John Milewski studies the Crosman rifle that first utilised the 12g CO2 capsule
John Milewski reveals all about the first and second variant Crosman 160 series
The concept of the bolt-action 160 series stemmed from a requirement for a quality pellet-firing air rifle that could be used as a training aid. The American NRA used the rifle in sponsored training programmes from 1955 and throughout the 1960s, alongside the YMCA, Scout and high school groups. Even the United States Air Force (USAF) bought 160s for maintaining shooting practice. The USAF considered the 160 useful for out-ofthe-way bases, where regular outdoor ranges were not always available. Rather than no shooting practice, servicemen could indulge with the bolt-cocking 160. Crosman termed their .22 calibre version the ‘160’ and its less common .177 calibre sibling the ‘167’, but for ease of reference, I shall refer to both as the Series 160.
The Series 160 were the first Crosman CO2 rifles to be powered by 12g Powerlets and were a companion to the company’s Series 150 air pistols. The rifle accepted two back to back, and was advertised as achieving an average 600 FPS (.22) with a 50-shot count. After unscrewing the tube cap at the front end of the cylinder, one Powerlet was inserted neck down and the second neck up before the tube plug was screwed back. The rifle would then be cocked and discharged to pierce the seals and fill the chamber with CO2.
The Series 160 was introduced in 1955. The 167 was discontinued in 1967, whilst the 160 continued to be made until 1971. The
rifles were made in three major variants, which collectors term ‘the 1st, 2nd and 3rd variant’.
The 1st variant was made between 1955 and 1956. The trigger attached to the stock, by means of a pin, which was an axial fitting
“rather than no practice, servicemen could indulge with the bolt-cocking 160”
through the stock. Crosman collector, Len Joe, explained to me that the barrel was supported near the tube plug by means of a metallic spacer, approximately 1-inch long, held in place by a small locating pin that seated into a mating hole in the underside of the barrel. There was no front barrel band.
An automatic safety catch engages once the rifle has been cocked and can be released by pushing forward on a catch situated to the right rear of the receiver. A further safety
feature was the bolt-action itself. The rifle
cocked on closure, and could instantly be made safe by opening the bolt, which disengaged the trigger. The rearsight on the 1st variant consists of a stamped step-adjustable sight that can be adjusted for elevation by raising it slightly and moving the angled ramp that the sight sits on, either forward or back. The sight can be adjusted laterally by undoing the two securing screws and moving the sight left or right. The angled blade foresight matches the wide ‘U’ of the rear very well and the rifle is easy to line up on a target as a result.
A prominent ‘thumbnut’ is situated in front of the trigger guard, which can be undone to ‘take down’ the rifle, resulting in a compact package for travel. When reassembling, the bolt must be in the forward ‘fired’ position and the safety catch forward in the ‘off’ position to avoid damage to the sear.
The 2nd variant was made between 1956 and 1959. The trigger was now mounted to a steel plate secured to the underside of the rifle’s receiver tube, eliminating the need for the through-hole in the stock. The barrel was supported by a barrel band up front on this and the subsequent 3rd variant. The reason for this engineering change in the trigger mounting is that on the 1st variant, if the thumbnut that held the action to the stock loosened off, it was possible for the sear not to engage fully, thereby producing unexpected discharges if the gun were bumped. The thumbnut secures the action to the stock firmly with no play, but it is good practice to check the nut before and during a shooting session.
“The 360 could be turned down out of the way so the open sight can be used”
The 2nd variant was supplied with the same step-adjustable rearsight as the 1st and an additional slide-adjustable peep sight, which Crosman termed the ‘Model 360’ sight. The 1957 Stoeger Shooter’s Bible explained that the 360 had been specially designed for the Series 160 and was easy to attach because only one securing screw was required. The 360 peep sight had previously been advertised as an optional accessory for the 1st variant in a 1956 Crosman catalogue. Crosman advertising from 1959/60 proclaimed the (2nd variant) rifle was equipped with two rearsights – a slide adjustable peep sight and an open field sight. Both were adjustable for windage and elevation. The 360 could be turned down out of the way, so the open sight could be used. The 360 was adjusted via two threaded nuts. The top one allowed lateral adjustment, whilst the lower one locked the vertical slider in place. The knurling allowed settings to be made without resorting to tools.
In the next instalment, we’ll look at the USAF version of the 160 and the fully developed 3rd variant. In the meantime, I hope to meet readers and friends old and new at the next Kempton Park arms fair on 25th March. See you there! I
The 2nd variant introduced a barrel band up front, behind the tube cap. The inside of the carton has a psychedelic look to it!
The first CO2 bulb is inserted neck first, and the second, neck last.
The rearsight on the 1st and 2nd variants has one of the best profiles I have ever encountered on any vintage air rifle.
Removing the thumb nut enables the 160 to be taken down very quickly.
The reversible 360 peep sight was specifically made for the 160 and is rarely encountered today.
The clean ‘combless’ lines of the 2nd variant stock are evident here.
Note the safety catch has been reversed on this 2nd variant. The button usually sits on the right side of the receiver.
Simply draw the bolt back to cock, load a pellet in the channel, push the bolt back into battery and you are good to go.