F TX200 ON THE BENCH
Fancy an air rifle that behaves like a tuned gun ‘from the box’? Pete Evans might have the solution
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.