Air Arms TX200 Mk III air rifle: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Air Arms TX200 Mark III air rifle is impressive in its optional walnut stock.

I’ve reviewed this rifle before, but it’s been a long time and many of you are asking about it again, plus I’m going to look at the Benjamin MAV 77 later this year, and I promised a comparison with this rifle. So, for those reasons, I decided that it’s time to look at the Air Arms TX200 Mark III, again.

Some of you may know that Bill Sanders, the managing director of Air Arms, passed away recently. Bill was very uncharacteristically enthusiastic about all the guns he made. I say that because most principals in this industry are not shooters, nor do they own the guns they make. But Bill did, and he also knew how to use them. Maybe that’s why, in the more than 20 years the TX has been around, the quality has only gone up.

The TX200 came about in the late 1980s as an improvement on the design of the HW77, which was considered the best spring rifle around at the time. The first model was simply called the TX200. But after several years, Air Arms added a ratcheting catch to hold the sliding compression chamber from slamming closed during loading. That rifle was called the Mark II. I bought one and competed with it in field target for a couple of years, until I switched over to a PCP. My rifle was tuned first by Jim Maccari and then by Ken Reeves so I could write about each of the tunes. In truth, the TX was pretty smooth right out of the box, but the Reeves tune did make it just a bit smoother.

When the TX200 Mark III came out, I bought one to test for The Airgun Letter. I found that rifle to be just as smooth as the Reeves-tuned Mark II, plus it had a shrouded 9-inch barrel, which made it very quiet, to boot. I didn’t need two perfect guns, and the Mark II was sold. I still have the Mark III, which is the gun I’m testing for you here.

I recently had the opportunity to shoot a brand-new Mark III, and I see that the performance and looks of the gun are unchanged, except for better checkering on the new model. Instead of diamonds, they now have a fish-scale pattern that usually comes only on very costly guns.

Hump-backed look for high-tech design
When Beeman Precision Airguns started selling TX200 air rifles in the U.S., the first thing I noticed was that the rifle had a definite hump-backed profile. Why? Remember I said the barrel is 9 inches long? Guess what? All the science you have been reading about on this blog really works. And Air Arms applied it to its maximum in the TX200.

They put the center of the barrel in the center of the compression chamber, so the air transfer port aligns with the bore. That gives the most efficient airflow, but it also means the barrel, which is a smaller diameter than the spring tube, has to be mounted lower than the top of the spring tube. Hence, the hump-backed profile. Study the first photo, and you’ll see what I mean. Look at the place where the barrel connects to the spring tube. On most other guns, they’re level.

A 9-inch barrel prevents friction from slowing the pellet after it’s accelerated to maximum velocity. A spring-piston gun develops maximum velocity in the first 6-9 inches of barrel. After that, the pellet is just coasting. The baffled shroud that houses the short barrel is much longer and gives the appearance of a bull barrel, hence the barrel length is often listed as longer than it really is.

Air Arms has used everything that’s known about spring-piston guns to wring the maximum performance from a relatively short stroke and small piston bore. They do it without fanfare, but anyone who works on spring guns knows what they’ve done.

The rifle
The TX200 Mark III is an underlever spring-piston rifle that has a sliding compression chamber. The chamber slides back, giving access to the rear of the barrel for loading. Then it slides forward again, once the anti-beartrap latch is held down. The old Mark II has many stops in the ratchet, causing it to click loudly when cocked. Shooters objected to that noise. The Mark III has just three notches and is much quieter.

All metal parts, except the trigger and safety button, are highly polished and deeply blued, resulting in one of the finest finishes in the airgun world. The standard stock is beech, but the wood is shaped very sharply for either a right- or left-handed shooters. No compromise here. Fish-scale checkering roughens both grip panels and the forearm. The optional walnut stock is a good choice because it subtracts weight from the gun as well as adding interest. Blog reader Jerry got a walnut stock on his TX, and it looks very similar to the rifle pictured above.

The stock is sharply profiled with crisp edges and a classic shape. The standard beech stock is shown.

The long lever, located behind the silver sliding compression chamber, is the beartrap release. After cocking, this lever is held down to close the sliding chamber, as the cocking lever returns to the stored position.

The trigger
The TX trigger is not just an improved Rekord, it’s a new design that offers greater flexibility when adjusting, so you can get the pull weight and release down to a finer, lighter value than with a standard Rekord.

The TX trigger closely resembles the Rekord, but it’s simpler and more adjustable. The larger parts are machined.

