Apache Airguns – Part 2: The Apache Air Rifle (1947-1949) by the National Cart Corporation

Part 1 of this series about the Apache airguns discussed the National Cart Corporation and the Apache Fireball air pistol. But the air pistol was not the first airgun that the company produced. Initially, Fogel, Vice President of Design and Production, designed an air rifle that became known as the Apache. Fogel didn’t just pluck his rifle design from the air. He studied current designs by the established and successful airgun manufacturers Crosman and Benjamin. Fogel may have also gained inspiration from a multi-purpose pump up air rifle that had been described in the June 1946 edition of Popular Mechanics. Interestingly, this rifle was designed by Mike Nagy and Tom Willoughby who, just like Fogel, were also aeronautical engineers. [1][2]

The Nagy / Willoughby air rifle. [2]

Mike and Tom’s air rifle used barrel sleeves of various calibres enabling it to fire various types of ammunition such as BB shot, steel balls up to 5/16″, frog spears and arrows. Yes, that’s right, Crosman’s recent “airbow” is not the first air rifle designed to use arrows! Unfortunately, it appears that their multi-purpose air rifle design wasn’t purchased by a manufacturer and thus never made it into production. [2]

Once Fogel had settled on his design and finalised the prototypes, he set about adapting the machines that produced the National Cart Corporation’s golf carts to manufacture the Apache air rifle. In the spring of 1947 production of the Apache air rifle began in earnest. [1]

Dual calibre Apache air rifle advertisement. [3]

Charles Burhans, the President of National Cart Corporation and a successful campaign manager, launched an aggressive advertising campaign that spanned 26 magazines. It was a huge success. In fact, it was so successful that they were initially unable to keep up with demand. To satisfy the ever-increasing order book, the company employed a further one hundred employees and established a production line. At the height of production, they were making up to 600 rifles a week! [1]

The advertisements showed that the rifle would include a compartment in the stock to keep a tube of “Mi-Shot” Apache ammunition. This was the early plastic stock variant and at least one such example still exists. Notice that the advertisement also contained an apology regarding the backlog of orders citing the availability of raw materials as the cause. [3]

Apache air rifle advertisement with ammunition compartment in the shoulder stock. [3]

For the first year, the rifle was manufactured with a plastic shoulder and forestock. Unfortunately, many of the plastic stocks ended up warped or cracked due to the brittle nature of the plastics from that period. Should any of these have survived they should be considered very rare. From March 1948, the stocks were manufactured from walnut by a local business that also made wooden aircraft propellers. By all accounts, it isn’t unusual to find Apache rifles assembled from any and all parts that were available in the factory at the time. Some might have plastic stocks, others wood and some may have both wood and plastic shoulder or forestocks. [1][4]

There also appears to have been two methods of attaching the shoulder stock to the rifle. The most common method was to use a long bolt which is accessed from behind the stock plate. The other and least seen method was to use a bolt passing up through the bottom of the pistol grip. [4]

Stripped Apache air rifle.

The steel rifled barrel and steel pump tube were blued in contrast to the chemically blackened rifled brass barrel and pump tube of the Apache pistols. The frame was made from die-cast zinc alloy and painted black. Some chrome models have been seen but it is not known if this was a factory or aftermarket finish. No markings or serial numbers were applied to any of the National Cart Corp produced Apache air rifles. [1][4]

The first version of the rifle retailed at $24.95. It was single-shot only with a .25 calibre loading port at the top of the frame. It had an adjustable rear sight and the safety was built into the hammer. The second model introduced a side-mounted magazine that could only accept .25 calibre balls and the loading port on the top of the frame was removed. Both the single and repeater models were also available with a .175 calibre brass smoothbore barrel inset which would be attached via a thread on the muzzle of the .25 calibre barrel. Not all rifles were available with the barrel insert as some do not have the thread cut into the muzzle of the .25 calibre barrel. Early versions of the dual calibre single shot rifles had to be muzzle-loaded whereas later versions were fitted with a .175 calibre hole on the top of the receiver to allow breech-loading. It appears that all dual calibre repeater versions could be breech loaded with .175 calibre ammunition. [1][4]

Single-shot Apache air rifle with bolt action probe and loading port on top of the receiver. [5]

The single-shot model also differs from the repeater in that it has a lever bolt-action loading probe whereas the repeater models just had a pull knob. The bolt handles were known to be fragile and many examples have either broken handles or are missing them altogether. Perhaps this flaw was noted by Fogel and would explain why later models had a simpler push/pull knob at the back of the bolt. [4][5]

Despite manufacturing an estimated 75,000 rifles in as little as two years, the reliability of the valve coupled with the lifetime warranty offered by the National Cart Corporation was probably the single most reason for the company’s downfall. They were inundated with faulty rifles and pistols which they repaired at no expense to the owner! Perhaps in an attempt to claw back some of their costs, the National Cart Corporation sold the Apache tooling to Standard Interstate Machine Company (SIMCO) of Glendale, California. Whether SIMCO took on the warranty liability as well is not known. By June 1949 SIMCO were producing the Apache air rifles and branded them as the “Texan” as inscribed on the butt plate of SIMCO produced rifles. [1][6]

the beginning of the end

The plastic butt plate of the Apache air rifle.

