Since 1982 Air Arms had evolved their side-lever rifles from the early noisy and un-refined models inherited from the Sussex Armoury to the smooth operating, reliable and attractive later models such as the Camargue & the Khamsin.
Air Arms had developed as a company and they wanted to increase their share of the spring rifle market but the side-levers still struggled to compete against the much preferred under-lever rifles offered by other manufacturers, in particular the HW77 from Weihrauch.
In November 1990, Air Arms general manager Bill Sander met with renowned airgun designer Ken Turner. Ken had acted as a consultant on other projects and over the years had produced many one-off spring rifles. He was considered a genius by many and recognising this Bill offered him his first project for a full production rifle.
Bill wanted a rifle with world-wide appeal that could perform like a tuned rifle straight from the box. He wanted it to be versatile – capable of shooting between 6fpe and 16fpe in all popular calibres.
Being a big fan of the HW77 Ken had already produced a number of one-off rifles with the same, or very similar, under-lever method of operation. The new rifle for Air Arms was therefore to be an under-lever and to this Ken added successful features that had been used on previous projects.
Whilst Ken worked on the action, stock designer extraordinaire Nick Jenkinson was hard at work designing the stock. Air Arms wanted a sporter style stock that would have world-wide appeal whilst also offering the stability demanded by field target shooters. Nick was to take inspiration from the ground breaking “Mastersport” stocks being produced by innovative stock maker John Welham.
By mid 1991 prototypes were being tested and final tweaks being made before the formal launch of the TX200 in November 1991.
In an advert in Airgun World in January 1992 Air Arms introduced the TX200:
“Air Arms, in conjunction with master Airgunsmith Ken Turner, have developed a brand new rifle. Targeted towards the serious air rifle user it is both powerful and accurate and combines the best features of contemporary under lever air rifles in one package. We are confident that the TX200 will outperform in every department all other quality under-lever air rifles and this has been borne out by exhaustive tests which we have carried out.”
Their confidence was not unfounded with rave reviews from the press and strong sales to both hunters and target shooters alike. The rifles instantly started racking up field target victories and in 1993 it took 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in the UK Spring Gun Championship.
Mk1 (Walnut stock)
Before its release it was reported that the TX200 was to have an anti-bear trap device but initial versions did not have this. Around 18 months after its launch, early 1993, an anti-bear trap device was added to the rifle in its Mk2 version. This was the only significant change made for the Mk2.
Mk2 (Beech stock)
The TX200 remained pretty much unchanged for the next 5 years although towards the end of its production a carbine, shrouded version of the Mk2 TX200 was seen which after further development went on to be marketed as the TX200HC. The next reincarnation of the TX200 came in 1998 with the Mk3.
Mk3 (Beech stock)
The Mk3 saw some significant changes to the power plant as the stroke was increased from 82mm to 96mm. With the stroke on rthe FAC version also increasing to 96mm from it's previous 91mm bothversions now shared a common piston, with the former being “tuned down” by use of a softer spring. The result was that the sub 12fpe version was now easier to cock and gave less recoil. The downside was that the firing cycle was not as quick, which lead to a slight increase in hold sensitivity.
The Mk3 anti-bear trap now had 3 unevenly spaced notches that could all be seen on the visible area of the sliding breech – the Mk2 had 3 visible evenly spaced notches and a further 7 that could not be seen. The final significant change to the Mk3 was that the barrel was now shorter and enclosed in a shroud that had a built in baffled silencer. With this came a re-design of the under-lever catch.
Over the years there have been a number of minor changes to the TX200 Mk3 action and stock but overall there has been no significant change to the rifle that is a firm favourite with hunters and has continued to amass many major target shooting prizes for its class.
The TX200 has now been with us for over 25 years and I expect with its quality build, good looks, reliability and accuracy it will be around for many years to come.
Weight: 9lb (Varies slightly with model & wood choice)
Barrel Length: Mk1 & 2 – 14.75in. Mk3 – 13in
Calibre: .177 & .22
The TX rifles share a common spring piston power plant, trigger unit and stock although all have had some minor refinements, especially during the current Mk3 incarnation.
A solid steel piston, with a bore of 25mm runs inside a polished compression tube. With a pair of delrin bearings being present at each end the piston is radially floating, meaning there is no metal to metal contact and it can rotate during travel. The system eliminates the torque on fixed piston rifles that leads to twist being experienced when firing, providing greater spring efficiency and smoother operation. A concentrically designed breech/transfer port ensures air efficiency. Adding to the efficiency of the rifle is the concentrically designed breech/transfer port which ensures a smooth flow for air on firing.
Mk1 Advert From 1992
The sub 12fpe Mk1 and 2 had a 82mm stroke and the hi-power versions 91mm. The Mk3 saw a stroke of 96mm for both versions, with a softer spring bringing the power on the sub 12fpe version within the UK limit.
The high power linkage in the Mk3 resulted in the arc of the cocking stroke increasing from 115 degrees to 135 degrees. With this increase and the softer spring the cocking effort was reduced from around 35lb to 25lb.
All the TX rifles benefit from a 12 groove precision choked Walther barrel, with the one on the Mk3 being considerably shorter than the barrels used on the Mk1 & 2.
The muzzle end assemble on the Mk1 & Mk2 is a one piece assemble with a built in silencer and the under-lever catch below. The catch uses a simple sprung ball mechanism with a synthetic stop to prevent over-travel. The Mk3 barrel has a 16” shroud with a built in baffled silencer. The redesigned under-lever catch is attached to the shroud.
Mk2 Advert From 1993
The ratcheting anti-beartrap mechanism was introduced on the Mk2 TX200 and was referred to as the “Safelok”. There are 10 notches cut along the piston shroud, 3 evenly spaced ones can be seen with the other 7 being hidden further back and out of sight. The small black lock on the side of the action would engage these as the rifles was cocked. After cocking the lock must be depressed before the breech can close as the under-lever returns.
Holding the lock down during cocking will stop the mechanism operating and therefore reduce the noise, which can be useful in hunting situations. This is not ideal of course so to reduce the noise caused by the system when cocking the notches on the Mk3 were reduced to 3 unevenly spaced ones, all visible.
Mk3 Advert From 1998
A new trigger unit was developed for the TX in the form of the C.D. unit – the C.D. being an abbreviation of “Computer Developed”. This is a multi adjustable 2 stage match trigger with sears machined from solid steel and a chasis screwed together rather being formed from folded steel. At the end of the cocking stroke the top sear automatically locks and the safety catch is set.
The sporter style stock, available in beech or walnut, features:
A rollover cheek-piece with a high comb to aid scope/eye alignment
Raked pistol grip
Chequering – initially to the pistol grip and then later to the fore-end as well (The fish scale chequering on current models was introduced around 2006)
Black rubber ventilated butt pad
I have tried to be as accurate as possible but please excuse any inaccuracies and bear in mind this wording I found in an old Air Arms advert:
“In pursuance of our policy of continuous development we reserve the right to change specification without prior notice”
One-off TX200 for the World Field Target Championship 2019
TX200 Servicing Article - Airgun World April 1998