by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

On Wednesday, blog reader John said that he would really like to see a Crosman 2240 PCP pistol. I thought that I would address that as my topic for the weekend.

The Crosman 2240 pistol is an inexpensive CO2 pistol that sells for under $60. It’s a single-shot bolt action and has a deserved reputation for being both accurate and a wonderful value. That’s the gun John wants to see made into a precharged pneumatic (PCP).

I don’t know much about John. In fact, we have several readers named John, so I don’t want to make any assumptions about who wrote the question. But whoever he is, the first thing I have to say is that the 2240 PCP pistol already does exist. It’s called the Crosman Silhouette PCP air pistol, and, as of this date, it sells for $367.50.

{Sound of a needle being painfully scratched across a vinyl record!}

Okay, that was not what John wanted. He wanted a $60 pistol converted into an inexpensive PCP, so he could enjoy the benefits of the 2240 but at the higher power level of a PCP. I get that. That’s the kind of stuff that I think about all the time. So — why don’t “they” do it?

Some history
I was actually present when a similar decision was made to convert a very popular high-value CO2 rifle — the Crosman 2260 — into a PCP: the Benjamin Discovery. In fact I wasn’t just present, I was part of the development team, which gave me a unique insight into what a company goes through to do something like this.

The 2260 was selected to be the starting point for what was to become the Discovery because we wanted to keep the price as low as possible. But some changes had to be made. Where a hobbyist working out of his home might just seal the 2260’s CO2 reservoir better to hold air and call it finished, Crosman couldn’t do the same thing. They’re a manufacturer who has to build in a margin of safety into each of their products so that they present no danger to the user, even when improperly operated.

You might say to yourself that you’re never going to over-pressurize the gun you’re building, so the CO2 reservoir that’s rated to 1,000 psi is good enough, but Crosman can’t do that. They have to figure there will be a certain percentage of people who will either make mistakes with the rifle or purposely over-pressurize it in the mistaken belief that they can get more velocity from it. It happens all the time and all of you know it.

When it came time to select the tubing for the PCP reservoir, they could not go with what they used on the 2260. Not only is it not rated to operate at the pressures of the Discovery (2,000 psi instead of 900 psi), it’s also finished more coarsely. Because the CO2 molecule is very large, o-rings will still seal the reservoir even when the metal is a little rough. But it won’t seal in air, which is vastly thinner. They needed a stronger reservoir tube that also had a better finish; plus when they cut o-ring seats, they had to cut them with smoother surfaces.

The stronger tube had to either be thicker steel or it had to be made from a stronger alloy. In the end, it was both because Crosman figured that some people would forget that the Discovery should only be filled to 2,000 psi…and would fill it to 3,000 psi. In a courtroom, a plaintiff’s attourney could make a strong case that such behavior is normal when most of the world’s PCPs are filled to 3,000 psi.

But if the tubing is thicker, it has a smaller internal volume — we all know that. So, not only did they have to make the tube stronger and from better material, it also had to be longer to hold as much air as possible since they were trying to get a reasonable number of shots out of the gun at a relatively low air pressure (for a PCP).

Instead of a length of reservoir tubing costing them $2, they had to use a length of tube costing $28. That’s an increase of 14 times the material cost! These numbers are not the real ones, but they’re representative of the differential in the cost of parts for the PCP gun over the CO2 gun. And all of this is just material cost — no machining or handling has been costed yet.

The difference between CO2 and high-pressure air
Containing CO2 under pressure is one level of difficulty. Containing air under pressure is a different and much higher level of difficulty. Imagine how difficult it is for cowboys to keep cattle inside a corral. Now, replace the cattle with cockroaches and put them in the same corral. Think it might be harder to keep all of them inside? You bet your paycheck it is!

Crosman was a company that has a long history of making CO2 guns. Heck, they ARE the history of CO2 guns! Now, they have to learn how to contain high-pressure air, which is totally different. They knew it and they thought about it — a LOT. You can build one of anything if you have the skill and the inclination. Making a thousand of them, however, can kill you — or put you out of business. Crosman made more than 4,000 Discoveries the first year they were offered. They had to be ready for that, which means they had to find ways to assemble these high-pressure air containers without any of them leaking.

I used to build PCP airguns at AirForce. Every step of the assembly process was specified, and there were tests at each point in the process. We didn’t make a thousand of anything that then had to be remade or — worse yet — thrown away!

As long as we’re making it…
…we might as well make it right. Ever say that to yourself in the middle of a project? Of course you have — everyone has. So did the Crosman engineering team. As long as we’re making this gun that holds thin air under high pressure, we might as well make it last a long time.

What’s the No. 1 enemy of pressurized air?

Bad seals.

And, what is the No. 1 enemy of seals — assuming everything has been designed correctly?

Dirt.

It was no surprise that the engineering team decided to put an air filter on the intake side of the reservoir of the gun. Air is thin, so the filter had to filter thin things. As in millionths of an inch.

Don’t worry your pretty head — such things as micron filters are available — at a price.

Now, a hobby builder is far less likely to include such a thing in his gun. Indeed, a great many very expensive PCPs do not have an intake air filter. But that’s how Crosman works. You can’t change that, so it has to be factored into everything they do.

Back to the premise
Okay, I’ve gotten far afield in my report. If I were to continue talking about developing production PCPs, I would have to go much farther because there are a great many little things that have to be done to create such a gun. But I’ve said enough. Let’s return to the original question.

What can’t “they” make a 2240 PCP? Well, they can. When Crosman does it, it’s called the Silhouette PCP air pistol. You may think they’ve loaded that model with a lot of costly and unnecessary things; but given who they are and how they operate, most of the features ARE necessary.

Could a more austere 2240 PCP pistol, be produced? Without question. But don’t look for Crosman to do it. Even if they were convinced to try; with all the extra engineering I mentioned and alluded to, it’s likely that the bare bones gun they produce would still cost you at least $200.

And here’s where John comes in. John says if it’s going to cost $200, a pistol “ought” to have an accurate barrel. We all know what that means — Lothar Walther. So, he wants them to spend an additional $41 for a 10-inch barrel that they’ll have to charge an extra $79 to their largest distributors. You’ll be paying an additional $121 to get one — over and above the cost of the pistol. The popular reasoning is that we have to have that Lothar Walther name if we’re going to be asked to pay more than a certain amount for an airgun.

You might look at the Daisy Avanti 717 and 747 pistols and see only a $40 difference from the addition of the Lothar Walther barrel on the more expensive gun. Yes, there are less expensive Lothar Walther barrels, but the design of the 2240 does not support their use. The Daisy guns can use a soda-straw barrel (thin-walled), which is cheaper to manufacture, but the 2240 barrel is not supported in the same way and has to be thicker.

Having said that, can it still be done? Can John’s dream of a low-cost, high-quality PCP air pistol be realized? I believe it can — just not within the manufacturing model of Crosman or another airgun manufacturer of equal capability.

I think the entire manufacturing paradigm has to be changed to achieve what John wants.

Motorola changed their corporate paradigm several decades ago and reduced the time from order to shipping for a pocket pager from 6 months to 15 minutes. It can be done.