by B.B. Pelletier

I was reading a mystery novel the other day and the cop asked his friend if he had collected all the floppy disks when he got the computer. Floppy disks!

I remember floppy disks and some that we called floppy disks that were smaller and no longer floppy, but hearing something like that out of the blue, or reading it in my case, is like watching a modern movie in which the hero can’t locate a public phone to call for help. What? He doesn’t have a cell phone? Well, no, in 1977, he doesn’t. In a very brief number of years we have become so familiar with ubiquitous cell phones, that to not have them seems very odd.

Then, Wednesday morning, I got a request from Pyramyd Air to supply Edith with the number of shots you get from one fill of air in an AirForce Condor and a Benjamin Marauder, so they can be added to the specifications. The number of shots per fill, you say? Well — it depends.

Today, I’d like to examine the reason(s) why it depends. This is for those of you who are considering the purchase of a precharged pneumatic (PCP) air rifle.

Fifteen years ago, I could have answered a question like this about almost any PCP. Precharged pneumatic airguns were straightforward in 1995, and there was just one answer to the number of shots per fill. But in 1996, when the Career 707 hit these shores, we started dealing with adjustable power levels. As they came from Korea, Careers had three power settings, but before long they were gunsmithed up to as many as 26 settings by any number of airgunsmiths in this country! My first Career had 17 power settings after it was modified.

A gun like that needs a little explanation and a caveat like, on high power, you can expect as many as 10 good shots; on medium power expect 25 good shots and on low power as many as 50 good shots — followed by a separate explanation of what is meant by a good shot.

What I mean by a “good” shot is one whose velocity doesn’t stray outside a certain velocity limit that the shooter would like to allow. Since that can be different for every shooter, we’ve already moved into a vast gray area. But it gets even more confusing as the technology progresses.

Back when the AirForce Condor first hit the market, yours truly had the task of chronographing the first 100 guns that were built. We wanted to ensure that we were building each and every .22 caliber Condor to exceed 1,250 f.p.s. with a Crosman Premier pellet. After that, we could be assured that every gun would be the same, as long as nothing changed in the manufacturing process. We knew that upon receiving his new Condor, every owner of those early rifles would fill the tank and sit down in front of a chronograph to find out whether or not he had been snookered.

We were really focused on the .22 caliber Condor because we knew that, however fast that caliber shot, the .177 Condor would shoot even faster. And that was true! Besides, no U.S. buyer ever ordered a .177 in those early days. It just didn’t happen. As in zero, zip, nada! They didn’t need to, because the .22 was going faster than most .177s on the market.

We were astounded that we not only got these super-fast velocities, we also got 20 good shots, which we defined as the .22 caliber Crosman Premier pellet going faster than 1,175 f.p.s. That was the lower limit we used to define the number of good shots you get from a full fill of a Condor air tank/reservoir. And the number was designated as 20 good shots.

BUT — and this is a big one — the Condor has adjustable power. So, not only can you shoot 20 full-power shots from a single fill, if you dial down the power to the low level, you’ll get a LOT more acceptable shots. Only with a Condor, the low-power shots aren’t that low-power! In my testing of a .22 caliber Condor with the Condor tank, low-power shots still generate 19 foot-pounds, an energy that some other air rifles struggle to achieve. And, because less air is used at low power, you may get 45 good shots or more at this setting.

The power adjuster on the Condor lets the owner vary the power settings and to return to a specific setting in the future. No two guns achieve the same velocity with the same settings, so this is just for the gun being adjusted.

As you can see, there’s no one simple answer to the total number of shots you get from a Condor. But it doesn’t even end there. Since it’s possible to install either the 18-inch 24-inch Lothar Walther barrel or the 12-inch Lothar Walther barrel on a Condor, the number of shots will also change from just the length of the barrel. And since the Ultimate Condor Combo, which Pyramyd Air sells as the fully loaded Condor, is sold with all three two barrel lengths, this is a legitimate configuration. [Correction note: I originally wrote that the Condor comes with an 18-inch barrel, but it does not.]

The Ultimate Condor Combo contains many popular Condor options for less than $1,500 as of this date.

So, the answer to how many shots you get from a fill of the air tank on a Condor is neither simple not straightforward. Have I confused you yet? Because I’m not finished. Let’s take a trip through the looking glass.

Benjamin Marauder
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, Benjamin brought out their Marauder PCP. Most shooters concentrate on its accuracy and its ultra-quiet operation, but the Marauder has a couple more tricks up its sleeve that relate to power and the number of shots per fill. For starters, you can adjust the power, just like you can with the Condor, though how this is done is entirely different. That feature, alone, will affect the total number of shots the rifle has to offer, but it’s just the beginning.

The Marauder also allows the owner to adjust the maximum fill pressure level it works at. To put it simply, you can adjust the rifle to use a 2,000 psi fill or a 3,000 psi fill or anything in-between. This feature doesn’t necessarily change the power of the gun, but it does alter the total number of shots you get from a full fill.

There are three separate adjustments on the Marauder that adjust these two performance specifications. Let’s look at what each one does. The first adjustment changes the length of the hammer stroke. The longer the stroke, the more inertia the hammer builds before striking the valve stem. When it strikes with greater force, the stem is pushed back farther and held open longer, resulting in more air rushing out of the tank to power the shot. On the reverse side, the shorter the stroke, the lower the amount of time the valve remains open. This adjustment works in conjunction with the air pressure level in the tank.

The second adjustment is the hammer spring pressure. This is more straightforward, as it adjusts the tension on the hammer spring. Adjustments like this date back more than a half century to the power knobs located at the back of various Crosman bulk-fill CO2 guns. It was a straightforward means of adjusting power. It worked well because CO2 maintains a constant pressure level inside a pressure vessel at a given temperature. But pressurized air does not maintain a constant air pressure, so the hammer stroke adjustment was added.

The third adjustment controls the volume of the air transfer passage that connects the firing valve to the Marauder’s breech. The greater the volume inside this passage the greater the amount of pressurized air that can flow through the firing valve to get behind the pellet.

The implication of these three adjustments is that there can be no single answer to the number of shots one can expect from the full fill of a Benjamin Marauder reservoir/air tank. In fact, it takes a discussion very much like the one presented here just to appreciate all that’s at work.

The goal of the Marauder adjustments is to extract the maximum number of shots from each fill at the maximum power level. That might range from 20 high-power shots at a fill pressure of 2,000 psi to over 100 shots at a lower acceptable power level from a fill pressure of 3,000 psi. This lower power shot might still be the most powerful shot available within the gun’s adjustment range, and even more low-powered shots might be possible using the same setup.

There are some shooters whose eyes glaze over when you tell them all these things. These are the people who should set up the rifle to work at a single fill pressure and operate it at a single power level.

But the real answer to how many shots to expect from a single fill of either the Condor or Marauder air reservoir is, “It depends….”