Archive for May 2009

On Friday, May 15, Airguns of Arizona flew me to Phoenix, Arizona, to meet with them and cover the NRA Show there. I will be covering in detail in future blogs what’s new at Airguns of Arizona, so this blog will be a quick blitz of what some of the other airgun organizations were exhibiting at their booths.

First, though I want to mention that Airguns of Arizona is manned by and excellent crew of folks who are business people of course, but also passionate airgunners. They are even nicer than they sound on the phone, and they are great fun to spend time with. Tony Belas, director of Daystate, was also at the AoA booth. I spent a great deal of time with him, and you’ll be hearing more about our conversations in future blogs.

This is virtually the first thing that I saw at the NRA show: Tony Belas (left) and Greg Glover grinning at me. It was a portent of good times to come..

So what else was happening at the show?

John McCaslin, president of AirForce Airguns, was there showing off his air rifles and the complete line of BKL mounts and rails that AirForce will now be manufacturing in the USA.

Mike Ezell, Walther airgunsmith for Champion’s Choice, showed me the Walther LG 300 Anatomic which is a compromise halfway between a conventional wood stock match rifle and a full aluminum stock. There is more adjustment on the cheek piece than a conventional wood stock and a different butt plate. The pistol grip is on a ball and socket and offers a bunch of adjustments. There is a new accessory rail as well. Ezell says you can generally count on 100-125 quality shots, plenty to get a shooter through a match in any temperature, any weather.

The thing that caught my eye at the Crosman booth is a new line of GameFace “marking” airsoft ammunition. These mini-paintballs put an end to the argument: “I got you!” “No you didn’t.”

Joe Murfin had a ton of commemorative Red Ryders at the Daisy booth, and they appeared to be selling like hot cakes. While I was there, one gentleman bought three two-gun sets for his grand kids.

Norvin Hornberger of Gamo demonstrated the Extreme CO2 air rifle. Powered by an 88 gram CO2 cylinder, it’s a pump-action, .22 cal. repeater that will send ten shots down range from the rotary magazine very rapidly. It has a synthetic stock, rubber recoil pad, and comes with a 3-9 x 40 scope.

Stacey Greene of Pyramyd Air took time to show me the new Evanix Blizzard S10. Available in both .177 and .22 cal. and right and lefthand versions, this PCP rifle has a 10-shot rotary magazine, sidelever action and shrouded barrel for a neighbor-friendly report.

This is just part of Stoeger’s large display of their new line of break barrel springers. I believe they are made in Turkey.

At the Umarex USA booth, Justin Biddle showed me the new RWS/Diana LP8 pistol. This new break barrel spring-piston pistol is ambidextrous, easy to cock, and extremely easy to mount a scope or a red dot. I predict it will become very popular.

That’s it for now.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

So what’s it like to shoot the Marauder? A whole lot of fun, that’s what.

You insert the magazine into the Marauder by pulling back the bolt then sliding the magazine into the slot in the breech from the right. About three-quarters of the way into the slot the magazine reaches a detent. Push a little harder and the magazine snaps into place. Push the bolt forward, and the bolt probe pushes the first pellet out of the magazine and into the barrel. (When you work the bolt after each shot, the magazine auto-indexes, and the number on the magazine “window” changes, so you always know what shot you are on.)

To disengage the safety, push it forward, toward the muzzle. (To activate the safety, pull it back, toward the trigger.) Ease the first stage out of the trigger. On the Marauder that was sent to me, only 1 lb 3 oz was necessary to take up the first stage. Squeeze a bit more, and the shot is triggered at 1 lb 10.9 oz. Even better, the Marauder trigger has adjustment screws for trigger weight, trigger position, and first and second stages. I loved the trigger just as it came out the box. It was crisp, predictable and light enough for me, so I made no attempt to adjust it. But it is my understanding that it is possible to adjust the Marauder trigger to as low as a 3-ounce single-stage trigger or a 6-ounce two-stage trigger.

When the shot is triggered, the Marauder seems very still with no noticeable muzzle flip or recoil. In addition, the barrel shroud works marvelously well. Shooting off a rest at a target 35 yards away, the two loudest things I heard behind the scope were the “ting” of the hammer spring and the “thwack” of the pellet hitting the target. I’m sure there must be some muzzle blast, but it is very, very muted – and this was from an air rifle that is launching Crosman Premier 10.5 grain pellets at over 900 fps.

The accuracy of the Marauder is top of the line. Shooting from a field target position at 13 yards, I was able to consistently blow the center out of a tiny circle that measures just a teensy bit over .177. From a casual rest, I put five shots into a group that measured half an inch from edge to edge. That’s about one-third of an inch center to center.

