Smith & Wesson model 77A multi-pump pneumatic air rifle: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

S&W 77A
My S&W model 77A rifle. The black paint is flaking off the aluminum receiver, but the steel and wood parts are both in good condition.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • S&W 77A
  • History
  • Blue Book
  • Back to the history
  • The price
  • Description
  • Sights
  • Scope base?
  • The action
  • Safety is automatic
  • Summary

There was tremendous temptation to write about my new S&W 79G pistol today. In light of the excellent things reader 45 Bravo has told us, plus the testing I have already done on my .22 caliber 78G pistol, it seemed natural to transition into the .177-caliber 79G today. But not all readers like these pistols and I didn’t want them to think that was all I could write about. Like the Diana guns, these aren’t for everybody.

S&W 77A

So today we start looking at the S&W 77A multi-pump pneumatic air rifle. This is the rifle I traded for at the recent Texas Airgun Show. The man I got it from said it shoots hard and I have shot it into duct seal a few times just to see. It seems to be right on for power. We will find out in Part 2.

History

This rifle was produced from 1971 to 1978, according to the Blue Book of Airguns. The 77A was only produced in .22 caliber, so don’t look for one in .177.

Blue Book

Speaking of the Blue Book for a moment, there has been a change to their schedule. The book they thought would be out by now has been delayed until next year. Dennis Adler and I are now co-authors of the book, but you shouldn’t see many changes to the format because of that. However, my Gaylord Reports column will now have to encompass 4 years since the last book was published, so it will have to be longer. Okay, back to the 77A.

Back to the history

I’m looking at an ad from 1973, plus a listing in the 1974 Shooter’s Bible. The ad says to expect the rifle to fire up to 600 f.p.s., which puts it about even with the Benjamin 342. If not even, pretty close. Today’s equivalent Benjamin would be the 392.

Smith & Wesson made their own airguns, which was not common for a firearms company. Most firearms companies like Winchester buy guns from other makers and have their names put on them. In fact Winchester was buying air rifles and pistols from Diana in the 1970s when the 77A was being produced. In 1974 their model 427 breakbarrel went for $47.95.

As we mentioned in the series on the 78G and 79G pistols, Smith & Wesson probably had at least one former Crosman employee on staff, because their pistol mechanisms are virtually identical to the Marks I and II of the Crosman line. But there are significant differences in the rifle that I will address in a bit.

The price

In 1974 the 78G and 79G pistols sold for $36.50. The 77A rifle was listed at $42.50. The Benjamin 342 that was equivalent listed for $43.95 and the Sheridan Blue Streak was $48.25 at the same time, so the S&W rifle was the lowest-priced of the three. I bet that had to do with Smith & Wesson not having a reputation for airguns. The S&W model 80 CO2 BB gun sold for $24.94.

Description

The rifle is 40 inches long and has a 22-inch barrel that has 10 lands and grooves with a right-hand twist. The length of pull is 13-1/2-inches, so it’s made for older kids and adults. The rifle I’m testing weighs 6 lbs. 3 oz., though in the Shooter’s Bible it’s listed as 6 lbs. 8 oz. Obviously the varying wood weight makes the difference. The overall length is 4 inches longer than the 392 and it weighs three-quarters of a pound more. That gives this rifle a very substantial feel.

The metal parts are a combination of painted aluminum and blued steel. The only synthetics I can find on the outside of the rifle are the buttplate that has a nice S&W logo in the center and the spacer between the barrel and pump tube. The buttplate is slick, so be careful when standing the rifle up.

The wood on both the buttstock and pump lever/forearm on my rifle are dark blonde with very little in the way of figure. S&W said in their ad they were finished with a walnut stain, but that must have been on an earlier or later version. The finish on my rifle is light maple and I believe the wood is maple as well. The buttstock is held on by a bolt through the butt, and S&W has put small projections at the top and bottom of the pistol grip wood where the stock meets the receiver to keep it from twisting. That’s a nice touch!

The forearm has finger grooves on both sides that run just over 6 inches. They make holding the rifle feel very natural.

Sights

The rifle has open sights. A squared-off post in front matched a square notch at the rear. The sizes of the front post and rear notch are closely matched, so I should be able to do some good work with them, as long as my target is brightly lit. A 1973 ad I read promised dime-sized groups at 33 feet. I bet S&W never reckoned on old BB Pelletier coming along 50 years later and putting them to the test! I will assume they meant 5-shot groups, because that was what was popular at the time.

