Archive for August 2013

Crosman model 116 .22-caliber bulk-fill CO2 pistol: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Neat fix for bulk-fill CO2 guns

Crosman 116 pistol
Crosman’s 116 bulk-fill pistol is a .22-caliber single-shot pistol with power and accuracy that surpasses many of today’s air pistols.

Before we start, a word on the “fix” for CO2 guns that Dennis Quackenbush gave me. Some folks are concerned that this will ruin the guns it’s put into. Well, it will soften the seals, and eventually those seals will dissolve into a jelly-like material that won’t seal the gun. How fast that happens depends on how much of the automatic transmission sealer you use. But here’s my thinking. The gun already doesn’t work. If this restores it to operation for a few years, or even for only a few more months, that’s more than you have now. In the end, you may need to replace all the seals anyway, but that was what you faced when you decided to do this. No permanent harm has been done. And you got some use from a gun that needed seals.

Don’t add the sealant if you don’t want to — that’s always your decision to make. But some of you are glad to know that there’s a quick, cheap way to fix many of these guns right now.

For those who are paying attention, we’ve actually reported on the 116 in the past. One of these is a blog that I did, and the other is a guest blog by blog reader Paul Hudson. Today’s blog is just the beginning of a traditional 3-part report, so we’ll be looking at this gun in greater detail.

History of bulk-fill CO2 guns
Carbon dioxide guns descended from pneumatic guns in the 1870s, when Paul Giffard first started building and selling his 4.5mm, 6mm and 8mm gas guns for the public. They were based on the Giffard multi-pump pneumatics that had been around for 20 years, but these new guns offered something the older pneumatics didn’t. They could be fired many times from one charged tank of gas. When the tank was finally depleted, it had to be returned to a filling station, which was hopefully located in the same country as the gun! That inconvenience overpowered the novelty of the guns that fired without gunpowder, and they did not last very long.

Giffard air pistol

Giffard gas pistols can be restored to work today — 130+ years after they were made!

Crosman started experimenting with building and selling entire commercial shooting galleries for the public in the early 1930s, and they chose gas guns for these galleries. Each rifle, designated the model 117, was tethered to a large tank of CO2 (that was essentially a fire extinguisher) located inside the gallery, and they must have gotten tens of thousands of shots from one tank.

After World War II, Crosman redesigned the model 117 into a rifle that used a self-contained 12-gram CO2 cartridge, and they designated it the model 118. Perhaps a number of unsold model 117 rifles were rebuilt into model 118 rifles and sold to the public because 117 airguns are extremely rare today. Model 118 air rifles, in contrast, do exist in numbers large enough for many collectors to have them.

But these aren’t the guns we’re looking at in this report. We’re looking at guns like the model 111 (.177 caliber) and 112 (.22 caliber) gas pistols that were filled from 10-oz. tanks of CO2. These started selling as early as 1950 and ended production in 1954, according to the Blue Book of Airguns. The 10-oz. tanks that filled them were designated as the model 110, though not very many people know it. These 2 pistols had 8-inch barrels and got as many as 70 shots per fill of gas. Of course, that depended a lot on the density of the fill, or how much liquid CO2 was put into the gun’s reservoir.

Bulk-filling in brief
When you fill a gas gun from a bulk tank, the liquid CO2 inside the tank used for filling is under tremendous pressure from the gaseous CO2. Carbon dioxide has a vapor pressure of 853 psi at 70˚F. When it’s forced as a liquid into a reservoir of any size, it evaporates instantly until the pressure inside the reservoir reaches the same pressure as is inside the tank that’s doing the filling. This liquid will remain a liquid until the gas pressure in the tank drops, such as when filling another tank or a gun. Then, some of the liquid will flash to gas, boosting the pressure back up to whatever is dictated by the ambient temperature. So, CO2 is a gas that regulates its own pressure. Unfortunately, it’s also a world-class refrigerant!

As CO2 liquid flashes to gas and expands, it takes a lot of heat from its surroundings. So much, in fact, that shooters run the risk of instant frostbite when a CO2 cartridge exhausts to the atmosphere. Because of this, CO2 will cool the gun in which it is used. As it cools, its vapor pressure drops. Guns that are fired fast in rapid succession will shed hundreds of feet per second of velocity. Many shooters think this is the CO2 bleeding off and losing pressure, but it’s really just a reaction to the rapid change in temperature. Shoot the same gun slower, and the velocity will remain high and consistent much longer. That’s true for all CO2 guns, whether powered by cartridges or bulk gas. Just for clarification, fast means as fast as you can pull the trigger, and slower means waiting at least 10 seconds between shots.

The 116
The 115 and 116 models are very similar to the models 111 and 112; except, instead of 8-inch barrels, both these pistols have 6-inch barrels. The Blue Book says they were introduced in 1951 and lasted until 1954, but what I think actually happened was all 4 pistols went away when the first model 150/157 came out. That was the first gun Crosman made that used a 12-gram CO2 cartridge. Their gas reservoirs, which are brass tubes under the barrel, are scaled to fit the shorter barrel, so of course they hold less gas. I’ve seen a .177 version of this pistol — the model 115 — get as many as 50 powerful shots on a fill, but I think 30 is a more realistic number. We’ll test the 116 over a chronograph and figure out the actual performance data for ourselves.

