Classic replica air pistol review: The Crosman Model 600 and Model 677 Plink-O-Matic

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You may be wondering what a review of the .22” pellet shooting Crosman Model 600 and its little brother, the BB shooting Model 677 Plink-O-Matic, is doing here on the World of Replica Air Pistols?  After all, this site is generally focused on replica air pistols and neither of these Crosman air guns are replicas of a firearm.  However, many people believe that these are simply the finest air pistols ever made.  Some people even believe that, if either were re-introduced now, they would still find a ready market.  These are big claims, so I thought it was probably time to take a look at the Crosman 600/677.  Can they really be as good as all that?

Development

Somewhere around 1955, Crosman set its design engineers a simple but challenging brief: Produce a semi-automatic, auto loading, auto cocking air pistol capable of very rapid fire and which used CO2 as a power source.  The use of CO2 wasn’t an issue – Crosman began producing rifles which used military 4oz CO2 bottles back in the 1940s and in 1950 had introduced the Model 111 and 112 pistols which used 10oz CO2 bottles.  However the breakthrough in using CO2 came when a Crosman employee came up with the idea of a larger version of the 8g Sparklet CO2 cartridge which was used in soft drinks machines.  Crosman produced the 12g Powerlet CO2 cartridge which has become the standard power source for air pistols.  The first Crosman pistol to use the new cartridge was the model 150, introduced in 1954 (and which led to the later Model 250 which then evolved to become the current Model 2240).

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Crosman Model 150

Initially, Crosman used 12g CO2 cartidges which were bought-in from outside suppliers.  However, with the increasing use of CO2 in Crosman products, a decision was taken to produce CO2 Powerlets in-house.  Initially these used an odd “bottle cap” end – Crosman Chief Design Engineer Rudy Merz came from a brewing background, and it has been suggested that this was his idea.  However, these early CO2 cartridges proved prone to leaking and were not popular.  The design of the CO2 Powerlets was quickly changed to incorporate a more reliable welded end cap and users came to appreciate the ease and simplicity of using self-contained 12g CO2 cartridges.

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Original Crosman “Bottle Cap” Powerlet

So, it was clear that the new multi-shot pistol would use the proprietary Crosman CO2 Powerlet.  What was less clear was how it would actually work.  Several designs were considered (an early patent application was submitted in 1957) but it wasn’t until a great deal of research and design work by Rudy Merz and his team that a working prototype was produced in 1959.  Like the Model 150, the outer body of the Model 600 prototype was made from cast alloy with internal parts made from brass and steel.  The overall design also looked broadly similar to the Model 150, with the CO2 Powerlet, the main firing valve and the hammer assembly housed in a chamber under the barrel.  However, the loading and cocking mechanism was very different on the new prototype.  At the rear of the barrel, a horizontal magazine held up to 10, .22” pellets.  Some of the CO2 from the firing valve was used to operate a swinging pellet carrier which took a single pellet from this magazine to the breech end of the barrel.  In addition to operating the pellet carrier, CO2 from the firing valve was also used to blow back the internal hammer and re-cock the pistol.  It sounds like a complicated and cumbersome mechanism, but it worked very quickly indeed (the 600 could fire all 10 pellets in less than three seconds!) and with extreme reliability.  This was proved when a test rig was built and three of the pre-production Model 600s were subjected to firing 100,000 rounds without any major failure or malfunction.  High-speed photography was also used to analyse the function of the 600 and to ensure that everything worked as it should.

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Inside the Crosman Assembly Shop, circa 1955

In 1959, after exhaustive testing and refinement, it was decided that the Model 600 was ready for production.  In 1960 it was launched for sale.

Production

Production of the Model 600 began in 1960 and continued to 1970 when it was dropped from the Crosman range.  Even in 1970, there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the Model 600 – it was still a popular, reliable and powerful air pistol.  However, Crosman was going through a period of change (including being sold to British company Bagnor Punta) in 1970, and was making strenuous efforts to rationalize its range and to improve profitability.  It was the profitability issue that finally killed the Model 600.  It simply cost too much to make compared to other pistols in the Crosman range and it was dropped for this reason.  However, it has also been claimed that full details of the manufacturing process used in production of the 600 were known only to Rudy Merz, and by this time he had also left the company, so perhaps this was also a factor in the decision to discontinue the 600?

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The Crosman Shoot-A-Rama, 1960. “Test fire a pellgun here!”  Yes please!

There were three main variations in the Model 600 during its production life.  Changes were mainly focused on CO2 piercing.  On the first models the CO2 piercing pin was incorporated in the end cap, and the CO2 cartridge was inserted with the neck facing outwards (towards the end cap).

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First style (1960 – 1964) end cap with piercing pin in cap

From around 1964, CO2 piercing was incorporated into the firing valve, and CO2 was inserted with the neck facing inwards (away from the end cap).  Up to 1966 the end cap was a plain screw-in type with a hole through which the CO2 cartridge could be seen, but from 1966 – 1970 a button type end cap (similar to the end cap used on the Crosman Mark 1) was used.  However, Crosman service stations were instructed to replace earlier CO2 piercing system with the later versions if a Model 600 was returned for repair.  So, many early 600s may have been retrofitted with one of the later CO2 piercing systems.

