Se­ries 160

Part 2 of John Milewski’s study of the Cros­man 160 Pell­gun - third vari­ant

Airgun World - - Contents -

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 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.


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.

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