This review by Len McDougall appears in American Frontiersman magazine’s Small-Cal. Survival section.
More than three decades ago I stepped down from a Trailways bus in Traverse City, Michigan, a walking cast on my broken left foot, and all my worldly possessions in a canvas duffel. In my pocket was a grant to attend Northwestern Michigan College. But classes would not begin for another two weeks. I had no job yet, and $450 was all the cash I had in the world.
I rented a windowless room at a seedy hotel with a shared bathroom and assessed my situation. Restaurant meals were not an option; anything more than beans was beyond my budget. But the hotel had a kitchen available to boarders.
After buying a few necessities, my grubstake had dwindled alarmingly. But I spent $50 on a recently introduced Crosman 1377 American Classic air pistol in .177 (4.5mm) caliber. Loaded with standard 7.9-grain lead pellets, the big pneumatic handgun boasted 510 fps from its rifled steel barrel with the maximum 10 pumps. Its simple rear sight was adjustable for windage and elevation, and it had the power to completely embed a lead pellet into a pine 2×4.
It wasn’t a frivolous purchase. In compli- ance with state game laws, I set my sights on the flocks of Rock Doves—pigeons in American parlanc—-that inhabited abandoned buildings around the small city. Probably most urban residents wrinkle their noses at the prospect of dining on pigeons, but squab is actually delicious. Besides, I needed meat in my diet, and meat-hunting was a skill I’d employed since childhood. So long as I restricted my activities to inside abandoned structures like the old Iron Works, no one cared to notice.
The air gun was quiet while delivering sufficient power and accuracy to take small game at more than 20 yards. Backpacks were a common sight in this college town, and nobody could tell if mine was weighted with books or a plastic bag filled with cleaned pigeon carcasses. With a couple of potatoes and a cup of flour to make gravy, I had a filling, nutritious supper. I ate a lot of pigeons for the first couple of months, and even fed a few people who were worse off than I was.
Fast forward three decades, and my story becomes part of Crosman’s legacy. I recently evaluated the company’s new Bug Out Kit, and I genuinely wish that it had been available in 1982. The Bug Out Kit centers around a Backpacker Model 1322 .22-caliber variable-power pneumatic carbine with a quick-detach molded shoulder stock, and it denotes real-world savvy that might be surprising from the company that probably made your first BB gun.
One of the most notable improvements over that old pigeon-shooter is its very smooth trigger pull. Pull on our sample averaged just over 3 pounds, with a mere .125-inch of travel before a crisp let-off that’s reminiscent of a target gun. The trigger face is rounded and pretty standard, but the trigger pull is remarkable.
A 12-inch rifled steel barrel with adjustable rear Patridge-type target sight and high profile front blade enable accuracy to make the requisite head shots on squirrel-size game to at least 20 yards. Trajectories with the sights adjusted for 12 yards were almost identical out to that range, whether charged with 5 pumps or 10, with no sight adjustment.
Accuracy with iron sights was more than adequate, even in the hands of an old woodsman who recently had to grudgingly admit the need for bifocals. Three- shot groups with 5 to 10 pumps
at 12 to 20 yards averaged 1 to 1.5 inches. The rear sight is screwdriver-adjustable for wind- age and elevation in the field, and a micrometer-style hash-mark scale makes movements precise, as well as visually verifiable.
If you want to tighten those groups even further, a pair of standard 3/8-inch dovetail-type scope mounts attaches to the barrel with a single Allen-head screw. The identical mounts are simple to attach and help to stiffen the barrel for improved inherent accuracy. Price for the pair is $10.59.
Penetration tests confirmed that the Crosman carbine has sufficient power to be a serious small-game hunting weapon. Ten consecutive shots pierced a steel can at 12 yards. That wasn’t too surprising with 10 pumps, but even 5 pumps were adequate to consistently hole the can. With 10 pumps fired into a pine 2×4, penetration was .300-inch—enough to reach the vital organs of most small game.
A carry weight of 2 pounds 15 ounces makes the Backpacker carbine easy to carry all day, but a simple loop of clothesline tied through the skeleton stock suffices as an impromptu sling that allows the gun to hang ready from one shoulder.
The Crosman Doomsday Bug Out Kit gets rounded out with the following: a 1-liter polyethylene water bottle with poppet spout, a zippered quart-size first-aid kit filled with assorted Curad bandages and alcohol wipes, a 175-count can of pointed 5.5mm (.22 cal.) lead pellets and a package of small-game targets.
All of these—including the taken-down carbine—fit into a nicely constructed daypack of black Cordura fabric with Crosman’s logo printed in white across its back. Add a knife, a compass and map along with a fire starter, and Crosman’s Bug Out Kit becomes a full-blown survival outfit, functional for coping with scenarios that range from a natural disaster in a major city to being stuck in the woods on a moonless night.