All 4 pistols and the 2 rifles that were their companions (models 113 and 114 in .177 and .22 caliber, respectively) have adjustable power! That’s right, they had adjustable power all the way way back in the early 1950s. A screw at the rear of the receiver is turned in to put more tension on the striker and thus give longer valve open time and more power. In that respect, these pistols function very much like modern PCPs.

Crosman 116 pistol power adjustment
Turn the lower knob in to increase the power — out to slow down the gun and get more shots per change. The upper knob is where you grab the bolt

The sights are also adjustable. The rear sight is a simple notch and the front sight is a tall squared-off post. The rear sight leaf slides from side to side in an oval slot with a lock screw holding it position. A second smaller headless screw provides a range of elevation.

Crosman 116 pistol rear sight
The rear sight slides from side to side and also adjusts up and down.

If the grips appear similar to what you see today, they are! Crosman got it right the first time and really didn’t change it that much over the decades and across the models. These grips come in 2 pieces that wrap around the grip frame, where today they’re flatter panels that leave the frame showing through; but the overall shape and angle are very similar.

The finish is paint, which was completely expected and acceptable in the 1950s. The barreled action is painted with a gloss black paint and the grip frame is painted with a crackeled finish. Hobbyists can reproduce these finishes today, so it’s not surprising to see an old gun that looks like new.

The barreled action is made mostly of brass tubing and parts, and the grip frame is made of pot metal. Small parts such as the trigger, sights, screws and power adjustment knobs are steel.

The grips are plastic, and the .22 models started out with reddish-brown grips, while the .177 models were sold with whitish grips that sometimes have thin lines of other colors running through them. Of course, you can find any color grips on a gun today because the grip frames are all identical and a lot of swapping has been done in the past 60 years. The grips are ambidextrous and only the crossbolt safety keeps the entire gun from being completely friendly to people favoring either hand.

The pistol has a conventional turnbolt that both cocks the striker and opens the breech to load a pellet. I call it conventional, but it will only seem so to someone who has seen a lot of 1930- to 1950s-era airguns. There’s no bolt handle. Instead, you turn a knurled knob counterclockwise; and when it unlocks, pull it straight back until the sear catches the striker. Then, the pellet trough is open to load one pellet. Pushing the bolt back home and twisting it clockwise seats the pellet into the rifling and also aligns the gas transfer port with a hole in the bottom of the hollow bolt.

If these pistols can be said to have a weak spot, it’s the trigger. It’s a thin blade acting on a direct sear that releases the striker. It can be easily gunsmithed to be a light release, as long as you appreciate that it may not always be safe that way. I’ve owned all 4 models of this pistol, and a 111 that was my first one had a very nice, light trigger. The trigger on this 116 is neither light nor especially crisp. It’s better than a lot of modern pistol triggers but is only average for one of these older vintage guns.

I’ll never forget the accuracy of my first 111 pistol. I actually thought it was almost as accurate as a 10-meter target pistol. At 10 meters, I had little difficulty keeping 10 shots on a nickel. But since I haven’t shot this 116 yet, I have no idea where it’ll be. I do know that Crosman called it a target pistol, and it’s hard to argue that it isn’t. I think you’ll be surprised when I test it.

Benjamin Marauder .25 caliber: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Secrets of loading the Benjamin Marauder magazine
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Fixing a Marauder magazine
Part 7

Benjamin Marauder
Benjamin Marauder

This report is an emotional one for me. The last time I tried to report on the .25-caliber Benjamin Marauder, I became very ill and it took me two years to complete the test. In fact, I never did complete the test myself because I was in the hospital part of the time. My buddy, Mac, drove from his home in Maryland to Texas to test airguns for me so he could bank a lot of data and pictures that allowed me to write my blogs from a hospital bed. Mac is now gone, and I’m starting all over again with this rifle.

I’m revisiting the .25-caliber Marauder because I never really got to test it properly the first time. Also because having tested the .177 Marauder, I felt this big gun needed to be reported at the same time. You see, Marauders are good sellers at Pyramyd Air, and several blog readers asked for this specific report.

There’s one more reason for testing this particular Marauder. It’s an entirely different rifle than the .177 we’ve been testing. Yes, all the controls work the same on both rifles and the external dimensions are the same, but a .25-caliber pellet changes the very nature of the rifle in the same way that a one-ton pickup truck differs from a compact truck from the same manufacturer. The .25 Marauder is a BIG air rifle! Big in terms of the magazine and the hole at the end of the barrel. So, this isn’t the quiet little sniper rifle we’ve come to know. This is a hunting air rifle.

I linked to the recent tests of the .177 Marauder simply because I won’t be covering all of the same ground here that I already covered there. This report will cover new ground.

