by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Price-point PCP
- Not a Marauder!
- Shrouded barrel
- Free-floated barrel
Today we begin our look at yet another price-point PCP — the Benjamin Fortitude. Unlike the Umarex Gauntlet that was the first price-point PCP to be announced, and then suffered early launch jitters, the Fortitude stayed under wraps until the airgun company formerly known as Crosman decided it was ready.
What is a price-point PCP? An argument could be made that the Benjamin Discovery was the first one, though if you go down that path you will soon turn up a crowd of similarly low-priced PCPs. We have looked at several of them over the years. But they are not what I am calling price-point PCPs. Those airguns are fine, basic airguns. A price-point PCP is a precharged pneumatic that offers features formerly found only on guns costing many times the penny-under-$300 that the market has decided to make the line in the sand. In short, a price-point PCP (PPP) is one that gives a lot of value for the price.
Some of the features we find in PPP are great triggers, shrouded barrels for quiet operation, repeating capability and accuracy. Any one of these features may be omitted, but customers will notice. To that list Crosman has added a regulator, but the Gauntlet also has one. I will elaborate on regulators later in this report.
Not a Marauder!
I looked at the Fortitude and the Benjamin Marauder immediately jumped into my mind. I wonder whether that’s happening with a lot of people? The two rifles do resemble one another more than a little. It’s important to know because the Marauder comes with a fine adjustable trigger and a powerplant that can be fine-tuned for both velocity and fill pressure. You don’t get that with the lower-priced Fortitude. You get a regulator instead, whose advantages I will address in a bit.
All I am saying is the Fortitude is a rifle that stands on its own merits. Don’t project the things you know about the Marauder onto it. That being said — if the Marauder trigger can be fitted, all the better.
The Benjamin Fortitude is available in both .177 and .22 calibers, and I am testing a .177. That caliber is rated up to 950 f.p.s., while the .22 tops out at 800. We will learn more when we do the velocity test. The rifle is rated to put out up to 70 shots on a 3000 psi fill, and we will also look at that.
The rifle is a bolt action repeater that uses a circular magazine — the same magazine that the Marauder uses. It has a two-stage trigger that is not adjustable. Both Pyramyd Air and Crosman say it is single-stage, but my test rifle has a definite first and second stage. That could be a quirk of the slop in the trigger linkage, but I don’t think so. At any rate, the effect is the same. At this point you might be surprised that the Fortitude trigger is not the same fully adjustable trigger that’s found on the Benjamin Marauder, but to get into the PPP category they had to save money somewhere. And, I will bet anything that a Marauder trigger can be added. It was just an item of expense they didn’t want to deal with in production. Don’t forget, the Fortitude has a regulator!
The stock is black synthetic and the buttplate is made from the same material. Be careful when standing your Fortitude up in a corner because this butt is slippery, unlike a rubber butt. It has already slipped once on my office carpet. The forearm tapers nicely for an easy grip and there is a schnable at the forearm tip. The rifle comes with sling swivel anchors at the front and rear of the stock.
The Fortitude weighs 5lbs. 3 oz. The specs say 5.3 lbs., but that would be 5 lbs. 4.8 ozs. I weighed it on an accurate kitchen scale. This light weight means you can mount a larger scope on the rifle and still not be that heavy, which is an advantage.
The barrel is fully shrouded and baffled, so the discharge sound should be quite low. Pyramyd Air rates it as a 2 on their scale. I will comment on it when I shoot the rifle.
The barrel is free-floated, which means it does not contact the reservoir. Now that more shooters are getting into precharged guns they are starting to be aware of what happens as pressure in the reservoir diminishes. The reservoir flexes and moves slightly as the pressure inside drops. If it is connected to the barrel, it pulls it along. Free-floating isn’t just a gimmick, it’s essential to continued accuracy across the pressure curve
There are no open sights, of course, and the top of the receiver is a large two-piece 11mm dovetail of reasonable length. Reasonable length means you can mount larger scopes without a problem.
Okay — what is a regulator and why should you care? A pneumatic air valve operates best inside a narrow range of pressures. Despite what you may think, it’s not 3,000 psi, which is the fill pressure. Putting more gas in a car will not make it go faster and putting more air into a PCP reservoir has the same effect on velocity.
Most PCP valves work best somewhere around 2,000 to as low as 1,000 psi. But they will function with 3,000 psi air, because the air doesn’t get to the valve at that pressure. The air has to flow through the valve passageways and the time that takes to happen drops the air pressure to a level that’s usable. However, when the air enters the valve at the optimum pressure (the 2,000 to 1,000 psi mentioned above) going in, it flows quickly through the valve to do its job.
A regulator lets the high-pressure air flow out of the reservoir and gather in a smaller chamber behind the valve. If the reg is set right, the air in the chamber is at the optimum pressure. When the valve opens at firing, it “sees” air at the optimum pressure and does it’s job as efficiently as it can, shot after shot. The pressure in the reservoir is dropping gradually as you shoot, but the valve always sees the optimum pressure until the air in the reservoir falls below that pressure. That’s called “falling off the regulator” and the rifle starts losing velocity at that point. It’s like a CO2 gun when the gas runs out.
The benefit of a regulator is getting many shots at a more uniform velocity. These guns often keep all their useful shots within 10 f.p.s. Sometimes the variation is even smaller than that, but don’t think that a regulator means that every shot will be at exactly the same velocity. If that happens it’s mostly chance, though a valve can be set up carefully to use the air very efficiently. Ten-meter target rifles and target pistols, as well as some of the more expensive PCP sporters have regulators and valves that are set up this fine.
Okay, time for your sox to be knocked off. Mine were, at any rate. This rifle came to me with a test target! It shows 5 shots at 10 yards. Now, the target isn’t serial-numbered to the gun, which is a fundamental mistake, because a dishonest company could just crank these out, ten at a time, from just one rifle in a vise! But Crosman is a reputable firm and I believe this target was made by this very rifle. They say on the target that it was fired from a test fixture, which is tech-talk for a vise. The test group measures 0.136-inches between centers! I can’t wait until the first accuracy test!
We all want to know the same things about the Fortitude as we do with any of the other PPP rifles. Is it accurate? How powerful is it? Does it get a lot of useful shots per fill and is the trigger useable? That is what I expect to discover for you in this series. I have given several of the other PPP rifles an extra bit of scrutiny, and if the Fortitude seems worth it, I will again. And, yes GunFun1, I do remember I still need to test the Gauntlet at 50 yards once more.