TX200 Mark III: Part 1
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This report is long overdue, and I know that I’ve reviewed the TX200 air rifle in the past; but with the migrations of the blog through different softwares and website changes, it’s temporarily become too difficult to find the old reports. I usually look them up in a search engine, but even that doesn’t work very well for this topic. So, here we go, again. This time, we’ll follow my full format for a report, plus I’ll do some additional testing that’s based on some of the interesting things we’ve been exploring in other reports in the past year.
Blog reader Beazer asked for this report specifically because he’s just received a new TX200 Mark III, but I make so many references to the gun in other test reports that its time has come just on general principal. The TX200 Mark III is the finest spring-piston air rifle available today. Please notice that I did not say “one of” or “perhaps” or any other temporizing modifier. This is flat-out the best spring gun there is today — bar none.
And let me clear up something else. When I say the TX200 Mark III, I am NOT referring to the shorter TX200 HC (Hunter Carbine) that’s quite a bit harder to cock, nor do I mean the Pro Sport, which is also an underlever spring-piston air rifle and just as hard to cock as the Hunter Carbine. Nor do I refer to the TX200 SR (semi recoilless) that’s no longer made. I mean ONLY one gun — the TX200 Mark III. Don’t try to paint the entire Air Arms springer line with what I’m about to say about the TX200.
If this is a Mark III, there must have been a Mark I and II — right? Yes, there were. The Mark I was not called a Mark I. It was just called a TX200, and it came out in the late 1980s. It differed from the Mark II that followed in that it didn’t have the sliding chamber catch that’s on the outside of the spring tubes of Marks II and III. You simply pulled the underlever down and cocked the gun directly, then held onto the cocking lever while you loaded; so in case the sear slipped, the sliding compression chamber didn’t amputate your fingers.
The TX200 looked different than the Weihrauch HW 77, which was the rage at that time; because, instead of using an offset barrel and air transfer port, the TX centered the barrel on the compression chamber. Since the barrel is a smaller diameter than the compression chamber, this gave a distinctive “humpback” look to the rifle, where the HW 77 line was straight. The barrel hump is a characteristic of the TX200 profile.
But the centered air transfer port made all the difference in terms of power because the TX200 was able to develop power easier than the HW 77. The mainspring could be shorter and lighter, and cocking could be easier.
In 1994, the TX200 Mark II came out. That rifle had the first sliding compression chamber catch mounted on the right side of the spring tube, and it made such a clickety racket that field target competitors like me soon learned to hold down on the latch while cocking the rifle. The Mark III has reduced the number of clicks to just 3, which most shooters don’t find objectionable.
The sliding compression chamber catch is shown at the left. The 3 notches in the sliding compression chamber are all that hold the chamber from sliding forward until the sear grabs the piston. You can also see the old-style straight checkering on my beech stock.
I tested my rifle for The Airgun Letter, then I let Jim Maccari tune it for me and I tested it again. Finally, I sent it off the Ken Reeves for one of his tunes, and that series of tests was the last I did. After that, I just shot the rifle until the TX200 Mark III came out.
I bought a TX200 Mark III in the year 2000 and found that it had all the sophistication that my fully tuned Mark II had, so I said goodbye to the Mark II and kept the Mark III. That’s the rifle I still have today, and it’s the main one I’m using for this report. Therein might lie a problem.
Baffles – yes or no?
It appears that Air Arms may have made a design change to the rifle in 2008 without changing the Mark-series designator. They may have eliminated the baffles in the barrel shroud. The Mark III in my posession has at least 3 baffles and perhaps 4 inside the barrel jacket, and I’ve been advising people that all TX200 Mark IIIs have these baffles. But a somewhat cryptic mention made in the Blue Book of Airguns suggests that the baffles may have been eliminated in 2008. Even though the gun that’s being sold today is still called a Mark III, it may not be the exact same design as the gun I’m testing for you.
I can see the baffles in my rifle by looking down the bore with a tactical flashlight, plus I can use a wire coat hanger to feel and count them. Edith has emailed Air Arms to get an answer, and we’ll let you know what she finds out.
