Benjamin Marauder Semi-Auto (SAM) PCP Air Rifle: Part 5

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Benjamin Marauder Semiauto
Benjamin’s new Semiauto Marauder repeating PCP.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

This report covers:

  • Important announcement
  • Back with the Benjamin SAM
  • Pulled the baffles
  • Loading single shot
  • The test
  • Crosman Premiers
  • JSB Exact Jumbo RS
  • Air Arms 16-grain domes
  • Discussion
  • UTG scope was a huge benefit!
  • Summary

Important announcement

Pyramyd Air will be redoing the website and the blog design next week. The anticipated cutover date is Wednesday evening, 1/27/21. Therefore my last blog posting before the new site goes live next Thursday will be this Friday, 1/22/21. There is a possibility that the blog will also be dark on Thursday, 1/28/21.

Nobody likes missing the blog for several days, but I will use the time to get several things done that take a lot of time. Please bear with us as we make this transition. I will remind you of this tomorrow and Friday, too. Now on to today’s report.

Back with the Benjamin SAM

Okay, we’re back at it with the Benjamin Semiautomatic Marauder again today! Today will be a quicky but also an important-y. Brilliant reader, Kevin, reminded me of how I could bypass the SAM magazine by loading singly and see what the rifle was really doing. Reader GunFun1 said his SAM was shooting way better than what I showed you in Part 4. So — today is the day we find out for sure!

Pulled the baffles

Reader RidgeRunner advised me to pull all the baffles first, to verify that none of them was being hit by a pellet. I pulled all seven of them and the large holes through each one are clearly not being touched by pellets. We can rule out the baffles as a problem that causes inaccuracy. That leaves either the barrel or the magazine. Given that this is a semiauto, I suspect the magazine. Loading each pellet singly will make the determination.

Loading single shot

Because of the narrow SAM receiver slot that’s cut for the magazine, loading pellets single shot is not straightforward. At least it wasn’t for me. I tried needle-nosed pliers with a long thin nose, but what worked best was a hemostat — long thin clamping pliers used by surgeons. I didn’t clamp them. I only held onto each pellet loosely until the bolt pushed the pellet into the rifle’s chamber.

The test

I tried to repeat the first accuracy test from 25 yards exactly. The rifle was rested directly on a sandbag at 25 yards and the pellets were loaded singly. I positioned a light to shine on the breech so I could see to load the pellets. Care was taken not to damage them in any way. I did not adjust the scope for this test, but I will have more to say about the scope in a bit.

Crosman Premiers

In the first test that is covered in Part 4 I sighted-in with Crosman Premiers and also shot the smallest group of 10 with them. It measured 0.454-inches between centers.

Loading singly this time 10 Crosman Premiers went into 0.349-inches between centers at 25 yards. That’s enough better than the first test to be significant. The point of impact shifted over to the right but remained just as high as it was in the last test.

SAM single Premier group
When loaded singly the SAM put 10 Crosman Premier pellets into 0.349-inches at 25 yards.

JSB Exact Jumbo RS

Next up were ten JSB Exact Jumbo RS pellets. In the first test the SAM put ten of them into 0.521-inches at 25 yards.

In today’s test by loading singly the SAM put ten JSB RS pellets into 0.431-inches at 25 yards. That’s quite a bit better than the last test. As before, the point of impact also shifted to the right just a little.

SAM single RS group
Ten JSB Exact Jumbo RS pellets went into this “Mickey Mouse” group at 25 yards. It measures 0.431-inches between centers.

Air Arms 16-grain domes

The final pellet I tested is the one I was most interested in. In Part 4 the Air Arms 16-grain dome scattered all over the paper at 25 yards. The 10-shot group measured 1.159-inches. Would loading singly help this pellet?

Well, it did help! This time ten of the singly-loaded Air Arms domes went into 0.46-inches at 25 yards. It is the largest group of today’s test, but it’s almost the same size as the smallest group in Part 4 when the magazine was used! I find that fascinating!

SAM single Air Arms group
When loaded into the SAM one at a time, ten of the Air Arms 16-grain domes went into a group measuring 0.46-inches between centers at 25 yards.

Discussion

It should be clear to everyone that the SAM magazine is the reason the first accuracy test didn’t do so well. This is not my air rifle so I can’t modify the magazine the way reader GunFun1 told us about, but if I could I would. The SAM feeds reliably enough, though when I load it singly there is a slight problem. Longer, fatter pellets do not seat into the breech deeply enough to clear the air transfer port in the breech. That’s why I didn’t shoot a test group of Beeman Kodiaks. I shot four and had trouble getting them past the air transfer port unless I let the bolt slam on them. That seemed to open the group, so I stopped the test.

I will also point out that today the SAM is not very picky about the pellets it likes. That means we can rule out the barrel as a potential problem.

UTG scope was a huge benefit!

I told you that I mounted the UTG 4-14X44 SWAT scope on the SAM for Part 4. Well, that illuminated etched-glass reticle is worth the price of the scope! It made seeing the crosshairs so easy against the black bullseye!

Summary

This SAM is very accurate and today’s test proves it. The magazine may need a period of prolonged break-in. Or GunFun1’s modifications might do the trick.