The lauan stock
We are fortunate to have a test rifle with the much-maligned lauan wood stock. It may be made from lauan…I don’t know, but I’ve read so many bad remarks about this stock that I was shocked to realize that this test rifle has one. Shocked because it isn’t bad at all! It has a nice plain grain. It feels lighter than the beech stock on the earlier .177-caliber Marauder we’ve been looking at, and it’s shaped just as nicely. The checkered areas have grown smaller on the new stock, but the cheekpiece still rolls to both sides of the butt, making this an almost fully ambidextrous rifle. Only the location of the bolt handle, which cannot be changed, favors right-handers over southpaws.

By the way, another name for lauan wood is Philippine mahogany. I’ve seen this wood used in furniture, and it doesn’t receive such a bad rap. It’s a hardwood, but it grows fast enough to be a renewable source of wood for many markets, including plywood products. I think the bad reputation comes from the fact that lauan is often used to skin low-quality hollow-core interior doors. People see that these doors can’t stand up to outside environments, and they think it’s because of the wood used in them. But lauan is not especially weak when used by itself.

I do find this wood to be thirstier than beech when I rubbed the stock down with Ballistol. So far, it’s soaking into the pores quite fast, leaving a dry, matte surface behind.

The test rifle has no scope mounted, so I’m taking the opportunity to install a new UTG 6-24X56 AO Accushot SWAT scope that Leapers sent for me to test. I’ll give you a separate report on the scope, so I’ll just mention it for now. The scope comes with 30mm rings that have Weaver bases, and the Marauder scope rail is for 11mm bases; fortunately, I also have a set of UTG Weaver-to-11mm or 3/8″ dovetail adapters that allow Weaver rings to fit on 11mm rails, so these rings will fit.

Power and setup
I can tell you right now that this Marauder rifle is shooting in the 38-40 foot-pound region, so it’s a proper thumper! I know that from the last set of tests Mac ran in 2010. But I plan to run the tests all over, just as if I never tested the gun at all. I probably won’t tune the rifle to shoot with less power or at a lower maximum fill pressure because we’ve already seen how that goes in the test of the .177 Marauder. I do plan to adjust the trigger to be as nice as the one on the .177 rifle, but I doubt I’ll say much about that because it’s ground we’ve already covered.

The rifle is set up to work with slightly less than 3,000 psi right now, and I don’t see changing that. I’ll confirm what the max pressure is, and only if it’s several hundred pounds below 3,000 will I make any adjustments.

The accuracy test is where I plan on spending most of my time. There are so few accurate .25-caliber pellets, so I’ll do some comparison testing with several pellets at 25 yards. The best pellets from that test will make it to the 50-yard test. I’ll modify my 25-yard test to include more pellets than I normally shoot because the world of .25-caliber pellets is so small that we really can’t afford to overlook a possible good one.

.22 caliber Marauder
While I test the .25-caliber rifle, I’m awaiting the arrival of the new Marauder with synthetic stock. I hope to get one of those in .22 caliber, which will give me my first chance to test this rifle in that caliber, as well as testing the new configuration stock and the altered trigger.

The rifle
The rifle I’m now testing is 3 years old and was made in .25 caliber from the beginning. The magazine is therefore much thicker than one made for a .22-caliber or .177-caliber rifle. Instead of holding 10 pellets like the 2 smaller calibers, the .25 caliber magazine holds 8.

The rifle’s remaining dimensions and specifications are the same as those of the smaller-caliber Marauders. The overall weight will vary with the density of the wood in the stock, but this new wood seems to be less dense than what was used in the past.

When I picked up the test rifle, I noticed that it’s still holding a charge of air. The last time it was shot was in April 2012, so how’s that for holding a charge?

So, sit back and relax. There’s a lot more Marauder coming your way!

Neat fix for bulk-fill CO2 guns

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Today, I’m going to tell you about a low-cost fix I got from airgun maker Dennis Quackenbush for bulk-fill CO2 guns.

Dennis bought a Crosman model 116 bulk-fill pistol that leaked, and rather than changing the seals, he injected automatic transmission sealing oil into the gun and sealed it that way. What this sealer does is rejuvenate the synthetic seals and make them swell to do their job again. Dennis said the procedure worked well in his gun.

Could I do the same? In the past, I have written about “fixing” CO2 guns by injecting several drops of Crosman Pellgunoil into the gun with the charge of CO2. That works for both bulk-fill guns and for those that use cartridges. This would be the next step. I just happened to have a Crosman model 116 bulk-fill pistol on hand that hasn’t worked in the 5 years I have owned it. I think I paid $30 for it at an airgun show, and did so hoping to fix it with Pellgunoil. I tried, but the seals were too far gone, and it didn’t work. So, I set the gun aside, always intending to do something about it.

When Dennis told me his trick, it was like getting an entire carton of round tuits! I went to the local automotive store and picked up a plastic bottle of automatic transmission sealer. I purposely did not ask Dennis to tell me the brand of sealer he used; because if this trick is going to work, it should work with any sealer on the market. So, for $5.50 plus tax, I bought what is probably a lifetime supply of bulk-fill CO2 sealer.

transmission sealer
I picked up a bottle of automatic transmission sealer at an auto supply store.

