Part 2 of John Milewski’s study of the Crosman 160 Pellgun - third variant
As we saw in the April issue, the United States Air Force (USAF) had trained missile base personnel in firearm operation with a variant of the Crosman 160 known as the ‘Crosman 160 SP’. It is unclear what SP stands for – possibly (fitted with) Sling and Peep sight?
This variant was fitted with sling swivels, a competition regulation sling and initially a Mossberg S-130 peep sight. The cross arm of the S-130 could be swung to one side like a Parker Hale PH16, and this feature was useful on the standard twin-sighted 2nd variant. This early SP also had the early, pressed trigger guard and no open rear sight. It was advertised by Crosman during the late 1950s at the same time as the 2nd variant was sold with the earlier Model 360 peep and open rear sights.
THE REFINED 3RD VARIANT
The Williams made S-130 was only used for around a year and later versions of the 160 SP were supplied with the Crosman S-331 peep sight and updated trigger, referred to as MT for Match Trigger. It had three adjustments; sear contact was factory set to 1/16 inch, and two additional screws allowed for pressure and over travel. These later rifles retained the sling swivels and sling, in line with regulation requirements.
Made between 1960 and 1971, the 3rd variant of the 160 had the same match trigger and S-331 sight as the SP, but no sling swivels. The safety catch was also moved from its position at the rear of the receiver on the 1st and 2nd variants to the front of the trigger guard on the 160/SP. The catch was manual in operation and its lever could be fitted to the right or left of the guard. In normal operation, the safety lever points rearward for ‘safe’ and forward for ‘fire’. The 3rd variant could still be taken down, but the safety catch had to be knocked out in addition to undoing the thumbnut. The 3rd variant also had a subtle ‘Monte-Carlo’ comb to the top of the stock, which was starting to become fashionable
“The rifle I tested grouped under an inch at 18 feet from the free-standing position”
during the 1960s with firearms shooters.
Other than a few early transitional 2nd/3rd variants, there was no rear sight fitted because the 3rd variant had a Crosman S-331 aperture sight factory fitted as standard. The fully click-adjustable sight was based on the Mossberg S331 Target sight, but marked Crosman. To add further confusion, the sight was probably made by Williams for both Mossberg and Crosman.
FAMILIAR TO BOLT-ACTION USERS
The bolt-action loading and cocking procedure would have been familiar to anyone used to a .22 rimfire, or even a larger bore, bolt-action rifle. The peep sight and near recoilless firing cycle made the series 160 an incredibly accurate arm, hence why it was popular with the NRA’s Civilian Marksmanship Programme and the USAF. The .177 can be fiddlier to load because the smaller pellets have a tendency to tumble in the breech, and load sideways. I experienced no such issues with the .22 because the loading channel was the right size for the larger pellet.
The loading channel of the 167 I tested was a little wide for standard-length pellets, which would occasionally tumble during the pellet seating process. Longer pellets such as JSB Heavies or Beeman Crow-Magnums would load easier without falling over themselves. The JSBs in particular were very consistent and hard hitting, achieving an average muzzle velocity of 540 FPS on a bright December morning in around 8 degrees centigrade. Crosman claimed the .22 calibre 160 averaged 600 FPS, so the 167 was slightly down on power, although it was consistently accurate. I counted 51 shots before the gas ran out and I had to replace the two CO2 Powerlets.
The first type 167 had a reasonably good trigger. It was light and sporting in feel. In fact, I could identify a pronounced stop after taking up pressure slowly, which I treated as a first stage. A little more pressure and the rifle discharged with a soft bang and, on occasion, slight clouds of CO2 gas at the muzzle.
Crosman advertising claimed the 160, and indeed the 150 pistol, were factory tested to group ¾-inch or closer at 25 feet. The rifle I tested grouped under an inch at 18 feet from the free-standing position and I was left in no doubt that factory claims were based on fact. Extending the range to 15 yards outdoors, the 167 placed almost all of the shots I fired within the 40mm aperture of a bell target.
Weighing in at between 5lb 2oz and 5lb 7oz, and with an overall length of 39¼ inches, the 160 is certainly a compact little carbine. The reduced weight can result in more muzzle wobble than would be found on a contemporary spring gun, so I was conscious of the importance of follow-through on every shot and counting to two before coming off aim. The 160 can often be found reasonably priced at UK arms fairs and remains an incredibly accurate performer as well as desirable collectable. I
My sincere thanks to Fred Eves for proof reading my article and for additional images.
The rare Mossberg S-130 peep sight was fitted to some early SP models.
This is a fine example of a standard 3rd type Crosman 160 Pellgun. Raised combs are intended to raise your sighting eye in line with a telescopic sight, whilst maintaining face contact, known as a ‘cheek weld’.
Undo the knurled thumbnut and drive out the safety is all you need to do to take down this rifle.
Face the safety catch down and then push it from the opposite side to remove prior to separating the stock from the action. The catch can be fitted to either side of the guard.
The excellent Williams manufactured Crosman S-331 sight was standard on the 3rd variant.