I will shoot the SAM at 50 yards. Because of what we have seen today I will also load singly for that test. If I owned the rifle I would modify the magazine, but I will be sending it back and the mag has to remain as it came to me.


AirForce Texan: Part 5

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Texan
AirForce Texan big bore.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

This report covers:

  • Upgrade to the TX2 valve?
  • Mr Hollowpoint
  • The day
  • Mr. Hollowpoint 333-grain bullet
  • Stretching the air
  • Cold!
  • First two bullets
  • Time to refill
  • Summary

The .458 Texan from AirForce Airguns I’m testing has been with me for many years. Mine is from the first production run. And AirForce has made significant changes to the rifle in the time since mine was made (read Part 3, where the new TX2 valve is discussed), but I don’t care. My rifle still hits hard and drills heavy bullets where I want them to go.

Upgrade to the TX2 valve?

AirForce offered to upgrade my Texan to the new TX2 valve if I wanted. I would gain additional power from the new valve, plus with the new carbon fiber air tank I would retain the 4+ good shots, because even though the new valve uses more air, the CF tank it’s in gets filled to 250 bar/3,626 psi. I could also switch over to the new barrel that is just as long as mine, but has a faster 1:30 twist rate that stabilizes the heavier bullets better. My 535 foot-pound rifle would become a 700 foot-pound rifle with the heaviest bullets.

I don’t know if I want to upgrade or not. My rifle has proven deadly accurate already with a 215-grain semi-wadcutter from Tin Starr bullets. It put 6 of them into about 1.5-inches at 100 yards. And it doesn’t take 700 foot-pounds to dispatch a whitetail deer or a feral hog.

Texan big bore best group
Remember, we measure from the center of the 2 holes farthest apart. Those two radii equal 1 bullet diameter (center-to-edge equals one radius). So, subtract one bullet diameter (.458″) from the measurement shown on the calipers and you get the center-to-center measurement. The group measures 1.506-inches, center-to-center.

If, on the other hand, I did upgrade I would be testing an entirely new air rifle, because both the barrel and the powerplant would be different. To work properly with the TX2 valve the internals of my powerplant would also have to be changed.

In Part 4 I tested my unaltered rifle, using the new TX2 tank and valve. My rifle’s best power had been 535 foot pounds. But now, with the new valve and a Mr. Hollowpoint 490-grain bullet, the power jumped up to 655 foot pounds on the first shot. And that was without the powerplant modifications my rifle needs to do its best with the new valve.

I’m the guy who always says, “Never get rid of an accurate airgun.” Is that what I would be doing if the changes were made? I want to hear what you think. Now, let’s get on with today’s report.

Mr Hollowpoint

Robert Vogel, who is Mr. Hollowpoint to big bore shooters, sent me an assortment of his bullets to test in my Texan. I showed you four of them in Part 4, last November. My thoughts were to select the one or two best performers, tune the power adjustment wheel to optimize the rifle to that bullet — and then leave it alone. 

In Part 4 I tested four of the five bullets he sent. Today I will test number five. I’ll also go back to the bullet that has proven to be the most accurate previously and see if it still as good as it was in Part 4. Remember from Part 4 that I asked him to size all the bullets 0.458-inches, because that’s the size with which my rifle does its best.

The day

I shot the Texan last Friday at the rifle range with reader Cloud9, who is still testing his RAW field target rifle. We were on the 50-yard range that is covered and has nice concrete shooting benches. But my first test that day was the BSA R10 Mark II, and I shot a lot of 10-shot groups with it. You’ll see that one tomorrow.

The day was a cold Texas day. The temperature wasn’t that bad, but the wind was chilling both me and Cloud9 to the bone. By the time I got to the Texan I had already been shooting for almost 2 hours and was pretty cold. 

Mr. Hollowpoint 333-grain bullet

First I will test that last bullet that Mr. Hollowpoint sent. It’s a long 333-grain bullet with a deep hollow point and wide grease grooves that are separated by narrow bands. It looks different enough from all the other bullets I’m testing that I decided to save it for last.

Mr. Hollowpoint 333-grain bullet
The 333-grain bullet from Mr. Hollowpoint looks quite different from all the others.

The first bullet landed in the bull because the rifle was still sighted in from last November. When the second, third and fourth bullets also struck black I thought maybe this would be one to consider — especially for shots at close range. Those first 4 shots grouped in 1.405-inches between centers at 50 yards.

Stretching the air

Then I tried to take a fifth shot without refilling. The onboard pressure gauge read 2,000 psi before the shot and I knew I should refill, but I thought I would take a chance. That fifth bullet landed 2-1/2-inches below the lowest bullet that was already in the bull. It was still in line with the group above, just much lower. It opened the first 5 shots to 3.838-inches at 50 yards.

At this point I refilled the rifle to 3,000 psi and took a final shot. If it went into the first group I would know that 4 shots are all I can get from this 333-grain bullet on a fill to 3,000 psi. 

Well, it did go to the first group, but it landed higher, opening those first four shots to 2.308-inches at 50 yards. Obviously I’m disregarding the lower fifth shot from the first fill in this measurement.

