Crosman 38T Target revolver

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

38T
Crosman 38T.

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • History
  • Realistic
  • Single and double action trigger
  • Loading
  • Adjustable sights
  • Accuracy
  • Power
  • .22 is coming
  • She can also cook
  • Summary

Today we start looking at a vintage air pistol that many of you already love — Crosman’s 38T revolver. The T stands for target. This will be an in-depth look at the CO2-powered revolver that came in both .177 and .22 calibers. I hope to review both calibers for you in all the usual ways, plus I’m hoping that we’ll get a look inside the gun!

History

The 38T was produced from 1964 until 1985. It is distinguished by its 6-inch barrel. There was also a 38C (Combat) revolver in both calibers that had a 3.5-inch barrel. It also started in 1964 but ended in 1981. I bought a .177-caliber 38C brand new and used it for perhaps 20 years, but until this report I never owned or even handled a 38T. But other than the barrel length everything I say about the 38T also holds true for the 38C.

There are three variations of the 38-series air pistols. The first variant (1964-1973) has a metal rear sight blade and revolving cylinder. Variation 2 (1973-1976) has a plastic rear sight blade and revolving cylinder. And I haven’t got a clue how Variant three (1976 to end of production) differs from the other two, but the Blue Book of Airguns claims that it is separate, while giving no reason why.

There is also a chrome-plated version that is extremely rare. The Blue Book says it was a salesman’s sample, but other references say it was never issued. Maybe they are all agreeing because salesmen’s samples were never supposed to be sold to the public.

Realistic

These revolvers are very reminiscent of Smith & Wesson’s Hand Ejector revolvers — the ones with shrouded cranes. The grips are very reminiscent of later Hand Ejectors. The outside of the gun is nearly all metal — cold to the touch and heavy.

Even today, 36 years after the last one was made, the 38T is regarded as one of the most realistic pellet pistol lookalikes ever made. It has the weight, the size, the correct grips, the adjustable sights and all the features of the firearm it mimics with no condescension to plastics. It stands as an icon, together with the S&W 78G /79G and the Crosman Marks I and II.

The barrel is rifled so the pistol has the potential to be accurate. Naturally that will be something we test.

Single and double action trigger

The revolver has both a single and a double action trigger. The single action trigger pull is reasonably crisp, though there is a tiny bit of creep. The double action pull is heavy and creepy. It feels like the trigger parts need to be lubricated and just that may slick up the whole action.

While is looks to have a normal cylinder at first glance, only the thin front part of that cylinder rotates. That’s the part that holds the pellets until the gun  fires.

Loading

These revolvers loaded in a unique and peculiar way. On the left side of the gun there is a spring-loaded cover. To load, place a pellet in the U-shaped groove in the thin forward part of the cylinder that rotates, then cover the pellet with your finger or thumb and slide the pellet to the rear with a wiping motion. The pellet pushes the spring-loaded sliding cover back and when the pellet is over the open chamber that the sliding cover conceals, it drops right in. Finally, release the spring-loaded sliding cover and it pushes the pellet forward and into a chamber in the rotating cylinder.

38T pellet
To load a pellet, place the pellet in the groove in front of the spring-loaded sliding cover.

38T pellet finger
Put your finger or thumb on top of the pellet in the groove and press downward and to the rear in a wiping motion. The tail of the pellet’s skirt pushes the sliding cover back.

38T pellet drops
The sliding cover is all the way back and the pellet has dropped into the chamber. Release the spring-loaded cover and it will push the pellet into the chamber of the rotating cylinder of the revolver.

Adjustable sights

Like the revolvers they copy, the 38T and C both have adjustable sights. The .177-caliber gun I am testing for you in this report is either a second or third variation and the rear sight adjustment has no detents. This is the plastic sight and that might be the reason why.

Accuracy

I read reports of owners who say the 38T is quite accurate. That’s one of the big reasons why I wanted to test it. The 38C I once owned was not that accurate, because if it had been I would have remembered. At the time I owned it I was shooting a number of .357 Magnum revolvers that were shaped similarly and were also quite accurate, so I’m sure I gave the 38C a fair shake.

