by B.B. Pelletier
I love my job! Today, I’ll start a report on a rifle I have been commenting about on this blog for the past six years. The Air Arms Pro-Sport. The rifle I received is in .177 caliber, but it also comes as a .22. I asked for the .177 because this rifle is one that turns up at field target matches from time to time.
Before I forget, the serial number is 105224. When I mentioned that I would be reporting about this rifle a few weeks ago, one reader noted that it was priced significantly higher than the TX200 Mark III, and he wondered if it was worth the extra money. I checked and, indeed, the Pro-Sport with the beech stock now costs $110 more than a similar TX200. A walnut stock adds another $130 to that. So the question is: Is that expensive?
Descended from royalty
Not from my perspective, it isn’t. What you may not know is that this rifle copies the Venom Mach II that was handmade for a brief time by Ivan Hancock. That rifle cost over $4,000 way back in the 1990s; and when the Pro-Sport came out at a tiny fraction of that price, it allowed mere mortals, including me, to own one. The problem was that I’d shot the $4,000 rifle extensively and expected the Pro-Sport to shoot the same. That’s like thinking that a Cobra replicar, as nice as they are, is like a genuine Cobra made by Carroll Shelby. They’re not the same, no matter how much they may look alike. But, I couldn’t get the feeling of that fine custom rifle out of my head, and frankly the Pro-Sport I owned paled in comparison.
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since those days. I thought it was high time I tested another Pro-Sport to give it every chance to live up to its heritage. Yes, it still has its TX200 sibling to contend with, but the impression of the handmade rifle has dimmed enough to let me at least appear to be impartial.
It may not appear to be an underlever when you look at the profile, but it most certainly is. It follows the style created by BSA with their Airsporter series rifles back in the 1940s, where the underlever is concealed within the forearm. This is not as unique as you think, because Falke used it for their models 80 and 90, as well as Anschutz for the Hakim trainer and possibly others as well. But the lines of the Pro-Sport are so svelt as to mislead the viewer from the actual power source. So, I’ll show it here with the cocking lever extended to let you know where it lives.
This arrangement of the underlever does lead to an operational tradeoff. I’ve said that the Pro-Sport is hard to cock. Indeed, I waited this long to test it so my hernia surgery could heal. In fact, it isn’t that the cocking effort is that high as much as where they had to put the fulcrum to hide the lever inside the forearm. It’s located way back toward the rear of the rifle; and when you cock it, you soon run out of the leverage that’s always there in rifles whose levers are located in the forward position. So, prepare yourself mentally for a harder cocking effort with this rifle; and if that seems like a good tradeoff for the sleeker look, then you’ve made the right choice.
On the plus side, there’s no ratcheting lever release on the side of the Pro-Sport. It acts just like an air rifle from the 1950s, except for the automatic safety. Pull the cocking lever down until it cocks, load the pellet and close the lever. Nothing else to do. Owners of other rifles with sliding breeches, including the TX200, are used to pushing buttons before the cocking lever can be moved back to the stowed position, but not on this gun.
Baffled barrel shroud
All the years American airgunners have been debating the legality of barrel shrouds, Air Arms has been steadily selling them on their rifles. The Pro-Sport has a baffled shroud that entirely conceals a barrel 9.50 inches long. Because of the shroud, observers will think the Pro-Sport is noticeably quieter than other spring rifles. The shooter, however, hears all the sound transmitted through the stock and the bones in his skull, and the gun doesn’t sound as quiet as it really is.
Like its other spring-piston siblings, the Pro-Sport has the same wonderful trigger that is so adjustable. It’s an updated redesign of the famous Rekord, only the Air Arms trigger is even more adjustable. There’s no reason not to have exactly what you want with a trigger like this. The safety is also like the one on the Rekord and only pops out when the rifle is cocked.
There’s no denying the best finish in the airgun business. The metal parts sparkle with a deep mirrored black that resembles a Colt Python Royal Blue finish. The wood is equally beautiful, with sharp detailing on the Monte Carlo comb and deeply scalloped cheekpiece for right-handed shooters.
The pistol grip and both sides of the forearm have sharp impressed checkering that does feel rough to the touch. The aluminum cocking linkage and bright steel sliding compression chamber are both silver and the trigger is plated with gold.
Because of the underlever residing in the forearm, the stock is split nearly in two, which leads to additional vibration with each shot. Were this my personal gun, I would get some tar on the mainspring to quiet it down.
The metal and wood this rifle is made from puts it on the heavy side. The nominal weight of just over 9 lbs. is given in the specs, and of course that’s without a scope that’s necessary. The TX200 is a few ounces heavier, but there isn’t that much difference between the two.
An 11mm dovetail is provided on the top of the rear spring tube, and there are three holes for positioning a vertical scope stop pin. Mounting a scope on this rifle is very easy for anyone.
This is an important look at an important airgun, because people labor long and hard deciding between this rifle and the TX200. I’m going to try to show you as many of the differences between the two air rifles, while still giving the Pro-Sport its turn in the spotlight.