THE BIG TEST

This month, it’s an Air Arms TX200 HC. Quiet enough for hunt­ing? The ed­i­tor thinks so.

Air Gunner - - Contents -

As be­fits a ‘springer spe­cial’ of Air Gun­ner, this month’s Big Test is about one of the finest spring-pis­ton guns ever made – the su­perb Air Arms TX200HC MKIII. The slid­ing breech, un­der-lever is in its third evo­lu­tion and is quite fairly de­scribed as a mod­ern clas­sic. It was al­ready a big seller for Air Arms, but they de­cided to make some changes based on feed­back from MKII owners who re­quested a re­duced cock­ing ef­fort, which is what the MKIII of­fers. While they were mak­ing those changes to stroke length and spring rate, some im­prove­ments were made to the stock as well. Some other small de­tails were changed, but it’s the cock­ing ef­fort that most of us no­tice.

The slid­ing-breech sys­tem re­quires a slim pis­ton that’s rel­a­tively light and when used inside a heavy gun, with lots of weight for­ward, makes for low re­coil, which in turn makes it an easy ri­fle to shoot accurately. The ra­tio of pis­ton weight to to­tal ri­fle weight is very sig­nif­i­cant. Of course, ev­ery­thing else has to be right as well, and the bar­rel be­ing per­ma­nently fixed per­fectly in line with the cylin­der is an ad­van­tage over break-bar­rel de­signs, at least in the­ory. To see this in ac­tion, visit any HFT com­pe­ti­tion and look at the Springer class, where you’ll find ev­ery shooter us­ing fixed-bar­rel-type ri­fles.

Top trig­ger

An­other sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor in top- class ac­cu­racy is a fine trig­ger, and the TX ben­e­fits from the truly su­perb CD unit, that’s hon­estly match qual­ity, and it can be ad­justed and set by an ex­pe­ri­enced tech­ni­cian to suit al­most any­body’s needs and pref­er­ences. The re­lease on my test gun was del­i­cate, sweet and supremely con­sis­tent, fac­tors that mean a lot to me.

For those not fa­mil­iar with slid­ing­breech guns, here’s a sim­ple over­view: Inside the main cylin­der is a smaller cylin­der that moves back­wards as you cock the gun. This ex­poses the breech through a large aper­ture, al­low­ing us to seat a pel­let di­rectly into the bar­rel. As the cock­ing lever is closed, the in­ner cylin­der goes for­ward en­clos­ing the breech with a soft seal. As the ri­fle is fired the pis­ton flies for­ward in the in­ner cylin­der mak­ing the pres­sure that drives the pel­let. It sounds com­pli­cated, but is re­ally quite sim­ple, and who­ever de­signed it was a ge­nius. The first time I saw this sys­tem was on the Weihrauch HW77, a ri­fle I owned and loved for a very long time. The TX is built on that

“low re­coil, which in turn makes it an easy ri­fle to shoot accurately”

prin­ci­ple, adding sev­eral en­gi­neer­ing ad­vances that brought us to the de­li­cious ri­fle I have on test.

Dou­ble safety

One of the first things I thought of when I saw this sys­tem was safety. If the trig­ger were to fail, and let the in­ner cylin­der fly for­ward, it would chop off any fin­gers or thumbs inside the aper­ture. Air Arms uses two safeties to elim­i­nate this worry and we have the op­tion to add a third. Firstly, as the ri­fle is cocked, the au­to­matic trig­ger safety comes on, and even if you tried to pull the trig­ger, the ri­fle won’t fire. Next, we have the very sub­stan­tial anti-bear trap safety. This is a ratchet-like mech­a­nism that en­gages the in­ner cylin­der as the ri­fle is cocked. Three large notches are ma­chined into the side of the in­ner cylin­der, to be en­gaged by a beefy latch that au­to­mat­i­cally en­gages them as they pass. This is a strong and re­li­able sys­tem. To close the mech­a­nism after the pel­let is loaded, the anti-bear trap lever must be de­pressed, free­ing the in­ner cylin­der.

