F TX200 ON THE BENCH

Fancy an air ri­fle that be­haves like a tuned gun ‘from the box’? Pete Evans might have the solution

Airgun World - - Contents -

Most of the spring guns that come into my hands usu­ally ben­e­fit from a vary­ing de­gree of tun­ing; a spring guide here, a pol­ish there, but there is one gun that wants for noth­ing straight from the box, and I am re­fer­ring to the Air Arms TX200. Next to the Weihrauch HW77, the TX is my favourite underlever springer – don’t tell my Air­sporters!

There is no hid­ing the fact that the TX draws on the orig­i­nal con­cept of the HW, al­though it’s far more than an homage to a clas­sic. It’s a great ri­fle with its own unique iden­tity that has at­tracted a huge le­gion of fans, over the years – both hunters and tar­get shoot­ers. Let’s study its devel­op­ment and prime fea­tures be­fore tak­ing a look at my own ex­am­ple.

CHANGE OF DI­REC­TION

The TX marked a change in di­rec­tion for Air Arms – a few inches for­ward, and a turn through 90 de­grees. That state­ment might need some elab­o­ra­tion; prior to the TX Air Arms had made sidelever cock­ing guns, a hold-over from the days when they sup­plied parts for the Sus­sex ar­moury, Jackal ri­fles. Air Arms stuck with the sidelever, tap-load­ing, plat­form for some years, for­mally by con­tin­u­ing with the mil­i­taris­tic Jackal-style guns, and then on to the more con­ven­tional wood-stocked mod­els. By 1990, there was a change in the air that was to pro­pel the Air Arms brand to a new level, and con­tin­ues to do so in the present day.

AIR­GUN TRIN­ITY

The in­cep­tion and sub­se­quent devel­op­ment of the TX could be thought of as a trin­ity of engi­neer­ing ex­per­tise – Air Arms, Nick Jenk­in­son, and Ken Turner, the lat­ter giv­ing the first let­ter of his sur­name to the model.

Ken Turner, is a hugely tal­ented, unas­sum­ing en­gi­neer from Sur­rey, known ini­tially for cre­at­ing multi-stroke pneu­mat­ics in the early ‘80s. He could see the po­ten­tial of the HW77 un­der-bar­rel cock­ing plat­form, and had lit­eral de­signs on how this could be de­vel­oped fur­ther.

Nick Jenk­in­son, a for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent and field tar­get cham­pion, al­ready in­volved with Air Arms in a con­sul­tancy role. It was his in­put that de­signed the stock for this new model.

Air Arms, an engi­neer­ing com­pany with a grow­ing port­fo­lio of qual­ity air­guns, with the de­ter­mi­na­tion and fi­nance to pro­duce some­thing new and spe­cial for the air­gun scene.

The syn­ergy of these three forces pro­duced the mod­ern clas­sic that has be­come an integral part of our lives.

EN­TER THE TX

By mid-1991, the first pro­to­types were avail­able, with the of­fi­cial launch planned for later that same year. There were a num­ber of key fea­tures that set this apart from sim­i­lar ri­fles avail­able at the time, which placed it in the same league as ri­fles cus­tomised by the tun­ing mae­stros of the day.

The com­pres­sion cham­ber had a cen­tral trans­fer port, thought to be more ef­fi­cient than the off­set type, and the pis­ton it­self had a cock­ing rod that could en­gage with the trig­ger in any po­si­tion – a fea­ture wor­thy of fur­ther dis­cus­sion.

As a spring is com­pressed, there is an in­her­ent ten­dency for it to turn be­cause there is con­tact be­tween it and the pis­ton, so there is a torque ef­fect on the pis­ton. We do try to negate this ef­fect by us­ing a front spring guide and washer, but in the TX’s case, things are taken a step fur­ther by al­low­ing the pis­ton to turn in­side the com­pres­sion cham­ber and to en­gage with the trig­ger in any po­si­tion.

The pis­ton in­cor­po­rates an­other fea­ture which per­haps is the most in­ter­est­ing fea­ture for all tuners out there, and that is the in­clu­sion of Del­rin bear­ings.

