Best of B.B.: Remembering Smith & Wesson’s pellet pistols

By Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Today is Christmas day, and I’m entertaining my family. Instead of writing a new report, I went way back in the archives and dug up something interesting from the past. This is about a pellet pistol (actually two, since they came in both .177 and .22)  that’s a beautiful replica of a firearm S&W made at the same time.

Remember, as you read this, I originally wrote it in 2005. And to all my readers to whom it applies — Merry Christmas!

Remembering Smith & Wesson’s pellet pistols

Pyramyd Air gets a lot of inquiries about vintage pellet and BB guns. While they sell the ammunition and gas needed for these guns, they don’t sell the guns, themselves, so the most commonly asked question is, “What’s it worth?”

Use Blue Book of Airguns as your price guide
The fifth edition of the Blue Book of Airguns, a wonderful used airgun price guide, will be available soon [Note, the 11th edition is the current one], but I thought I’d look at a vintage gun from time to time just to keep the collector juices flowing for all of us.


Smith & Wesson 78G

These S&Ws are REAL
Many gun makers have sold airguns with their name on them, but few actually made the guns. Smith & Wesson, however, was an exception. In the 1970s, they produced the model 78G (.22 caliber) and 79G (.177) target pistols that were copies of their very popular model 41 target pistol in .22 long rifle. These guns were made in Springfield, Mass., for a short time, then in Florida for the remainder of the time they were produced.

The two pistols are identical except for caliber. They are single-shot and have adjustable sights (all models), and a few early ones had adjustable triggers. Their frames were made from cast potmetal, with steel used where it mattered. They were just as heavy as the firearm they copied and gave their owners a great feeling of satisfaction, similar to the Drulov DU-10 target pistol I wrote about last Friday.

A 78G or 79G should cost you about $125 in excellent condition. Some gun dealers are asking more than $200 for them, but they really don’t know much about airguns. These are the same guys who think “Benjamin Franklin” airguns are also worth more than $200. Shop the airgun classified ads to buy vintage airguns at the right prices.


Smith & Wesson M41

They may be old, but they’re accurate!
An S&W 78G will be more accurate than the 79G and can rival a Ruger Mark II Target pistol at 50 feet. They aren’t quite as accurate as the S&W 41 they copy, but few guns are. The adjustable-trigger version can be adjusted to let off nearly as nice as the model 41. The non-adjustable trigger always has a little creep in the second stage.

They use the same CO2 powerlets as today’s airguns, and Crosman Pellgunoil can often get a leaky one working again. If not, there are airgunsmiths who can reseal one for a reasonable price.

Thirty years ago, when these airguns were made, the technology was not up to today’s standards. An S&W 78G isn’t as finely finished as a Drulov, nor does it have a five-shot semiautomatic mechanism. These guns may not have all the bells and whistles of modern airguns, but they’re very accurate and will serve you well. The weight and feel is as good as anything made today. If you have a hankering for a vintage airgun, one of these would be a great place to start.

66 thoughts on “Best of B.B.: Remembering Smith & Wesson’s pellet pistols







  1. Merry Christmas! My dad still has one of these in .177 that is branded as a Daisy Powerline, something I never hear talked about. I had two of the Daisy versions myself in the ’80s, but foolishly tossed them out when they started leaking CO2. That was way before the internet, and I couldn’t find anyone to repair them. I think everyone has something in their past they wish they still had!


  2. I have always loved the look and design of these pistols, but most likely will never get to own one. However i will just have to make do with my Cybergun Sig X five the wifey got me and shoot tin cans from 10 yards instead. Happy Soltice celebrations to you all.

    TTFN

    Best Wishes, Wing Commander Sir Nigel Tetlington Smythe.




    • That thing is a cool gun, like a high quality version of the cheap marksman barrel tipper. Looks like this one could use some ballistol, twotalon! And it doesn’t say how it functions, just that its single shot, does the slide cock back and open a regular style breech?


      • RDNA

        It has a bolt action that slides straight back to expose the breech. The bolt latches on the left side.
        Would need to take a couple of pics to make the operation clearer.

        twotalon




          • RDNA
            I am stuffed my self after eating enough food for a week LOL.

            I cannot go any further on the gas spring conversion till my friend gets back home from his holiday trip so I can use his lathe and mill to make the rear spring seat/retainer. Got all the parts I need just need lathe/mill and time and should be starting on it after the first of the year.

            I will let you know how it turns out.

