Posts Tagged ‘NRA Sporter Class’
by B.B. Pelletier
Today’s test is shooting the Crosman MAR177 at 25 yards, both with and without the magazine. We’ll also shoot it with the best wadcutter target pellets and the best domed pellets to see what differences there are.
Rather than shoot the rifle myself, I let Mac shoot it this time. He is the better rifle shot between us, and I just wanted to see what the rifle would be like in his hands. He shot it off a bag rest at 25 yards indoors. Ten pellets were shot from the magazine, then another 10 of the same pellet were shot using the single-shot tray. Mac tested both domed and wadcutter pellets, so we get to compare the relative accuracy of both today. And the results did not turn out as I expected.
I’d noted in an earlier report that the particular 10-shot magazine I’ve been using has two chambers with tight entrances. Mac found the same thing without being prompted by me. I had him use the same magazine as I did so I could compare his results with all other variables remaining the same.
You’ll recall that I mentioned not liking magazine guns because of how they handle the pellets. So, today was also a test between the magazine and loading each pellet as you shoot. I’m not saying that all pellets have feeding problems, but that some magazines may have a problem. But when you load each pellet singly, you have less chance of damaging the pellet.
That said, the MAR177 has a gap at the front of the single-load tray that can catch the nose of certain pellets and make it very difficult to load. The H&N Field Target pellets that were the most accurate in an earlier test had this problem and had to be exchanged for a different domed pellet. The H&Ns have a semi-wadcutter rim around the head that just catches in the gap on the tray and causes the pellets to flip up and possibly get damaged on loading. I substituted 7.3-grain Air Arms Falcon pellets that fed perfectly through the tray.
On to the shooting
Let’s get right to today’s test. First, Mac tested the domed pellets at 25 yards.
Mac tried the H&N Field Target pellets first, and they were very accurate, but a couple of them refused to feed through the magazine. But the Falcon pellets fed flawlessly, so we changed the test to use them as the domed pellet of choice. Once again, I want to say that in another magazine this pellet might have fed better, but this is a quirk you get with mags that you don’t get when loading singly.
Clearly the single-loaded pellets are more accurate than those loaded by the magazine. That may not hold from magazine to magazine; but for this one mag, you’re better off loading the pellets one at a time. Let’s see how the rifle does with wadcutters at 25 yards.
The trend continued with the wadcutter pellets. The R10s grouped even tighter than the Falcons at 25 yards, and those that were loaded singly did much better than those that fed through the magazine.
What have we learned?
First, we’ve learned that some magazines do influence the accuracy of the gun with all ammunition — or at least with the pellet types used in this test. A different magazine might well give different results, but one thing it will never do is outshoot loading the pellets by hand, one at a time. As a 10-meter shooter, I knew this going into the test. But it was nice that we were able to demonstrate it so clearly.
Next, we see that wadcutters were more accurate than the domes in this test. Even though both pellets were very accurate, the wadcutters had the edge. That was the part that surprised me. I’d expected the domes to take over at 25 yards.
The bottom line
The Crosman MAR177 is a valuable addition to an AR and a wonderful target rifle in its own right. It was held back in this test by the use of an AR National Match trigger, which is by no means as good as a target trigger on an air rifle. Even so, we see accuracy that any 10-meter precision rifle would be proud of.
I think Crosman has made a winning rifle in the MAR177. And when they bring out more powerful versions of it in the future, it’ll be all the greater justification for owning an AR! My thanks to Crosman for the loan of this MAR177 for both this test and for the feature article I am writing for Shotgun News!
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, we’ll look at the Crosman MAR177 upper shooting domed pellets at 25 yards. I’ll be using the 10-shot magazine, so we’ll get to see that in action, as well. I’ll tell you right now that today was a learning day that spawned another report that’s still to come. Read on to learn what it is.
As you know, the Crosman upper receiver is attached to a lower receiver that I built on a Rock River Arms lower receiver shell. I used Rock River parts, and the trigger is an upgraded two-stage National Match trigger, also from Rock River.
