by B.B. Pelletier
Today, I’ll start a look at an airgun that has many of us on this blog buzzing. The Crosman M4-177 multi-pump air rifle is a Crosman 760 Pumpmaster that’s been re-skinned to look like an M4 battle rifle. Crosman has a history of doing this. Back in 1966, they took a V350 BB gun and turned it into a very credible M1 Carbine. As a lover of that military arm, I feel that owning the Crosman BB variant is a necessity. Perhaps something similar will happen with this new M4 among the millions of black-rifle aficionados.
From this point on, I will refer to this airgun as the M4 for the sake of brevity. Being offered right before Christmas is sure to give a tremendous boost to the sales of this little dual-ammo airgun. In fact, Pyramyd Air has included it in their Christmas Gift Guide, which is found on the home page of the new website. The gift guide is only on the new website, so don’t look for it on the old site. It’s a fast and streamlined way for people to buy their special airgunners gifts this season.
So, what is the M4, really? Well, it’s a multi-pump pneumatic that fires either BBs or pellets through a rifled steel bore. I’ll be very interested to see how the accuracy turns out. The rifle comes packed in an attractive multicolor box with the sights removed. At just 3.75 lbs. and an overall length of less than 34 inches, the M4 is ideal for kids (of all ages).
The rifle is entirely synthetic on the outside, yet the dimensions are large and beefy. It doesn’t feel cheap. To their credit, Crosman put a thin soft rubber pad on the butt so you can stand the gun almost anywhere without it slipping to the floor.
Like the firearm, this M4 has an extending shoulder stock that collapses for transport. When it’s fully extended, the length of pull is one-sixteenth inch under 13 inches, so it’s very short. But the flattop action has a full-length Picatinny rail, allowing you to position the sights or any optional optics as far from your eye as needed; so the short pull can be overcome. The thin tubular extendable stock takes some getting used to for a cheek weld, but it isn’t that bad.
The M4 shoots either BBs or pellets, but only one type at a time. There’s a 350-round BB reservoir in the receiver that holds the BBs. They’re poured in through an opening that’s exposed when a sliding cover, that looks something like the selector switch on a firearm M4, slides to the rear.
Loading a BB for firing requires the shooter to have the empty five-shot pellet magazine installed. BBs are transferred from the large reservoir to a smaller BB magazine that’s controlled by another button called the BB retainer button. This also requires shaking and twisting the whole rifle with the muzzle pointed down, because the BBs move into the magazine via gravity. From there, they’re picked out of the magazine one at a time by a small magnet on the tip of the bolt. It sounds involved; but like tying a half-hitch knot in a rope, once you get the hang of it, everything goes fast. The owner’s manual does a good job of talking you through the process.
The M4 is a five-shot pellet repeater via a plastic clip that’s inserted into the right side of the receiver. The manual fails to describe this procedure well, but essentially the magazine has to be manually indexed for each shot. You can feel a hesitation when the magazine gets to the right position, but it takes care to do this. Blunder ahead and you probably won’t be able to push the bolt closed, as the chamber will not be in line. The magazine only holds the pellets in position for loading by the bolt; the gun doesn’t shoot the pellets out of the magazine directly. Since the pellets are loaded directly into the breech, there’s a chance of good accuracy. We shall see.
My objection is that the gun has a magazine to begin with, and I’ve objected to it ever since the 760 got one years ago. I guess Crosman feels the need to make their gun a repeater for marketing reasons, but the idea of a multi-pump that’s also a repeater is similar to putting belt-feed on a flintlock. There are still lots of other things that need to be done before the next shot can be fired!
The front and rear sights are adjustable. The rear adjusts for left and right (windage), and the front adjusts up and down (elevation). The rear needs a small flat-bladed screwdriver, which is as good a reason as any to carry a pocketknife with a screwdriver blade. The front sight requires the typical AR front sight tool, only this one is actually a small socket wrench that fits the flat-sided configuration of the front sight base. That’s so much easier to use than the real M4/M16 tool that requires a lot of downward tension as you turn. If you lose the tool — and what soldier doesn’t? — you can always screw up the tip of a bullet in one of your cartridges doing it the old-fashioned way, one click at a time. Oh, for the days of the Garand and sights that were easy!
There’s a Picatinny rail on the underside of the forearm; but because the forearm is actually the pump handle and moves as you fill the gun, there probably isn’t enough clearance for mounting anything very substantial there. Certainly not a monopod or tactical flashlight, unless the latter is miniaturized.
How it pumps
This is what you’ve been waiting to see. I know, because it was also what I wanted to see. The pump handle is the entire forearm, and it swings down and forward just like any other multi-pump with an underlever. The 760 action is what I call a short-stroke action, which moves through a smaller arc than the pump handle of, say, a Benjamin 397. That made it a convenient platform for projects like the M4, because the pump handle doesn’t have to move that much.
The rifle pumps easily — just like the 760 it’s made from. When the gun first came from the box, I noted that although the action was generally well-oiled, the pump head itself was rather dry, so I put several drops of Crosman Pellgunoil on the pump head. The pumping force increased immediately. I would advise any buyer to do the same.
Like the Crosman M1 Carbine, the new M4 also has a dummy “magazine” in the conventional place that can be removed and filled with BBs, pellets or even your lunch, if you eat light. As mentioned, the front sight adjustment tool is stored there, and there’s foam packed around it to prevent it from rattling. Since the gun’s reservoir already holds 350 BBs, I think I’d leave this one as it is. That will keep the extra rattles down as you move around.
What do you do with it?
The 760 is one of the quintessential BB guns of all time. And because it has a rifled barrel and can also handle pellets, it’s even more of a winner. Crosman says on the box that the gun is recommended for pest elimination, but I must take exception to that. This gun doesn’t have the power needed to dispatch any but the smallest (field mouse) pests, so keep it for informal target practice, plinking and fun. Remember to wear those safety glasses, because this is a BB gun, after all!
A modern collectible?
Crosman renamed the model right after it came out. It was originally called the M417, which they changed to the M4-177. But they didn’t remark the plastic housing of the gun, nor did they throw away the first boxes — so both the gun and the boxes are marked M417. If that changes, and it should, then the early few guns marked with the original name will gain some value. How much remains to be seen, but back in 1955 you could buy an uncirculated double-die penny for five dollars. They sell for $2,000 and up today — mostly up.
Where do we go from here?
The Crosman 760 is that company’s most popular airgun by a significant margin. They run two shifts a day just to keep up with demand. This M4 is going to increase them by some margin, and I know they hope it’ll be significant. Therefore, I want to put this gun under more detailed scrutiny than I normally do, since it’s arguably the most popular BB gun on the market — even taking the Daisy Red Ryder into account.