SUP­PORT­ING ROLE

Usu­ally, the pis­ton in­side the com­pres­sion tube is sup­ported and sealed on its one end by the pis­ton seal. The pis­ton skirt, a loose fit within the tube, is lu­bri­cated by a thin coat of molyb­de­num grease. The TX pis­ton is sup­ported on both ends of the pis­ton by Del­rin ring bear­ings which keep things cen­tral­ized, whilst re­duc­ing fric­tional forces. This level of re­fine­ment, at the time, was not seen on any­thing, apart from ri­fles that had re­ceived treat­ment from the Venom Arms com­pany. Even to­day, few ri­fles come from the fac­tory

with this fea­ture, and if you wanted to add this level of tun­ing to a gun it would cost you a fair amount of cash.

There is a cur­rent trend of ‘but­ton­ing’ pis­tons. This in­volves drilling the side of the pis­ton and glu­ing small Del­rin rods into the re­sult­ing holes, and then turn­ing the pis­ton in a lathe to ma­chine the Del­rin so that it pro­trudes only marginally from the pis­ton. This pro­duces ‘but­tons’ which act as a bear­ing, achiev­ing a sim­i­lar ef­fect to the ring bear­ings in the TX de­sign. The is­sue I have with this type of tune is that once things have worn, it’s not a straight­for­ward process to rec­tify the wear. The Del­rin ring bear­ings on the TX are split, which means it is a very sim­ple process to change dur­ing a ser­vice. but more on this point later.

KNOW YOUR MARKS

Over the years, Air Arms did not rest on their lau­rels, but re­tained an on-go­ing process of im­prove­ment which has seen the TX tran­si­tion through no less than three marks. The orig­i­nal ver­sion did not have an anti-bear trap de­vice fit­ted, a sit­u­a­tion reme­died on the Mk2 mod­els.

Much has been dis­cussed about the safety of slid­ing breech guns and their po­ten­tial to trap the fin­gers of the care­less. The bot­tom line here is to en­sure that you keep a firm hand on the underlever or bar­rel of any spring gun whilst load­ing – it’s the best safety fea­ture you can get. As an ex­tra safety mea­sure, Air Arms de­cided to fit a rather ef­fec­tive safety ratchet which en­gages with the com­pres­sion cham­ber. In use it is quite loud, but re­as­sur­ingly so – some peo­ple ac­tu­ally re­move the mech­a­nism, but I would very strongly ad­vise against this. It’s put there to en­hance our safety, but don’t be­come com­pla­cent – keep hold­ing the underlever.

As time pro­gressed, the Mk2 also had a car­bine op­tion named the ‘Hunter Car­bine ‘ – HC. If this were not enough, there was also a semi-recoilless model dubbed the SR, which was of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to tar­get shoot­ers. These SR mod­els com­mand a healthy price on the sec­ond­hand mar­ket, so if you can find one in good or­der, I would have to quote David Dick­in­son here and say, “Get it bought.”

Dur­ing 1998 the Mk3 was born, which saw the pis­ton stroke length in­creased from 82mm to 96mm, so less spring en­ergy was re­quired to make a power just shy of the mag­i­cal 12 ft. lb. limit.

“The thing is, pretty much all the work I would ad­vo­cate for a ri­fle has al­ready bbeen done”

More changes were seen in stock de­sign; the fore end gained a more flow­ing ap­pear­ance, as well as a change from a tra­di­tional-style che­quer­ing to some­thing a bit more ‘aquatic’ in ap­pear­ance. This new style of che­quer­ing is some­times termed ‘fish scale’, which is a pretty good de­scrip­tion. Per­son­ally, I re­ally like this de­sign. It’s grippy, and has a vis­ual charm which goes be­yond that af­forded by tra­di­tional forms. The cur­rent TX mod­els are avail­able as the Mk3, a full-length ver­sion, or the HC, both of which have beech or wal­nut stock op­tions.

PER­SONAL OWN­ER­SHIP

Over the years, I have owned sev­eral TX mod­els of dif­fer­ing marks, cal­i­bres, lengths, and stock ma­te­ri­als. At present, I have a Mk3 dressed in a wal­nut stock, com­pletely stan­dard apart from a Rowan tar­get-style trig­ger blade. Those of you who have read my pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cles know that I hold their prod­ucts in high es­teem. For a per­son like me who en­joys potch­ing –a Welsh word that means ‘tun­ing’ – the TX can be some­thing of a let down.