There was no consistent marking of the SIMCO rifles. Some had “APACHE” inscribed on the pump tube end cap similar to the Apache air pistols. Other SIMCO rifles had SIMCO inscribed in an oval on the front left side of the receiver. Some had both receiver and end cap inscriptions. There are also some SIMCO rifles without any inscriptions at all which can make them difficult to distinguish from National Cart Corporation produced rifles. However, it is said that SIMCO rifles had better finishing than National Cart Corporation rifles. The finish of the wooden stock is also of a higher standard and darker finish. Any pistols produced by SIMCO are marked SIMCO on the end cap. Unfortunately, the SIMCO “Apache” airgun production stopped almost as soon as it started in 1949! However, approximately 4,000 SIMCO rifles were made during that period with only a small fraction labelled as the “Texan”. [6]

Back in 1948, Fogel had also developed a .28 calibre air shotgun. But rather than add it to the Apache line, Burhans decided to set up a separate company called the Challenger Arms Corporation. Perhaps it was an effort to financially separate it from the National Cart Corporation. I will say more about the Challenger Arms Corporation in a future dedicated article! The Challenger Arms air shotgun was put head to head with the Apache air rifle that was now manufactured by SIMCO. Perhaps this was another reason why SIMCO stopped production so quickly. [1]

Despite the sale of the Apache airgun production rights and tooling as well as the rise of the Challenger Arms Corporation, the National Cart Corporation still had problems. By the middle of 1950, Charles Burhan simply “disappeared”. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any further information about Burhan to suggest what may have actually happened. Fogel and Schimel, the third partner, were forced into bankruptcy and the National Cart Corporation closed its doors. Fogel had submitted Apache related patent designs for approval but they were still in the pending stage. They were sold as business assets but it would appear they were either rejected or whoever purchased them failed to complete the process with the US patent office. [1][5]


Before the National Cart Corporation closed its doors, Fogel had also developed a second rifle prototype that was based on the Apache pistol frame. The intention was to construct both the pistol and rifle from the same parts in order to reduce costs. It had a longer barrel and pump tube but retained the pistol frame and grip. Strangely, the trigger was moved from its normal position to the lower section of the grip frame. The lower section of the grip frame became the trigger guard and would have protruded through the rifle’s stock. Unfortunately, it never progressed into production due to the bankruptcy of the company. [1]

Fogel returned to work as an aeronautical engineer with the Flying Tiger Line (Flying Tigers), the first scheduled cargo airline in the United States. However, Schimel wasn’t deterred by the failure of their airgun venture. He went on to produce the Schimel Gas Pistol, a remarkable Luger P08 replica and probably still the best Luger replica ever made. Sadly, five years after the demise of their business, Fogel destroyed the original Apache drawings. [1][7]

Apache air rifle hammer knob, bolt probe, magazine and rear sight.

The Apache air rifle operates in exactly the same manner as the Apache air pistol. After all, the pistol was conceived from the rifle in the first place. The hammer is first pulled back to the first click to engage the safety. Then the rifle is charged using the under-lever pump six to ten times. The bolt is withdrawn and either a lead ball is loaded into the hole at the top of the receiver or a ball is fed in via the magazine to the chamber. The bolt is pushed forwards to load the ball into the barrel and close the breech. The hammer is pulled back all the way and the rifle is ready to fire!

at the range

I was very surprised using this rifle at the range. It was consistently hitting targets out to at least 25 yards! Not bad for a 68-year-old pump up! Certainly not bad for a .24 calibre either! This particular rifle has been limited for UK use. Six pumps gave a maximum power of 11.41 ft/lbs or 484.29 fps. Further pumps cause a dramatic drop in power due to valve lock. I have read that the rifle is capable of up to 28 fpe which quite frankly is amazing if true but not as amazing as the muscles you would need! Six pumps are hard enough as it is! [1]

The Apache air rifle.

So, there it is, the rise and fall of the Apache airgun. What was said to be a multi-million-dollar golf cart business very rapidly became bankrupt. If only they had the materials that we are accustomed to today, the leaking valve may never have been a problem. Who knows what marvellous airguns they could have produced! Such a pity as this rifle is such a pleasure to shoot!

Until next time, happy shooting!

Jimmie Dee


  1. The Apache – An American Native, Pneumatic Reflections by Larry Hannusch
  2. Popular Mechanics, June 1946, Pg 150-152, 260
  3. Apache Airguns, Trev’s Airgun Scrapbook
  4. Apache (aka FIRE-BALL) Apache Configuration, Blue Book of Gun Values
  5. Apache Fireball – 1949 Vintage Air Rifle Refurbishment, imgur
  6. Apache (aka FIRE-BALL) Apache Background, Blue Book of Gun Values
  7. Flying Tiger Line, Wikipedia – English Edition

4 thoughts on “Apache Airguns – Part 2: The Apache Air Rifle (1947-1949) by the National Cart Corporation

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  1. Read your article about the apache fireball texan. In it you mention that no known examples of the plastic buttstock version with the ammo storage compartment exist. I have one and wanted to know if you had any idea what it could be worth in working condition. Thanks.

  2. Hello Alex! Thanks for getting in touch. I would very much like to see some photos of your Apache Texan air rifle. At the top of the website, in the header, is a row of social media icons. The second from the left is for email. If you click on it, your email application should open with my email address already filled out.

    Many thanks,

  3. I have an apache rifle with an insert barrel. The entire rifle is in excellent condition, the only part that doesn’t function any more is the pump.I live in Texas and I have not seen one gunsmith that can fixed. I was told by several gunsmiths that the gun it’s worth around $600 the way it is. Do you know of any collector who may want to buy it. Or someone that could fix it

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