To the uninitiated, the term National Match sounds like the finest possible precision. Well, it isn’t! A National Match trigger in an AR is about like a John Deere tractor — strong and effective, but as far from real precision as it is possible to get and still have a good trigger. My trigger has a light first stage and a crisp release in stage two, but it’s not what any target shooter would call precision. The break point is right at 5 lbs. My Trapdoor Springfield, which was made in 1875, has a trigger just as nice. My 1879 Argentine rolling block’s trigger is lighter and crisper, now that I have replaced the heavy service-grade trigger return spring. So understand that National Match does not mean the same as precision. You owners of Rekord triggers don’t know how good you have it.
The National Match AR trigger is quite a bit better than the single-stage trigger that comes standard on a military or civilian AR, but it isn’t a target trigger by any stretch. I tell you that so you’ll understand what I had to deal with in this test.
The MAR’s magazine is the same one that a .177 Benjamin Marauder uses. It’s wound under spring tension as it’s loaded and advances by spring power as the bolt is worked for each shot. Remember that on the MAR, the bolt is retracted by pulling back on the charging handle — the same as all other ARs.
The 10-shot magazine comes from the Benjamin Marauder and is completely reliable, as well as quick and easy to load. Here the last shot is in the magazine, holding it in place. The clear plastic cover is rotated to drop in the other 9 pellets.
The mag loads easy once you know the right procedure. A couple of the chambers were tight, so I used a mechanical pencil to push in the pellets. Once they cleared the lips of the tight chambers, they dropped into place easily. There were no feeding problems throughout the test, which entailed about 90 pellets, give or take.
I mounted a Leapers 4×32 mini scope on the rifle. It’s not a scope that Pyramyd Air stocks, but it would be similar to this Leapers scope. You may criticize my choice for some lack of aiming precision; but when you see how good the little scope looks on the rifle, I think you’ll understand why I went with it. It allowed me to use medium scope rings and still clear the magazine that stands proud of the receiver top. If I were hunting feral hogs with a 300 AAC Blackout or a .50 Beowulf cartridge, this is the scope I would use. No, it doesn’t magnify as much as a good 3-9x scope, so we may have to take that into consideration when we look at these groups.
I sighted-in at 12 feet, using my 10-minute sight-in procedure. If you haven’t tried this yet, you need to. It took just three rounds to get on target; and although a bit of luck was involved, this sight-in procedure always cuts time from the front-end of my scope tests.
Air Arms Falcon
I used the 7.3-grain Air Arms Falcon pellet to sight in. The scope seemed right on for elevation, but off to the right. I dialed in some left correction and shot again. Almost there, but not quite. One more adjustment put me at 6 o’clock, as far below the aim point as the center of the scope was above the bore axis (approximately). I knew I was safe to back up to 25 yards and start shooting.
The next 7 shots made a group measuring 0.422 inches between the centers of the holes farthest apart. It was an auspicious beginning for the test!
It was also the best group I shot with the Falcons. The other two opened up to over three-quarters on an inch, so although they made a good first impression, Falcons were not the best domed pellet in the rifle I’m testing.
JSB Exact 8.4-grains
I also tried JSB Exact 8.4-grain domes. They put 9 pellets into 0.495 inches, but threw the tenth shot low and right, opening the group to 1.047 inches. I detected no reason for this wild shot, so I’ll have to chalk it up to the pellets — maybe.
Next I tried some BSA Wolverines. This is yet another JSB dome that sometimes out-performs anything else. But in the MAR, they were just satisfactory, putting 10 into 0.642 inches.
JSB Exact RS
Another tantalizing group was made by JSB Exact RS pellets. We’ve learned over many tests that the RS is one of the best pellets for low- to medium-powered springers, and the MAR177 shoots at the same velocity, so I wondered how well it would do. Nine shots went into 0.474 inches, but the tenth shot opened that to 0.874 inches. It was a second instance in which 9 shots were tight and the tenth was a flier. I cannot say where in the string the wild shots occurred, though, because the scope couldn’t see the pellet holes as they were made.
H&N Field Target
Next, I tried H&N Field Target domes. A reader recently asked me why I don’t try these, as he had good success with them. I responded that I had, and had not experienced the same success; but when I checked my pellets, I discovered that I’d been shooting H&N Field Target Trophy pellets. The Field Target pellet tin was unopened. See what confusion a small name change can make?
