by B.B. Pelletier
Wow! It doesn’t happen often, but the new Crosman Challenger 2009 has really struck a resonant chord with many of you readers. The comments started coming soon after the blog posted, and the questions showed me that you were scrutinizing this rifle with a magnifying glass. So, I thought I’d do a special report today and see where it takes us.
Several of you asked questions about the similarity between the Challenger, the Benjamin Discovery and the Benjamin Marauder. While I’m not a Crosman spokesperson, I will answer that question as best I can from an outsider’s perspective. The Challenger, Discovery and Marauder are each very different from one another, and, as far as parts interchanging, you really have to check directly with Crosman. Certainly, the shapes and dimensions of the receivers are different. Just look at the inlet of the manometer in the Challenger stock. Neither the Discovery nor the Marauder has one located there, and theirs are both located on the bottom of the forearm. So, swapping actions with the stocks of other rifles is not easily done.
Wayne asked if the rifles are cousins. I would have to say “yes,” they are. But cousins with significant differences. Crosman has used the dual fuel/2000 psi approach with both the Discovery and the Challenger 2009, but not as much with the Marauder. What I mean is that, although the Marauder can also be operated on CO2 and 2,000 psi, it doesn’t leave the factory set up for that. I suspect that some valve parts are the same across the three rifles and some are different. Neither the Challenger nor the Discovery have the transfer port limiter screw that the Marauder does, for example.
Crosman is a hotbed of airgun engineering these days. They see the future of precharged guns, and they clearly want to be a major player in the technology. Heck, with just these three rifles, they’re already a powerful influence. It’s not a surprise that they’ve built three quite different air rifles, but used the winning technology of dual fuel and 2000 psi operation for all of them.
Enough generalizations. Now on to the specifics.
Reader pcp4me asked what makes the Challenger any better than the Daisy Avanti 853. Here’s the answer: It’s better because of how easily it cocks and loads. A ten-year-old has a hard time pumping a single-stroke while lying on the floor in the prone position. And adults have difficulty loading the Daisy trough without flipping pellets backwards. The Challenger, by contrast, is the easiest Sporter-class target rifle to both cock and load. You simply pull straight back on a T-handle located at the rear of the action to cock the bolt. The loading trough is very accessible from either side, making the Challenger truly ambidextrous. Once the pellet is in the trough, the bolt pushes it straight into the breech without a problem. These are all attributes that the Daisy single-strokes lack.
The reason the earlier photos of the rifle look different from the one I’m testing is that Crosman wanted to get more shots from a single charge. While the 30-shot Sporter match total I told you about in the last report is accurate, most competitions today are shooting each position twice. So it’s a 60-shot match instead of a 30-shot match. And the rules now allow sighters before each leg of the match begins. Crosman responded to the need for more shots by lengthening the reservoir by two inches, giving it the shape you see in the photo above. I have to thank Ed Schultz of Crosman for clarifying that point for me.
Crosman wanted to get 100 shots from the gun, and by sheer accident, I seemed to have done that. They thought the velocity difference on the shots taken with 2,200 psi (tank gauge reading) were within the acceptable range when added to my first string. The spread was much larger (534 to 568) but they don’t think that will matter on target at 10 meters. So, I am going to test for it.
The Lothar Walther barrel is free-floated. It appears to be anchored by the receiver and the rear barrel band for strength. Then, it passes through what appears to be a front barrel band without touching it. The long front sight base doesn’t touch the reservoir, either. It floats several hundredths of an inch above the tube. This is a configuration that owners should leave as is. It should give top accuracy throughout the entire useful shot string, as the flexing of the decompressing reservoir shouldn’t be able to influence the barrel in any way.
Hammer spring tension adjustment
The hammer spring adjustment is more complex than you might imagine. Not only can the spring tension be adjusted within limits; it’s also possible to adjust the length of the hammer stroke. With a given hammer stroke length, a heavier hammer-spring tension results in a harder hammer blow and more airflow. That means greater velocity. Change the length of the hammer stroke and this relationship changes.
Crosman has designed this mechanism to have limits, so an owner cannot adjust a 5 foot-pound gun into a 12 foot-pound gun. The Challenger 2009 is a target rifle, and the velocities recorded in yesterday’s report are correct for this kind of rifle. I’ll do some tweaking of this knob in a future report, but if you are thinking you can turn the rifle into a sporter or a field target gun, forget it. There isn’t that much adjustability. What’s there is to allow you to adapt the powerplant to a favorite pellet so you get the flattest velocity curve for that one pellet.
Crosman has included a buttplate that’s adjustable for length, height and cant on this rifle. The height adjustment is legal in an NRA Sporter-class match, but not a CMP-sanctioned Sporter-class match. So, they also give you the means to lock the buttplate so it cannot move up and down. The length of pull can be adjusted in both types of matches.
For reader Don Heatley, whose 10-year-old son has trouble with the length of pull on his Daisy 888: On the Challenger, it’s possible to remove the entire buttplate mechanism and substitute an aftermarket rubber slip-on pad, thus reducing the length of pull from 12-1/8″ by about another full inch! And it doesn’t end there! The buttplate screw slot also accepts Anschutz auxiliary buttplates that are well-known as the most ergonomic and wide-ranging on the target rifle market. So, if you don’t care about the match rules, you can have a hook-style butt plate on your rifle, or any of Anschutz’s other designs.
There’s more, but it’ll have to wait for another day.