by B.B. Pelletier
Let’s begin a report that covers an air rifle I’ve watched since it was first developed. The Tech Force TF99 Premier underlever air rifle was a true blending of cultures — American and Chinese. The rifle started life as a much more austere underlever that the U.S. company, Compasseco (now owned by Pyramyd Air), developed into a powerful spring gun that could be sold here. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that the TF99 Premier had its beginnings with the old B3 underlever from China. That unique underlever spring rifle from China was sold in the U.S. by the boatload by Compasseco. I bought my first one from an ad in American Rifleman magazine in the mid 1980s because I was curious how much value they could put into a $49.00 air rifle. Those were the days before I knew anything about Chinese manufacturing; and, in fact, it was that very B3 air rifle that began my education.
Fast-forward to the late 1990s, and Compasseco had its own booth at the SHOT Show, where they held court for both U.S. buyers and Chinese manufacturers, alike. I got to know Duane Sorensen, one of their employees, and he told me each year of the improvements he was able to get his Chinese manufacturers to make in the basic gun. By now, the model had morphed into the B-36, which was a far cry from the B3 in terms of sophistication. It was finished better and had much greater attention to detail, but only an insider would have been able to spot the differences. The guns still looked rough as cobs, and the stocks resembled a chew stick a rabid beaver might enjoy. But Sorensen was bringing the model along, design point by design point, as he defined what eventually turned into the Tech Force TF97.
Several years later, he told me about a new gun Compaseco was having built. It would have the same features and general lines as the TF97 but incorporate a longer piston stroke for greater swept volume. In the world of spring guns, swept volume converts to power, so this new gun was to be a powerhouse.
I shot the couch
Then, I had the occasion to test a new TF99 for myself back in 2003. While shooting it inside my house, I’d decided not to move the sofa because it was four inches under the trajectory of the pellet. And that’s how I came to shoot the couch! Yes, that is supposed to be a punchline in a lounge-lizard’s repertoire, but I actually did shoot our couch and it still bears the hole to this day. Thank goodness for microfiber; the hole did not continue to tear. I still owe Edith a new couch and she has lately started reminding me of that fact.
Anyway, back to my story. I found that 2003 TF99 to be a better Chinese airgun than others I had tried, but still not up to par with even Spanish spring guns. The velocity was below the stated 1,100 f.p.s. by at least 200 f.p.s. (I used RWS Hobby pellets to test it), and the accuracy wasn’t there. At 25 yards, I was getting five-shot groups greater than one inch.
I’ve read many other reports of the TF99 that tout it as a powerful and accurate air rifle, but at the time I tested this first one I’d already tested two different TF97s and found them both wanting in the same areas. I was very critical of the 99, carefully noting every aspect of its performance.
Fast-forward to today. Michol Munson, one of the founders of Compasseco, passed away last year and I had lost touch with the company for several years. But when Pyramyd Air purchased the company, a collection of rifles was sent to me for testing, and I’m working my way through them now. The latest TF99 Premier looks different than the rifle I tested back in 2003.
It comes in .177 and .22 calibers, but I’m testing a .177. This is a very large, heavy air rifle (serial No. 09301516 for the one I’m testing). It will dwarf your Winchester or Remington centerfire. The specs online say it should weigh 8 lbs. even, but I doubted that, so I weighed it on a balance beam scale and came up with 9 lbs., 2 ozs. The length that is given is 44.50 inches, but that’s about three-eighths of an inch short, as my test rifle measures 44.875 inches overall. In fairness to Pyramyd Air, these are the specs that Compasseco gave them, and in fairness to them, the TF99 Premier is a new and somewhat different airgun. (Edith has already corrected the specs to reflect the figures I gave her.)
The stock pull measures 14.75 inches, which puts it in the large category. And the rest of the stock is very full, giving the shooter the impression of a very large rifle.
The wood looks less like a Chinese stock and more like one from Germany. Apparently, they didn’t use pallet wood for this one — it really is a sharp-looking stock you can be proud of. The wood is deeply stained a dark reddish-brown and evenly finished. Only a few years ago, the best Chinese stocks still had wood filler in them, but I went over this one with a tactical flashlight and could find none. Nor were there any chatter marks in the wood from dull tools cutting too fast. Four panels of impressed checkering cover the sides of the pistol grip and forearm. The inletting is also tight and precise. The only flaw in the entire stock is a poorly fitted white line spacer at the butt.
The metal is still finished very dull, as though tumbling is as far as it gets before the black oxide goes on. So, there’s still room for improvement. In general, this is the nicest Chinese underlever I’ve ever seen.
The gun has a sliding compression chamber, so it naturally also has an anti-beartrap device. Forget about trying to uncock it. If you cock it, you have to shoot it. There’s a small lever behind the trigger that must be pulled for the chamber to unlock and be returned to the front after loading.
Trigger and safety
The safety is automatic and must be pulled back before firing. It can be reset, but only when the gun is cocked. The trigger is not adjustable.
Three levers in the triggerguard. The longer one in the center is the trigger. The short one at the back (right in this photo) is the anti-beartrap release, and the automatic safety is the lever in front. Pull it back toward the trigger to take it off.
The loading port through which the breech is accessed is a uniform hole on top of the spring tube. Even though the rifle does have a vestigial cheekpiece on the left side of the butt, this is very much an ambidextrous rifle.
The open sights that come with the rifle are fiberoptic (what else?). The rear sight is fully adjustable with click detents at every stop. The front red dot doesn’t gather much light, so the sight can be used more precisely than if the red dot glowed brightly.
There’s also an 11mm dovetail cut into the top of the spring tube for mounting a scope. And the rifle has a scope stop built right in from the factory, which is the way I like to see it being done.
What I’m looking for
The things I will be most interested in when testing this rifle are accuracy and velocity stability after it gets broken in. It’s detonating at present, and from experience I know it should continue to diesel heavily for the first hundred shots or so. This one time, I’ll make an exception and fire the gun a hundred times before testing velocity.
I know that several readers own this rifle, and I would like to hear their experiences as we progress through this test. I would also like to hear from those who are considering the rifle, with any specific questions I might be able to answer while I have it.
There have been a lot of changes in this design over the year, and I can see that the manufacturers are really trying to make a worthy airgun here. They have the aesthetics pretty-well nailed, so it will come down to stability, the overall feel and accuracy.