Slavia 618 breakbarrel air rifle: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Slavia 618
Slavia 618.

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • History
  • Research
  • Model variations
  • What is the Slavia 618?
  • Comparisons
  • Stock
  • Summary

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.

History

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.

Research

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.

Model variations

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.

Comparisons

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.

Slavia 618 nuzzles
The muzzle on the right is on what I am calling the older rifle. It’s larger than the muzzle on the left.

Slavia 618 older sight
The front sight on the older rifle is a raised post that’s dovetailed into the barrel.

Slavia 618 newer sight
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.

Slavia 618 bent sight
The rear sight on the newer rifle has a single weld and has been bent to the left.

Slavia 618 straight sight
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.

Slavia 618 two base blocks
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.

Slavia 618 writing
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.

Stock

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.

Summary

What we have with these two Slavia 618s is the potential for a lot of fun. You readers seem to have created another fan!

73 thoughts on “Slavia 618 breakbarrel air rifle: Part 1

  1. B.B.,

    I know you will probably tell us the trigger weight on the second part, but how does it feel when you pull it?

    Siraniko

    PS: Section What is the Slavia 618? First paragraph fourth sentence: “I have been hearing about the 618 from readers for many years and decided it was time I invewstigated (investigated) for myself.” Channeling Elmer Fudd?


  2. B.B.,

    At some point these air rifles came with “RIFLED” above “Slavia” for those that were rifled (obviously), and nothing for the smoothbore. When I bought mine, I sought out one that was designated as rifled, but I have always wondered if they are not significantly more accurate than the smoothbores. Mine, too is a bit rough in terms of finish wear.

    I think my 618 might be slightly under 300 fps., but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is a bit tired. I should chrony it. I remember that I could sometimes make out the pellet in flight on a sunny day. Now that the weather is warm again, I should dig it out for some plinking. These Slavias are so lightweight and effortless to cock they are perfect air rifles for leisurely plinking soda cans on a nice day. Finish a cold can of soda, throw it out into the yard 20-25 feet, and put it out of its misery. :^)

    Ah, life is good.

    Michael



  3. BB,

    Wow! It’s Friday already!

    I have a feeling you are going to enjoy rebuilding and shooting these little ladies. What a job!

    Due to the popularity of these, I am certain there will be a very large number of comments. You might even be able to pick out tidbits here and there to further the data source of the history of these air rifles.

    This is going to be fun to follow.


  4. B.B.

    I’m enjoying this 🙂

    My 618 is the one with the dovetailed front sight and 2 spot welds on the rear sight. It is not marked as “Rifled” but the barrel is.

    I also have an identical rifle but instead of being stamped “Slavia 618” on the spring tube it is marked “Raven” & “No 18” – it is scheduled for a new stock on the project list as well.

    The bluing on both these little rifles is in decent condition (especially considering their age and the amount of use they have seen) but then I have always kept an oily cloth with my guns and give them a quick rub-down after handling them.

    Will see about shooting both the rifles over a chronograph when I get a bit of time – bass fishing season opens tomorrow so I am going to be busy for a bit 🙂

    Happy Friday all!
    Hank



  5. Interesting rotation for a spot weld to make. The surface area of the weld, and the degree of rotation seems
    a bit large to still be on that drifted base. Sure it’s not pinned and then swaged? Plus, there is a rectangular depression between the 2 spot welds on the newer sight. Looks like its been hammered? It will be nice to see
    how the tabs for the stock were fastened to the pressure tube.
    Put a wire stock on it and at first glance it looks like the old style turn of the century bb gun. But so would an R10, or pretty much any spring gun made of metal. Spot welds matter.
    Looney tunes is right.
    R


  6. The CZUB company making Slavia rifles is very well known for its firearms such as the CZ 75, Scorpion, VZ 57, it’s rimfire rifles etc.
    They also make the PCP which is sold in the USA as Air Arms T200.
    By the way, the Czech letters are not kyrillic.


    • Mel83,

      Good correction, that Czech is not written with Kyrillic/Cyrillic script. Czechs use Roman script, the same as English and most other western, Germanic and Itallic languages.

      What might throw some folks off is the use of diacritical marks, particularly on consonants, not vowels. Like many languages (but not English) Slovak languages have long and short consonant pronunciations. These are sometimes identified by diacritical marks.

      Michael


  7. BB,

    I always enjoy it when you tear into something. So sad that these were (are) in such bad shape. The sights do not look like an easy fix.

