The Benjamin Marauder - Part 1
by B.B. Pelletier
Before I begin, here's the news on the Pyramyd Air garage sale. It will be held on Saturday, May 30, from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. The location is the current Pyramyd Air building, so the address is on the website right now. I have a LOT more to tell you in the coming days, plus we still want to hear what YOU expect to see.
Now, settle back, kids, and daddy will tell you all a long story about the Benjamin Marauder.
First, there was the Benjamin Discovery, which sold more rifles in the first year than many PCP models have EVER sold. The engineers at Crosman (Benjamin and Sheridan are trade names owned by the Crosman Corporation) had many great ideas when the Disco was being developed, but the most important thing was to build a basic precharged pneumatic (PCP) rifle that could be sold at a remarkably low price while offering incredible value. That project was a clear success.
Phase Two was the next gun that the engineers were promised would have all of their cool ideas. It would be a world-beater PCP, with all the right bells and whistles. And one additional thing. Because it would be made in America by a factory that knows how to control production costs while maintaining quality, it would be affordable. Not cheap, but affordable. This is the report of that rifle--the gun they call the Benjamin Marauder.
Overview of specifications
The Marauder is a 10-shot repeating PCP that comes in either .177 or .22 caliber. I tested a .177. It has a bolt-action and the magazine is spring-operated, so pellet feed is positive and without friction. Therefore, the Marauder is one of the slickest bolt-action PCPs on the market. Or it will be when it goes on sale in May.
The rifles that Crosman sent out to airgun writers are pre-production models with a few small differences yet to be made. In my reports, I'll detail what these differences will be.
The stock is fully ambidextrous with palm swells on both sides of the pistol grip and a rollover cheekpiece that's identical on both sides. Except for the operation of the bolt, the rifle is ideal for both left and right-hand shooters. The stock is very conventional, with a high cheekpiece for scope use. There are no open sights, so a scope must be used.
The trigger is fully adjustable for length of first stage, length of second stage and pull weight. It breaks as crisply as the proverbial glass rod--a fact I will show you via a computer analysis in a future report.
The fill port is a male Foster quick-disconnect with an internal micron-sized air filter. That ensures only clean air can flow into the reservoir.
There's a purpose-built pressure gauge on the underside of the forearm. It will be marked up to 3,000 psi, for which you'll learn the reason next.
Adjustable fill pressure
The Marauder lets the shooter change the gun's fill-pressure. What that means is the owner can "tune" the gun's firing valve to work with air pressures of 2,000 psi up to 3,000 psi. Why would you want to do that?
If you wanted to operate the rifle on BOTH air and CO2 (though never both at the same time--always one or the other), you'd have to adjust the firing valve to operate on a fill of 2,000 psi air. CO2 pressure changes with temperature, alone, and cannot be changed mechanically. So, for the valve to fully open and work properly on CO2, it has to be adjusted to operate on air at 2,000 psi. I believe that is how the rifle will be set at the factory. Crosman had not made up their minds when this report was researched; but since they'll be advertising it as a Dual Fuel rifle, it makes sense.
If, however, you wanted to operate only on high-pressure air and were interested in getting the longest string of good shots possible from a fill, you would set the valve to operate at 3,000 psi. The CO2 operation would be lost (until you reset it to 2,000 psi), but you could expect to get several more shots in the optimum power curve at the higher fill pressure.
It's possible to set the rifle to operate on a fill pressure between 2,000 and 3,000 psi. There would be no special advantage to doing so, but understand that this capability (setting the fill level to 2,000 or 3,000 psi) is not a discrete thing. There's a scale of fill pressures between the two limits, and the fill can be set anywhere.
Final point--setting the fill pressure does not change the velocity of the gun, at least not directly. The velocity is adjustable and will cover it next, but first you need to understand that the fill pressure does not determine the velocity.
Oh, and one more thing. As far as I know, the Marauder is the only PCP that permits this kind of adjustment without exchanging parts inside the gun. It's the only gun that lets the owner do this and even explains how to do it in the owner's manual. You'll need a chronograph if you plan to adjust the rifle this way.
Okay, THIS is the thing most people will be interested in. The Marauder adjusts velocity in a way that's entirely different than any other PCP on the market. With all the others, you dial a wheel or flip a switch. Whatever velocity that gives--that's it. That's what you get. Want something different? You either have to move the adjustment or shoot a different pellet.
The Marauder lets you select the exact velocity desired for a given pellet (within the scope of the rifle's capability) and to set it. Once set, that pellet will shoot at that velocity, within reason, until the end of the fill.
In the 1870s, American buffalo hunters loaded their blackpowder single-shot rifles with just a single kind and weight of bullet, which they personally cast in a mold. They loaded the cartridge with a certain amount of powder that never varied, plus they lubricated the cartridge in a certain prescribed way. This recipe never changed, and these rifles were capable of putting five shots inside a 5-inch circle at 500 yards. The Marauder is very much like that.
Instead of a rifle for 20 different pellets and velocities, the Marauder wants to be set at the best velocity for the best pellet. In the coming weeks, I'll share what my experience has been in determining that pellet.
Velocity and fill pressure are interdependent
If either one of these variables changes, the other will also change. When you set the rifle up, you have to find a balance between both variables. It isn't difficult to do, but it's a complex relationship. That's why I said earlier that a chronograph is needed to adjust the fill pressure.
But you don't have to do anything if you don't want to. An owner can just take the rifle from the box and shoot it the way it came. These adjustments, which have never been available to those who are not airgunsmiths, are unique to the Marauder when it comes to production air rifles.
Well, it's not a Lothar Walther! But it's probably just as good. For starters, it's a choked barrel. A choked barrel has a slight constriction at the muzzle end that sizes all pellets passing through, so they emerge with the same diameter. Rifle chokes have been known since the late 19th century as a means of getting the best accuracy from a barrel. When jacketed bullets began to replace lead bullets in the 1890s, choking went away, but in PCPs it's recognized as the mark of a premium barrel.
The barrel is free-floated. That means it doesn't touch the reservoir. As the pressure inside the reservoir drops, the reservoir flexes--and if the barrel were touching it, it would move. But the Marauder barrel is fully free-floated.
The barrel is shrouded. The rifle is therefore quiet.
Drop a ballpoint pen onto a deep-pile carpet.
So quiet, in fact, that you cannot hear the muzzle report (or at least I can't). All you hear is the musical ping of the hammer spring releasing.
So quiet that 50 feet away, it's doubtful anyone could hear it.
I own a legal silencer for a .22 rimfire. It silences the gun by 41 decibels. This rifle is quieter than my Ruger 10/22 rifle shooting CB Caps (no powder, only priming compound) through the silencer.
Over the past several months, I've made several of you promises about this rifle. You were looking for a quiet PCP air rifle, and I told you to wait. You were looking for an accurate air rifle, and I suggested you wait. Well, the waiting is almost over.
Crosman will release the first small batch of Marauders directly from the factory starting in May sometime. They will limit that release to about 100 rifles. They do that so they can warm up the production line while keeping a sharp watch on what's being shipped. If you buy from them, expect to pay full retail, which will be a nickel under $500.
If you wait for Pyramyd Air to receive their rifles in June before placing your order, you'll probably realize a small discount. Nobody told me that, but I have watched enough of these things to think it will happen that way.
Finally, as you can see from this lengthy first part, I have a lot more to tell you about this rifle. For each feature I glossed over today, like the trigger and the velocity setting, I'll come back and give you a compete and detailed story. So, this report is going to be a long one!