Years ago when Ivan Hancock was still building airguns, I bought one of his Mach II trigger, which are handmade copies of the TX trigger to replace the Rekord unit in my Beeman R1. That trigger cost half as much as the entire rifle, but it was very finely adjustable. The current trigger in my TX200 is the standard one that comes with the rifle, yet it’s just as fine. When I report on its performance, I think you’ll be surprised.

Several “truths” negated
The success of the TX200 reminds me of a friend who built engines for Formula Vee racing. Those cars look like Formula 1 racers, but they’re much slower. However, this builder’s engines were always in demand because they out-performed the others. Everybody was always looking for his “secret.” The secret, of course, was that there was no secret! What he did was pay scrupulous attention to detail when building his engines. All parts were balanced to the last gram, and all tolerances and torque specifications were followed. The engines were what racers refer to as blueprinted, and that, alone, gave them their edge.

Well, you may think of a TX200 as an air rifle that’s been blueprinted. The piston isn’t wide and the stroke isn’t long, yet the rifle develops remarkable velocity. The trigger appears dirt-simple, yet it can out-perform so-called “target” triggers in much more expensive guns. The mainspring isn’t under much pre-tension, yet the rifle doesn’t buzz when it shoots. Everything is just right.

Rolls Royce is the standard by which all cars are compared, and the TX200 is the standard for spring-piston air rifles. Even when the Whiscombe was being made, I used to say that the TX200 was its equal for accuracy.

It’s heavy!
Yes, this air rifle is heavy. Especially the model with the beech stock. But for its purpose, which is field target first and hunting second, the weight is ideal because it promotes stability.

It’s hard to cock!
It will seem hard to cock a TX if you’re used to a smaller rifle like a Diana 27. But compared to the current magnums, the TX cocks easily. How it feels depends on your experience. I’ll publish the cocking effort of mine in Part 2.

It has been several years since I shot my TX, so this is a chance to get behind the trigger, again. I expect to find a pellet that will give around 1/4- to 1/3-inch 10-shot groups at 25 yards. That’s a tall order for any spring gun, but we shall see!

Marksman model 60 – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Photos and testing by Earl “Mac” McDonald

Part 1
Part 2

Mac’s Marksman model 60 is really a special version of an HW77.

There’s been a lot of interest in this rifle since we started the report. As you now know, a Marksman model 60 is a rebadged HW77 underlever air rifle, and the Marksman model 61 is the HW77K carbine. We learned in Part 2 that this rifle is a 12 foot-pound gun, but several readers who own Marksman underlevers have said theirs are all full-power guns. Perhaps, it had to do with when the guns were shipped, but I really don’t know.

Today, Mac’s testing the rifle’s accuracy with a Bushnell Sportview 4x scope that came mounted on it. The scope has parallax adjustment. Mac shot for accuracy outdoors off a rest at 30 yards.

Mac tried several variations of the artillery hold with little difference noted. He finally settled on resting the rifle on the flat palm of his off hand with his index finger touching the rear of the cocking slot, just for repeatability.

He’s amazed that after sitting for no less than 10 years without being fired (the former owner was ill), the gun shot like it was brand new. He thought it might be dry; so when he tested velocity he shot it as it was, then added two drops of chamber oil. Nothing changed except that some oil appeared at the seam of the receiver tube where the end cap screws in. So, the gun wasn’t under-oiled when he got it.

Accuracy testing
The rifle was fired off a bench rest and held with the artillery hold. The range was 30 yards, and the targets were 10-meter bulls.

The first pellet he tried was the 8.4-grain JSB Exact dome. He called one flier in the group of 10 which he did not include in his group measurement of 0.85″.

Ten shots of JSB Exact 8.4-grain pellets, but only nine were measured. Hole on the right is a called flier. Group size for the nine is 0.85 inches.

Next, he went up to the 10.2-grain JSB Exact dome. A similar shape, though both longer and heavier than the 8.4, it usually gives different performance in a rifle. In this case, he got the same overall group size, but notice the difference in the shape of the group.

Same size group as the 8.4-grain Exacts (0.85 inches) but a vastly different shape.

Then, Mac tried his favorite RWS Superdome pellets. The 0.71-inch 10-shot group was the smallest of the test, but Mac notes that it seems to be two groups in close alignment. Without the two shots that opened up the group, the size would have been 0.42 inches. Mac says he could feel a difference in the firing behavior when those two pellets were fired, so perhaps some sorting before shooting is warranted.

The best 10-shot group of the test was turned in by RWS Superdome pellets. Without the two pellets that opened the group to 0.71 inches, the size would have been 0.42 inches.

Next, Mac tried RWS Hobby pellets. As you can see, they didn’t do very well in this rifle. Ten gave a group size of 1.49″. Thirty yards is pushing the limit for wadcutter pellet accuracy and the lightweight Hobby is going to be more affected by that than a heavier wadcutter.