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Second style end cap (1964 – 1966) left, later “Button” style end cap (1966 – 1970) right

There were also minor variations in the trigger and manual safety fitted to the Model 600 during its production run, but other than differences in piercing procedure, all models are functionally identical.  The finish on all models is black painted with brown plastic grips.  Early versions have a glossy black finish, later versions have a slightly less shiny blue/grey finish.  Both types of finish seem to be hard wearing and scratch resistant.   There was some degree of variation in markings during the production run of the 600 and some Model 600s were produced without any Crosman markings.  These include versions produced for Sears Roebuck, J.C. Higgins and Montgomery Ward.  However, these are identical to the Crosman 600 in everything but markings.

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You also occasionally see nickel plated 600s.  However, the Model 600 was never produced by Crosman in a nickel finish, and these examples have either been plated by individual owners or by retailers who bought batches of the Model 600 in the 1960s and had them plated to sell as special items.  If it’s done professionally, a nickel plated and polished Model 600 can look very smart indeed.

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Model 677 Plink-O-Matic

In 1961, the Model 677 Plink-O-Matic was introduced.  This was essentially a Model 600 re-designed to shoot up to 15 steel BBs.  Functionally, the Model 677 is identical to the Model 600.  Visually, the only difference is that the Plink-O-Matic was fitted with marbled, grey plastic grips rather than the brown grips used on the Model 600.  Production of the Model 677 ended in 1964.

Design

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The Model 600 is a hefty, all-metal pistol (only the grips are plastic). The main body is cast alloy and most internal and moving parts are made from brass or steel.

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The upper part of the pistol comprises the barrel, the swinging feed arm, the magazine and follower and the adjustable rear sight.  Beneath this is a steel-lined tube containing the CO2 end cap and chamber, the firing valve and the internal hammer and the hammer cocking slide.  The bottom part of the pistol comprises the frame, grips, trigger and, on the left side, the manual safety.

The blowback action of the internal hammer is used to operate the loading arm, moving a pellet from the magazine to the breech of the barrel.  The mechanism used is very simple – the loading arm is mounted on a cam which is made from a piece of twisted, square section steel.  As this cam moves, it causes the loading arm to rotate.  It’s a simple, elegant engineering solution which will last almost indefinitely if everything is kept well lubricated.

Given its complexity and levels of innovation, perhaps the most surprising thing about the design of the Model 600 was that it worked as well as it did.  In marked contrast to, for example, the later Model 451, the 600 proved to be reliable, durable and easy to use from the moment it was launched.  Even now, more fifty years after it was made, a Model 600 can still provide reliable shooting fun if it’s looked after.

Operation

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Before CO2 is loaded, you must ensure that no pellets are left in the gun – in addition to pellets visible in the magazine, there may also be a pellet in the loading arm.   When the pistol is cocked, the loading arm can be swung out to check if it contains a pellet.  When the pistol is known to be unloaded, the knurled CO2 end cap can be removed by unscrewing.  As a safety feature, this tube cap cannot be unscrewed if there is residual CO2 pressure in the cartridge.  The only way to vent all CO2 pressure is to fire the pistol until all CO2 is used.  When the CO2 pressure is exhausted, the end cap can be unscrewed and the used CO2 will fall out.  The manual safety should then be moved up to the Safe position, and the cocking slide cocked and then returned to its forward position.  The new CO2 is then inserted (either end first or neck first, depending on the type of piercing assembly provided).  The end cap is then screwed tight and then released by ⅛” to pierce (on early models – the piercing procedure is slightly different on later versions).  The safety is then moved down to the Fire position and the pistol is fired to confirm that the CO2 has pierced and that there is sufficient CO2 pressure to re-cock the hammer correctly.  With a fresh CO2 in place, pellets can then be loaded.

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To load pellets, the safety should first be engaged.  The magazine follower is then pushed to the rear and locked.  Then up to ten, .22” pellets are fed into the magazine, facing forward.  The follower is then released, taking care that it is not allowed to spring forward against the rear of the row of pellets – this can distort the pellets and cause jams.

With CO2 and pellets in place, the cocking slide is cocked by moving it to the rear and then returned to its forward position.  The safety is moved down to the Fire position and you’re ready to squeeze the light, consistent and precise trigger as quickly as you can, ten times.

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1962 advertising for the 600

And shooting is where the Model 600 excels.  It shoots with a loud bang and there is some felt recoil from the moving internal hammer.  CO2 consumption is reasonable. Depending on the condition of your 600 and temperature you can expect anything from 30 – 40 full power shots from a single CO2. A Model 600 in good condition will shoot at around 300fps and you can expect groups of under 1″ at six yards. The fully adjustable rear sight means that the point of aim and point of impact can be set to coincide at your preferred shooting range.  There really isn’t any more satisfying way of sending large numbers of .22” pellets downrange than a good model 600.