Power

From the reports the .177-caliber 38T should put lighter lead pellets out in the high 300 f.p.s. region — perhaps 375-390 f.p.s. The .22-caliber 38T will put light lead pellets out at around 350 f.p.s., so not that much slower. Of course that will be something we test.

.22 is coming

As I mentioned in the beginning, there is a 38T in .22 caliber in the works, as well. That one will be a special look at the gun, as well as a full test.

She can also cook

You may think that you don’t like lookalike airguns that much. Well, the 38T isn’t just for looks. If you were to set about to make a fine repeating air pistol today, you would be hard-pressed to do much better than this one. In other words it looks great and it also works. I think this is the real reason why the 38T has achieved the status of an airgun icon.

Summary

This series that will include several airguns from the past should be a good one. Once some of our collectors get on board we should all learn a lot about these fine air pistols.


Lookalike airguns: Part One

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

History of airguns

This report covers:

What is a lookalike?
A typical lookalike
Colt held back
They got better
Military or civilian?
I could go on

Today we begin a series on lookalike airguns. I don’t know exactly how long this could be, but I suspect it could be large. I also know that this subject is a favorite for many of you.

What is a lookalike?

A lookalike airgun is one that resembles an iconic firearm. It gives the owner the chance to experience the feeling of ownership and operation while remaining in the safer, less litigious world of airguns.

A typical lookalike

In a moment I will discuss the difference between a military lookalike and a purely civilian one, but let’s begin with a look at a gun that exists in both camps — the iconic Colt Single Action Army revolver! The SAA, as it is called, was brought out by Colt as the next step in revolvers from their famous black powder cap and ball handguns. While it wasn’t the last in the line, the Colt 1860 Army is perhaps the best example of an evolved single-action cap and ball revolver. It certainly is the best example of a Colt revolver from that time.

1860 Army
Colt’s 1860 Army revolver was highly advanced for a cap and ball black powder handgun.

When Smith & Wesson patented the revolver cylinder that was through-bored (open all the way through the cylinder) in the 1850s, they allowed the use of cartridge ammunition for the first time. Their first firearm on that patent was the model 1 that was initially chambered for .22 rimfire. It came to market in 1857 — just in time for the American Civil War. The cartridge it was chambered for was just called a .22 rimfire, but as that cartridge line evolved in the latter 1800s, it became known as the .22 short.

S&W mod 1
Smith & Wesson’s model 1 came out in 1857 and lasted until 1882. It was chambered for what we now call the .22 short cartridge.

The model 1 was very popular as a backup gun by Northern troops in the Civil War. It didn’t have much power — perhaps 25 foot-pounds or so, but it was better than nothing.

Colt held back

The bored-through cylinder was patented by a former Colt employee, Rollin White. Why he didn’t try to sell the idea to Colt first we may never know, and maybe he did. Smith & Wesson pounced on it and paid White a royalty of 25 cents per gun, which was a huge sum for the day. But they also agreed he would defend the patent and doing that eventually ruined him, financially.

Colt couldn’t make cartridge revolvers as a result of the S&W patent, so they made variations on their 1860 model until the patent on the bored-through cylinder ran out in 1872. Then they brought out their ubiquitous 1873 SAA that is still in production by many manufacturers today.

Colt SAA
Colt Single Action Army. This one was a gift to BB from the readers of this blog, following his 3.5-month hospital stay in 2010. It was not made by Colt, but it is a very accurate copy of that firearm and is chambered in .45 Colt. Reader Kevin was the focal point for this gift!

If you grew up in the 1950s and the early ’60s like BB, you watched westerns on television. Two of my cats were named Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, after two western stars of the time. Their real names were Leonard Franklin Slye and Frances Octavia Smith.

I idolized all things cowboy and so when Crosman brought out the .22-caliber  SA-6 (single action six) pellet revolver in 1959, I bought one with my paper route money. 

Crosman SA-6
Crosman-SA-6.