I’ve never asked Pyramyd Air for a Mark III to test; because as long as it’s still a Mark III, it should be exactly the same as my rifle on the inside. That’s what the term Mark means! But there may have been some changes that I missed. So, I’ve decided to also break down and order a current production TX200 Mark III to test.
I’m aware that the stock carving changed from straight checkering to a reverse crosshatch carved pattern with floral embellishments on the edges. And the new forearm is also scalloped and a bit thinner. I like the new look better; but until researching for today’s report, that was the only change of which I was aware.
That’s enough history. Now, let’s look at the rifle. The TX200 is an underlever spring-piston air rifle that uses a sliding compression chamber. When you cock the rifle the entire compression chamber slides back out of the way, giving you great access to load the pellet directly into the breech. The sliding chamber is then returned home, leaving the piston cocked until the shot is fired.
The latch that holds the underlever is a ball bearing catch that’s about as unobtrusive as possible. Only one thing could be better, and that would be a lever linkage that goes over-center as it’s returned home. I know that because the Venom Mach II was a $2,000+ underlever that looked exactly like a TX200 and used such a system. I was privledged to shoot one of the very few examples that were made when I was at the DIFTA field target club. But that rifle was handmade by Ivan Hancock; and if it was still sold today, the price would probably be north of $6,000.
The TX trigger is a refinement of the famous Rekord trigger that Weihrauch has made and sold successfully for the past half-century. The refinements are in the area of better adjustability for the two stages and a more positive safety. Even though Air Arms does produce this trigger in a factory, it’s still highly refined. The Chinese tried to copy the TX200 did a fair job of it but have never been able to get the trigger right.
The TX is renowned for the fit and finish of its wood and metal parts. All wood is finished smooth and sharp, and the metal is both highly polished and deeply blued. Plastic? There isn’t any to be seen. In fact, TX owners gripe about the occasional use of aluminum on their rifles. They’re like Rolls Royce owners who complain about the loud electric clock!
The wood is overly generous in its dimensions, lending a bulky feeling to the rifle. It feels like a real handful that an owner can look at in one of two ways. Either, it feels too heavy — at 9.3 lbs, unscoped — or it hangs well in the hands — a vision of stability. Same rifle — two different viewpoints. But the gun is what it is and isn’t likely to change. A walnut stock will trim some ounces, but you’ll still know you have a rifle in your hands.
The TX comes in both .177 and .22 calibers. I’ve always recommended .177 because I think of this rifle as a field target gun; but the truth is that it’s great in either caliber. In .177, the rifle will shoot Crosman Premier lites in the high 800 f.p.s. range right out of the box; but after a couple thousand shots, it’ll top 930 f.p.s. with the same pellet.
Scoping the rifle
The rifle comes without open sights; and if that’s a deal-breaker for you, then walk away. The TX200 Mark III is no more made for open sights than a Corvette is made for a 4-cylinder economy engine. You don’t just scope this rifle, you scope it with the best glass you can afford because the inherent accuracy warrants it.
The scope rails are 11mm grooves cut directly into the spring tube. Three vertical scope stop holes provide a place to anchor the scope rings. When we get to part 3, I’ll show the scoping situation in detail.
What we’ll do
I will review my TX200 Mark III for you exactly as if this were a test of a new airgun. My rifle has been shot many thousands of times, but it has never been tuned or fooled with. Other than adjusting the trigger, I’ve left the gun exactly as it came from the box 13 years ago.
After accuracy testing — maybe out to 50 yards — I hope to do some other kinds of tests for you. The one that springs to mind is testing the rifle rested directly on a sandbag versus the artillery hold, as that was an interesting topic recently. I’m sure there are other things people will want me to do.
I also hope to get a new TX from Pyramyd Air to compare to my broken-in rifle. I’ll examine it in detail to see what the differences are and report back to you.
This promises to be an interesting test that I can see stretching to numerous parts, so let’s get started!