How does it work?
To get the sealing oil into the gun, you put it in with a charge of CO2 gas. On a bulk-fill gun you remove a brass screw at the end of the reservoir that opens the port for filling. Drop the transmission sealer oil into the opening with an eye dropper. Then attach the bulk CO2 tank and open the gas flow. The first few times I did this, nothing happened. The gun continued to leak gas. But some of the sealer was blown into the gun each time I tried to fill it. Then, on the third try, the gun finally held some gas. I could actually hear the inner seals as they swelled and the gas stopped leaking. That fill only put in enough gas for about 6 weak shots; but it set things up for the next fill, which I believe was complete.

Crosman 116 pistol
Crosman’s 116 bulk-fill pistol is a .22-caliber single-shot pistol with power and accuracy that surpasses many of today’s air pistols.

After the next fill, I had shots at the power I expected from this pistol. Since I’ll test it for you in a 3-part blog that’s coming up, I’m not going to report the power today, nor the shot count, but I expect to get 25-30 powerful shots per fill from this gun. That’s what similar models gave in the past.

Crosman 116 pistol fill port
The pistol’s fill port is covered by a brass screw on the muzzle end of the gun. Remove the screw and attach the bulk-fill tank to this port, snug it against the rubber seal at the bottom of the port and open the tank to let the gas flow. The fill takes about 2 seconds. This port is where several drops of transmission sealer oil are placed before the tank is connected.

Now that the pistol is holding gas again, I plan to test it for you completely. That’ll be a treat because these old gas guns are both powerful and accurate, as well as having advanced features such as adjustable sights and power.

My thanks to Dennis Quackenbush for passing along this tip. It won’t always work, of course, but it’s just one more maintenance trick for your bag!

Target tips: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Long-time readers know that I preach about buying commercial targets made with real target paper rather than making your own. Targets that are home-printed are usually worse than useless — they actually don’t tell you anything because of how badly the paper tears.

Today, I have to amend that comment. Life is full of contradictions, so get ready for one from me. There’s one instance where I use targets that I print because they’re better than any commercial targets I’ve found.

I spend a lot of my shooting time on the 100-yard range, working on various loads for several scoped rifles. I’ve shown you the fruits of this shooting many times in the past. One time, I showed you how 10 first shots (shots fired from a dead-cold barrel) could group especially well from a Savage model 1920 rifle of mine in .250 Savage (.250-3000) caliber. The target I used for that report was a conventional bull. As long as the sun was bright, I had no problem seeing where I was aiming; but with scopes of lower power or with those whose optics are slightly muddy, all precision is lost.

250 Savage group1
This is the group of first shots (each shot made from a cold barrel) from the .250 Savage. The bull was easy to see because the day was bright and the scope was clear; but if it hadn’t been, I would have lost some aiming precision with a black bull like this.

The target for that group is a 50-foot timed-fire pistol bull that I use for a lot of target work. It is one of the best bull targets I own for pistol shooting; but for work with a scope at longer range, it leaves something to be desired. That something is precision. You lose the intersection of the crosshairs in the black center of the bull. This target costs me around a quarter-inch in aiming precision at 100 yards, depending on the light and the scope I’m using.

All the while I was shooting at my fancy store-bought targets, my shooting buddy, Otho, was using a target he’d drawn by hand with a black Sharpie felt tipped pen. It consists of 2 rectangles — one inside the other. The beauty of his target is when you sight on it with a conventional scope crosshair, you can see precisely where the center of the inner target box is because the straight lines of the reticle define that area very precisely.

Otho asks me to shoot his rifles at his targets sometimes, so I slowly became familiar with the way his box targets work. And their obvious superiority was clear from the beginning. When shooting at one of them, I could see the intersection of the crosshairs so clearly that the exact center of the inner box was an easy point of aim.

printed box target1

It only took a couple exposures to Otho’s new targets before I was drawing them myself — on the back of my store-bought target paper. Though my drawn boxes were not very square, my groups started to get smaller right from the start!

hand drawn box target
My first hand-drawn box targets were crude but still superior to round dark bullseye targets I had been shooting because I could see the center of the box with the scope’s crosshairs.

Then, Otho showed up at the range with targets he’d printed from his computer. He used very heavy card stock paper that was almost like manila folder stock, and the bullet holes were formed as well as they would be on any commercial paper target. Naturally, I followed suit. Within a couple more range sessions, I was shooting printed paper targets of my own manufacture. Now, all the lines were straight and square, and the targets were all the same size.

printed box target
Now that the targets are printed, they’re standardized sizes and the lines are straight and square. There’s no aim point on the target when I shoot at it. I drew it in to remind myself of where I had been aiming.

I think I paid $14 for 500 sheets of this special paper at an office supply store. There are 6 boxes on each sheet, and each sheet costs 2.8 cents. Now, THAT is cheap! You have to spend some money in the beginning, but then you get thousands of useful targets to shoot at. Of course, the printer toner costs something, too, but that cost is very minimal.

