by B.B. Pelletier

Crosman’s Mark I Target is a beautiful single-shot air pistol. It resembles the Ruger Mark I.

Ruger’s Mark I was a pistol worthy to be copied.

I am writing this report at the request of a reader, but also because I feel it’s worth telling the full story. I did a very brief report about it back in 2005, when I hadn’t yet developed my formula for airgun tests. As a result, that report is very thin and leaves a lot out. I also wrote another brief report about the LD modification that Mac 1 does to this platform; but, once again, that wasn’t too detailed.

For those readers who are new and might wonder where they can up look this sort of stuff, I use the excellent Blue Book of Airguns, eighth edition as a guide. If you want to be in the know regarding airguns past and present, you need a reference library, and this excellent resource should be the cornerstone.

The Crosman Mark I and Mark II target pistols began production in 1966. The .22 caliber Mark I stopped production in 1983, and the .177-caliber/BB-caliber Mark II continued until 1986. There were two main variations of both models. The first version featured adjustable power and lasted through 1980, and the second variation continued to the end of production for each model. These guns were produced right at the time America transitioned from .22 to .177 caliber as the principal airgun caliber of interest. The market influence of Air Rifle Headquarters, and especially Beeman Precision Airguns, was what made that change inevitable.

Both pistols are very similar, except for the calibers. The .22 caliber Mark I was made as a single-shot target pistol, but the Mark II was suitable for either lead pellets or steel BBs. It had what I have in the past called a “compromise” barrel, which means the rifling was designed to allow the use of steel BBs without damage. I’ve tested Mark IIs and found them to be surprisingly accurate with lead pellets, though not so with the smaller BBs. The loading bolt on the Mark II has a magnet at the tip to hold the BB in place until the shot is fired, because the bore is too large to restrain it. But lead pellets are sized to fit into the rifling and they’re seated into the breech exactly as the .22 pellets are, which is just past the gas transfer port. But one interesting thing was perhaps learned from the Mark II bolt.

The magnetic tip of the Mark II bolt is thinner than the tip of the Mark I bolt, and that may have given airgunsmiths the idea of reducing bolt thickness at this critical gas-flow point to allow more gas to flow past. It’s right at the transfer port, which is essential to the gun’s performance. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know, but thinning the bolt tip is now a standard trick in the power modification of the Mark I.

Today, you’ll see many more .22 caliber pistols of this type than were originally made. That’s because many .177 Mark IIs were rebarrelled with premium .22 pellet barrels because of the power potential of the pistol. That’s not to say you can’t get a pistol rebarreled with a premium .177, but .22 caliber is by far the most desirable. You can tell a Mark II by the presence of black plastic grips, while the Mark I has a reddish-brown grip. But grips are easily swapped between the guns, so this is not a positive I.D. You have to read the frame to know for sure how your pistol started life.

This pistol runs on a 12-gram CO2 cartridge that fits neatly into the grip. My stock pistol gives me about 45 powerful shots on one cartridge. You’ll find out how powerful that is in Part 2. My gun was resealed by Rick Willnecker about 10 years ago, and it still holds and shoots well. Of course, there have been numerous modifications to this gun, including the attachment of bulk tanks under the grip that supply gas for hundreds of shots. With longer barrels and certain other mods, the Mark I can be a very powerful air pistol, clear up to 12 foot-pounds.

The gun was patterned after Ruger’s Mark I .22 target pistol. Crosman engineers with whom I’ve spoken tell me they were enamored with the Ruger style, to the extent that Crosman took the grips a full step beyond Ruger and made it extremely ergonomic. With a thumbrest on the left side (sorry, southpaws), it feels extremely comfortable in the hand and the weight seems to disappear. There are aftermarket grips, but I’ve never found a pair I liked better than the factory plastic grips supplied by Crosman.

The operation of loading is separate from that of cocking. The loading bolt simply pushes the pellet into the breech and seals the breech against gas loss. Cocking is accomplished by pulling forward on two round knobs located on either side of the receiver. The first click is low power and the second is high. I seldom use low power because the trigger has some creep on that setting, while on high power the trigger is almost as crisp as glass.

The bolt simply opens the breech for loading.

Once the bolt is closed, the breech is sealed from gas loss.

The cocking knobs are forward of the trigger. Pull forward one or two clicks.

The sights are fully adjustable for windage by the “push me-pull you” method. You loosen a screw on one side, then tighten the other side to push the sight sideways. Remember to move the rear sight in the direction you want the pellet to go. Elevation is more straightforward by a simple screw that elevates the rear notch against it’s own spring leaf.

Windage is via two opposing screws. Elevation is more traditional.

A Patridge with a sharp undercut to eliminate glare. Just like the Ruger.

The front sight is a target Patridge type with a deep undercut to eliminate glare. It is razor-sharp and, together with the rear notch, makes a sight picture you can really work with. I’ve shot two-inch offhand groups at 50 feet with my Crosman Mark I, which is about the same I can do with a Ruger .22 Mark I.

I have the power adjustment screw on my pistol, though I never bother adjusting it. The gun shoots so well that I don’t see the need to screw around — pun intended. However, for this report, I will demonstrate the velocity range the screw gives so you know what can be expected.

The finish is a black gloss paint, though many of these pistols have been refinished by now. And when custom barrels are installed, they’re often blued instead. The pain flakes off easily on some pistols, but there are many people who will refinish your gun if you don’t want to.

The barrel is eight inches long, which comes as a surprise to many shooters. It sits so far back in the action that it appears to be two inches shorter. The rifling is very often extremely good, so a Mark I can be a real shooter without any modifications. Modern high-quality pellets will boost performance to a level the original Crosman “ashcan” pellets were not able to achieve. We’ll see about this in the accuracy test.

A handsome airgun in all respects, the Crosman Mark I is a true classic.