First Of All, Someone Threw Down A Gauntlet…
Around a year ago, the Umarex Gauntlet started shipping. That was a big deal because – for the first time – a regulated, magazine-fed, shrouded PCP air rifle was available at the ground-breaking price of $300. Well, actually $299.99.
Cue for some rapid developments in the low-price PCP airgun world!
Now we see one of the first responses to the Gauntlet thrown down by Umarex. It’s the Benjamin Fortitude air rifle.
As with the Gauntlet, we have a $300, regulated PCP which delivers 60+ shots per fill, uses a 10-shot magazine feed and offers backyard friendly sound levels. Both have similar muzzle velocity capabilities and reassuring multi-year warranties.
So which should you choose? That’s a great question!
Let’s Look At The Fortitude In More Detail…
The Fortitude looks something like a cross between a Benjamin Maximus and a Marauder air pistol, with a regulator built-in. You can see how it compares to the Maximus in the photograph below. (Both air rifles are the same length, perspective makes that look less obvious).
The breech looks very similar to that of the Marauder air pistol. However, there’s clearly some differences as the Fortitude uses the 10-shot Marauder rifle magazine, rather than the 8-shot mag from the Marauder pistol.
Crosman has always had a core competency in re-using existing parts to build new products. Why design something new when there’s a perfectly satisfactory part already in existence? That’s very sensible engineering, so it would be no surprise to find that the new Fortitude uses many parts that have been proven in previous models. Doing so reduces development time and risk, while keeping costs down.
Compared to the familiar Marauder air rifle, the Benjamin Fortitude is a much lighter, less bulky air rifle. It weighs about 2 Lbs less than the Marauder rifle and just 5 Ozs more than the single-shot, unregulated Maximus. This means that it feels light and handy to shoot.
As with all other Crosman and Benjamin PCPs, the Benjamin Fortitude is manufactured in the USA at the Velocity Outdoor headquarters in Bloomfield, New York.
Velocity Outdoor? That’s the new name for the company formerly known as Crosman Corporation. Don’t worry about it, the Crosman and Benjamin airguns you know and love are still the same…
The Benjamin Fortitude we tested shot at around 750 FPS with 14.35 Grain JSB Jumbo Exact 14.35 Grain pellets – in .22 caliber, of course. That’s just under 18 Ft/Lbs of Muzzle Energy. The gauntlet we tested gave 805 FPS, 20.75 Ft/Lbs with the same pellets.
These JSB pellets also gave the best accuracy of any we tried. Few will find that a surprising result!
And the Benjamin Fortitude was impressively consistent. In fact it gave the lowest average Standard Deviation FPS of any air rifle we’ve ever tested. At any price!
So does that make it better than the Gauntlet? Well, that depends…
First The Fortitude.
The Fortitude is a much smaller, lighter air rifle than the Gauntlet. It has much better natural pointing capability and is a breeze to carry on a hunt.
The Fortitude is manufactured in the USA. The Gauntlet is built in China. For some that will be a big deal, for others not so much.
The Benjamin also has a 5-year warranty, compared to the 3-year coverage of the Gauntlet.
The Gauntlet Strikes Back.
Unfortunately the Fortitude needs a stock with an adjustable cheek piece. I got a chin weld, not a cheek weld when shooting it! The Gauntlet has an adjustable comb to the stock which is much better.
And the Gauntlet’s trigger is also superior. True, it needs some adjustment but this is easily done with setscrew adjustment of pull weight, sear engagement and overtravel all available once you pop off the stock.
The Fortitude’s trigger is non-adjustable and the sample I tested had an average pull weight of five and a half Pounds. Ouch! Yes, there are some fixes for this to be found online, but it’s starting waaaay behind the Gauntlet.
And then – although both have heavy bolt actions – the Gauntlet’s is much easier to operate. The bolt handle is longer and larger, there’s more space to avoid skinning your knuckles on the scope and the pull effort is less.
The Gauntlet is slightly more powerful also.
So Where Does This Leave Us?
For $300, both the Fortitude and the Gauntlet are great choices. It’s almost too close to call. Your decision will depend on which features are most important to you.
It’s great to have choices!
Stephen Archer is the publisher of Hard Air Magazine.