by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Crosman Mark I
Crosman Mark I target pistol.

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • History
  • Mark II
  • The pistol
  • Two power levels
  • Grips
  • Sights
  • The trigger
  • Power
  • The pinnacle of its time
  • Ergonomics
  • Modified guns
  • How long do they hold?
  • Summary

I wanted to write about the Crosman Mark I target pistol today, but was afraid I might have reported on it too many times in the recent past. However, when I looked, I discovered that I have never fully tested this airgun for you! I wrote about it back in 2005 and re-ran that report in July of 2015, but apparently I’ve never gone all the way and done a complete test. That ends today.

History

The .22 caliber Mark I Target pistols were made by Crosman from 1966 to 1983. In 1980 Crosman removed the power adjustment capability from the gun, so those made from ’66 to ’80 are called the first variation, while those made from ’80 to ’83 without power adjustment are called the second variation. The first variation guns are considered more desirable, only because of the additional feature of power adjustment.

Crosman Mark I markings
Crosman called it a target pistol — and they were right.

Mark II

There is also a Mark II Target pistol that was the same pistol made in .177 caliber. They also have two variations that either have power adjustment (1966 to 1980) or not (1980 to 1986). Mark II pistols could also shoot steel BBs through their rifled steel barrels. Twenty years ago I thought, and also unfortunately wrote, that the Mark II wasn’t as accurate as the Mark I. It couldn’t be, I thought, because it had a “compromise” barrel that handled both lead pellets and steel BBs. My assumption was founded on the performance of my first Mark II that was indeed not as accurate as several Mark Is I had the pleasure of shooting. But then I got a Mark II that could shoot just as accurately and I had to eat my words — or would have if anyone ever read them. The truth is, the Mark II barrel is not a compromise. It’s a rifled steel barrel that you can also shoot steel BBs though, but who ever would?

The pistol

From this point on I will refer to the .22-caliber Mark I that I am testing, but almost everything will also apply to the Mark II, except for the caliber. This is a single-shot target pistol that comes with an adjustable trigger, adjustable sights and, on my first-variation gun, adjustable power.

Crosman Mark I trigger
That Allen screw in front of the trigger blade is where the adjustments are made.

Crosman Mark I rear sight
The rear sight has a push-pull adjustment for windage and an elevation screw for up and down.

Crosman Mark I power adjustment
Power adjustment is via the small screw in the front of the frame.

Two power levels

Aside from the power adjustment screw that I never fool with, the pistol also has two power levels. Cock the striker to the first stop and you have low power. Stop two gives you high power. I will test both settings for you with a couple different pellets.

Grips

Crosman put a very nice set of target grips on the pistol. For right-handed shooters there is a thumb rest on the left side. And lefthand grips were made. Unfortunately that renders the pistol either right- or lefthand, but not both. However, the grips interchange, left and right, and you can swap out the thumbrest grip panel for a flat left-hand grip panel if you want an ambidextrous handgun.

The Mark II pistol originally came with black plastic grip panels and the Mark I came with mottled red and brown panels, but since they are completely interchangeable you can encounter any grip on any model today.

Sights

This is a real target pistol, so the front sight is a target post with an undercut on the back side that keeps the light from reflecting back at the shooter. It’s crisp and sharp and just what you want for shooting targets. And they have paired it with a rear notch that adjusts in both directions.

Unfortunately the Marks I and II were designed in the 1960s, when push-pull sight adjustments were considered good enough for airguns. To move the rear notch to the left you first loosen the left adjustment screw then tighten the right one and the notch slides silently left. How far it moves is anyone’s guess as there is no index mark to watch.

Elevation is a similar drill, with a screw that raises and lowers the rear leaf, independent of any indicators. So sight adjustment on this pistol is by-guess-and-by-golly.

The trigger

The Mark I trigger deserves some discussion. For one thing, it is both single stage and two-stage — depending on the power setting. Cock the gun to the low power level and the trigger is single stage. I can feel some creep (starting and stopping) in the trigger as it is pulled in this mode.

Cock the pistol to high power and the trigger becomes two-stage. It’s very crisp and precise.

You can adjust stage two of the trigger extremely fine because the adjustment works on the sear contact area. In fact, you need to be careful when you do this because the trigger can be made so sensitive that it is unsafe. I have mine adjusted perfectly for the way I shoot and I will measure it for you in Part 2.

Power

The Mark I isn’t a magnum air pistol, but it does have decent power. Running on one 12-gram CO2 cartridge in the grip, it has all the good and bad points of that gas.

The pinnacle of its time

Looking at a Mark I today it may not seem so special in light of other modern pellet pistols, but for the 1960s and ’70s it was on a level of its own. Nothing we knew of could touch it until Smith & Wesson brought out their models 78G and 79G in 1971. Of course there were some other air pistols around that were wonderful at the same time, but guns like the Webley Premier were much more expensive than the Crosman guns and got overlooked by most American airgunners.

Ergonomics

Ergonomics, or the study of how a product fits the user, wasn’t a big thing in the 1960s. Oh, many people were aware that a P-08 Luger fit the hand quite well, while a 1911 has a grip that needs to be learned, but most gun designers never gave fit much thought. That’s why custom makers like Al Biesen stood apart.

Well, the Mark I and II pistols were made to fit the hand much like a Luger. Even firearm owners noticed, because the Mark pistols were also much like the Ruger Mark I pistol that preceded it by several years. In fact, the Crosman Mark I could be said to be a lookalike air pistol.

Crosman Mark I Ruger Mark I
The Ruger Mark I was a popular pistol in the ‘60s. Crosman copied it well.

It was this fit that captivated shooters more than anything. A Mark I Target just felt right in the hand, with the implication that it had to shoot like it looked and felt. And that is the reason behind the pistol’s popularity, I think

Modified guns

I could do a blog or two on just the modifications that have been done on the Mark I and II chassis. The guns that Tim McMurray has created are astounding. But this blog will not go in that direction. I want to look at and test the box-stock Mark pistol.

How long do they hold?

A lot of modern CO2 pistols say to remove the CO2 cartridge when you are finished shooting. Sometimes that’s for safety (a charged gun can still shoot anything), but sometimes it’s because the gun can’t sustain the gas under pressure for a long time.

The Mark I is different. I took this one from my drawer of air pistols and am pretty sure it has been holding the same CO2 cartridge for many years. The gun was still charged with gas when I test-fired it. Maybe you should remove the cartridge for safety reasons, but the gun will not suffer physically if you don’t.

Summary

This will be a fun report to write. I expect to hear from many readers who own one or more Crosman Mark pistols.

Crosman Mark I right