This story is not about saving money. Price has nothing to do with the value of these targets. I would be touting them if they cost 10 times as much. They’re the best, most precise aim points I’ve ever seen for a scope sight. And the beauty is that you can try them for yourself at almost no cost. Start like I did, by drawing targets on stiff paper with a felt-tipped pen. That will give you the experience to know what size targets you need for various distances.

For my 100-yard targets, the inner box is 1 inch wide on the inside and the outer box is 2 inches wide on the inside. I’ve made some 200-yard targets that are about 175 percent larger than these. The lines are 8 points wide, but I’m thinking of reducing them to 4 points because a .22-caliber bullet can get lost inside the current lines. Using a 10-power scope or greater, they’re easy to see at 100 yards.

Normally I don’t believe that making your own targets is a good idea, but this is an exception. These targets are the best I’ve seen for sighting-in a scoped rifle/pistol and for shooting groups. Obviously, they lack the scoring rings that are used in competition, so they can’t replace bullseyes entirely; but for sighting-in and group shooting, they’re perfect.

Oh — you may have noticed that I titled this report Part 1. There’s more to come. As long as we’re talking about targets, I thought we should really get into the subject. If you have anything you’d like to add or see, please let me know.

Testing the effect of hold on an accurate spring-piston air rifle

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Calling the shot and follow-through
Settling into a firing position

Today’s report is one of those serendipitous events that happen when I think I’m investigating something simple and it turns out to be a treasure trove of shooting information. I thought today’s test was a demonstration of how settling into a firing position and following through would give a better group from an air rifle of proven accuracy. What I got was that and more!

I chose the .177-caliber Beeman R8 air rifle and JSB Exact RS pellet for this test because, in the past, this has proved to be a great combination. I shot 10-shot groups at 25 yards, which should show any differences if they really exist. Initially, I’d thought to shoot the rifle in a deer-hunter hold (meaning that I grasped the stock and pulled it firmly into my shoulder), an artillery hold without the tension being taken out of my hold (in other words, holding the rifle lightly, but held on target by muscle power and not by relaxing and adjusting the hold) and finally by settling in properly with an artillery hold. However, as I started this test, I thought that I’d also shoot the rifle directly off the sandbag to show how that affected the group size.

As I started the test, I realized that one group would have to be shot last, which would be at the time I was getting tired. I didn’t want to bias the results, so I put the neutral hold (the potentially best hold) at the end of the test.

Directly rested on sandbags
The first shot off the bag went through the center of the bull, and shot 2 went through the same hole. At that point, I thought this test was going to prove that I was wrong and that this gun really could be shot directly off a bag. Because of that, I knew that bias could creep in at this point. So, shot 3 was taken with the greatest care; yet, shot 3 went way to the right, and I knew the wisdom of not resting directly on sandbags was holding true.

KJSB Exactv RS pellet rested on sandbag
Ten JSB Exact RS pellets went onto 0.593 inches at 25 yards when the rifle was rested directly on the sandbag.

Deer hunter
This hold is one where you grasp the rifle tightly, pulling it into the shoulder the way a hunter might hold a powerful rifle. This was the most difficult hold to execute because the rifle was twitching around from the tight muscles. I didn’t have a death grip on it — just a firm hold; but through the scope, the movement was disconcerting.

JSB Exact RS pellet rifle held firmly
Ten JSB Exact RS pellets went onto 0.949 inches at 25 yards when the rifle was held firmly like a hunting rifle. The horizontal spread is due to tense muscles.

Artillery hold without settling-in
This hold just felt wrong with every shot because I knew I hadn’t settled in. Were I to relax before the shot while using this hold, the crosshairs would invariable move to the right. And see what kind of group I got? There’s one large hole surrounded by 4 wild shots. This is the kind of group that will drive a shooter nuts because it looks so good in general but still has those few wild shots. You wonder what’s wrong and want to blame the rifle, the barrel crown and the pellet. But in actuality, it all came down to the hold.

JSB Exact RS pellet artillery hold under tension
Ten JSB Exact RS pellets went onto 0.728 inches at 25 yards when the rifle was held using the artillery hold but not settling in. The wild shots are caused by tense muscles.

Now comes the big lesson!
Here is where the test turned around and taught me more than I anticipated. By the time I got to this point, I’d already fired 30 good shots without a single called flier. The dispersion you see on the targets above is entirely due to the holds that were used to create them. But taking 30 good shots is very tiring. And it showed on my next attempt to shoot a good 10-shot group.

What happened was I didn’t relax as completely as I should have. There was still a bit of tension in my muscles. Part of that is because my R8 has a Tyrolean stock whose high cupped cheekpiece is horrible for shooting off a bench rest because it forces you to put your cheek against the stock. But knowing that these shots were fired with a bit of tension in this case turned out to be a wonderful thing because I got 2 distinct groups!

JSB Exact RS pellet artillery hold with a little tension
Four JSB Exact RS pellets went onto 2 distinct groups at 25 yards when the rifle was held using the artillery hold, but I still didn’t settle in as completely as I should have. The “group” on the left looks like a single shot, but I know for a fact that it contains 2 pellets. The group on the right is very obviously two pellets. The distance between the centers of these 4 shots is 0.574 inches.