Not too bad for five shots from a casual rest. I'm pretty certain the Marauder can do better.

Now, at this point, the sharp-eyed reader will have noticed that I haven’t mentioned charging pressures, and that’s where the story of the Marauder gets really, really interesting. My Marauder is set up for a 3,000 psi fill, and it will deliver 40 shots at over 900 fps (high, 986; low, 913) with Crosman Premier Heavies or 30 shots (high, 1067; low, 1021) with Crosman Premier Lights.

This spreadsheet shows three different ways the Marauder can be tuned for a 2,000 psi fill.

But the Marauder is also a very “tunable” air rifle, with adjustments for velocity as well as hammer spring preload and hammer stroke, which determine what fill pressure should be used. Using these three adjustments, the Marauder can be tuned for various fill pressures and velocities. As the chart below shows, with a 2,000 psi fill, the Marauder can be set up to deliver 50 shots between 612 and 644 fps or 30 shots between 828 and 887 fps or 20 shots between 898 and 960 fps, all with 7.9 grain pellets. Further, with all three of these “tunes,” the Marauder uses no more than 500 psi of air, making it very easy for the shooter to pump back up to 2,000 psi. And at a 2,500 psi fill, the Marauder can be tuned to deliver 40 shots between 863 and 900 fps as an example of another tuning option.

To me, the Marauder combines everything I admire in an air rifle: excellent accuracy, excellent trigger, and extremely quiet report. It’s a gun that can be set up for hunting, field target competition, or virtually inaudible minisniping in the back yard. With all that going for it, I think a lot of airgunners will find it irresistible.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

With the introduction of the Benjamin Marauder this year, Crosman Corporation has defined a new sweet spot in the price/performance curve for PCP air rifles. As I stated in my last blog, it has everything I would want in a trip to Santa’s lap – it’s astonishingly quiet, wickedly accurate, has an excellent trigger, and it’s a repeater . . . all for about $500.

Note to photographers: taking pictures on a windy day can result in a lint-covered blanket.

We’ll get to all the neat stuff pretty soon, but first let’s take a tour of the Marauder. The Marauder measures 43 inches end to end and weighs 7.5 lbs, according to the factory specs. Available in .177 and .22, it’s a precharged 10-shot bolt-action air rifle that can launch .177 pellets up to 1100 fps and .22 pellets as fast as 1000 fps.

At the extreme aft end of the Marauder is a ventilated tan rubber recoil pad, separated from the ambidextrous hardwood stock by a white plastic spacer. Just forward of that, underneath the buttstock is a stud for mounting a rifle sling. Moving forward again, there is a laser-checkered pistol grip with a palm swell on each side and a black plastic cap on the end.

Moving forward again, you’ll find a plastic trigger guard that houses a fully adjustable metal trigger and a metal safety lever. Just ahead of the trigger guard is a bolt that holds the action in the stock. Forward of that is the air pressure gauge. Moving toward the muzzle again, you’ll find the word “Benjamin” laser carved into the stock and, beyond that, another stud for mounting a rifle sling. Each side of the forestock is laser-checkered, and the end of the forestock slants backwards (somewhat similar to the RWS 54 spring-piston rifle).

Beyond the end of the forestock is the air reservoir. At the end of the reservoir are a barrel band (which connects the reservoir to the barrel shroud) and a cap which unscrews to reveal a male Foster fitting for charging the reservoir from a SCUBA tank or hand pump. Beyond the end of the reservoir is the barrel shroud inside which is a choked steel barrel.

Moving back along the barrel shroud, you’ll find the aluminum receiver which is dovetailed for fitting a scope and has a prominent slot for the ten-shot magazine. At the aft end of the receiver is a large steel bolt handle. To me, the fit and finish of the Marauder are entirely appropriate for an air rifle in this price range.

The only other significant part of the Marauder is the magazine, which holds 10 pellets and is self-indexing. That means it contains a small spring inside that rotates the next shot into position when the shooter works the bolt.

Loading the magazine is a little tricky the first time, and there is an excellent video that can be found at http://www.crosman.com/airguns/rifles/pcp. Nevertheless, here’s Uncle Jock’s quick tutorial on how to load the magazine.

First, look at the picture of the magazine below. Notice the white spot near the lower left corner of the clear plastic cover. That’s where a bump on the black plastic main body of the magazine engages a small recess on the clear cover.

Now push the clear plastic cover up slightly and forward so that it rotates clockwise and disengages from the bump on the body of the magazine. The picture below shows the cover rotated off the bump.

