China has been turning out some very nice air guns lately, and as in many other industries, what they’re doing is shamelessly cloning Western guns. Their version of the Feinwerkbau 65 pistol is hard to tell from the original, and their clone of the 300 rifle is pretty spot-on, too. I myself will admit to owning a Chinese-made QB78 CO2 rifle, a copy of the classic (but no longer made) Crosman 160, a hard-hitting and well made gun available in .177 or .22.
Lately we’ve been seeing some nice looking PCP rifles from China as well- mostly copies of British designs. But what I thought I’d write about today is the first Chinese air rifle that most of us saw, a spring gun designed for military training and known as the TS-45.
The TS-45 was not a pretty gun. With crudely finished metal surfaces and a stock made of some mystery softwood and heavily finshed in yellow-orange shellac, it looked like it had been hammered together by some apprentice backwoods still maker. The trigger was heavy, and the piston seal was leather. But it had two things going for it: It was cheap (under $40), and it was fairly powerful. It also came with an attractive little multicolored booklet suggesting that it was good for (and I’m paraphrasing) target practice and shooting rats.
Mechanically, the gun seemed in part based on the HW77 or TX-200- it had the ratchet cocking lever of the TX-200. That was about where the similarity ended, though. Tolerance were loose, the trigger was a heavy, single-lever job, and it shot rough. That didn’t discourage hobbyists; rather, it inspired a lot of them to tear it apart and rebuild it.
A lot of amateur woodworkers made custom stocks for the TS-45, and some of the more ambitious tore it apart and honed the cylinder and sear. Some replaced the spring, and a few ambitious types machined the piston to take a synthetic seal. With a few dozen hours of woodwork, metalwork, bluing and so forth you could get an attractive gun that didn’t shoot too badly and wasn’t as inaccurate as it was before. Whether it was worth the labor was another matter. I don’t think anyone did it for the money- doing a proper job required, among other things, a good lathe- not a trivial investment.
No one really did it for the money, though; they did it for the fun. That’s what a TS-45 was good for in the end: A disposable gun you could practice on instead of goobering up that nice $150 rifle you bought from Beeman.