            BD


            • Im in the same spot, same part same timeframe. Got a little time with the bipod today, gun seems to love it. Its a heavy piece of added equipment and clamping right on the barrel, bout an inch from thebreech block, is actually holding down the muzzle rise and just letting it rest with that as the front artillery hold point is getting better accuracy then my rested with hands. Got a 3/8th” ctc 5 shot at 30 yds at the end of getting it zeroed, it wasn’t way off from the bipod, i had messed it up so don’t know how much it was different with to without. What I had moved it had to be moved about the same back so don’t think it was very far, but couldn’t really tell. I did clean the barrel a day or two ago and what a difference. A little mothers billet polish makes a great fire-lapping compound! The moving the scope around was not realizing my side stock screw was almost falling out! Hadn’t locktited for exactly that purpose, see how long till they shook loose, and they was a shakin’! All locked down now and its just a beast, for what its putting out its hitting its mark like a real shooter, even started liking the baracuda extremes, wouldn’t shoot em cause the extra weight made extra recoil that the bipod is now controlling and I cam move it to any gun. Anybody with a hard recoiling gun might think about a heavy bipod, it seems to help a lot.


              • RDNA
                It sound like you got that magnum shooting real good and I have tried a bipod on my Hatsan 22 and it works well. I was just shooting off a metal picnic table that was not real stable and it would move when I put my body weight on it and the ground was still wet from dew so could not get in a prone position to shoot . if I would have been in a prone position it would have worked much better I am sure.

                Yea on a magnum springer like your Air mag I can imagine it loosening any thing that is not installed with loctite or secured with a back up nut. I just hope you used the blue loctite so you can get the screws back out if needed. I never thought the barrel mounted bipods would work that good on a springer break barrel as it would affect the barrel harmonics but it seems you air mag needs some extra weight on it to actually help the harmonics instead of hurting them.

                I am getting anxious about getting my tubes back from Lloyd to get my two 2240 HPA guns back up and running and get the maching done for the firepower/Hatsan gas FT gun done so I can get it tuned and shooting so I can use it at the FT range some along with my Mrod.

                BD


                • Yeah, exactly. With the kind of recoil it produces, which is actually not bad with the tight internals and clean lube tune, it holds that heavy front end for me which that in itself is a huge boost to accuracy.


                  • RDNA
                    That is some good info to know for I as I just recently bought a NP2 Benjamin trail in 22 caliber and I am just starting to shoot it to get it broke in and sighted and if it does not group well with bench resting it or the artillery hold I know to try using a barrel mounted bipod also.

                    Is the one you have actually clamp to the barrel or is it the one that is spring loaded and when opened it clamps onto the barrel by the weight of the gun holding it in the open position and is removed by lust lifting the barrel weight off it ?

                    BD


  3. Let me add my best wishes to all here!! I don’t do much posting here but between the blog & the comments I’ve learned a huge amount!!! I am lucky enough to have a HS Victor and a S&W 41 in my safe, I worked in a gun shop in the 70’s, my biggest regret was in not buying a Colt Python or two 🙁 But like many others in those days I was captivated by Dirty Harry’s 44 and the otherworldly looking Automag.





  4. Merry Christmas to all.

    Last week I shot the S&W 78G that was given to my daughter by her Uncle Dennis a few years ago. It is pretty loud for a basement gun but a joy to shoot.


  5. Maligayang Pasko sa inyong lahat mula sa Pilipinas! (Merry Christmas to all from the Philippines!). May many blessings fall upon your families bringing you peace and prosperity!


  6. B.B. (or anyone that knows), I had the Daisy version of the .22 cal Smith. Did Smith sells the design to Daisy? I know they weren’t just a like (or so I think) as I here the Smith was more accurate. Mine was a good shooter, but I was young. I thought it was weaker than my Daisy 200 because it had less velocity (I was too young to know anything about energy or projectile weight, just that faster must be better). So I traded it. Wish I had it back now. The velocity adjusted too (as I think the Smith did also). Can you tell me the model of the Daisys (I have forgotten now). Thanks again and have a Merry Christmas! Bradly
    P.S., my son’s grandpa bought both my boys the Daisy Red Ryder 75th Ann. guns. Very nice. I like the metal cocking lever and the fact that it’s “assembled” in the USA. My Dad said if they don’t like them, he’ll return them and buy them something else. I’m not giving them that option. If they didn’t want them, which they did, I’d keep them for myself.



      • Thank’s B.B. After you gave me the answer, I started researching them. I read where the bolt was changed to plastic by Daisy. I don’t remember mine being plastic. I also found where they produced a Model 41 in .177. The only difference is that it’s Nickle (or looks that way) plated, finished.
        I’d like to find me a S&W 78G.


  7. Merry Christmas! I bought a S&W 78G new in the early 60’s. First run with adjustable trigger. Over the years I shot out the barrel so pellets started tumbling. Re-barreled this year and is accurate once more. Still have the original box & manual…even original pellet can! Only had to re-seal once. Just made a non-marring/non-drilling Weaver mount for a reflex sight…my old eyes need it!


  8. Be aware that many of these S&W’s had leaky frames due to poor casting techniques. Mine developed a crack in the handle but was replaced by S & W way back in the late 70’s. Caveat Emptor. Hope all are enjoying today.

    Fred DPRoNJ


  9. Merry Christmas, Tom, to you and yours. And Merry Christmas to all!

    Thank you, Tom for all you do. I haven’t posted in quite a while but I read everyday. The airgun legacy you helped start in my family continues. My 4 year old grandson (with lots of help from dad!) Shoots his Bronco quite a bit,

    Please keep up the good work!