The rear sight adjusts vertically by means of a stepped elevator under the rear leaf. The steps are small, so I’ll find out how close it comes when I test the rifle for accuracy. The sight leaf is held to the barrel by spring steel legs that wrap around the barrel, and there is a small Allen screw on top to anchor it. The sight legs both touch or almost touch the plastic spacer, so I don’t think left and right adjustment is possible.

77A rear sight
The rear sight adjusts for elevation but not windage.

Scope base?

One last thing — there seems to be an 11mm scope base on top of the action. There are two areas that have small dovetails that appear to be 11mm. The 1973 ad says the rifle is grooved for a scope, so I must be seeing it right. I will attempt to scope the rifle and we’ll see if it’s possible. The dovetails are very shallow which is why I’m waffling on this.

77A scope base
There are two dovetails (arrows) on top of the receiver that are supposed to accept an 11mm scope mount.

The action

This is the strangest part of the rifle. It operates like a Farquharson! And everyone said, “A whaaaaat?” A Farquharson is a 19th-century British single shot falling block action that might look like a Ruger Number One to many shooters. Only it’s decades older and more complex.

77A Farquharson
This view shows the Farquharson lever down, but the breech block has not yet dropped down

77A Ruger action open
Ruger simplified the Farquharson action and produced it as their model 1 in the mid to late 20th century. This is the even simpler Ruger model 3 on my .32/40 schuetzen rifle..

77A action open
When the 77A is cocked the trigger guard and firing mechanism drops like this as the bolt probe is withdrawn in the loading trough.

You must cock the gun to charge it. If you don’t, the air rushes out of the reservoir. Normally that means the gun cannot be left with air in the reservoir, but there is a way around that. It is possible to leave the gun charged with air while not cocked, but it’s a complex process of cocking, pumping, taking off the safety, partially closing the triggerguard lever and pulling the trigger.

Safety is automatic

The safety is automatic and goes on as the rifle is cocked. The safety is a knurled knob that sits low in a groove at the top of the receiver, just ahead of the pistol grip. It goes easily on and off at any time.

77A safety
The safety is automatic. It’s on in this view. You can also see one of the stock tabs that keep the buttstock from rotating.

Summary

That’s a look at the gun I have. I am hoping I might be able to refinish (paint) the receiver to match the beautiful condition of the rest of the rifle. I don’t want it to look like a summer camp project though, so I will proceed very slowly.

This is the first time I have had one of these rifles in my hands. The more I examine it the better I like it, so I’m really looking forward to this test!

41 thoughts on “Smith & Wesson model 77A multi-pump pneumatic air rifle: Part 1

  1. Very cool, I have seen these over the years, but never handled one.

    In your expert opinion, who do you think they took pump and valve inspiration from in the airgun world, or is it something completely their own?

    Or is that something that will have to wait until you dive into the rifle?

    I am intrigued by the lockwork.

    Is the receiver condition just paint loss, or is it scratched and pitted in places?

    I will get you some information on a couple of paints that match the early S&W grip frame finishes.

    Ian.


    • 45Bravo,

      I think the valve is probably like the Benjamin 392 valve, but I don’t know enough about it to say more at this time. I will have more to say about the pumping mechanism that does have one interesting feature.

      The paint is just flaked off. There is no corrosion. The steel parts have no visible rust, though I’m sure there is a little there that Ballistol will take care of.

      Thanks for the help o the paint! I want any job I do to result in a smooth finish.

      B.B.


      • BB,
        My experience shows that no paint will stick as well as the 2-part Duracoat paints sold by Brownells. I don’t even bother using any other spray paint, because the finish is easily scratched in use. I’ve restored 5 Benjis and Crosmans using that paint (you own my Crosman Model 100 painted with it), and the finish lasts after lots of use. And of course I shoot my guns; why else would I restore it if not to use it.
        Jeff


        • Jeff,

          Thanks for responding. I assume you go down to bare metal before painting? Stupid question but I have to ask.

          Someday somebody is going to answer, “Of course not! This is self-leveling paint — don’t you know?”

          B.B.


          • BB
            I have used self leveling primer sealer on muscle cars when I was into fixing them up. It does work. But it won’t hide all the bad bodywork. The best I can say is exsperiance.

