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Education / Training S&W 78G and 79G – Part 1

S&W 78G and 79G – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Nobody asked for this report, but after completing the report on the Crosman Mark I and starting the report on the Crosman 2240, I thought I’d complete the circle by reporting on this pistol, as well. Why this one, you ask? Because, back in the day, the 78G was a competitor of the Mark I in both power and accuracy.

I reported on the 78G as recently as last year, but that report was thin. Now, with both the Mark I and the 2240 getting a full three-part test, I feel I have to include this gun as well, to round out the field.

This is my S&W 78G in the box. Many of these guns have their original boxes because they were sold as new old-stock just 10 years ago.

The .22 caliber 78G and .177 caliber 79G single-shot target pistols were made (actually, produced) by Smith & Wesson from 1971 through 1980. They were first made in their Tampa, Florida, plant. In 1973, they moved the airgun division up to Springfield, Mass. In 1978, they moved airguns back to Florida. From this point forward, I’ll speak specifically about the 78G, unless I indicate otherwise, though much of what goes for one gun goes for the other, as well.

The first version of the gun was finished in shiny black paint, featured two power levels and had an adjustable trigger. Later, the adjustable trigger was discontinued, the cocking notches reduced to just one and the paint was changed to a dull matte finish that was more uniform than the shiny black.

Blog reader twotalon sent us this photo of the adjustable trigger on his S&W 78G.

In 1980, S&W parent, Bangor Punta, sold the pistol design to Daisy, who rechristened them the models 780 and 790. The triggers got much heavier and creepier during this transition. The final model Daisy made was a shiny, nickel-plated, .177 caliber model 41 that paid homage to the S&W model 41 target pistol, which the guns were originally patterned after. It has the worst trigger and surface finish of all.

So, if you’re seeking the finest guns to shoot, look for a model 78G with shiny black paint and adjustable trigger. But beware. S&W had problems with porous metal castings in the early pistols, and some of the early guns will leak down and cannot be repaired. I owned one early model, but the gun I’m testing for you in this report is the later version.

In many ways, the 78G is the equivalent of the Crosman Mark I and the 2240. The way it handles is beautiful. It balances much like a Smith & Wesson model 41, which I borrowed and compared — gun-to-gun — for an article in an Airgun Revue. Both guns hold well, with the weight centered in the hand and just a touch of muzzle heaviness.The 78G feels as much like its firearm equivalent as the Mark I feels like a Ruger, except that the 2240 has no firearm counterpart and feels just as nice as the other two.

The gun sits low in the hand, making the sight line easy to acquire. The trigger blade is well-situated for my average hand. Like the Mark I, the 78G has two cocking knobs protruding from either side of the frame above the trigger. However, the later versions of the gun have a single power level, unlike the Mark I. The early gun with the adjustable trigger also has two power levels.

Loading is done separately from cocking, just like the Mark I. On this gun, a latch is pulled and the bolt is pulled straight back to expose the loading trough. There’s no resistance to this bolt, as it doesn’t cock the action, so loading is smooth and easy.

Adjustable power
The gun’s power is adjustable, and there have been aftermarket power boosts for this pistol almost since Smith and Wesson began making them. The power adjustment is in the same place as on the Mark I, and it works the same way. Turn the screw inward to put more tension on the hammer spring and outward to reduce tension. The more tension, the longer the valve stays open and the most gas flows through.

All 78G and 79G pistols have a power adjustment screw located beneath the muzzle at the front of the gun. The outer ring locks the power adjustment screw in place.

My observation
What I’m about to suggest has no basis in fact, and I’ve never even heard it suggested before other than by me. I find the Smith & Wesson 78G/79G actions to be remarkably similar to the Crosman Mark I/Mark II actions. They cock the same way, they load the same way, the power is adjusted in the same way and the adjustable triggers work the same. I see too much similarity to believe it happened by coincidence. The Crosman guns began production in 1966 and the S&Ws started in 1971. I feel certain there was some borrowing of technology by S&W when they designed their pistols. Beyond that observation, I know nothing.

This should prove to be an interesting report. When I’m finished, we’ll have nine reports on three very significant air pistols.

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.

31 thoughts on “S&W 78G and 79G – Part 1”

  1. I had one of those AHA! moments when I read your suggestion at the end.The S&W 78G has been indicative of my beginners luck as a collector.I found one in excellent condition listed in a local paper for 75$.I met the owner and bought it on a thursday…..that following saturday at the flea mkt.,I stumbled across the appropriate S&W .22 pellet tin for a quarter nowhere near anything of any value!
    My life is full of these amazing co-incidences.How about a custom one of a kind Pennsylvania Dutch Lane case for a Whiscombe JW 80 one week after buying the gun itself?? ….And it was only 250$ done in bookmatched,dovetailed solid walnut!!

    • Markus,

      I went to the website you provided the link for and could find no cross-reference between the S&W and the Crosman Mark I. Everything seems right out of the Blue Book or is a velocity test done by Ward.

      Have I missed something?


      • BB,

        It was in the first part of the comments section here:

        Comments: This air pistol was manufactured by Smith & Wesson based on designs from a former Crosman engineer, which explains the close resemblance of the action of the 78G and 79G to the Crosman Mark I & II

        You’re a cup or two short of coffee this morning!

  2. BB:
    Quite incredible to think that there are probably hundreds of mint,collectable Air guns gathering dust in gun and sports shop store rooms.
    It does seem though that the with the advent of Ebay and such,it has caused a lot of folk to empty out lofts and basements which has effected prices.
    I was very disappointed at what money some of my old toys were fetching for instance.