Why is this bad target such a good thing? Because it clearly shows a phenomenon that happens to all shooters. A small change in the hold sends the pellets/bullets to 2 distinctly different places. How many times have I seen this on the rifle range and blamed my ammunition or rifle? Here’s the proof that it can be caused by just a small change in the hold.

But the learning wasn’t over! The next target I shot was with a fully relaxed artillery hold, but it’s still larger than I would like. What went wrong? Well, perhaps, where I’d my off-hand was the problem. It was back, touching the triggerguard. Maybe, it needs to be more forward with this rifle.

JSB Exact RS pellet artillery hold good relaxation hand back by trigger guard
Ten JSB Exact RS pellets went into 0.475 inches at 25 yards when the right artillery hold was combined with the correct settling in. This is the best of the 5 groups fired thus far, but I felt the rifle had more to give.

I slid my hand forward to almost the end of the stock. Then, I shot the final group, which was the best one of the day. Fifty-four shots had been fired before this group was started; yet, when I settled in correctly and used the artillery hold as I was supposed to, this hold produced the best group of the session — 10 shots into 0.405 inches between centers.

JSB Exact RS pellet artillery hold good relaxation hand forward
This is what happens when everything is done right. Ten JSB Exact RS pellets went into 0.405 inches at 25 yards.

This little test turned out to be one of the most important things I’ve done in months because it demonstrates not just the importance of the right hold and settling in but also what can happen when even one of those things isn’t done exactly as it should be.

Tales from the range

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

I was at the rifle range yesterday and there were some things that I had to tell you. There’s no order to this — it’s just what I want to say.

First thing, I get to the range and there’s a young man with 3 very fine rifles. One has been custom made for him, and the other 2 are factory models that each have some add-ons such as aftermarket triggers. He mentioned that he had just gotten rid of a .257 Weatherby Magnum from which he was unable to get good groups.

Each of his rifles had a Leupold Vari X III scope, which is not a cheap sight. There are couple thousand dollars worth of fine firearms and sights laying on his bench. But every 10 minutes or so, he asks if the range can go cold so he can walk down to the 100-yard target holder and look at his targets. That’s right, sports fans, he hasn’t got a spotting scope!

I set up my spotting scope; and when he saw it, he immediately launched into a spiel, “I really need to get one of those!” He told me he was using targets with red bulls because he couldn’t see his .25-caliber holes on black bulls through his rifle scopes at 100 yards. I invited him to look through my spotting scope, and he was amazed that he could clearly see all his holes on the target. How much easier his shooting life would be if he only had a spotting scope!

Spotting scope
My spotting scope allows me to see every shot I make at 100 and 200 yards without leaving the bench. It’s not a thing to appreciate in its own right, but it enriches the time spent on the range.

He asked me to recommend a good spotting scope, but I couldn’t. All I could say is that nearly all telescopes are made in the Orient these days, and you really need to look through them to find a good one. The fancy names mean very little, as I found out with a Celestron spotting scope that had horrible optics. I actually traded a rifle for my current scope because it’s so clear. More rifles I can get. Good spotting scopes are hard to come by.

What bothered me the most about this encounter was that I could see myself 30 years ago in this young man. I did the same thing then that he’s doing now. I spent all my money on guns and had nothing left over for the mundane equipment that matters so much when you want to shoot comfortably.

Tale 2
Same day, same range. Another young man arrives and just wants to blow the dead bees out of his barrel before he drives to work. He has a fine rifle, too. Know what he uses for hearing protection? The filter tips from 2 cigarettes!

Tale 3
Then, I’m down at the 100-yard berm, looking at my targets. The holes made by the bullets are sharp and distinct. They can tell me a lot — especially when untoward things happen — like bullets tumbling. I glance over at my neighbor’s target. It’s a piece of paper torn from a notepad, with a bull inked-in by a black Sharpie. The holes are more like tears than bullet holes.

So, Mr. thousand-dollar rifle with his five-hundred dollar scope is shooting dollar-apiece rounds at a piece of wastepaper he has colored to look like a real target. There’s real economy for you!

target paper target
This real target from National Target shows the pattern of tumbling bullets quite well. Note paper can’t do this!

Tale 4
Remember what I said a couple days ago about a right-handed shooter who pulls the trigger on a handgun instead of squeezing it? He’ll always shoot low and to the left. I was on the pistol range and a fellow was trying out a new (to him) .40 Smith & Wesson that he just traded for. It had a fat double-stack magazine that he loaded to the max, then he walked halfway to the target on the 15-yard range. So, he is now just 7.5 yards from the target. Hey, 90 percent of all defense situations happen at less than 9 feet — right?

Bang! Bang! Bang! Guess what? Nice tight group on the target, but below the bull and to the left. He says he guesses he’ll just have to adjust his sights on this pistol, too. Funny — all his pistols shoot to the same place.

And I have a bloody tongue from biting it so hard.

