Crosman 150: Part 1
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
Crosman’s 150 looks plain and simple, but was a pivotal airgun.
This report covers:
- Crosman 150
- Benjamin 250
- The birth of the 12-gram CO2 cartridge
- CO2 Powerlets leaked
- More on the pistol
- Test gun
Today we begin looking at one of the most important air pistols ever invented — the Crosman 150. It was introduced in 1954 and had a 13-year run to 1967. The 150 is a .22 caliber single shot air pistol that has the same look and feel of Crosman’s earlier CO2 and pneumatic pistols dating back to the late 1940s. There was also a model 157, which was the same gun in .177 caliber. That caliber wasn’t as popular as .22 when the 150 was selling, so there are fewer of them around today. But that gun is identical in all ways to the 150, other than the color of the grip panels. When new the 150 was usually offered with dark brown panels and 157s were a mottled white. Over the years swaps have been made until today it is impossible to say whether the grips on a particular gun are original or not. The 150’s pistol grip is especially of interest as it has endured until today, in an unbroken line of more than 60 years! They got the grip angle right from the start and were wise to never change it. In fact, it is that grip that our guest blogger, Jack Cooper, keyed on when he selected the Crosman 2240 pistol for his pupil, Jill, to train with.
The 150 is powered by CO2, which was not new when the pistol came out. Crosman had been making CO2 guns since the early 1930s, along with the Benjamin Air Rifle Company that was a separate entity in those days. But CO2 as an airgun power source was already more than a half-century old when these two first started using it. Giffard first offered CO2 pistols and rifles way back in the 1870s. Giffard guns used bulk gas that was filled into rechargable tanks that then charged the guns when they were attached. It was Benjamin who first used separate CO2 “Sparklets” in their guns. Sparklets were a brand of CO2 cartridge that were popular in seltzer bottles that were quite popular from the late 1920s through the 1950s. They were a one-time use item, and when their 8 grams of liquid carbon dioxide was exhausted, the metal cartridges were thrown away.
Yes, I said Benjamin! Please keep the model numbers and company names straight as you follow this story. The Benjamin 250 was a smoothbore (BBs, pellets and darts) air pistol that used an 8-gram CO2 cartridge for power. It came to market in 1952 and was followed a year later by the rifled .177 caliber 257 and the .22 caliber 252. This may not have been the first use of a CO2 cartridge in an airgun, though. The Schimel AP-22 single shot pistol that looks like a Luger may have proceeded it by almost a full year. And other companies were bringing out different airguns that used the 8-gram cartridges at the same time as Benjamin. A lot more research needs to be done to sort out who was actually first in this arena. Benjamin had better distribution than any of the others, however, and they prevailed. So, for about 2 years, the 8-gram CO2 cartridge was the only game in town. Then came the Crosman 150.
The birth of the 12-gram CO2 cartridge
Crosman had the idea of using 12-gram CO2 cartridges — giving their guns 50 percent more gas each time they were installed. They didn’t invent this size. Twelve gram cartridges were simply one of many different smaller sizes of disposable cartridges on the market at this time (1954). Their existing CO2 pistols were the models 115 (.177 caliber) and 116 (.22 caliber) that were bulk-filled with gas from a separate gas cylinder. The model 150 (now we are talking about the Crosman 150 — a different gun than the Benjamin 250) was the first airgun offered by the company that used CO2 cartridges of any kind. And the 12-gram cartridges they used had 50 percent more gas per cartridge, meaning more shots or greater power or both. Now let’s take a look at the gun.
The 150 is a medium-sized air pistol. The one I am testing measures about 9.5 inches overall, with a 6-inch rifled .22 caliber barrel. There are 3 main variations, with the first two having their barrels separate from the breech or action (where the bolt is housed). The first type has adjustable power (two power settings) that’s controlled when the gun is cocked. The second version of this type is similar to the first (separate receiver/breech and barrel) but does not have two power settings. These two types of the gun are not common, having only been produced in the first two years of the run. The one-piece barrel and breech that I am testing for you is far more common. It was made from 1956 through the end of the run in 1967. The gun uses a single 12-gram CO2 cartridge that’s inserted into the muzzle end of the gas tank (beneath the barrel). And let me clarify something now. Crosman referred to the cartridge as a Powerlet for a great many years, and they said it contained 12.5 grams of liquid, which it probably did back in the day. Today 12 grams is all you encounter. So 12-gram and 12.5-gram — same, same.
Here is the thousand-word picture. This box was made for sale in the 1970s. Notice the cartridge inside still has the crimped bottlecap closure that leaked so bad. Also note the writing on the box says this cartridge holds 12 grams of CO2.
his box of Powerlets from the 1960s says the cartridges hold 12.5 grams of CO2. These are sealed with bottlecaps, also.
CO2 Powerlets leaked
The early CO2 Powerlets made by Crosman were sealed with a “bottlecap” seal that allowed a large amount of leakage. They were so nortorious they gave the whole CO2 gun market a black eye for many decades. Once they abandoned the bottlecap design for a welded tip, CO2 leaks were greatly reduced.
More on the pistol
The pistol is made of blued steel with a black painted aluminum grip frame and two-piece plastic wraparound grip panels. It weighs 1 lb. 13 oz and sports crisp adjustable sights. Over the years the sights changed from metal to plastic, but the front sight was always a wide rectangular post and the rear notch adjusted horizontally by sliding the unit side to side. Some rear sights have vertical adjustment, but most do not, including the one on the test gun. The trigger is simple like all Crosman pistol triggers of the era. But aftermarket tuners have found ways to tighten the movement of the sear and get crisper results than were put in at the factory.
Power and accuracy
The 150 is known to be a pretty powerful air pistol. Naturally I will chronograph it for you in both power modes — low and high. This is also an accurate airgun, though the accuracy will vary depending on the barrel. Some guns will be very accurate and others only modestly so.
The gun I’m testing is one I bought many years ago at an airgun show. It was a leaker that I bought to perhaps show how to reseal the mechanism. But several years ago I used Automatic Transmission Sealant on a CO2 cartridge before piercing, and the pistol has been holding ever since. It even held for over one year between the time I installed the last cartridge and the beginning of this test!
The test gun is not pretty. You need a tetanus shot just to look at it.
This will be the gun upon which I base the test. The barrel looks to be rifled well, so don’t let the poor looks fool you. This is probably still a fine air pistol.