Ten RWS Hobbys went into this group measuring 1.49 inches. Not a good showing, especially in light of the other results. One other pellet deliver a group less than half this size.

Mac also tried Crosman Premiers. First, the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier pellet. These are usually the right pellets for quality spring guns of this power range. They grouped good but not the best.

The Premier lite produced a group of 0.82 inches, with one called flier.

Finally, he tried the 10.5-grain Crosman Premier heavy dome pellet. This 10.5-grain pellet is too heavy for a spring rifle of this power range, and the results bore that out. The group measured 1.49 inches, which is just as large as the Hobby group.

Another pellet that doesn’t work well in Mac’s Marksman model 60. The Crosman premier heavy opened up to 1.49 inches at 30 yards.

So, there you have it. Mac proved his Marksman model 60 is every bit an HW77 rifle. He doesn’t want to leave it here, so we’ll return with Part 4, in which he mounts Weihrauch target sights and reshoots the same test with the accurate pellets from this test.

Marksman model 60 – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Photos and testing by Earl “Mac” McDonald

Part 1

The Marksman model 60 was a special version of the famed HW77 air rifle.

Well, I last reported on this rifle back before Christmas. Do you remember it? This is the Marksman model 60 version of the famed HW77 underlever air rifle that’s still available today. Back when this one was selling, Marksman discounted it deeply, making it one of the great sleepers of all time. It sold for less money when new back in the early 1990s, and it still commands less money on the used market, even though it’s an HW77 rifle is every respect. Go figure, but use this knowledge to enrich yourself should the opportunity ever arise, as it did for Mac.

Today, we’ll look at the performance, and I have to remind you that back when this rifle was new, 12 foot-pounds was a lot bigger thing than it is today. The Germans didn’t understand how free we are here in the U.S., and they viewed the UK limit of 12 foot-pounds as magnum power since they were restricted to less than 6 foot-pounds within their own country.

The American buyers obviously didn’t understand much about energy, either. They just bought things based on price, so the opportunity to get a 14 foot-pound air rifle slipped right past them. Beeman was the only company that had a clue, and they bought the full-powered American-spec HW77 rifle and carbine.

What I’m telling you is that this model 60 is a 12 foot-pound gun, which means it will never (or should never) rise up to that limit. To remain legal in the UK as an airgun and not a firearm, it must always register LESS than 12 foot-pounds regardless of what pellet is used.

Mac tested a number of different pellets. Many of these he’ll also test for accuracy, so we’ll see performance in both dimensions.

JSB Exact Diablolo 8.4-grain pellets
The 8.4-grain JSB Exact Diabolo dome pellet is a classic one that should always be tested in a springer that isn’t a super-magnum. It should be about perfect for this rifle. They averaged 784 f.p.s. in this rifle with a total velocity spread of just 11 f.p.s. The range went from 777 to 788 f.p.s. They produced 11.47 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Bear in mind that this rifle is 25 years old or more and hasn’t been shot at all for the past 10 years. It has never been tuned (I know the history of the gun and owner and verify this as correct), and Mac did nothing but shoot it when he got it. So, all you guys who think you have to tear into these guns the moment you get them, take a minute and reflect on that. These things are great just as they come from the factory and do not need to be lubricated or taken apart for many decades, for the most part.

JSB Exact Diabolo Heavy 10.2-grain domed pellets
The next pellet Mac tested was the 10.2-grain JSB Exact dome. It’s a heavy pellet for a springer, and it averaged 690 f.p.s. in this rifle. The velocity spread was 16 f.p.s., from 681 to 697 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 10.79 foot-pounds. So, here’s a case of a heavier pellet not performing as well in a springer, and in my experience, this is typical.

RWS Superdome pellets
The RWS Superdome is one of Mac’s favorite pellets. He has touted them to me for many years, and I know this opinion is shared by many of the readers of this blog. In this rifle, they averaged 778 f.p.s., however the extreme velocity spread was a surprising 46 f.p.s. They ranged from 754 to 800 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 11.16 foot-pounds.

RWS Hobby pellets
UK airgun manufacturers and retailers have to beware of lightweight lead pellets like the RWS Hobby. That’s because lightweight lead pellets are often the most efficient in spring-piston guns, and it’s these pellets that can trip the 12 foot-pound legal limit. In the test rifle, they averaged 870 f.p.s. with an extreme spread of 37 f.p.s. They ranged from 851 to 888 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 11.77 foot-pounds, the highest of all pellets tested.