Of course, it isn’t all good news: When the 600 was released, it proved to be very finicky about which pellets fed without jams.  Using pellets of the wrong type and/or shape could (and still can) lead to frequent jams. Generally, owners reported best results with flat, wadcutter type pellets.  Currently, owners report that Crosman High Quality Match pellets, Webley Vermin Pell and RWS Meisterkugeln pellets are all well suited to the 600.  You may have to experiment to find which pellets work for you and this is well worth doing.  Get the pellet selection right and the 600 can perform flawlessly.  Get it wrong and it will jam.  Often.  Well worn Model 600s can also engage an involuntary full auto mode, shooting all ten pellets in a single burp of power.  If this happens to yours, you will probably need professional assistance to put things right.

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The Plink-O-Matic, from the Crosman manual

Just about everything written above also applies to the Plink-O-Matic.  As it fires lighter steel BBs, you can probably expect a little more power – probably closer to the 340fps claimed by Crosman for both models and you should get a few extra shots per C02.  However, given that it has a smoothbore barrel, accuracy on the Plink-O-Matic will be slightly less impressive.  Of course the issues with pellet selection and jamming that affect the 600 don’t apply to the 677 – just fill it up with BBs and blast away.

Buying a Model 600/677

If you want a Model 600 for your collection, there is good news and bad news.  The good news is that the 600 proved to be reliable, robust and long lasting, so there are still lots of working examples around.  The bad news is that people have come to recognize that this air pistol is something special and prices reflect this.

Like most older replica air pistols, the price you will pay will be dependent on the condition of the particular 600 you are looking at and on whether it comes with things like its original box and manual.  In Canada and the US (the principal markets where the 600 and 677 were sold), you can probably expect to pay somewhere from $200 – $250 for a working 600 and more if you find one in pristine condition and/or which has its original box or has unusual markings.  Expect to pay a little more for the slightly rarer Model 677.  Outside the US and Canada, you can expect to pay more.  It’s difficult to be precise, but you are unlikely to pay much less than £300 (around €400) in the UK and Europe for a good, working 600 and a little more for a 677.

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Find one like this and it won’t be cheap, but it will last just about forever if you take care of it

If you do manage to find a 600 or 677, you will be well served for spares and replacement parts.  So many 600s were produced, and so many are still being used today, that a number of companies provide parts (including replacement grips).  There are so many to choose from that I haven’t included links to suppliers here – just Google “Crosman 600 parts” and you should be able to find what you’re looking for.  Although far fewer 677s were produced, most of the working parts on the Plink-O-Matic are interchangeable with the Model 600, so you should also be able to find spares for your BB shooting version.

Conclusion

For many people, the Crosman 600 represents the golden age of airguns.  It’s easy to see why – this pistol is beautifully designed, well made and if properly maintained it should last virtually indefinitely.  It’s also massive fun to shoot. Are there any bad things about the Crosman 600?  Well, it’s an ugly old thing.  It looks to me like a cross between a Buck Rogers ray gun and an early Webley air pistol.  But then, you aren’t looking at it when you’re shooting.  It’s not particularly lefty friendly either – the standard grips are designed for right hand use only, with a pronounced thumb ridge on the left grip (though Crosman did make left-handed grips) and the manual safety and cocking slide are designed for right-handed use.  It’s choosy about pellets too, but these are pretty small complaints on an otherwise pretty wonderful package.  If you want an air pistol abut which you can confidently say “They don’t make them like this any more”, the 600 may be just the thing for you.

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Which rather brings us back to the original question of whether a modern version of the 600 would still sell?  Well, I can guarantee that there would be at least one sale (to me!), and I suspect that lots of other air pistol shooters would also be interested.  However, I have two reservations.  One is price.  One of the reasons the 600 was dropped from the Crosman range was that it was claimed to be uneconomical to produce.  So, a modern version would inevitably be rather expensive, though it’s difficult to see how it could cost much more than people are currently paying for 50 year old examples.  In 1960, Crosman sold the 600 for $19.95, which equates to about $150 today.  However, I doubt it would be possible to produce a new Model 600 for that sort of price.

But I suspect that the biggest potential issue would be quality.  One of the reasons the original succeeded so brilliantly was that production processes were very carefully controlled to ensure reliable operation.  A modern version would have to do this too, and in this world of disposable consumer items, that might be a difficult philosophy for a manufacturer to adopt.  If it was possible to produce a modern version of the 600 that was priced at under $300 and which was able to match the quality of the original, I believe it would find a ready market.

Is the Crosman Model 600 the best air pistol ever made?  I’m not certain that I’d confidently give that title to any individual pistol, but this is certainly up there with the very best.  Original and innovative design combined with high quality production provide a unique, enjoyable and long-lasting shooting experience.  If you have any interest in vintage air pistols, you really do need to try the Model 600.

Related pages

Crosman Model 451

Crosman Wild West revolvers

Crosman 38 revolvers

Home

Classic replica air pistol reviews

Links

Crosman manual and parts diagram for the Model 600

Crosman manual and parts diagram for the Model 677

Another Airgun Blog: Disassembling a Crosman 600, part 1

Another Airgun Blog: Disassembling a Crosman 600, part 2

Another Airgun Blog: Disassembling a Crosman 600, part 3

Another Airgun Blog: Disassembling a Crosman 600, part 4

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