Next, rotate the cover clockwise as far as it will go, until the forward edge of the cover encounters the bump again like the picture below.

Now, push the cover clockwise a little more so that it rides up over the bump and a hole in the base of the magazine appears through the slot in the cover as the picture below shows. (In case you’re wondering, the clockwise rotation of the magazine ‘winds up’ the spring in the magazine so that it will self-index each time you work the bolt.)

Put your finger under the hole and drop a pellet in nose first. Now rotate the cover counterclockwise off the bump. The spring pressure of the magazine will now hold the pellet in place, and you can remove your finger.

Next, as you rotate the cover counterclockwise, additional pellet bays will appear under the hole in the plastic cover. Drop pellets in nose first until the cover is rotated back to its original position.

The magazine is now loaded. In Part II, we’ll see how the Marauder shoots!

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

The Challenger 2009 has a Lothar Walther barrel, and excellent trigger and gets 100 shots per fill.

If airguns were baseball, the Crosman Corporation would be on a thermonuclear hot streak. Last year, they introduced the Discovery, an entry level PCP rifle that shattered the price floor.

This year, they introduced the Marauder, an absolutely spectacular PCP sporter rifle that has everything I would want in a trip to Santa’s lap — astonishingly quiet, wickedly accurate, excellent trigger, and a repeater — to define a new sweet spot in the price/performance curve.

If that were not enough, this year they are also introducing the Crosman Challenger 2009 (CH2009), a three-position sporter PCP air rifle that appears to be positioned to take the world by storm.

I was given a chance to shoot a near-production prototype of the CH2009, and I must say it grieves that I have to send it back.

Let’s take a walk around the CH2009 and kick the tires. At the very aft end of the fully adjustable ambidextrous sporter stock is a butt pad that is adjustable for length of pull (adjustable from 12.5 inches to 16 inches), vertical position, and tilt. Forward of that is a cheek piece that is adjustable for height. The pistol grip is nearly vertical and has a nice palm swell on each side.

The buttstock is adjustable for length of pull, vertical position and tilt, and the cheek piece is adjustable for height.

Moving forward again, the fully adjustable metal trigger and metal safety are partially enclosed by a metal trigger guard. About an inch and a half forward of that is a single screw that secures the action in the composite stock. Moving ahead again, you’ll find an accessory rail that extends to the far end of the forestock.

The Challenger 2009 has the same excellent trigger as the Marauder. At the rear of the receiver is the T-handle bolt and power adjuster knob.

Above the end of the forestock is the air tube. At the end of it is a plastic cap that snaps off to reveal a male Foster fitting for pressurizing the action. Above that is the muzzle brake, which has a dovetail for fitting the front globe sight with interchangeable inserts. Moving aft, you find the .177 caliber choked and crowned Lothar Walther barrel which is free floated even though it appears to be held by a barrel band.

The front globe sight clamps to a dovetail on the muzzlebrake.

At the rear extremity of the barrel is an extended aluminum receiver with dovetails in front of and behind the breech that can be used for mounting a scope or the rear aperture sight. The rear sight, which is micro adjustable for elevation and windage, clamps to the dovetail with a thumbscrew. At the extreme aft end of the receiver is a patented ambidextrous T-handle for moving the bolt. Under that is a knurled knob for adjusting hammer spring tension, and there is another adjustment for adjusting hammer stroke. The only other item of note is an air pressure gauge located on the right side near the front of the receiver. The CH2009 sample I was sent weighs 7 lbs 4 oz with the sights mounted.

To get the CH2009 ready for shooting, pop the cap off the Foster fitting, connect a SCUBA tank or pump, and charge it to 2,000 psi. Pull the bolt back with the T-handle, drop a pellet into the breech, and push the T-handle forward to close the breech. Push the safety lever forward toward the muzzle. One pound four ounces of pressure will ease the first stage out of the trigger. At one pound 9.5 ounces, the shot is trigger with a surprisingly mild “pop.” (The trigger is fully adjustable and can be made much lighter, if desired.) With a 2,000 psi fill, the CH2009 will deliver 100 shots between 549 and 585 fps. The first 50 shots range between 561 and 585, and the last 50 shots vary from 549-579 fps.

In my view, the Challenger 2009 delivers everything you would want in an entry level match rifle (and then some) for a very wallet-friendly suggested retail price of $529 for the rifle without match sights and $629 for the rifle with match sights.

Since the CH2009 can be scoped so easily and it’s so accurate, it would make an excellent rifle for mini-sniping, and given that, with a minor part change, the power can be adjusted up to 900 fps, it’s an excellent candidate for air rifle field target.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott