Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend – Part I

Monday, July 15, 2013

Just recently I heard from a spokesman at Crosman Corporation that, after nearly 70 years, the Sheridan air rifle has been discontinued. Crosman will, however, continue to make .20 caliber pellets.

The Sheridan enjoys a long and glorious history that stretches back to the 1940s.

Note: for a lot of what follows, I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Ted Osborn who was a beady-eyed, totally-committed, non-in-the-twelve-step-program Sheridan fanatic. Ted conducted hundreds of hours of research and interviews into the history of Sheridan and in 2004 was extraordinarily generous of his time in helping me prepare an article about the Sheridan for The Accurate Rifle magazine. Sadly, Ted passed away at home on February 16, 2011. I still miss our phone calls, his hearty baritone, and his ready laugh. He once drove from Ithaca, NY, to my house to allow me to shoot all three grades of classic Sheridans.

In 1943 Ed Wackerhagen and his friend Bob Kraus thought they could build a better airgun, so they set about designing and building one. By mid-1944, they had completed a prototype. On June 20, at 9:30 am, the two men pumped and loaded their creation and launched a pellet at a block of wood a few feet away. The pellet buried itself in the wood, and it was time for celebration: their gun worked! The block of wood was dated and signed and tucked into Kraus’ pocket.

By 1947, advertisements appeared in the magazines of the day, offering the Sheridan pneumatic air rifle (known as the Model A Super Grade) for sale for the princely sum of $56.50. That was a lot of money for an air rifle back then. For the same price, you could purchase a Winchester model 94 30-30. But never mind, an American classic, manufactured in Racine, Wisconsin, had been born, a classic that endures to this day.

The very first Sheridan, the Model A Super Grade. Only 2130 were produced.

The very first Sheridan, the Model A Super Grade. Only 2130 were produced.

The Sheridan Super Grade was a .20 caliber (all Sheridans were .20 caliber.) multi-stroke pneumatic air rifle. It had a large cast and machined aluminum receiver, bronze barrel and pump tube, walnut stock with Monte Carlo cheek-piece, ball-type valve mechanism, adjustable trigger and peep sight. It weighed 5 pounds 14 ounces, stretched 37 inches overall, with a 20-inch barrel with one turn in 12 inches.

About 800 Super Grades were produced that first year. Over the six few years, total production would amount to 2130 units. Today, a Sheridan Super Grade is among the most sought-after collectable airguns, and you might pay as much as 10 times the original price for one.

In the April 1947, in American Rifleman magazine, Major General Julian S. Hatcher reviewed the Sheridan and said, “The accuracy of this gun is superb . . . Here is a gun which is capable of real target shooting, is deadly on small pests, and is a real pleasure to shoot. It is a quality job all the way through.” He reported velocity of 400 fps with just two pumps and 770 fps with 12 pumps (which is not recommended).

The Model B Sporter Sheridan. Only 1051 were produced over 3 years.

The Model B Sporter Sheridan. Only 1051 were produced over 3 years.

In 1948, the company introduced the Model B Sporter, a lower priced gun that sold for about $35. It had various changes, including no cheek-piece and a painted finish, to keep costs down. During the three years that this model was produced, only 1051 were built, making the Model B highly sought by collectors.

The Sheridan Silver Streak. Over half a million Streaks were produced in various forms.

The Sheridan Silver Streak. Over half a million Streaks were produced in various forms.

The Model C first reached the public in 1949 and has been in continuous production until now. The Silver Streak was introduced first. It had a nickel finish that was beautifully polished, a walnut Manlicher stock, and a hold-down safety. It cost $19.95. The Blue Streak, with a black oxided finish, was introduced a few years later. Various versions of the Streaks would be produced over the years: the hold-down safety, the rocker safety, and the modern push-pull safety. No one knows exactly how many Streaks have been produced in total, but it is over half a million.

In 1977, the Benjamin company, which also manufactured air rifles, acquired Sheridan after Ed Wackerhagen’s death. Benjamin management ran the Sheridan from afar until 1982, when Benjamin closed its plant in St. Louis and merged the two businesses in a new plant on Chicory Road in Racine.

Along the way, Ray Katt had bought Benjamin-Sheridan from the Spack family, and he now began homogenizing the two air rifle lines. The pistols were first: they became Benjamin-Sheridan pistols. Next, the two pump-up rifle lines began moving toward each other until there were only minor cosmetic differences separating the two.

In 1992, the operation was purchased by Crosman Corporation. About a year-and-a-half later, the Racine plant was closed and production was moved to East Bloomfield, NY. Now the guns were identical except for caliber.

To be continued in Part II.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

26 Comments

  1. Allen Avram says:

    The Sheridan air rifles are an American Icon, I hate to see them not being built…Just wondering if Crosman will sell the rights to manufacture them being that we make the Extreme Hunter Big Bore air rifles in USA…I would love to keep this legacy going…Kind regards, Allen Avram, President

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Allen,

      I have no idea if Crosman would consider licensing the manufacture of Sheridans. Contact the good folks at http://www.crosman.com

  2. Robert from Arcade says:

    I think if someone were to make the Sheridan more like the it was cosmeticaly as it was before Crosman got hold of it, it might still sell. For me, the fact that it looked like a 392 didn’t do it for me. I do have a 1959 hold down and a 1985 rocker blue streaks . Mr.Avram, I wonder if you were to indroduce a .25 cal version as well as the original .20 of the Sheridan if that would help revive the brand? A .25 doing about 600-700 fps in a MSP would be a good 15-35 yard small game getter. I know my BSA Supersport that tosses H&N FTT at 605fps is.

  3. Jesus Bustos says:

    I actually got the c9a series, I traded it for a weight lifting bench with my uncle, at first its was inaccurate cause it was collecting dust in his garage, he told me he bought it in the early 90s, so I cleaned it up, put a scope, and man oh man do those birds drop, haven’t tried rabbits yet, im 22 right now so if my uncle bought it in 1992 means its 21 years old, wow I feel lucky 😀

  4. Robb Kaminskis says:

    I grew up a block east of the plant in the late 60’s Ed, Bob would sell the neighbor hood kids a blue or silver streak air rifle for $20 with our parents present. They would give us one can of pellets a week at no charge. It was a sad day when they went to the yellow box. We would use that box every week, and when the guns needed to be tuned up with seals and such they did it for us at no cost. Needless to say the whole neighborhood watched out for the shop. They were great men, they are sadly missed.

    1. Chris says:

      That is an amazing story. I’d love to hear more….

  5. Bob Nicholson says:

    I grew up hunting with my dad and I bought my “silver streak in the “70s” Not sure of exact year. I still have it, its a bit scratched and worn but still in great shape.
    I rarely shot it, I sent it off and got it refurbished last year for $100.00. Worth every penny. My grade kids will have a ball with it.

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Bob,

      They are lovely air rifles. Thanks for your comments.

    2. James Meyer says:

      Mr. nicholson, I have a blue streak. one of the people I worked for gave me; about 15 years ago. it just recently crapped out on me. do you mind me asking where you got yours fixed? I love this rifle. so accurate and powerful. It easily took crows out at 25 yrds. A true masterpiece.
      thank you for your time. James.

  6. Jack Casanova says:

    I have model A Sheridan that I would like to sell.
    It holds no air pressure. It is all original. The
    blueing has worn off most of the barrel upper half.
    Cosmetically it is very good.

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Jack,

      One of the places you might possibly try to sell your rifle is here: http://www.network54.com/Forum/79574/

    2. Kenneth says:

      I would be interested in your sheridan. I have an 80’s model. Recently the air chamber separated from the barrel.

    3. robert miller says:

      do you still have your Sheridan model A??
      (I just saw your notice.) If so, what is the price? thanks, Bob

  7. Rick Moon says:

    I have a silver streak con that needs to be resealed where do I get this done at?

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Rick,

      I suggest that you ask here: http://www.network54.com/Forum/275684/

  8. Dan Mussen says:

    About 1980 my brother shot a woodchuck in the head from a perch with his Sheridan Silver Streak which was a deadly shot. I finished it off with a 10 pump shot to the body with my Benjamin model 347. I still have my Benjamin, however my brother sold the Silver Streak a few years after buying it.

  9. brian says:

    Hi I just got an old Sheridan air rifle from my grandfather, no serial # on it, it has a thumb switch bolt is straight and nickel plated any info on this type of gun year of it maybe, thank u

  10. jerry young says:

    I have a Daisy model 800 pellet rifle that was made for Winchester. It has a Winchester scope on it. I am wondering if it is worth wasting time to fix it so I could hit something consistently with it? I have used a bench rest and sighted it in numerous times, but it keeps throwing the pellets all over the paper. Thanks

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Jerry,

      Have you tried a variety of different pellets with it? Often the right pellet can make all the difference.

      1. jerry young says:

        No, I haven’t as yet. I have been using the pellets Daisy recommended, the Precision series. Any recommendations on pellets? Thanks Jerry

      2. Jock Elliott says:

        Jerry,

        I would suggest Crosman Premiers and JSBs in the appropriate caliber, but you may have to try several different types of pellets before you find the one that delivers the best accuracy.

  11. Marty Reiser says:

    I still shoot my first air rifle, it’s a sheridan blue streak with the hold down thumb safty. The pump arm is the same size as the stock. Last summer I found its mate at the Rutledge Flea Market. It was a silver streak with the hold down safty for $35.00. It wouldn’t pump up but was real straight and almost no wear. I put a kit in it and it shoots real hard. I hope to get lucky and find another one this year. Ha Ha!

  12. Doug Carneal says:

    I still own my Silver Streak with the hold down safety I got in the early 1950″s. I haven’t shot it in years, but it still pumps up. It has splinters of wood out of the pump arm where I caught my shirt while pumping and like a kid, just pulled it out and chipped the wood. I would like to know if there are still kits available.

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Doug,

      I’m not sure. Try searching for Sheridan airgun repair on the internet.

  13. Ed Steffen says:

    Hi Jock,
    The internet is amazing.. I just stumbled across your article ” Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend”. It was delightful! I have a Blue Streak made pre 1972, probably mid to late 60’s, and I was looking to replace the broken old Tasco scope on it. It has a rear peep site and the “Sheridan Products Inc., Racine, Wis,” mount on the barrel. I also saw an article from Ted’s Holdover about how he put a Hawke Airmax 3-9x on the gun. Can you tell me what kind of rings will fit on that mount? My rough estimate of the dovetail width is about 11-12 mm. Thank You! Ed

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Ed,

      Sorry, I don’t know what rings will fit on that mount.

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