by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
I’m starting a long report about an air rifle that comes up in conversation all the time — the Benjamin Marauder. I use it as a standard for comparison to most other air rifles in its class; though, to be honest, there are no other air rifles that are in its class. They may have some of the same features, but no other air rifle on the market has everything that the Marauder has.
It’s very significant that the Marauder occupies the top position on the Pyramyd AIR search page for precharged pneumatic (PCP) air rifles when you sort for the most popular models. Even though it costs more than the Benjamin Discovery, which was created to be the entry-level gun for those coming into PCPs for the first time, the Marauder out-sells the less expensive airgun. And with all that it has to offer, the Marauder is still a blistering bargain…not only among PCPs, but among the larger category of fine air riflesin general.
This is not my first report on the Marauder, or, as the insider jargonists have named it, the M-Rod. Way back in 2009, I did a 5-part report on this .177 rifle as it was first launched. Back then, the airgun community was just starting to get used to the idea that Crosman could build precharged airguns instead of buying them from other manufacturers and slapping their name on it. The Benjamin Discovery that the slangsters have shortened to Disco was their first attempt at building a PCP here in the United States, and they were so careful with the launch that they hit a home run the first time at bat. But the Marauder was the rifle they really wanted to build. And, with it, they knocked the ball out of the park!
When the Discovery was in development, Crosman engineers knew shooters were going to want a match-type trigger, a baffled barrel and superior accuracy. I argued that we first needed to get our production feet wet with a simpler design that had fewer technical challenges to build. As things evolved over time, we were both right. Building the Discovery first gave Crosman’s East Bloomfield plant the time it needed to ramp up a precharged pneumatic assembly line and to learn all the sensitive issues involved with building PCPs. But the customers really did want all the bells and whistles on their guns; so when the Marauder came out, the company was praised for finally getting it right.
As it turns out, there are actually two distinctly different motivations for buying these rifles. The Discovery is what you buy when you want to save every last penny and still get into precharged airgunning with a brand new airgun, while the Marauder is the one that’s bought for all its features. Sometimes, these are two entirely different customers; and other times, they’re the same customer but at different times in their airgunning journeys. Whatever the psychology, each model compliments the other one, and neither would be as successful by itself.
I’ve always believed that a company needs high-performance models to encourage timid buyers to purchase their more mundane products. That’s why the automobile industry pours millions of dollars into NASCAR — so that mom and dad can feel special while driving their ordinary wheels to soccer practice and to work. Remember this — most Range Rovers never leave the pavement — despite the fact that they can.
But Crosman has taken this marketing strategy one important extra step. They’ve built a high-performance PCP and held the cost to a fraction of what others charge for airguns of lesser capability. It’s like Ferrari is making a sports car that retails for under $30,000. The dinosaurs will claim that it can’t be done, yet here’s the Benjamin Marauder, proving it can.
This rifle deserves a second report because we keep bumping into it as we look at other airguns. It’s often held as the standard against which other air rifles are compared. So, it’s time to look at the rifle in its own light to see if all the hype is deserved.
As an interesting side note, I have not shot this rifle since June 2009, and it’s still holding air. I’m mentioning that because a lot of people talk about how these PCPs don’t hold their charge.
I also tested a .25-caliber Marauder air rifle, and that coincided with my illness and hopitalization. My good friend Mac had to step in and finish that test for me in 2010.
One last footnote before I talk about the gun. There’s a new synthetic Marauder coming out, and I’m going to get one to test for you. This is going to be a very thorough look at the M-Rod family.
The Marauder is a PCP repeater that comes in .177, .22 and .25 calibers. The .177 that I’m testing now holds 10 shots in the rotary clip. The .22-caliber rifle has the same number, but the big .25 caliber drops to 8 pellets.
The barrel is shrouded so successfully that the Marauder is held up as the standard for what a quiet PCP should be. Of course, you can make it even quieter with certain aftermarket modifications. But as it comes from the box, it’s quieter than 90 percent of the comparable PCPs on the market. The shroud gives the appearance of a bull barrel, which is pleasing to most shooters. But the real 20-inch barrel is located deep inside the shroud.
The stock is beech with a conventional shape. It’s thick through most dimensions. The fact that it encloses the rear of the reservoir tube means that it’s a trifle thick through the forearm. It really isn’t that wide; but it looks like it is, and that’s the impression most people have of the rifle — that it’s larger than it really is. In fact, it weighs only a trifle over 7 lbs., depending on the wood weight, and is actually a fairly lightweight air rifle.
The pistol grip is contoured nicely for right-hand and left-hand shooters, alike, with a hint of a palm swell on either side. The cheekpiece rises high enough to naturally bring your eye up to the eyepiece of the scope. The bolt handle located on the right is perhaps the one thing lefties will find objectionable.
The rifle is finished with a matte finish overall. The metal parts are a pleasing dark gray, and the wood has a satin sheen. It looks like it was designed for hunters by hunters, and the presence of detachable sling swivel studs is proof of that.
No sights come on the rifle because the shooter is expected to mount a scope. The 11mm scope base on the receiver stands above the barrel, so there will be good clearance for a large objective lens; but the circular clip protrudes above the top of the receiver, forcing you to use rings that raise it high enough to clear. You almost have to use a 2-piece mount, although it would be possible to use a cantilevered 1-piece mount that reaches over the clip. I’m telling you that you need to think about the scope and mount more carefully than with some other rifles.
The rifle is filled through a male Foster quick-disconnect nipple that has a 2-micron filter inside to stop dirt from entering the reservoir. This type of fitting is nearly universal these days, and it’s one of the pleasing features that all Crosman-made PCPs share.
The Marauder’s trigger is adjustable in ways the triggers on guns costing twice as much cannot equal. You control the first-stage and second-stage lengths, the weight of the let-off and even the position of the trigger blade when it’s at rest. The trigger releases with a light and crisp second stage that’s worthy of the title match trigger. I’ll discuss the trigger more in a future report.
The user can adjust the rifle’s power, within limits. But this is not a simple adjustment that acts just on the hammer spring, alone. Both the hammer-spring tension, or preload, and the hammer-stroke length are adjustable. You control both how hard the hammer strikes the valve stem and also how far it can push it. This gives you fine control over the rifle’s power output, but it’s a procedure that requires the use of a chronograph and balancing between the spring tension and the hammer-stroke travel. I’ll have more to say about this in a future report.
Adjustable fill pressure
I know of no other PCP that has the ability to adjust the maximum fill pressure of the gun. You’re actually controlling the volume of air that can flow through the valve when the hammer’s struck. This has to be done in conjunction with the power adjustment to be fully effective. If not done correctly, you could have a situation where the fill pressure restricts the possible top power the rifle can generate, rather than the hammer stroke and spring tension. I’ll talk more about this in a future report.
Marauders have a well-deserved reputation for accuracy. We’ll test that, of course; and in the years since the rifle was tested last, a number of good pellets have become available. This should be an interesting update for all of us.