            My buddy is a excellent car painter. But he won’t touch a car painting wise unless he does the body work. After all his name is going on it if you know what I mean.

            What in getting at is the prep work before you paint is the trick. But of course you need to know what goes in the spray gun and how to use it.


          • Hi BB,
            Yes, I disassemble the rifle and chemically strip all of the metal parts before repainting. I always do this, even when I used spray paint before I discovered Duracoat.



  2. BB
    I’m guessing it’s a steel barrel right. It looks like it might be soldered though.

    But cool gun. I like how it cocks. And is it a 2 stage trigger or is it like some pumpers that build trigger pressure the more it’s pumped up?




        • GF1,

          Here is the scoop.

          Weihrauch decided to change the R7 (this happened last year) back to having open sights. Because of that, there was no longer a reason or a need on Pyramyd’s end to stock both the 30s and the R7, since the configurations of both were now the same. Therefore, they dropped the HW30s

          So, it is still being produced, but no longer imported and sold by Pyramyd Air.

          B.B.


          • BB
            I kind of thought it was going that way. Now we got to spend more money for the same gun with a different name. Why does everyone keep wanting to make more money. To me that’s what it boils down too.

            Here’s what I got to ask. Who made the 30 in the first place. Weirauch. Then Beeman gets to play into it. I know it’s biusness. But darn anyway again.

            Does that mean the 30 I got a little while back from PA is worth more money now? Now I get to say it’s a PA 30. You know how people say they got a San Rafael FWB 300. And the world keeps turn’n and churn’n. Here we go again.

            Sorry BB but it bothers me when this stuff goes on. And I didn’t want you to be caught up in it when I asked. I was going to email PA and ask the same question.

            But thanks for finding out.


            • And should of said this earlier.

              Now the Beeman r7 when you order one the coupon discount codes can’t be used.

              I guess now the only people ordering will be the people that like the Beeman guns.

              Sorry but I like Weirauch not Beeman. Just the way I am. And I’m hoping more will figure that out too as time goes. Who made this decision. Will we ever know. Probably not.

              And I just made a order this morning. Then I got a email saying 15% of instead of the 11%. Called PA and since now real quick the order is ready to ship. For some reason that happened quick today. Usually that don’t happen till very late in the day or tommorow.

              PA stop offerring discounts if you don’t honor them. Really I would rather it be that way. Well that’s how it is anyway.


              • Now they won’t honor the discount code on my order.

                Guess I need to pay more attention to when they make the times.

                Yeah I know. Just a thing but man I should already learned this order game by now. Thanks I got it now.


  3. B.B.,

    Although I crossed over to the Dark Side early I do have a few typical Multipumps and a number of powder burning S&W weapons; so this report on an interesting S&W built air rifle will be fun to follow. I’m interested to see how much build philosophy crossover you can identify.
    I’m also perplexed by the apparent great condition of the wood furniture, barrel, pump tube and arm when compared to the receiver and trigger guard/lever. Do you think someone refinished the wood? Exchanged a working but beatup receiver.

    shootski


    • shootski,

      I looked at it carefully and I think the paint has just flaked off. The metal under it is still smooth. There are a couple small handling dents in the buttstock and otherwise it’s pristine.

      I don’t think this rifle has been refinished. I think the old paint just didn’t last as well as the rest of the finish.

      B.B.




      • BB,

        I always have. I used to rebuild old Mossberg target scopes, which are brass. I would disassemble them bead blast the old paint off and refinish them with this. It is an epoxy based paint. Once it fully cures, it is tough stuff. I am using it on the Crosman 101 I am rebuilding.

        Since you say you want a smooth finish, you can likely get a good stripper to take off the old paint and use the semi-gloss black.


    • RidgeRunner,
      I have used that and it is good, but the recoat limits and the long cure time are both drawbacks, and it isn’t as tough as Duracoat.
      Jeff


      • Jeff,

        The long cure time and such are not an issue with me. I’m usually not in any rush with such things. Now hearing that Duracoat is more durable is a nice thing to know. I almost purchased some for this latest project. The Aluma-Hyde II was out of stock for a time.

        The cost and shelf life after mixing was a bit of a drawback for me though. If this does not work out for me I will certainly keep it in mind for my next project though. Thanks.