These 8.5-grain domes gave me the best 10-shot group of the test — a stunning 0.441 inches between centers! This is a pellet I will work into future tests, you can be sure. This also serves to demonstrate that although the scope only magnifies four times, that’s good enough.
I was starting to tire from all the concentration, so this was the place to stop. I would say that the MAR177 made a good showing, but also raised some questions.
What comes next?
The performance of the rifle in this test was so intriguing that I want to reshoot the same test, only using the single-shot tray next time. Then I will know for sure whether or not the magazine has any influence over the group size. I’ve always had reservations about magazines in any rifle, and I really want to see if there’s any discernible difference. If there is, I may have to do a lengthy test of magazines vs single-shot operations in PCPs.
The next test that will also offer an opportunity to pit wadcutter target pellets against the best domes at 25 yards. I’ve always maintained that 25 yards is about the maximum distance at which wadcutter pellets are accurate, and we even shot a segment on the American Airgunner TV show in which we put that to the test. The domes were clearly superior to wadcutters at 35 yards, so this test will be at a closer distance and indoors. It should prove interesting.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today is the first accuracy test day for the Crosman MAR177 upper, so let’s see how this baby shoots. Blog reader Darth Cossack pointed out that I had mounted the front sight backwards in the last report, so I fixed that for today’s photo. It wouldn’t have mattered from a shooting standpoint, but we do want the gun to look right.
On this AR-15, both the front sight and the rear sight adjust for elevation, while the rear sight also adjusts for windage. The front sight requires a sight adjustment tool that I don’t have and didn’t see packed with the upper. You can also use the point of a 5.56mm military round, which I have an abundance of, but doing it that way is very laborious. I’m hoping the rear sight adjustments will take care of everything that’s needed.
And one more time for those who didn’t read it — the MAR177 is purpose-built for the new sport of National Match Air Rifle (NMAR). NMAR can be shot with traditional 10-meter rifles (using the CMP classifications of Precision and Sporter) and the course is three positions — standing, kneeling and prone. You can continue to use your shooting glove, sling and shooting jacket for this sport, as well. Shooting trousers are not permitted.
The benefit of the AR-15 type rifle that the MAR177 is a part of is that it helps shooters transition over to National Match highpower shooting, because the lower that includes the trigger can be the same for both rifles. And from a competitive standpoint, the MAR177 is very affordable. The only other AR-type air rifle that’s suitable for this sport is made by Anschütz and sells for $1,850.
It cost me $450 to build my lower receiver, and half of that was the National Match trigger. If I wanted to build a lower on a budget, I could do it for under $200 by careful shopping. And I just saw a complete lower advertised in a local sale for $250. But the trigger would then be single-stage and heavier, though there are ways to gunsmith the pull weight down to the legal range of 4.5-5.0 lbs. And when I say the legal range, I refer to high-power competition, only. An air rifle has no trigger-pull limit, because Precision-class target rifles, which are the Olympic target air rifles, are permitted to compete in NMAR.
Why did Crosman make the MAR177 upper for a firearm lower?
This question is being asked by many airgunners. Why would Crosman knowingly make their upper to fit a lower that then classifies the whole rifle as a firearm under federal law? The answer lies in the tens of millions of AR rifles now in the hands of shooters and the extreme popularity of the model. Crosman is building for a market that is more than a hundred times larger than the current active airgun market in the U.S. Even if only a few percent of those owners decide to buy a MAR177, they represent more than all the active airgunners in the United States at this time.
But Crosman isn’t blind to the potential for sales of an MAR that’s not classified as a firearm. I have no doubt they’re working hard on a lower that will accept a modified MAR upper that will not be classified as a firearm. But these things take time. I would expect such a project to be on the fast track right now, but how long it might take before we see it is unclear.
The difficulties are enormous!
You probably think the MAR was easy to develop. After all — every AR is the same (they’re all held to certain specs), so don’t they just have to develop a gun for one lower that will automatically work on all the rest? Actually, no. When your upper has to interface with all the lowers on the market and all possible combinations of triggers in those lowers, there are bound to be some problems. Crosman did their due diligence in designing a universal upper, but there are bound to be some combinations of lower receivers and triggers that experience temporary problems. That would be true for any company designing any new AR-15 upper from scratch.