RWS HyperMAX pellets
Just for fun, Mac tested the rifle with RWS Hypermax pellets. They often increase the velocity of an airgun by up to several hundred f.p.s. In the Marksman model 60, they averaged 959 f.p.s. with an extreme spread of 32 f.p.s. They ranged from 937 to 969 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 10.62 foot-pounds.

Crosman Premier lite pellets
Next, Mac tested the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier domed pellet. It would have been a classic good pellet to use in this rifle in its day, and even today. It averaged 790 f.p.s. with an extreme velocity spread of 17 f.p.s. over ten shots. The range went from 781 to 798 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 10.95 foot-pounds.

Crosman Premier heavy pellets
The last pellet Mac tested was the 10.5-grain Crosman Premier heavy dome. While heavier pellets are generally not recommended for spring-piston guns of average power like the test rifle, you should always test them to make sure you haven’t overlooked a diamond. Sometimes, life can surprise you. In this rifle they averaged 619 f.p.s,. with a spread of 34 f.p.s., from 591 to 625 f.p.s. The average muzzle energy was 8.94 foot-pounds…the lowest recorded in this test.

Mac shoots several shots with each new pellet before recording the velocity. This is to condition the bore to the new pellet, and it seems to improve stability.

Well, there you have it. The Marksman model 60 is a 12 foot-pound air rifle. That means all Marksman model 60 and 61 air rifles are probably 12 foot-pounds, as well. It’s difficult to boost the power of these guns as their strokes have been shortened to keep the guns legal under all circumstances. Who cares? For a lot less money, you can get a real HW77 rifle with all the bells and whistles. Keep your eyes open for Marksman 60 and 61 rifles!

Marksman model 60 – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Testing and photos by Earl “Mac” McDonald

The Marksman model 60 was a special version of the famed HW77 air rifle.

Mac had a windfall a couple months ago. A family was selling off its estate of firearms, among which were a few airguns. One of the airguns was the Marksman model 60 shown here.

Many of you are wondering what a Marksman 60 is. Well, back before the company that owns Marksman, S/R Industries, bought Beeman Precision Airguns in 1994, they were most noted for making and selling their Marksman 1010 pistol. In the late 1980s they wanted to expand their lines into higher-end airguns and apparently they contacted Weihrauch at a time when they also wanted to sell more of their guns in the United States, so several new models were born. Among them were the Marksman model 60 and modes 61 that are the HW model 77 and HW77K, respectively.

Mac got the HW77 rifle. It came without a factory globe front sight or adjustable rear sight, but it does have a mounted Bushnell Sportview 4x scope with parallax adjustment. And, Mac has a .177 model, which seems to be much more popular.

The front sight is gone, but the sight base remains because it’s also the part that secures the cocking lever. See the sliding lever latch underneath.

The big question he had when he got the gun was…did Weihrauch cut any corners when they made this rifle? Was it somehow a lesser gun? The retail price differential between the model 60 and a Beeman HW77 was about $100 in the 1980s.

The answer is NO. The Marksman model 60 is every bit a quality HW77. And, in the brief time it was available in this brand, it was the best value on the market.

Another valid question Mac had was whether or not his new gun was unrestricted power or limited to 12 foot-pounds. In the day when his rifle was produced, not as much was known about the differing power levels of certain airguns. Weihrauch would restrict the power of guns they shipped to the UK to slightly less than 12 foot-pounds, while those made for U.S. sales could be made with no power limitations whatsoever.

Push forward on the sliding latch button and the cocking lever falls free, awaiting the cocking stroke.

Looking inside the latch retainer, we can see the small chisel detent.

In this regard, Mac lucked out by getting a rifle restricted to 12 foot-pounds. I say he lucked out because the rifle in 12 foot-pound trim is as sweet as they come. Easy to cock, with a wonderful Rekord trigger, it’s the embodiment of a field target springer.

The rest of the rifle is exactly what you get when you buy one today. Weight is just over 9 lbs., and the overall length is 44 inches. The barrel is a somewhat long 18.5 inches. The stock is hardwood stained to look like walnut, and the pistol grip is checkered on both sides.

Cocking the rifle via the underlever retracts the sliding compression chamber. That allows direct access to the breech, where the pellet is loaded. An anti-beartrap device prevents the gun from being fired with the sliding compression chamber anywhere but closed. That protects your finger while you load a pellet; but for safety’s sake, never let the underlever out of your grasp until the sliding compression chamber has returned to home.

With the silver sliding compression chamber out of the way, the breech is very accessible.

The cocking lever is all the way back.

For those of you who are looking for great deals, this is a big one. These rifles never bring the same price as a Beeman-marked model that’s identical. And, you can often get a real bargain if the seller doesn’t know what he has. Keep this in the back of your mind, should you ever stumble across one, as Mac has.