Crosman has been a fixture of the Rochester, New York, area for nearly 180 years – although at first not as an airgun company. Back in 1838, when Rochester was still on the wild frontier of New York State, and 23 years before the start of the American Civil War, a certain Fred Crosman founded a seed company in the city. Amazingly, the Crosman Seed Company is still alive and well, operating successfully in the area.
However, in 1923, Bertram Fenner, then the Operations Manager of the Crosman Brothers Seed Company, reached an agreement with one William McLean to produce pellets and an air rifle based on McLean’s designs. In 1924 the Crosman Rifle Company was formed and, with several changes of name and ownership since, has become the company we know today as Crosman Corporation.
Over the course of time, Crosman has grown from a 6-person company in 1940, to the large corporation we see today. In 1992, Crosman acquired Benjamin Sheridan – another major US airgun manufacturer and cemented its position as by far the largest American manufacturer of airguns. Of course, the Benjamin name is now used as the brand for Crosman’s adult hunting and high performance models.
Below. Versions of the 392 and 397 air rifles are still made today, using traditional brass tubes.
From the early days, Crosman specialised in multi-pump and CO2-powered airguns. This line of development has been pretty well unbroken to the current day, with the addition of PCP models and breakbarrel air rifles.
The Company Today
In 1971, Crosman moved to a large new, purpose-built location in the rural village of East Bloomfield. This has been the company’s headquarters and manufacturing centre ever since.
And if you think Crosman’s 250,000 Square Foot headquarters is big – it really is!
You also then need to add a huge, separate Finished Goods warehouse a few miles away that itself is certainly as large as any other in the airgun industry. Well over 200 people work at Crosman. Like many companies with seasonal swings in manufacturing, the number varies with manufacturing demand.
Both Crosman, as a corporation, and its employees are very proud of the fact that the majority of its products are actually manufactured in the USA. You can read that as “not manufactured in China”.
Like any large manufacturing operation, Crosman sources products from multiple different suppliers in different countries. For example, it makes no sense for it to manufacture the screws and O rings used in its guns (no-one else does, either). But it designs most products in-house and manufactures many parts, too, including barrels, breeches and pressure tubes.
Here’s another part of the assembly floor…
Yes, there are Chinese-manufactured Crosman (and Benjamin) airguns, these are mainly the spring/piston and gas ram breakbarrel models. But even here, the company has been steadily bringing assembly back to the USA over recent years, on a model-by model basis.
Below, huge numbers of 760 barrels line up awaiting assembly.
Crosman’s longest-running model – the 760 multi-pump air rifle – has always been manufactured in-house. Since 1966, 17 Million 760s have been sold in the USA and – incredibly – every one is test-fired before shipping to ensure quality control. There’s not many airgunners in the US who have not owned a 760 in their youth and had their enthusiasm for airguns fired by it
The Benjamin Marauder – long the most popular PCP air rifle in the US – is also manufactured in the East Bloomfield factory. And again, every one is tested for accuracy and muzzle velocity before it’s shipped out on the test fixture below.
All-in-all, Crosman produces about 1.1 Million airguns every year and claims to be the US market leader in numbers of airguns sold. With numbers like that, I’m ready to believe it…
There’s Much More Than Airguns
Although airguns are the sexy products in our world, there’s lots more going on at Crosman’s factory than that.
The company is a major manufacturer of airgun pellets. And when we say “major”, we actually mean “MAJOR!” as the Bloomfield factory pumps out around 3 Million pellets every day – seven days a week. That’s over a BILLION pellets a year and explains why Crosman pellets are found at just about every shop across the USA where you can buy airguns and in many other countries around the world.
Don’t forget that the Crosman factory also bangs-out a massive number of BBs a day, too. In fact, you can make that ten times more BBs than pellets. I lost count of the number of zeroes involved at that point…
Crosman introduced the now-ubiquitous 12 Gram CO2 capsule in 1954. They’ve been making them ever since and currently produce around 140,000 CO2 “Powerlets” every day. That’s a lot of gas!
Quality And Efficiency
Crosman is also focussing hard on quality. The company’s Manufacturing Engineer Nic Hargarther took me through many of the improvements Crosman is making to barrels and pellet quality, in particular. That’s part of their barrel inspection system seen above.
The culture of continuous improvement is very striking on the production floor, with great emphasis on parts quality and efficient manufacturing practices.
Although Crosman uses many automated manufacturing systems – how else could they make so many pellets, BBs and Powerlets? – it’s interesting to see that the airguns themselves are all still assembled by hand. The factory is full of multiple small production cells, each one focussed on a specific product (or range of products), with dedicated operators who take pride in their work yet still made time to good-naturedly tease me for “speaking funny”!
Back To The Future
Looking back over nearly 100 years of airgun history, it’s clear that, although Crosman has successfully stuck to its knitting over the years, the company has not been afraid to innovate and enter new markets. Walking around the company’s airgun museum at the factory makes that clear.
Below, there’s a substantial museum at the plant containing examples of just about every model the manufacturer has produced.
Crosman was involved in paintball when that was hot and has been a large player in the airsoft market for years. It also produced an early, electronically-controlled big bore airgun – the Benjamin Rogue – that was arguably ahead its time.
More recently, the Benjamin Airbow is an innovative PCP “airgun” that shoots arrows with the power of a crossbow – make that a cool 168 Ft/Lbs of Muzzle Energy – and opens-up a whole new field of hunting large game with air power.
Last, but not least, I’d like to thank everyone at Crosman for their help in compiling this story. They were all very generous with their time and information. And they gave me access to every part of the company I wanted to look at – and more…