wood and steel. I wanted to look at the thing. I wanted to experience it. So, I bought one.
Although I wasn’t yet heavy into airguns at the time, I had already owned an FWB 124 and a Diana model 27, so I knew something about what a quality airgun should look and feel like. However, I had also owned two Chinese Type 56 rifles from VietNam, so I was also prepared for the shoddy woodwork and general lack of care. However, the B3 air rifle took shoddy to a whole new level! All the plastic parts were cracked and split when my gun came out of the shipping container. A sort of reversal of the Beeman experience, if you will.
Don’t get caught!
And there was also the liability issue with the original B3. There was no anti-beartrap device on the first imports, so there were several digit amputation accidents before liability suits forced the Chinese to rethink their design. The B3-1 rifle that followed has an anti-beartrap device, though I advise never letting go of the cocking lever while the sliding compression chamber is pulled back.
I actually did a short review of the B3-1 back in January 2007, but that wasn’t a complete report. This one will be. I’m aware that there are newer versions of this design, but a B3-1 is what I happen to have, so that’s what I’m testing.
The B3-1 is an underlever spring-piston air rifle that uses a sliding compression chamber, much like the TX200 and the HW77. The metal parts are finished with black oxide, which is what most “bluing” is these days. Not much work was done to prep the parts before finishing, so the finish is satin with a lot of tool marks. The stock is an upgrade from pallet wood and is some kind of hardwood with an uneven sprayed-on plastic finish. There are several spots where wood filler was used, with no attempt to conceal them. And, at $29 retail, why should they?
The front sight is riveted to the barrel inside a housing that contains a globe over a tall post. The rear sight is adjustable in both directions and looks like it belongs on a much more expensive rifle.
The underlever doesn’t go all the way to the muzzle and is held to the underside of the barrel by a sheetmetal clamp. It has a knurled metal handle that was flawed plastic on the B3.
The wooden stock is finished brown rather than orange and is shaped a lot better than it was 30 years ago. I can see where a lot of effort has gone into making this air rifle more acceptable to a foreign market.
The rifle is 40.25 inches long with a 17.5-inch barrel. The pull measures 13.25 inches, which is a little short, but not as much as the SKS. In fact, I should say this now: the B3-1 reminds me of an SKS in profile. The weight is right at 7 lbs., but the weight of the wood will affect that some.
The trigger is non-adjustable, as you might expect. No one wants you messing with that part!
My rifle is bone-dry. When it’s cocked, it creaks like an old wooden ship full of empty glass bottles and at anchor in a storm. You can hear each coil of the mainspring as it slips into movement, and the cocking effort is definitely higher than the power would require. I’ll give you an exact number for that when I test velocity.
I’ve read reviews on this airgun from all over the internet, and they’re split into two opposing camps. One side hates the gun and has nothing good to say about it, while the other claims it will out-shoot all manner of world-class spring-air rifles. One fellow claims his will shoot groups the size of a penny at 50 yards.
I will pull no punches when I test it for accuracy. We’ll see what my rifle, at least, is capable of. And that brings me to my final comment for today. The barrels they put on these rifles can vary quite widely. They tend to run the rifling buttons too many times, and some guns will have tight bores while most are on the overbore side. If the button starts out a little large, it lasts longer…at least that seems to be the philosophy they follow.