  3. B.B.
    My 78 really liked the S&W pellets. So did my 1400. When they were all gone I had to settle for the only alternative…the old Crosman wadcutters. They still worked pretty well in both guns.


    • I haven’t gotten the rat yet, there have been a few complications. The first night our dogs left their toy near the spot so when I went out after the chewing started, one of them got the toy and started aaaarrrrring for me to play with her. Needless to say, the rat vacated. Next night I tried, but I think the rat was a little skittish and probably bolted when the barrel touched the board (I shot, but didn’t find a body in morning). We will see what happens tonight.

      I’m beginning to wonder about some things too. I’ve put poison in the hole about 3 or 4 days in a row and every time the poison is gone when I check. Either their are multiple culprits, this is one tough critter or it is laughing at me and dumping the poison out of sight!

      I also noticed this evening that the location seems like it would be tight for a rat. I couldn’t fit some glue traps inside the hole. I had thought the hole opened up more just inside the board. I wish I had one of those fiber optic diagnostic cameras to look inside and see exactly what it is like in there!

      Frustrated, outsmarted so far, rat/mouse/? hunter (AR)

      • A.R. Tinkerer,

        While nothing is more satisfying than dispatching those rodents with an airgun, I have had great results with a device called a “Ratzapper” – you can find them on the Internet for about $60 or so (http://www.ratzapper.com/) . They run on batteries and deliver an electric shock that kills critters instantly, up to a few pounds or so. Just set it in the traffic area with bait (I use bird seed with great results) and check it later. It won’t fit in a wall, but you could set it up near where you think he enters and probably get him that way. I do recommend the one that uses “D” batteries.

        Mine has dispatched numerous problem mice, chipmunks, and squirrels (never a rat, which I consider a sign that I don’t have them around me). A friend with one has also got several voles and a few rats. I have never had a bird go in it, but a few of the larger squirrels have gotten sapped and ran away. The raccoons have learned to leave it alone – I watched one get “taught” once, and it was quite traumatic for him.

        Alan in MI

  4. Comments: This air pistol was manufactured by Smith & Wesson based on designs from a former Crosman engineer, which explains the close resemblance of the action of the 78G and 79G to the Crosman Mark I & II.

    • …but they DO have nice handles! Ha! Something that might bear mentioning…in my experience,it’s not all that uncommon for the pin that the breech mechanism latches behind to become bent.That combined with the free rotation of the pin in it’s proper home can cause the breech to be very difficult to open and close.Fortunately,it is an easy fix….details can be found on AnotherAirgunBlog.

  5. Smith and Wesson has borrowed other designs when venturing outside of the revolver field. I’ve got no problem with that since they always bring quality to their version.


  6. I bought a 78G back in the mid 70″s and was “lucky” enough to have one of the porous castings. I sent it back and received a new 78G but the factory sent it back in a 79G Box! While I no longer have the CO2 original container I still have the pellet tin with some pellets (fairly well oxidized). Unfortunately, this is not the adjustable trigger version. It’s still a great shooting air pistol, however. Two years ago, I re-sealed it. It has a collection of NAPA and Yamaha motorcycle “o” rings in it!

    Fred PRoNJ

      • Ah, the Concours D’Elegance. It’s a marvelous showing of rare and beautifully restored antique motorcycles (and cars). No, I can only read about the show in the national motorcycle magazines but one of these years ……

        For those of you who enjoy museum quality restored cars and motorcycles:


        Fred PRoNJ

  7. rikib,
    yep, derrick, derrick38, whatever I remember to log in as. Far as I can tell, I’m the only Derrick posting here. For better or worse…

    I think if that pin shears, the breech would come backward at your face when you next pull the trigger. So the pin is probably semi-important.

  8. I have a 79G I bought around 75-76. As I remember I bought it with some mod that put it over 600fps. Damn fine pistol, accurate at good ranges, and would shoot clean through rabbits with pointed pellets. I still have it in the original box. I haven’t fired it in near 20 years, I should lube it up and see if it still holds a seal.

  9. Thank you for the nice and complete report ! I bought mine back in ´79 and have been enjoying backyard shooting since then.

    I was looking for information on this air pistol to solve the leaking problem I have, and found your last year´s report first, and then this more complete one. Living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I could not find here a local service for the gun. And it seems impossible to ship it to the US to be serviced.

    Something to share: Back in the day, as a low budget teenager, I was worried about the CO2 thirst of this pistol. So I designed an adapter to load the internal CO2 tank using a big 1/2 litre CO2 tank, and hade it made by a local gunsmith. It works wonderfully, and has the added advantage of letting you repressurize the pistol every time you want. I usually reload every 15 to 20 shots, so every shot is fully powered.
    I could send you photos, but dont know how to upload them. Send me instrucctions so I can share it.

    Now to my problem: the firing valve leaks somewhere (the big bronze cylinder), and I could not disassemble it to clean and assess the problem. Any suggestions or instructions ?

    Thanks again,

    • Fabricio,

      Yes, if you would like to send me a short report and some photos, I’d love to have it on the blog. Send it to blogger@pyramydair.com

      The first thing you can do about your leak is feed the gun some Crosman Pellgunoil or something equivalent. Fill the coupling that you use to charge the gun, then blow it it with a fresh charge.

      If Pellgunoil isn’t available, you can use 20-weight motor oil, but don’t use light machine oil like 3-in-1.


  10. Mr. Pelletier
    I don’t know if it was you, but awhile back someone posted someone in Texas that could take a look at my 78G. I’m thinking I just need 2 new O-rings, it leaks the CO2 out quick once the can is pierced. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    Steve Valdez

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