by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Let’s get it straight
- Different desires
- The rifle
- How difficult is it to fill with a hand pump?
- A good way to enter the world of PCP
- Yes, but a hand pump costs more than the rifle!!!
- Today was not planned
Let’s get it straight
This is the season of the tax refund, here in the U.S. tax refunds come in all shapes and sizes. If you work for an employer, your options of controlling the size of your refund are few — just whatever choices the payroll service allows. Usually they can adjust it so the refund is as low as possible, but always a positive number, so you owe no additional money when your taxes are computed. Or if you prefer, more can be deducted each pay period so the refund is larger.
For those who are self-employed, the options are greater. You either pay your estimated taxes quarterly, or you wait until the end of the year and have a very large bill due. Or you hire a payroll service and they help you sculpt your withholding to whatever suits you.
Every person is different. Some want to owe as little as possible, knowing they had the greatest use of their money during the year. Others want a large refund that they can treat as free money at tax time.
The term precharged pneumatic (PCP) is a lot like a tax refund. It can be large or small — the term doesn’t define what it is. But people who are new to our hobby treat it like it means something. They hear PCP and they start constructing new universes in their minds. If it’s a PCP is must be accurate. If it’s a PCP it must be powerful. A PCP must have a perfect trigger, and so on. So, when the new Benjamin Wildfire comes along, these people have already whipped up a fantasy world for it to inhabit. It’s a PCP, so it must be a great hunter. It’s a PCP repeater, so move over, Benjamin Marauder!
What the new Benjamin Wildfire actually is, is a Crosman 1077 that runs on air, rather than CO2. Instead of feeding 50-cent 12-gram CO2 cartridges every 60 shots, you pump it back up to 2000 psi every —?? — well, I guess that will be one of the things we will discover in this test. But you don’t pay for the air you use.
And, because it runs on thin air rather than thick CO2, you can expect higher velocity. The package says up to 800 f.p.s., and that is another of those things we will discover together.
The Wildfire is a 12-shot repeating .177 air rifle that operates on stored air — a pneumatic that is pre-charged. The reservoir is a tube beneath the barrel that is pressurized to 2000 psi by whatever means you have, but a hand pump is ideal. That’s because pumping to 2000 psi is quite easy. I have more to say about that in a moment.
The reservoir is one small place where the Wildfire differs in appearance from the 1077. The air reservoir on the Wildfire runs almost to the end of the barrel, while the CO2 tube on a 1077 stops at the end of the firearm, many inches from the muzzle. Also, the Wildfire has a pressure gauge onboard, while the 1077 has no need of one.
Additionally, the Wildfire has an air degassing screw that allows you to bleed down excess air. You could just shoot it out like you have to with CO2, but the 2mm degassing screw that’s located next to the pressure gauge gives you a faster way of doing it.
The rifle is just shy of 37 inches long and weighs 3 lbs. 10-3/8 oz. A better definition of a plinker I cannot imagine.
The stock and outer receiver are black plastic. The barrel, reservoir and rear sight are the only parts that are metal on the outside of the rifle.
This is a 12-shot repeater. It fires every time you pull the trigger through a long heavy stroke. The action of pulling the trigger both cocks and releases the striker to fire the gun and also advances the 12-shot plastic clip to the next round. The pellet fires from the clip (is not pushed into the barrel before firing) and the gun does not stop functioning when it is empty. You keep track of the shots yourself.
As far as accuracy goes, the 1077 is reasonably accurate and I expect the Wildfire to be similar. Expect to hit a one-inch target at 25 yards most of the time.
The sights are open — a post with green fiberoptic dot in front and a plain adjustable notch in the rear. The rear sight adjusts up and down via a stepped elevator and left-right via a screw in an oval hole. They are not precise, but are adequate for the accuracy and distance the Wildfire is expected to shoot, which is plinking to 25 yards, or so.
An 11mm dovetail atop the plastic receiver will accept scope rings or the base of a dot sight. I would keep the scope or dot sight small and lightweight because it is clamping onto plastic. I have scoped my 1077s for years and they have worked just fine.
I have covered this before but some people have not taken it to heart. The Wildfire (and 1077) action is a double-action only revolver. The trigger has to pull back the striker and advance the circular clip at the same time. The pull is going to always be long and, when the gun (or replacement clip box that most will call the magazine) is new, it is also heavy. That heaviness lightens as both the rifle and the clip box/magazine wears in. I have older 1077s whose trigger pulls are smooth and relatively light, but that relates to the trigger pull of a new 1077.
The good news is the clip box from a 1077 will fit this rifle, so if you have a 1077 that’s already broken-in you can improve the trigger right away by using the old clip box. I own 2 1077s and have had many others over the years, so I have several replacement 12-shot plastic clips, but they are available new because they are identical to the ones from 1077s. That’s not a guess. I have tried it and it works. The new rifle action still needs some breaking-in and it will also smooth out, but the older clip box that contains the broken-in double action mechanism does improve the trigger pull.
How difficult is it to fill with a hand pump?
The Wildfire is easy to fill with a hand pump! I know because back when we developed the Benjamin Discovery, I had Crosman’s attorney fill one with a hand pump, right there in the office. She was a young woman who stood less than 5 feet tall, and she had little difficulty filling to 2000 psi. I could fill the rifle with one hand while seated. Now, if you have severe arthritis or angina all bets are off; but if you can clean out the kitty litter boxes every day or mow the lawn, you can fill the Wildfire with a hand pump.
When the test rifle was unboxed it contained a maintenance fill of about 500 psi. It took 96 strokes of a G6 hand pump to fill it up to 2000 psi. I pumped slowly and deliberately, allowing the air to flow between all three stages of the pump. If you want to horse the pump like a madman, expect to pump it 140 strokes to achieve the same fill. I will report in Part 2 how many strokes it takes to fill from where you stop shooting (around 1000 psi), but I expect it to be around half what I did today.
Yes, but a hand pump costs more than the rifle!!!
Guess what? The gasoline you put into your car costs thousands of dollars, over the lifetime of the car. Each CO2 cartridge you install in a 1077 costs about 50 cents, so a hand pump stops costing you after 400 cartridges. That time comes sooner for some folks than for others, but it will come. Take care of the rifle and it will come. You’re just buying all the pressurized gas you’ll ever need (and a lot more) up front. And, because you are only filling the rifle to 2000 psi, that hand pump can be passed down to your kids, if you take care of it.
A good way to enter the world of PCP
Some people have said the Benjamin Wildfire is a great entry point to the world of precharged airguns. I agree — as long as your expectations are properly aligned. Remember what this rifle is and what you can expect from it and it will be the perfect way to get into PCPs.
The Wildfire will teach you how to fill a PCP with a hand pump. Also you’ll learn how to watch the pressure gauge at the start and finish of shooting. If you own a chronograph you will learn to determine the ideal pressure curve and number of shots per fill.
But, like the man who asked if he would be able to play the piano after having his carpel tunnel syndrome fixed, the answer is still, “Only if you could play it before the operation!” Just because it’s a PCP does not turn the Wildfire into something it is not.
Today was not planned
When I woke up this morning I had no intention of starting the Wildfire report. The box arrived from Crosman yesterday and I knew what it was, but I had planned to finish this week by doing a velocity test of the ASG Dan Wesson pellet revolver.
But I needed a way to explain what sort of gun the Wildfire is, and the idea of the tax return analogy came to me. So, I wrote it down and, when I looked up again, today’s report was finished. Oops!