by B.B. Pelletier
Benjamin’s 347 multi-pump was sold between 1969 and 1992.
The Benjamin 347 is a single-shot, multi-pump pneumatic made by the Benjamin Air Rifle Company of St. Louis from 1969 through 1992. Most of what I will say about the 347 (the .177-caliber version of the gun) also applies to the .22-caliber model 342.
There are two variations of this gun. The model I’m testing for you today is the first variation. It is characterized by a checkered pistol grip and forearm and was made from 1969 until 1986. The second variation has a plain stock and went from ’86 to ’92.
This closeup shows the checkering on the 347 pistol grip. Not great, but what do you expect?
This is the model that took Benjamin out of the old days and into the modern era, where the successor models 397 and 392 took over and remain current today. The rifle just prior to this one was the model 317. It was also an underlever pump like the 347, but Benjamin had used the same model designation for an earlier front-pump, pushrod-type multi-pump that was made before World War II.
When I got back into airgunning seriously in the early 1990s, the presence of these two different Benjamin airguns with the same model number caused a lot of confusion; but now that Crosman has brought out the now-discontinued Benjamin Super Streak, a breakbarrel spring-piston rifle, most collectors have gotten used to the idea of model name reutilization.
The 347 is generally the same as all underlever multi-pumps that went before and came after its time, but don’t think there are no differences. For years, I’ve told people that a 347 is just an older 397; but now that I have both of them to examine, I can see several differences. The first is the overall length of the gun. The 347 is just under 34-1/2 inches long, while the 397 that I have is 36-3/4 inches overall. All that difference appears in the stock, as the barreled actions are exactly the same length. That’s important, because the length of the barrel determines the maximum velocity the rifle can achieve.
While this is not a report on the 397, I’ll say that the first 397 rifles looked remarkably similar to the 347. Over time, though, certain features — such as where the safety is placed and how the rear sight works — have changed. Today, the 397 is quite a different rifle, though at its heart it’s still a multi-pump with the same capability as all other similar guns.
The pull on the 347 is just 13 inches, which is about 7/8 of an inch less than the 397 and about 3/4 of an inch more than the 397 carbine. I compared it to the specs Mac gave us for the 397C, and it turns out to be just a little longer over all and heavier (at 4 lbs., 12 ozs. compared to 4 lbs., 4 ozs. for the carbine). So, this is a smaller air rifle, yet still sized for an adult.
The safety is located at the rear of the receiver and is a push-pull type similar to many shotgun safeties. It’s entirely manual.
The bolt is just bent from a solid rod. The safety. located behind the receiver tube, is manual and slides in and out. It is convenient to the thumb.
The trigger is another interesting feature. While it’s quite simple in design and operation, it has an average 46-oz. pull-weight and is reasonably consistent (within 3 oz.). That’s under three pounds and quite a bit better than the lawyerly 5-7 lb. triggers we see on multi-pumps today. The blade is very wide and flat and feels good to me.
The rear sight is adjustable in both directions, though both adjustments are crude. To adjust windage, loosen the rear screw on the sight leaf and push the whole sight in the direction you want the pellet to go. For elevation, there’s a stepped elevator that sits under the rear leaf. I’ll find out how well they work when I test the rifle for accuracy.
The rear sight has crude adjustments for both windage and elevation.
The rear sight notch is very wide in comparison to the front blade. A little extra light on either side of the front blade is good, because it allows you to frame the front blade exactly in the center. But this seems to be too much; and once, again, I’ll find out when I shoot it for accuracy.
The 347 will accept the Williams peep sight, but the receiver isn’t pre-tapped for it. That was a marketing mistake on Benjamin’s part, and Crosman corrected the situation when they took over the company. Owners do not want to drill and tap holes in their receivers, and why should they? Even though the receivers on all Benjamin pneumatics are made of brass that’s easy to drill, it’s an extra step that most people just will not take; but if the holes are already there, quite a number will decide to try the peep sight.
As far as scoping the rifle goes — my advice is to forget it. The intermount that fits on the barrel of a rifle like this is so prone to break the barrel solder joint from flexing it with the extra weight of a scope that it isn’t worth the attempt. My advice is to just use open sights on these older multi-pumps. Of course, there have been receiver bases for the modern Benjamin rifles that change everything, but I don’t know if they’ll work on an older-profile receiver like the one found on a 347.
Though the parts are no longer generally available for an older model like the 347, there are plenty of service stations that are making and modifying parts for these guns. So, they can be repaired and rebuilt. The pump piston rod in the rifle is adjustable for wear. As the power drops off, the pump rod can be turned out (made a little longer) to make the piston head go closer to the inlet valve, thereby pushing more compressed air into the valve/reservoir when the rifle is pumped. It’s not a means to hot-rod the gun, but to tweak it back to original performance when it gets a little tired.
Naturally, the best maintenance for any airgun like this is to keep the pump head moist with Crosman Pellgunoil, which helps it maintain a seal against the walls of the compression tube when it moves. For long-term care, leave a pump of air in the gun when it’s stored. That seals the valve against airborne dirt that can quickly destroy the seals. A rifle thus stored can be expected to function for many decades.
My pet peeve
The rifle says “Benjamin Franklin” on the left side of the receiver tube. I knew that was a play on the company name when I was nine years old and inherited my father’s model 107 pistol. For some reason that I cannot fathom, adults in their 60s still don’t get it and think the rifle is called a Benjamin Franklin. Nothing sets me off quicker that when someone makes this mistake. Sorry, but you’ve been warned.
The presence of quotation marks around the name, Benjamin Franklin, indicates that it’s not real. It is, in fact, just a play on words. Since the company name is Benjamin, they wrote Benjamin Franklin on all their guns during certain years. There was never a Benjamin Franklin airgun model, nor is there any other connection to the name.
All Benjamins are made of solid brass. It’s amusing to see one all polished like a trumpet and the owner thinks he has the greatest thing in the world. In fact, they’re all solid brass under the finish. At gun shows, it tickles me to hear dealers talking with pride about their “all-brass Benjamin Franklin” when the guns are still made of the same materials today.
Putting things into perspective
A look at a 347 is a look back into history. This rifle was made when the old Sheridan Blue Streak with the classic rocker safety was made and should be equivalent to it in most ways except power. As a .177, this rifle will always come out on the short side of a power test because pneumatics like to push heavy pellets for greater power. However, velocity will be greater for the smaller-caliber guns. So there’s a balance.
This should be a fun gun to test.
Last weekend, I heard a funny line in the new movie Contagion. One of the main characters was a blogger portrayed by Jude Law. A doctor, played by actor Elliott Gould, told him that a blog is just graffiti with punctuation.