    Hopefully the one that is bent to the left was not done (intentionally) in order to just get it on paper!!!! 😉

    Chris


  8. I have a Savia 624. It is a .177. Does anyone know how it is different from the other models? It is youth size. It appears to have a leather breech seal.


  9. I have a Sylvia 618 that has been rebranded as a Raven No. 18. It has 2 screws at the pivot joint. It also has a hood over the front sight. There are two grooves 1.5 inches long cut into the back of the air cylinder. I assume this is to allow the installation of a peep sight. Mine has a rifled barrel.The child that it was originally given to must have taken good care of it as it is almost like new – just a few small marks on the beech stock. It is fun little gun. Accurate too!



    • RidgeRunner,

      I must say I have purchased five or six air guns from Dennis Baker over the years, and every single one of the purchases made me very happy.

      True, Dennis Baker does have some prices that are slightly (but not by too much) high, but the quality and specificity of his descriptions of used and vintage air guns is unmatched by other dealers. Consider, how many air gun sellers regularly specify a chronograph measurement for velocity? (FWIW I have found those chrony numbers are VERY close to the numbers my chrony gives me for the air guns I’ve purchased from Baker.) The 618 he has includes the description, “Velocity tested 346 FPS using 7.9 gr lead pellets.” He even provides the pellet type and weight! How often do we instead see a seller’s description that says, “Shoots good” or “shoots fine”?

      Also, many of Dennis’ used and vintage air guns have just been rebuilt and/or serviced prior to his putting them up for sale.

      Michael


      • Michael,

        Sometimes his prices are fine and sometimes they are high. It just depends.

        Like other dealers who will accept trade ins, he is real tight with the wallet.


        • RR,

          I guess my point was that I always know what I’m going to get with him, and that is worth paying for.

          I have made plenty of purchases of air guns at low prices where the item did not live up to the description. And as B.B. has on other occasions mentioned, often sellers do not provide details, in pictures (out of focus, poorly lit, etc.) or in words (“seems OK”), because the actual details are pretty negative. Dennis tells all: the good, the bad and the ugly, if there is any.

          Michael


          • Michael,

            I do understand. It is nice to have a source you can believe and depend on. I am a little different though. I bought a Crosman 101 that did not function for $35. I bought a 1906 BSA that did not work either. I take them apart and learn to rebuild them. It is part of my experience.



  10. B.B.,

    Přesné strojírenství Uherský Brod’ is the best link i have found on the Internet to the original manufacturer of Slavia airguns. It seems that CZ is the grandchild of a number of Czechoslovak armories. I wonder if CZ USA would have some links to a historian that could enlighten us all?

    shootski


  11. I hope everyone is having fun with their air guns this weekend.

    I picked my oldest daughter up after work when I got off Friday morning and my 6 month old grandson. Her husband had to work today a half day. Hes coming over in a bit and we are going to cut some dead tree’s down for firewood this winter and a bon fire tonight. They are staying all night tonight too. And we are BBQing today too.

    So me and both of my daughters already did some air gun shooting yesterday and today. And more to come today and tomorrow.

    How’s that for a good recipe for a fun father’s day weekend. Hope you all are having the same.


  12. RidgeRunner, B.B., and esteemed Readership,

    Grandpas Matter! The TRUTH and NOTHING but the TRUTH so help me God!

    Happy Father’s Day!

    You either are one or, as a son or daughter, you had/have one! Hopefully in either case you are or were the best you can or could be!

    shootski



  13. First off, I hope all of you who are Dads are having a great Father’s Day!
    Inspired by Gunfun1, I spent my Father’s Day weekend trying to find a quiet round to use in my Ruger Single Six. But since that gun has been sighted in perfectly with the magnum cylinder for over 20 years, it has to be a round that will shot point-of-aim by just slipping in the .22LR cylinder. As B.B. noted with his extensive testing, the CB rounds were not all that accurate (this is only at 16 feet, all the room I had in the garage; further outdoor follow-on testing is needed). The CCI .22 QUIET rounds look like a winner; they put 5 through the same hole at the point-of-aim; the th round was a little off, but my glasses were fogged by then. The .22 QUIET semi-auto rounds were also pretty good; they are rated at 835 fps for a 45 grain bullet, where the regular QUIETs are rated at 710 fps for a 40 grain bullet. It would have been nice to know the velocities from a handgun, but sadly, not one of the rounds registered on my chronograph; I’ll have to try them again, outside, at high noon. Blessings all. =>


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