Six­ties Hits

John Milewski as­sesses the Cros­man 38 se­ries Co2 re­volvers

Airgun World - - Contents -

John Milewski tests the Cros­man 38T and 38C CO2 re­volvers

A1964 Cros­man dealer cat­a­logue de­scribed the ‘new’ 38C and 38T mod­els as re­al­is­tic .38 sim­u­la­tors that law of­fi­cers, tar­get shoot­ers, mil­i­tary per­son­nel and hand­gun en­thu­si­asts had re­quested Cros­man to de­velop. De­scribed as ‘au­then­tic and ac­cu­rate’, the mod­els shared the ac­tual weight, style, size and bal­ance of pop­u­lar .38 cal­i­bre firearms.

The Model .38 had made its de­but a cou­ple of years ear­lier in 1962, af­ter the author­i­ties ap­proached Cros­man to pro­duce a CO2pow­ered trainer for U.S. Air Force per­son­nel. At the height of the Cold War, out of the way bases ap­pre­ci­ated the op­por­tu­nity of train­ing with lower-pow­ered arms that did not re­quire the sub­stan­tial back­stop of a reg­u­lar range, and the lack of smoke and noise would have ap­pealed, too.


Smith & Wes­son have tra­di­tion­ally dif­fer­en­ti­ated be­tween their var­i­ous mod­els by a let­ter code which de­notes size, from the light I and J frames to the sub­stan­tial .500 cal­i­bre X-frame re­volvers. The K frame de­noted .38 cal­i­bre re­volvers, which were pop­u­lar with most Amer­i­can po­lice de­part­ments dur­ing the 1960s and the Cros­man 38 re­volvers are based on these K frame mod­els.

By 1964, af­ter en­joy­ing suc­cess with the Air Force, Cros­man made the de­ci­sion to of­fer the re­volvers to po­lice de­part­ments and the gen­eral pub­lic. Two ver­sions were of­fered; the short-bar­relled 38C ‘Com­bat’ and the longer­bar­relled 38T ‘Tar­get’. The grips and frames of these two mod­els were iden­ti­cal, the only dif­fer­ences be­ing the bar­rel length and fore sight pro­file.


Mod­elled on the K38 Smith & Wes­son ‘Mas­ter­piece’ re­volvers, both ex­am­ples were in­cred­i­bly re­al­is­tic, from their heft to the sin­gle- and dou­ble-ac­tion trig­ger func­tion of the orig­i­nals. The 38T had a moulded Par­tridge square-pro­filed fore sight and the snub­bier 38C fea­tured a rounded pro­file to the ramped fore sight. This at­ten­tion to de­tail was com­mend­able be­cause the .38 cal­i­bre orig­i­nals, known as the Model 14 and 15 re­spec­tively, had iden­ti­cally pro­filed fore

“a real de­light in use, with no creep at all en­coun­tered on the two pistols”

sights. Rear sights on both CO2 re­volvers were ad­justable ver­ti­cally and lat­er­ally by means of two screws, re­sult­ing in pistols that could be ze­roed to en­sure pel­lets landed at the point of aim. Both were de­signed to shoot .22 cal­i­bre pel­lets from their ri­fled bar­rels un­til .177 ver­sions re­placed them in 1976.


The re­volvers were pow­ered by a sin­gle 12 gram CO2 bulb housed in the grip, al­though Cros­man did of­fer a bulk fill op­tion util­is­ing a con­verted CO2 bulb for eas­ier re­fill­ing on a busy range. The left grip clipped on to the CO2 bulb, mean­ing that ei­ther a full or empty cap­sule had to be kept in the grip in or­der for the grip not to fall off. When not is use, I find that an empty bulb not un­der tension keeps the grip in place sat­is­fac­to­rily. Once placed in the grip, a coin-slot­ted pierc­ing screw at the rear base of the grip is ten­sioned un­til the CO2 bulb has been pierced.

The rear of the ‘re­volv­ing’ cylin­der is a dummy and does not move, whereas the front part func­tions as a re­volver. The cylin­der is not re­mov­able and con­se­quently load­ing is both slower and fid­dlier.


Pel­lets are loaded in­di­vid­u­ally by pulling back on the spring-loaded fol­lower sit­u­ated on the left side of the cylin­der, which ex­poses a load­ing trough. A pel­let is then dropped in with its head fac­ing for­ward and the fol­lower re­leased to feed it into the cham­ber. I find angling the pis­tol down slightly and drop­ping the pel­let into place works best, but be pre­pared to be pa­tient be­cause some­times pel­lets drop in the wrong way round and have to be shaken out, then rein­serted. Af­ter a pel­let has been cham­bered, the ro­tat­ing part of the cylin­der is ro­tated in a clock­wise di­rec­tion to bring the next cham­ber in line, which is in­di­cated with a sat­is­fy­ing click.


There is no pos­si­bil­ity of a fast reload with this six-shot re­volver, but you do get six shots be­tween reloads. The sin­gle-ac­tion trig­ger pull is a real de­light in use, with no creep at all en­coun­tered on the two pistols I tested. Cock­ing the non-slip ser­rated ham­mer sets the trig­ger and a crisp pull helps to main­tain ac­cu­racy in this mode. The dou­ble-ac­tion pull is nat­u­rally heav­ier and con­sid­er­ably longer, but is smooth and con­sis­tent through­out. Due to the ex­cel­lent na­ture of the sin­gle ac­tion, I stuck with this mode of op­er­a­tion for the greater part of my test­ing.

I found the longer-bar­relled 38T bal­anced bet­ter than the 38C, and ac­cu­racy was bet­ter, too. These pistols are not pow­er­houses, with ve­loc­i­ties in the lower 300 FPS range. In fair­ness, this is sim­i­lar to mod­ern BB fir­ers, but with the added ad­van­tage of a ri­fled bar­rel’s ac­cu­racy. I found I was able to group most of my pel­lets within an inch at six yards us­ing the sin­gle-ac­tion mode, and im­por­tantly, to the point of aim, with­out hav­ing to aim off.


The Cros­man 38 mod­els are not com­mon in the UK, but are well worth con­sid­er­ing if the op­por­tu­nity arises be­cause they per­form more ac­cu­rately than many mod­ern CO2 ‘repli­cas’ – if you are happy to sac­ri­fice that fast reload fa­cil­ity. I

The 38T mea­sures 11 inches over­all and it shorter brother, the 38C comes in at 8½ inches.

Size, weight and func­tion are all iden­ti­cal to the orig­i­nal Smith & Wes­son K -framed Mas­ter­piece re­volvers il­lus­trated in a 1960s Stoeger cat­a­logue.

The 38T has an ex­tended rear sight plate (top). On the 38C, the plate is shorter (be­low).

I find the coin-slot­ted CO2 tension screw more ver­sa­tile than the ubiq­ui­tous Allen screws seen on to­day’s mod­els be­cause I in­vari­ably carry coins more reg­u­larly than Allen keys!

The Par­tridge pro­filed fore sight on the 38T pro­vides a clear sight pic­ture but the 38C is no slouch ei­ther. I have added a dab of red paint to help ac­quire the fore sight on the 38C.

Load­ing is fid­dly and re­quires pel­lets to be dropped into the load­ing trough be­fore the fol­lower pushes them into the cham­ber.

The small tab at the rear of the trig­ger guard is re­leased when the trig­ger is pulled back, which in turn re­leases the ham­mer.

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