Slavia 618 breakbarrel air rifle: Part 1
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Model variations
- What is the Slavia 618?
Some of you may have been hoping for Part 2 of the Beeman R10 rifle report today. Well, Part 2 will be the strip-down and installation of the Vortek tuning kit, and I need a couple days to do the work and take the pictures, as well as the writing. So today I’m starting my report on the Slavia 618 breakbarrel pellet rifle.
Guess what? Almost nobody knows the history of this air rifle. It has a lot of fans, but nobody seems to know much about it.
The Blue Book of Airguns says it was made in the 1970s — period. But they say the same thing about the Slavia 622. Well, I received one of those as a gift in about 1961 or ’62, so that’s obviously not right.
My rifle from the early 1960s was labeled PIC, for Precise Imports Company. They were one of the U.S. importers of Slavia airguns. Considering when I got mine I believe the 618 and 622 had to have been made in the 1950s. The 1970s as an ending date I don’t dispute.
No doubt there is someone who lives close to the Czech Republic that was formerly Czechoslovakia where the arsenal that made the air rifle is located. It was made at Ceska zbrojovka in Brno. I apologize for not having the correct diacritical glyphs on the cyrillic letters in the names.
I researched a lot of expired auctions to gather any information I could find on this model. I see that around 2010 these air rifles were bringing $20-35. Today most hover at the $75-100 range, with shipping raising that even higher.
I bought one 618 off Ebay that was supposed to be in good working order. It is, except the rear sight is bent to one side from what looks like a fall. I was going to leave it alone and just test the rifle, but then a second one popped up for less money. This one was advertised as complete but needing seals. That was also an accurate description, though it needs a little more than just seals. It feels like it is gunked up inside and at least needs a good cleaning. We’ll know more when I open it up.
I will say that the both the wood and metal finishes are poor on both my rifles. The shellac is apparently not long-lasting and the metal rusts easily. Many of the 618s look like this.
I can test the first rifle for velocity, at least. I’m expecting it to be in the low 300s with lightweight pellets. I found velocities from 312 f.p.s. for a tired one shooting Crosman Premier Light pellets to 390 for the same rifle after a rebuild.
What is the Slavia 618?
The Slavia 618 is a small youth-sized breakbarrel air rifle. Several weeks ago when I tested the Diana 23, a similar youth-sized air rifle, a couple readers mentioned how much they enjoy their 618s. That’s why I got these two rifles to test, study and rebuild. I have been hearing about the 618 from readers for many years and decided it was time I investigated for myself. Side-by-side the Diana 23 and the Slavia 618 are very similar. The Diana is a little longer overall, at 35-7/8-inches versus 35-1/4-inches for the 618.
As far as I can tell, the 618 only came in .177 caliber. It was the 622 that was a .22 (only). One reference mentioned that some 618s were rifled and others were not, but I can’t really prove that. Both of mine appear to be rifled.
One of my 618s weighs 3 lbs. 6 oz. Because of the wood stock and one other difference I will tell you about, there will be small weight differences, but all 618s are lightweight.
When I looked at both my rifles I discovered several difference between them. These are differences that would come over a longer production cycle, which is why I think the Blue Book dates of the 1970s fall short. I am assuming that over time the design of a product will be changed to make it less costly to produce. With that assumption in mind, I have labeled one of my rifles as older than the other. Let me explain why.
The rifle I’m calling older has a thicker barrel. It measures 0.502-inches or 12.75mm in diameter at the muzzle. The newer rifle measures 0.468-inches or 11.89mm at the same place. The front sight on the older rifle is a blade sitting in a dovetail. The front sight on the newer rifle is a plain round pin. Since dovetails are more difficult to cut, I think that first one has to be older.
The muzzle on the right is on what I am calling the older rifle. It’s larger than the muzzle on the left.
The front sight on the older rifle is a raised post that’s dovetailed into the barrel.
The front sight on the newer rifle is just a plain round post.
The rear sights on both rifles appear identical, but the sight on the older rifle is spot-welded in two places to the dovetail that slots into the barrel and on the newer rifle it’s welded to the dovetail in just one place. The sight with the single weld is also the one that’s bent, and, looking down from the top it appears the weld may have weakened when it allowed the bend. I plan to try to tap it back straight, but I won’t be surprised if that weld shears off in the process. That sight leaf is also bent upward, so some of the elevation adjustment has been lost.
The rear sight on the newer rifle has a single weld and has been bent to the left.
The older rifle rear sight is straight and has two welds.
Both of my rifles have a leather breech seal, which leads me to believe they both have leather piston seals, as well. In my research I discovered that the 618 also came with an o-ring breech seal and a synthetic piston seal. I bought a synthetic breech and piston seal while awaiting the arrival of both rifles, but now I don’t know that it can be used in either one. Fortunately leather seals should be easy to fabricate.
I also bought two new mainsprings that both rifles probably need. We will see when we open them up.
Neither of my two rifles have a serial number. Some 618s do and others don’t On the 618s that have them, the serial number is stamped into the flat left side of the base block that holds the barrel. I saw serial numbers as high as 150,000+ when I researched the rifle. The serial number may have been required for certain countries to import the rifle, or CZ may have started putting numbers on all its air rifles at some point. Either way it does suggest, along with the leather seals, that my two rifles are older examples.
I saw one other interesting thing in my research. Many of the 618s I saw had two screws at the pivot joint. One was the pivot bolt and the other was a locking screw on the main bolt’s periphery. Both of my rifles have just a single pivot bolt. The other side of the bolt screws into a threaded nut that has two spanner holes for anchoring it when disassembling the rifle.
As you can see, there is no serial number on either base block. And the pivot bolts have no locking screw. The rear sight on the upper rifle is bent up.
Both my rifles have the model name, number and country of origin stamped into the top rear of the spring tube. These markings run perpendicular to the axis of the spring tube. There are other 618s that have the same markings running along the spring tube’s axis, and in several places I found references to that variation being older.
Both my rifles have writing that’s perpendicular to the axis of the spring tube.
Both spring tubes on my rifles are plain, but I did find a 618 on the internet that had a short set of grooves at the rear of the tube. They were less than two inches long. The person doing the review thought they were there for mounting a scope but I’m pretty sure they are there for a peep sight.
The compression chamber is made by swaging a solid steel block into the end of a hollow steel tube. The transfer port has been drilled through this block, so once it’s held in by the swages, a spring tube is born.
All the 618s I found, including the two I own, have a one-piece beechwood stock with finger grooves on both sides of the forearm. I did see one 618 with a custom-made walnut stock and of course our own reader, Vana, made a stock for his 618 out of firewood that he described in a 6-part report.
The buttstock has fine ridges over the central half of the wooden buttplate. The pull is 13-1/2-inches.
What we have with these two Slavia 618s is the potential for a lot of fun. You readers seem to have created another fan!