The thing is, pretty much all the work I would ad­vo­cate for a ri­fle has al­ready been done, so you can en­joy the shoot­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. En­joy­ment is some­thing that comes as an in­built fea­ture of the TX, and that ex­tends to ei­ther cal­i­bre.

It is well ac­cepted that spring guns in the smaller cal­i­bre can be dif­fi­cult to shoot. One rea­son for this is that .177 seems to be less ef­fi­cient than its .22 sta­ble­mate be­cause more spring en­ergy, or greater pis­ton weight, is needed to achieve the same power. This sit­u­a­tion has lead to peo­ple sac­ri­fic­ing a few fps in their .177 springers to take ad­van­tage of a sweeter fir­ing cy­cle.

When I bought my own gun, I pur­posely bought a .177 for two rea­sons; one, I hap­pen to like this cal­i­bre a lot, and two, I wanted to see how it shot com­pared to the other mod­els I have had in .22.

GEN­ER­OUSLY PRO­POR­TIONED

The TX has never been known as a light­weight – a scoped weight of around 9.5lb de­pend­ing on your choice of op­tic means that for some it can be a bit of a hand­ful, but if you can han­dle the heft, you can reap the ben­e­fits of a full-power spring gun, shoot­ing in .177 cal­i­bre. The rea­son for this seems due, in no small part, to the over­all weight of the gun which helps to negate the dis­place­ment of the ri­fle on fir­ing. The in­trin­sic weight also helps to sta­bilise on aim, damp­ing down those wob­bles that we all ex­pe­ri­ence.

The .177 guns have a longer and hence heav­ier pis­ton weight/top-hat, which also adds some ex­tra pre-load to the spring, so the power matches that of the .22.

Cou­ple these fea­tures with a com­puter de­signed (CD) trig­ger to re­alise each shot with unerring pre­ci­sion, and you have a recipe for suc­cess that few ri­fles can ri­val.

My own find­ings bear wit­ness to the fact that this ri­fle run­ning at 11.3 ft.lbs., or near­est of­fer, is as ac­cu­rate as the .22 ver­sion, with no more ef­fort re­quired by the pi­lot to keep those groups as small as pos­si­ble.

DAILY SHOOTER

So, Is a TX a mat­ter of style over sub­stance? Will I need a bank loan to main­tain it? The an­swer to those ques­tions are: no, and no, in that or­der. The TX is an ex­tremely wellengi­neered gun, and con­versely, is one of the eas­i­est guns to strip and main­tain. Spare parts are freely avail­able through on-line re­tail­ers, such as Cham­bers Gun Spares, or Ju­lian Bond Guns, and they are are fairly priced. Other than rou­tine ser­vices your TX should want for noth­ing else, there re­ally seems to be no in­her­ent weak spots in these guns.

In next month’s is­sue, you will see a rou­tine ser­vice and I will be show­ing you all those finely en­gi­neered parts laid bare. I just can’t wait to show you!

Field or range, the TX is the right ri­fle for so many rea­sons.

De­spite a very ef­fec­tive anti-bear trap de­vice, it’s wise to keep a grip on the underlever.

Once cocked, this but­ton needs to be depressed be­fore re­turn­ing the underlever.

The CD trig­ger is right up there with the best of them. The Rowan tar­get-style blade takes it an­other step to­ward per­fec­tion.

Hard to be­lieve, but the TX can trace its an­ces­try to the orig­i­nal Sus­sex ar­moury, Jackal.

Stocks avail­able in beech or the de­li­cious wal­nut shown here.

Some­thing fishy? Fish scale style chec­quer­ing gives a good pos­i­tive grip.

A fore­arm sup­port is a use­ful steady­ing aid for a heavy gun in the field.

Cen­tral trans­fer port on the TX com­pared to the off-set type of the HW77.

A con­ven­tional pis­ton rod com­pared to the TX, this de­sign means that it en­gages with the trig­ger sear in any po­si­tion.

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