John Milewski assesses the Crosman 38 series Co2 revolvers
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.
CO2 MUST REMAIN CLIPPED IN PLACE
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.
AN ACCURATE PERFORMER
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.