The op­tional safety we can choose to add is the one we should all be us­ing on any spring/pis­ton gun, which is to hold the cock­ing lever se­curely as we load a pel­let. This isn’t par­tic­u­lar to slid­ing-breech guns; it ap­plies to each and ev­ery springer and is a prac­tice we should all use ev­ery day. An­other ben­e­fit of this ex­ter­nal anti-bear trap is that the ri­fle can be de- cocked if nec­es­sary, which isn’t the case for many ri­fles with anti-bear traps.

The con­ven­tional au­to­matic safety pops out of the end cap of the ac­tion to the left, in a po­si­tion that’s very nat­u­ral to dis­en­gage with the thumb of the trig­ger hand. The only down­side for me is that is that it makes a loud, metal­lic click and there’s noth­ing you can do about it. The re­al­ity of air­gun hunt­ing is that we need to be close to our quarry be­fore we can shoot ef­fec­tively, and this noise could well spook a rab­bit or pi­geon, which would be frus­trat­ing.

Whilst we’re on the sub­ject of cock­ing, I noted that the ac­tion was smooth and quiet and didn’t re­quire too much ef­fort over a long shoot­ing ses­sion, so it didn’t be­come tir­ing. This model has a cock­ing aid over the lever that adds some ex­tra grip, which could be use­ful in cold, wet con­di­tions.

To get the ri­fle ready to shoot, I added a Sport­sMatch one-piece mount with the re­coil pin fit­ted. Spring/ pis­ton ri­fles make a unique two-way re­coil that can shift the scope along the rails so you lose your zero. A one-piece mount has a long gripping area to re­ally get hold of the rails, and four big bolts to clamp it down. The re­coil pin fits di­rectly into one of the drillings in the cylin­der, giv­ing a to­tally im­mov­able lock that guar­an­tees the scope sim­ply can­not shift. You might say that this is a belt and braces ap­proach, and you’d be right, which is ex­actly what I like. I want to know that the ri­fle is dead on zero ev­ery time I pull the trig­ger, and this is the best way I know of achiev­ing that.

Panoramic view

The scope I chose was a Hawke 4 – 12 x40 AO Panorama which suits me as a hunt­ing op­tic. The ri­fle is heavy enough with­out fit­ting a huge scope, so I felt this medium-sized op­tic gave me ev­ery­thing I needed with­out

“Three large notches are ma­chined into the side of the in­ner cylin­der, to be en­gaged by a beefy latch”

ex­ces­sive bulk. It also sat com­fort­ably in a medium-height mount, of­fer­ing bet­ter con­tact be­tween my face and the stock for more con­sis­tent mount­ing.

Which brings me nicely to the stock, and that de­serves high praise. Firstly, it’s a proper righthanded af­fair, so the fit is in­fin­itely bet­ter than the cur­rent crop of am­bidex­trous ones. The comb is set at the right height for scope us­age, de­liv­er­ing good sup­port for the head. This is of­ten, over­looked but is very sig­nif­i­cant. It helps with con­sis­tent mount­ing and re­duces the dreaded par­al­lax er­ror that ac­counts for so many missed shots in air­gun shoot­ing.

Next, we come to the pis­tol grip. This is sculpted and shaped to sup­port the trig­ger hand whilst de­liv­er­ing the trig­ger fin­ger per­fectly to the blade. For me, it’s a work of art and one that de­serves all the praise it gets. The key to shoot­ing springers well is con­sis­tency, and stock fit like this is in­valu­able in that quest. The fore end is long and rounded as be­fits a sport­ing ri­fle, and it fit­ted my lead­ing hand very well. Lasers have rev­o­lu­tionised che­quer­ing on stocks, and the TX fea­tures in­tri­cate fish­scale pat­terns that you’ll ei­ther love or hate. They do de­liver a solid grip when stalk­ing, which I wel­come, but dur­ing the fir­ing cy­cle I hold the ri­fle as loosely as pos­si­ble any­way.