I didn’t have a holster for that revolver and, since holsters cost money, I carried the SA-6 in my right front pants pocket — a practice that was common in my day and also one that I do not recommend. I loved that .22 caliber pellet pistol. One day while “hunting” in the woods around the Cuyahoga River in Stow, Ohio, a rabbit jumped out of the weeds and frightened me. When my “cool” returned several seconds later I calmly drew my pellet pistol and fanned off 6 quick shots into the weeds where the rabbit had gone 5 seconds before, earning the nickname, “Fanner 50” from my friend who was with me. For readers less than 60 years old, a Fanner 50 was a very popular cap gun of the day.

They got better

So the SA-6 was an early attempt at a lookalike SAA. The CO2 cartridge hid beneath the barrel, covered by a black plastic sheath that camouflaged it very well. But things would get better.

In the late 1990s I was at the home of Wulf Pflaumer’s sister in Maryland. Wulf is one of the two founders of Umarex. We were discussing the lever action rifle he was about to bring out and I told him that a realistic SAA would also be a hit. He told me they wanted to make one but the revolver’s grip frame was too short to allow a 12-gram CO2 cartridge to fit inside. I told him to try the Colt 1860 Army grip frame. It is 1/2-inch longer and the outlaw, Dakota, at Frontier Village amusement park where I worked in college had put one on his SAA because the SAA grip was too short for him. The 1860 grip frame fit a 12-gram cartridge perfectly and almost no one notices the difference. The rest is history.

A couple years later Umarex brought out the Colt SAA in both pellet and BB gun versions and they have now produced almost every variation of that firearm except for some reason the 4-3/4-inch barrel version that many shooters have asked for. Bat Masterson carried a 4-3/4-inch SAA, as did many gunfighters, because it cleared the holster quicker and was therefore faster to draw.

Umarex SAA
The first Umarex SAA was very realistic, as have been all that followed.

Military or civilian?

I said I would return to this topic. The Colt SAA we have been discussing is both. It was first purchased by the military, but civilian sales soon surged past what the military bought. The SAA is so ergonomic that, until the German P08 Luger pistol came around, it was the long pole in the tent. And it’s still one of the most desired, and most recognized handguns of all time.

There are things about military firearms that make them attractive to shooters. Strength, design and robustness are all main factors, but history trumps everything. No one who has ever held and fired an M1 Garand would think of it as an attractive weapon, but Japan, who was an enemy of the US during WW II, thought enough of it to create 250 close copies for study. Called the Type 4 rifle (and sometimes the type 5), it was homage to the American rifle that so dominated our military campaigns in the latter half of the war.

That addresses why we have military lookalike airguns, though I probably have more than one more report to do on just them, but what about civilian firearm lookalikes? Are there any of them? There certainly are. I won’t get into them deeply this late in today’s report, but for starters, don’t forget the Crosman 38C and 38T revolvers.

And this I will also say, though I call them civilian firearms, the military buys oneseys and twoseys of just about anything. Just because Sergeant So-And-So carried one on the flight line at Da Nang doesn’t make it a military firearm. I’m talking about firearms the military officially adopted — not something Private Ryan carried in his combat boot.

38-T
Crosman’s 38-T from the 1970s was a replica of S&W’s purely civilian (and law enforcement) revolvers.

I could go on

And I plan to. The world of airgun lookalike/replica guns is both a hot topic at any time and red-hot today. Even though this report is in the history section, we are still living in the heyday of lookalike airguns.


Sig Virtus MCX PCP air rifle: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Sig Virtus
Sig Virtus.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 1 Romeo5 XDR red dot sight

This report covers:

  • Sighting in the Romeo5
  • The test
  • Lots of pellets
  • Air Arms Falcon
  • Air Arms 16-grain dome
  • RWS Meisterkugeln
  • Summary

Today I mount the Romeo5 dot sight on the Sig Virtus and shoot it for accuracy again. This will be a test of both the sight and the rifle in operation.

Sig Virtus with Romeo5
I mounted the Romeo5 midway up the Picatinny rail, where both the dot and the target are easily visible.

Sighting in the Romeo5

I started at 12 feet as I always do with optical sights. The first shot went low and left so I adjusted the Romeo5 adjustments up and right. After 4 shots and adjustments in between I felt confident to move back to 10 meters.