Tale 5
Another guy on the line is shooting a Blaser single-shot rifle. They cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,500, by themselves. And, guess what he’s resting it on? A 6-inch by 6-inch wood block with a pillow cushion on top. What — he can’t find an ironing board like everybody else?

I shot for many years using a plastic MTM Case-Gard Predator rifle rest. I found it stable and accurate. Maybe not as fancy as other rests, but for the cost of 2 boxes of rifle ammo, it was pretty good.

M-T-M rifle rest
The MTM Case-Gard Predator rifle rest served me well for many years.

Caldwell Lead Sled rifle rest
Today, I use the Caldwell Lead Sled rifle rest.

I upgraded top a Caldwell Lead Sled a while back. It’s even more stable and rigid, plus is allows adding weight to absorb recoil.

What’s my beef?
I don’t really have a complaint, as much as a plea to those guys who are being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Shooting equipment is not sexy, but it can make a huge difference in your level of enjoyment while you’re behind the trigger. This is the stuff you buy begrudgingly today, then celebrate your good decision for the rest of your life. And its more than just the few things mentioned here. It’s also good gun cases, nice holsters, indestructible bullet traps, handy range bags and boxes — in fact anything that helps you enjoy your time afield in any way.

This isn’t the stuff that dreams are made of, but having it does allow you to dream. And here’s how you will recognize it. When you look at your equipment, pick out the things that have been with you the longest. The things that are worn shiny by handling. The things you would miss sorely if they weren’t there. You probably grumbled when you bought them, but today you couldn’t imagine going shooting without them. They aren’t the experience by themselves, but they make the experience possible.

Benjamin Marauder PCP .177-caliber air rifle: Part 7

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Secrets of loading the Benjamin Marauder magazine
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Fixing a Marauder magazine

Benjamin Marauder
Benjamin Marauder

Today, we’ll adjust the Benjamin Marauder PCP air rifle to accept a lower maximum fill pressure and still deliver about the same velocity as before. Before we get into the report, let’s consider for a moment what we’re about to do. As far as I know, the Marauder is the only PCP on the market that allows this kind of adjustment to be made. A great many PCPs have adjustable power, and indeed, the Marauder’s adjustment process for power has been sharply criticized on the internet…mostly by people who don’t appreciate how it works in conjunction with this other adjustment that’s unique to this rifle.

Most other PCPs adjust their power by changing the tension on the striker spring. The Marauder does it by reducing the airflow through the transfer port. What you get from that is far more control over the adjustment, plus it allows for the other adjustment — the one we’re about to do today. And the Marauder is the only PCP on the market with this facility. Criticizing how it works is akin to criticizing a thoroughbred horse because there’s dirt stuck to one of its hooves! At least that’s my opinion.

Why adjust the maximum fill pressure?
This is such a unique feature that a lot of readers who are not yet shooting precharged airguns must be asking why anyone would want to adjust the level of the fill pressure in a gun. Let me make a quick analogy, then I will explain it in detail. Imagine you own a sports car that operates on premium gasoline. There are a lot of cars like that, but your car is very special because it has a switch on the dashboard that allows you to adjust the engine to operate perfectly on low-octane gasoline. It won’t go as far on a gallon, but it will go just as fast. That’s the equivalent of what the Marauder gives you with this fill-pressure adjustment.

Anyone who uses a hand pump to fill their rifle will appreciate the ability to reduce the maximum fill pressure from 3,000 psi to something lower. Hand pumps become hard to operate somewhere above 2,000 psi. For me, it happens around 2,500 psi, but it’s different for every person. If I can reduce the maximum fill pressure from 3,000 psi to 2,500 psi and still get a reasonable number of shots, I’m golden. Sure, I won’t get quite as many good shots (remember that my definition of a good shot is one that stays within about a 30 f.p.s. band of velocity) at 2,500 psi as I would at 3,000 psi; but if I can still get a decent number, that’s all I want.

Reason No. 2 for wanting this feature is the person who lives 25 miles away from the closest dive shop and only owns one 3,000 psi scuba tank. They’ll get only one complete fill from a freshly filled scuba tank and then the rest of the fills will be less than full. But if they could lower their rifle’s max fill to just 2,500 psi, imagine how many more full fills they’ll get from the same scuba tank.

I’m conducting this test exclusively with Crosman Premier lite pellets, as I want a super-accurate pellet and this one has been proven in past testing. I also know that if this pellet goes around 955 f.p.s., it’ll be most accurate.

Let’s go!
I told you that I’d talked to Crosman and gotten some good advice about what I’m about to do. That advice follows. There are 2 separate adjustments we will be making today, and we may also have to adjust the airflow (power adjustment) like we did before. That’s a possible 3 adjustments in all. The manual reads like you can make just one adjustment or the other and get what you want, but Crosman told me not to do it that way. I’ll be adjusting both the striker spring tension and the length of the striker stroke. And, by the way, the Crosman manual uses the terms hammer and striker interchangeably, but I’ll use just the term striker today since that’s what it really is. A hammer is pivoted on an axle, while a striker travels in a straight line.