    Al Pellet


  10. Merry Christmas to all on this forum…and especially to you and Edith, Tom….because if it wasn’t for you guys I’d never have met (via the ‘net) all the wonderful people on this forum.
    I’ve always been on the lookout for one of these guns, but they are pretty much non-existent in Canada.
    I cut my pistol ‘teeth’ on my dads S&W 41 back in the late 70’s. I remember he competed in local competitions with it back then and it brought home a number of ribbons and medals.
    Alas it was one of the guns in his collection that I didn’t want when he quite shooting in the late 90’s. (some of you know the story…I was too busy being a ‘liberal’ back then). 🙁



  11. Merry Christmas to every single one of you air gun addicts! It’s been another great year of Blogs… thank you B.B. and Edith for making it possible.
    I have a SW 78G that I bought new around 1978. I found it a few years back after years of storage, the seals fell apart when I tried to charge it. I sent it off to Hickory NC and had TMAC reseal it for me. It’s back in my regular gun rotation.
    This is the pistol that my 14 year old daughter loves. She has practiced with it so often that she can out shoot me on a regular basis.
    Randy



  12. We just got through with or Christmas gathering for the day.

    Most of my relatives shoot. So a few brought their kids air guns with them. So the adults and kids shot air guns together. And my brother surprised me he shoots firearms but he does have a few air rifles and air pistols for his teenage daughters that are about the same age as my daughters. So they were shooting and my brother brings out his (notice I say his) .25 cal. wood stock gen 2 Marauder. Well finally my little brother listens to his older brother.

    Gotch you little brother if your reading. 😉
    But seriously glad your finally trying air guns.


  13. Edith and BB
    Hope you both had a Merry Christmas taking the day’s off and being with your guests. And thanks for the work you two do for the blog and all the other aspects of air gunning.

    Is it back to biusness for tomorrow’s Friday blog or you still off duty. 😉


    • GF1,

      I’ve been getting up between 3:30 and 4:30 in the morning for the previous week or so to do a bunch of cooking and prep work so I can spend more time with our family. The gifts were a success, the food was a success and everyone was happy 🙂

      Edith


      • Edith
        I know what you mean. I have been on vacation and I seem to be biusyer than when I when I’m working.

        And last night was kind of my night off. We went to relatives house to eat.

        But today everybody was at our house and believe it or not I usually cook and my daughter’s help. So today was a busy day.

        But we finally got outside to shoot some air guns.

        Glad you all had a good time. 🙂



          • RDNA
            It may sound crazy but if we have family get togethers depending on who’s house we are at we try to at least shoot air guns. If we are out at my brothers property and its 4th of July you can bet we are shooting firearms too.

            But hope you and your family had a good Christmas.

            Did Santa bring you that chrony I hope?


  14. Tom,

    Thanks for this classic look at one of the very best, in my opinion, classic replicas of an actual firearm in CO2 / lead pellet that has ever been! And since most of them were made in the actual S&W plant, yep, these are genuine Smith & Wessons.

    The subject of less-than-true-steel alloys,or pot metal, has been discussed a bit here lately. I have four of these, two early 78Gs and two early 79Gs. The two early ones have the somewhat rare adjustable trigger. Both are pretty attractive to the magnet I placed next to them, as is one of the later ones. They are not real steel, but there is enough ferrite in the alloy that even a weak refrigerator magnet likes ’em at least a little.

    All are pretty darn accurate, the .22s a little more so than the .177s, at least among those in my collection.

    The later (non-adjustable trigger) 78G of mine was the first .22 caliber air pistol I ever had. The fellow I bought it from online had opened it up and had made it a sweet machine, stoning trigger and sear contact points and such. He also replaced some of the springs with slightly stiffer ones, and, since it was a total leaker when he picked it up, replaced all of the seals with industrial stuff and tuned (heck, maybe replaced) the valve with something MUCH more, ahem, compliant. Suffice to say, it performed for my chrony just as he told me it would: well above 500 fps for 11.9 grain Hobbies, for the first couple shots with a fresh CO2 cartridge more like 575 fps with .22 Hobbies. It is one hot airgun, which is why, despite it being a bit later production and lacking the adjustable trigger, I would never part with it easily. It is certainly the most powerful air pistol I have, except, perhaps, for my Webley Alecto Ultra.

    Michael




  15. Merry Christmas all.
    I have Smith & Wesson model 79G that I bought new in the 70s. Had it resealed one time. I still have the box and manual. Don’t find many things today that last that long.


  16. Hi all. Happy New Year! I was thrilled to come across this blog post. I inhereted a S&W 78g this past year that has probably been sitting on a shelf for 20+ years. It appears to be one of the later models as it doesn’t have the adjustable trigger. Can anyone recommend a good airsmith that’s familiar with it and could reseal and tune it?


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