World Champ

The ques­tion of this ri­fle’s ac­cu­racy goes with­out say­ing be­cause it has won na­tional and world cham­pi­onships in the hands of the Air Arms com­pe­ti­tion team. This left me to dis­cover if I was good enough to ex­tract all that per­for­mance. As a self- con­fessed, pre- charged pneu­matic kind of chap, it takes me a while to get back into the swing of shoot­ing springers prop­erly. How­ever, the TX is one of the eas­i­est springers to shoot well, so even my rusty skills should do well.

A quick run over the chrono­graph showed that my .177 test gun was de­liv­er­ing a con­sis­tent 11.4ft.lbs with Air Arms’ own 8.44 grain Di­ablo Field round-head pel­let. Now to see what I could bring to the test; the trig­ger was set well for my needs and broke very cleanly in­deed. This is a huge help on any gun, but on a springer it’s worth its weight in gold.

The fir­ing cy­cle is a nice, dull thud and de­spite not hav­ing the op­tional si­lencer fit­ted, I felt that the ri­fle was eas­ily quiet enough for hunt­ing. I also noted the com­plete ab­sence of spring noise or vi­bra­tion, which is some­thing you only used to get for pro­fes­sion­ally tuned ri­fles, but this one gives that straight from the box. As ac­cu­rate as can be I was shoot­ing from the bench, off some soft sup­port bags, and soon had the gun ze­roed. This job is so much quicker with an ac­cu­rate and con­sis­tent gun, be­cause the track­ing of the scope’s ad­justers work in pre­ci­sion har­mony with the ri­fle’s

“The fir­ing cy­cle is a nice, dull thud and de­spite not hav­ing the op­tional si­lencer fit­ted, I felt that the ri­fle was eas­ily quiet enough for hunt­ing”

aim point, and just a few turns of the di­als had me spot on.

The most im­por­tant thing about any gun, for me, is ac­cu­racy, and to cut to the chase, this thing is su­perb. At 30 yards I of­ten got two or three pel­lets through the same hole be­fore it be­came sig­nif­i­cantly en­larged. In other words, it’s pretty much im­pos­si­ble to be more ac­cu­rate. Any longer dis­tance shots be­come affected by the wind no mat­ter how still the day might seem. I also found this ac­cu­racy ac­ces­si­ble to my ‘ less than perfect’ springer tech­nique, show­ing just what a for­giv­ing gun this is to shoot.

Call­ing this a ‘ mod­ern clas­sic’ is to­tally jus­ti­fied in my eyes, and it is, with­out ques­tion, the most ac­cu­rate pro­duc­tion springer I’ve ever shot. Only mas­sively weighted and hyper-tuned one- offs could top it, and they’re not what most peo­ple would ever want. This is a truly su­perb ri­fle, of­fer­ing ac­cu­racy that can com­pete with any PCP, in a self- con­tained pack­age. If springers are your thing, then you owe it to your­self to shoot one of these – they re­ally are that good!

“with­out ques­tion, the most ac­cu­rate pro­duc­tion springer I’ve ever shot”

Below: The sleek, sport­ing lines are right up my street

Right: The anti- bear trap is sub­stan­tially built which is re­as­sur­ing Far right: Laser- cut che­quer­ing can of­fer al­most any de­sign you can imag­ine

Below in­set: Pel­lets are loaded di­rectly into the bar­rel for ul­ti­mate ac­cu­racy Main: The wal­nut used on the test gun was very pretty Bot­tom in­set: The au­to­matic safety is per­fectly placed for the trig­ger hand thumb

Main: This is a proper hunter that can take the knocks in the field

20

Above: Note that the cheek piece is set at the right height for scope use. Thank you Air Arms Top left: A cock­ing arm grip is stan­dard on this ri­fle Top right: By low­er­ing the side of the load­ing aper­ture, thumb­ing a pel­let into the breech is easy

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