        • I only mix in small batches, so shelf life isn’t a problem. I keep the unmixed stuff in my refigerator (sealed in a ziploc bag) for up to 6 months with no problems. It is a little higher than Aluma-Hyde, but not excessively so. You also need an airbrush to apply it, so that is a hidden cost.


    • I’ve used it on many projects. I hate shiny stainless barrels and have refinished two of my NM A2 service rifle barrels with it ten years ago and they still look great after many matches. Rebuilt my forty year old Benjimen and refinished it with Aluma-hyde II twelve years ago now there is only a little wear on the top from grasping to pump. Thoroughly de grease, heat up with heat gun or hair dryer, coat, heat, re apply within five minutes is very important, I like four coats. If you recoat after five minutes it will lift the previous coats, if it dries before subsequent coat you need to wait one week before re coating and it is best to wait one week before normal use. Great stuff.


  4. The S&W 77A is different. The only one I ever saw, held and shot belonged to a fellow air gunner, in fact the same one that bought your Meteor at the air gun show.

    As far as everyone not caring for the S&W 78G, 79G, Crosman Mark 1 & 2, it could only be because they have never had the privilege of holding and shooting one or all four of them. Every time I read something about any one of the four, I have to go pull one out of the safe and shoot some pellets through it. And sometimes I have to shoot all four of them.


    • Jonah,

      I am one of those who “does not care for them”. The primary reason for myself is I am very intentionally limiting my “collection”. I only have so much money, so much space and so much time to play with what toys I already have, so I graciously allow others to collect these toys and play with them. If they should write about their experiences with them, I am satisfied.

      Should they decide to allow them to reside at RidgeRunner’s Home For Wayward Airguns, I will do my best to prepare a suitable room for them.


  5. B.B,

    Before it died, my 77A was my most fun-to-shoot multipumper, but largely for a reason I am slightly embarrassed to admit. That lever-cocking action produced the most satisfying sound I’ve ever heard an airgun make. It was straight out of an episode of “The Rifleman.”

    Michael


  6. Before trading with Tom I had that rifle for about three years. Picked it up at Seth’s airgun show in Arkansas. The paint was in the same shape then as now. I like to think I take good care of my guns. Even though it came up in the rotation for shooting and I really liked the design and build quality. It never became a favorite. That’s why it ended up as trade bait at the show. No accounting for taste and all that. Maybe it’s the long throw of the pump arm.

    The cocking is really cool. It just feels right. But over time it was starting to get skipped. I see you are enjoying the rifle and that was the best I could hope for, that someone would get it and appreciate a pretty nice rifle. I’m enjoying my $5000 cat that we traded for quite a bit myself.
    As always it’s great to follow one of your series and all the more when it’s something that had been at hand. To watch a master wring the best the old girl can do out of it will be interesting.
    Pat


    • Pat,

      I have a feeling that I’m just getting started with this one. I agree that the cocking feels cool. I had no idea I would like it as much as I do. And the long pump stroke is something I plan to show in Part 2.

      I got the Falke 70 at the Moose Lodge show in Virginia — the show that took over after Roanoke. It was lube-tuned when I got it, so I never took it apart.

      B.B.


  7. BB,

    I can’t help comparing Sig’s venture into airgun with S&W’s. Respected PB designer, maker and seller moves into airguns. Long and short guns. Multiple power plants. And so forth.

    I don’t know much about S&W’s foray into airguns, but I bet Sig knows it. What can you tell us about the parallels and the differences? Will Umarex end up making Sig pistols eventually? Will ASP20s be made by SPA? Many forces at work. What say you?

    jumpin


    • jumpin,

      I think the only person at Sig who remembers the S&W airguns is Ed Schultz. The rest of the folks there got into airguns much later.

      Will Snowpeak make the ASP20? I hope not. Sig does such a marvelous job of it!

      B.B.


  8. I have a off-topic question. Is the silicone grease good for the valve seals preserving or should I use silicone oil only? I think that the grease sticks better than oil and last for more time. I know that this rule is good for water but don’t know how it works with gas.


    • Matt EU,

      If you can get the grease on the seals it works just as well. But oil gets blown through the gun and gets on the internal seals that grease can’t reach, unless it’s put there intentionally. I use grease on all the seals I can reach and oil for the ones I can’t.

      B.B.


  9. “I bet S&W never reckoned on old BB Pelletier coming along 50 years later and putting them to the test!”
    Thanks, B.B.! I needed a good laugh. =>


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