As I mentioned in Part 2, my Rock River lower and National Match trigger worked fine from the first moment I assembled the rifle, so every new owner can expect success, but there are bound to be some hiccups. There are synthetic lower receivers on the market that are being sold on a price basis that are known to have interchangeability issues with firearm uppers, and this is going to carry over to the MAR177 as well.
I’m not going to list those brands here, but if you do a search for AR-15 lower receiver problems, you’ll come up with a good list of what to avoid. The problems are both the lower receivers, themselves, and the separate parts kits to complete them. People are buying these receivers and parts based on price, alone, and they’re running into problems when one brand of lower won’t accept another company’s parts kit and then work with those three other uppers.
Somebody asked me why I chose a Rock River lower receiver and a Rock River parts kit, and I’m telling you why. There are other brands that are just as good, and a few that are even perhaps better, such as the Giessele National Match trigger that one of our readers mentioned, but you have to be aware of the fact that not all AR-15 uppers fit all AR-15 lowers.
What I’m testing
One final comment I want to make. Building a gun like this is full of decisions. You are free to choose whatever appeals to you; but once you choose, your path is determined by the decisions you make. As I said before, there’s no trigger-pull weight restriction in the NMAR class for air rifle shooting, but if I were to want to use the same lower in a match with a firearm, I would be restricted to a weight range for the trigger release and also the style of pistol grip. While I’ll probably never compete in a high-power military-style match, I wanted to shoot a gun that would qualify. It was a choice I made, and one that you do not have to follow. But that choice led me to a certain level of performance in the rifle I am now about to test.
I’m also shooting the military-style post front sight. An aperture front would allow more aiming precision; but if you want to use the MAR as a training tool for your high-power competition rifle, you’ll stick with the sights that come on the upper.
I shot 5 shots per group off a rest at 10 meters with each pellet I tested. Since there’s going to be more testing with this gun, I didn’t try to test all the pellets I have, but I did try eight different ones.
Sighting in was done with the Crosman Premier Super Match target pellets that Crosman packed with my test gun. And they were astonishingly good! The group fired for record measured 0.144 inches between centers. That’s in the range for CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program) and NRA Sporter class 10-meter rifles that have much lighter triggers and aperture front sights. I was impressed.
Loading is not perfect
I used the single-shot tray for all this testing. This is the same tray that the Benjamin Marauder uses, and there’s a small gap just before the breech of the barrel. If you try to load the pellet tentatively, the head drops into the gap and binds. If you slam the bolt home too fast, the pellet jumps up in front and also jams. It takes a while to get the right closing speed so the pellet feeds smoothly. Not all pellets jam this way, but a couple are particularly bad. You’ll have to try it for yourself if you use the tray. I was able to get the feed right for every pellet I shot, so it’s not a problem — you just have to spend some time to learn the peculiarities of the gun with the ammo you choose.
The second-best pellet in the test was the Gamo Match. While the group they made looks large, it’s so round that it doesn’t take up that much room. In reality, this probably means they’re not really second best, but I may have made a small aiming error with one of the other pellets. However, it’s surprising that such an inexpensive pellet is also this capable.
RWS R10 7.7-grain pellets that are no longer available gave the best results, with a group size of just 0.106 inches between centers. I shot them early in the test and was probably more rested than I was later, so my eyes were working at their best.
The other pellets
Besides these three, I tried five other target pellets. They were all very equal to the Crosman Super Match, and the largest group fired during the test was 0.162 inches with RWS Hobbys.
JSB S100 Match
One test like this is not enough to determine the most accurate pellet. If I were to do the same test again, the results would no doubt change. Lots more testing is needed to find that one best pellet for this competition air rifle. However, one test was sufficient to prove that the MAR177 has everything going for it. It’s accurate, easy to use and conserves air like a free diver. It mates to an AR lower perfectly to become the best possible training system for AR shooters.
I have more plans for this rifle. Next, I plan to mount a scope and test the rifle with accurate domed pellets at 25 yards. I believe the MAR177 has more to show us.