I will say this, the sight adjustments worked perfectly, and like most dot sights the Romeo5 adjusts quickly. I sighted in with the dot on full intensity, but dropped four levels of illumination when shooting the targets. That 2 MOA dot is extremely precise, and you want it just bright enough to see with no flare!

The test

I shot the rifle off a sandbag rest at 10 meters — the same as I did in part 3. I’m still shooting 5-shot groups so I can try many different pellets.

I remembered my trigger trick, which is to pull with the second joint of my trigger finger rather than the tip. That gives me a lot more power and I can control when the rifle fires much better. I feel a scrunch as the belt advances, then an increase in pressure just before the rifle fires. It’s like stages one and two of a double-action trigger pull.

Lots of pellets

I ran through a bunch of pellets today before discovering that my trigger finger was pulling the rifle off the target again. Now, under no circumstances is the Virtus to be considered a target rifle. It is a fast-firing 30-shot pellet repeater that gets a large number of shots from a 3,000 psi fill. It’s for fun and plinking — not for targets or hunting. But I have to show you something when I test it, and targets are still the easiest way to do that. What I’m saying is I think that any of the pellets I shot today are probably okay, but I’m not showing the ones I think I messed up. Of the groups that I do show, all three pellets performed about the same. The Virtus doesn’t seem picky about what it shoots.

I’m not going to waste your time looking at poor groups that I caused. Instead, let’s look at groups made by three pellets that did work well because when I shot them I was concentrating on not moving the rifle.

Air Arms Falcon

First up is the Air Arms Falcon. I will show you two targets that were shot, but many targets were shot with other pellets between these two groups. Once it was sighted in the Romeo5 was not adjusted for any of the different pellets, which will become important in a moment.

The first target shows five Falcon pellets in a group measuring 0.746-inches between centers at 10 meters. The group is slightly to the left of center, but since I was shooting many different pellets I did not change the settings on the Romeo5.

Sig Virtus Falcon Group 1
Five .22-caliber Falcon pellets went into 0.746-inches at 10 meters.

The second group of Falcons was fired perhaps 15-20 shots after the first one. This time five pellets went into 0.665-inches at 10 meters. The interesting thing is they are in the same place as the first group — so this is almost like shooting a 10-shot group. This is why I told you that I didn’t adjust the dot sight.

Sig Virtus Falcon group 2
The second group of five Falcons went into this 0.665-inch group at 10 meters.

Air Arms 16-grain dome

Next I tried the Air Arms dome that weighs 16 grains for the first time. The first group was well-centered in the bull and measures 0.583-inches between centers at 10 meters. For some reason this pellet just seems right for the Virtus, and this group is the smallest of the test.

Sig Virtus AA group 1
The Virtus put the first 5 Air Arms 16-grain domes into a 0.583-inch group at 10 meters.

The second group of the same Air Arms domes was shot at the end of the test. It is the largest group that I’m showing, though the other pellets I didn’t show grouped much larger than this. But as I said, I think they were all my fault. I show this one because this pellet went to the same place on the target both times and this time five went into 0.847-inches at 10 meters.

Sig Virtus
The second group of Air Arms domes shot at 10 meters measures 0.847-inches between centers.

RWS Meisterkugeln

The final pellet I’m going to show you is a wadcutter. The RWS Meisterkugeln grouped surprisingly well, with five going into 0.776-inches at 10 meters. I did not shoot a second group of these because by this point in the test I was getting tired.

Sig Virtus RWS Meisterkugeln
The Virtus put 5 RWS Meisterkugeln into 0.776-inches at 10 meters. I know it looks like only four shots, but that one large hole on the lower left actually holds three pellets.

Summary

I have now put the Sig Virtus MCX PCP air rifle through its paces. It’s a smooth, fast-firing pellet rifle that uses air very sparingly. It’s a very close replica of the Virtus firearm, for those who like replica airguns.

Early on I learned how to pull the trigger for the best results. I advise you to try my method if you have this rifle or one of the CO2-powered Sig MCX rifles it was spawned from. The 30-round belt fed magazine works perfectly .

The Romeo5 XDR red dot sight is also quite a performer. It’s a quality optic, and I am glad I had the chance to test it.