Both the striker spring tension adjustment and the striker stroke length adjustment are accessed through a hole at the back of the receiver. This 1/4-inch Allen wrench adjusts the striker spring tension (out, for less tension). This screw is hollow to allow a 1/8-inch Allen wrench to pass through to the striker stroke length adjustment screw (in, for a shorter striker stroke).

We know at the start of this procedure that the rifle accepts a fill pressure of 3,000 psi and gets about 32 good shots (within 30 f.p.s.) before needing a fresh fill. The average velocity is currently 955 f.p.s.

I want to adjust the gun to accept a maximum fill pressure of about 2,500 psi and keep roughly the same velocity. Then, I’ll count the number of good shots I get with that fill pressure and we’ll see if it’s worth changing the gun this way.

Adjustment first
I turned the striker spring tension 2.5 turns out (taking tension off the striker spring), filled the rifle to 2,500 psi and started shooting.


After these shots, I could tell the rifle wasn’t going to shoot any faster, so I decided to adjust the power screw. That’s the screw located on the right side of the receiver. I backed it out 1/3 turn, bringing the rifle back to the original power adjustment position, but that was back before I’d adjusted the striker spring tension. I knew the gun should get faster at this setting, but I hoped it wouldn’t go all the way back to the 1,020 f.p.s. average it was initially.

Then, I filled the rifle to 2,500 psi and started testing it again.


This was a bit too fast, so I wanted to dial back some of the power. Instead of the power screw, I was now adjusting the striker spring tension and the striker stroke length.

Striker stroke turned in 1/4 turn (lowers velocity).


Striker stroke turned in 1/4 turn (lowers velocity).


Striker stroke turned in 1/4 turn (lowers velocity).


Striker stroke turned in 1/2 turn (lowers velocity)


Striker stroke turned in 1/2 turn (lowers velocity).


Striker stroke turned in 1/2 turn (lowers velocity).


Striker stroke turned in 1/4 turn (lowers velocity).


Striker stroke turned in 1/2 turn (lowers velocity).


Striker stroke turned in 1/2 turn (lowers velocity).


I’ll stop here and discuss what happened. If you add up the adjustments to the striker stroke screw, you’ll see I’ve adjusted it in 3-1/2 turns at this time. That makes the length of the striker stroke shorter, which allows the valve to open and close in a shorter amount of time. Less air gets out.

I’m pretty confident that the maximum fill pressure is now considerably lower than 3,000 psi. To test that, I filled the reservoir to 2,800 psi and started shooting.


Okay, since the velocity is rising, it’s obvious that 2,800 psi was too high a fill pressure. The rifle is probably now near the max fill pressure range we wanted. That’s a guess that will have to be tested.

20—932 (2,000 psi end pressure)

At this time, I stopped and refilled the gun to 2,500 psi. It was at 2,000 psi after shot No. 20, so I’m pretty sure the power’s peaked at this point. I now adjust the striker spring tension in by 1/4 turn. That puts more tension on the spring, and the valve gets hit harder.

2 904

That’s not enough of a power increase. So I turned the striker spring tension in another 1/4 turn.


That’s still way less velocity than I wanted to see. I backed out the striker stroke length screw 1/2 turn, making the striker stroke longer.

7—949 (first shot on the power curve)

Now the velocity appears to be up where I’d hoped to get it. I’ll continue to shoot this string, not filling the gun since the last 2,500 psi fill.

33—946 (off the power curve)

There were 26 shots that ranged between 949 f.p.s. and 967 f.p.s. The total spread was 18 f.p.s. That’s a lot tighter than the 30 f.p.s. I talked about at the beginning of this report, but the power seems to be dropping off pretty fast. But the question is: Are we at the target fill pressure yet?

To learn that, I filled the gun to 2,500 psi and shot the following:


So 2,500 psi works fine. I then refilled the gun to 2,600 psi and shot the following:


I have narrowed it down to the point that 2,500 psi is okay and 2,600 psi is a little too much. That’s it for me. The rifle is where I wanted to get it.

I now have a rifle that gets an average velocity of 955-958 f.p.s. with Crosman Premier lites and gets 26 good shots on a 2,500 psi fill. If I fill to 2,500 psi and shoot just two full magazines, I know I’ll get all my shots at the most accurate velocity this rifle is capable of producing with this pellet.

By adjusting the maximum fill pressure back to 2,500 psi, we lose 6 good shots (compared to the 32 good shots it got with a 3,000 psi fill) but are able to remain at exactly the same power level as before. If a person wanted to fill to a lower pressure, this seems like an effective way of doing it.

This entire procedure took me about 3 hours to complete, and I would say I was somewhat lucky — though I did some things that helped my luck by adjusting both the striker stroke and the striker spring tension instead of trying to do it all with just one or the other. I also turned up the power screw at one point because I could see the rifle needed a little more air to get up to the velocity I was seeking.

Will you be this lucky? You may be if you follow the procedure I’ve explained here. I can’t guarantee that you’ll be, but I do know the way I did it is the way Crosman recommends.

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