333-grain bullet group
The first 4 shots all hit the bull and grouped in 1.405-inches at 50 yard. The fifth shot on that fill dropped lower, opening the first five shots to 3.838-inches. By filling the tank again, I fired a sixth shot that hit above the first four. That group of 5 shots measures 2.308-inches between centers. Sorry for the blurry image.

Cold!

My little fingers were getting really cold by this time, so I knew I didn’t have much more time remaining. When you see all that I shot with the BSA R10 Mark II you’ll understand how long it took me to get to this point.

I wanted to give the most accurate of the five Mr. Hollowpoint bullets one final chance to see if it was still as accurate as it had been back in November. That was the 300-grain hollowpoint. Back then I put five of them into 1.232-inches at 50 yards, with three of them in 0.349-inches. Could I still do as well on this frigid day? And if I could, maybe I could adjust the power adjuster to optimize it.

Mr. Hollowpoint 300-grain bullet
Mr Hollowpoint 300-grain bullet that you have seen before is the most accurate of all his bullets that I’m testing.

First two bullets

Since I had just filled the Texan for the last shot with the 333-grain bullet, it still had a lot of air, so I decided to shoot the first couple 300-grainers before refilling. Shot number one nicked the top of the bull at 50 yards. Shot two, however, could not be seen clearly through the UTG 6-24X56 SWAT scope. My Meopta MeoPro HD 80 Spotting Scope, however, revealed that the second shot had gone through the same hole as the first shot. I thought that was what I was seeing through the UTG scope, but I needed confirmation. You can see it in my photograph.

Time to refill

At this point I wanted nothing to spoil this group, so I refilled the rifle to 3,000 psi. Shot three landed apart from the first two shots, but it was very close. Shots 4 and 5 are clustered with it. This five-shot 50-yard group measures 0.659-inches between centers!

Back in 2015 I shot five shots into 0.762-inches at the same 50 yards. Those were the same bullets that made a 1.5-inch 100-yard group.

Texan big bore best group
Back in 2015, I managed to put five 215-grain bullets into 0.762 inches at 50 yards. This was clearly a good bullet!

300-grain bullet group
Last Friday, five 300-grain bullets made a 0.659-inch group at 50 yards. This bullet from Mr. Hollowpoint has edged out the Tin Starr bullet from 2015. Will it do as well at 100 yards?

Well, there is no way that I am fooling with the power adjuster after shooting a group like this. This Texan is sighted-in for 0-75 yards right now with this bullet!

Summary

My current Texan is very accurate and as powerful as I need it to be. But by allowing AirForce to upgrade it to the new TX2 valve and the new barrel, I would have a brand new airgun to test. I’m leaning in that direction, but I would like to hear what you readers think.

As it stands now the 300-grain bullet from Mr. Hollowpoint is extremely accurate. I do think I need to test it at 100 yards before I do anything to the .458 Texan.


Benjamin Marauder Semi-Auto (SAM) PCP Air Rifle: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Benjamin Marauder Semiauto
Benjamin’s new Semiauto Marauder repeating PCP.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • Adjusting the power
  • The test
  • JSB Exact Jumbo
  • Beeman Kodiak
  • Misfeeds
  • JSB Exact Jumbo RS
  • How loud?
  • How much air was used?
  • Adjust the rifle back to the factory setting
  • Dial off 7/8 of a turn
  • Dial off another full turn
  • Dial off another 3/4 turn
  • Dial back a half turn
  • Dial back another half turn
  • The bottom line
  • The trigger
  • Summary

Today we look at the Benjamin Marauder Semi-Auto (SAM) PCP air rifle adjusted up as high as it will go. I want to know how much power and also how many shots I can expect at this setting. I will also adjust the rifle back to how it came from the factory to see if I can achieve the former power by simply counting the revolutions of the adjustment screw.

As an aside, reader GunFun1 found out that his .22 Marauder magazines worked just fine in his SAM. He wanted to know because SAM magazines aren’t available yet. I do believe he increased their spring tension just a little.

Adjusting the power

The first step was to determine how far out the adjustment screw was set on the test rifle. To do that I unscrewed it until it stopped, which it did after 5-1/8 revolutions. That is all the power adjusted out.

After that I screwed it in as far as it will go without slipping. The manual says that it’s impossible to turn the screw in by more than 6 revolutions, and when I did I felt a click with every additional revolution. So Crosman has designed something to prevent over-tightening. Now I was ready to test the rifle.

The test

I will use the same pellets from the previous test in Part 2 so we can compare the power levels. I will also test the discharge sound again, to see if there has been any change.

JSB Exact Jumbo

This time I remembered the SAM is semiautomatic. I also remembered to press the charging handle forward and also the forward assist to properly seat the new pellet in the breech after installing a loaded magazine.

Last time at the factory setting the SAM pushed JSB Exact Jumbo pellets out at an average 804 f.p.s. The spread was 6 f.p.s. and the average energy generated was 22.81 foot-pounds. This time the velocity averaged 828 f.p.s. with a 10 f.p.s. spread from 821 to 831 f.p.s. The muzzle energy this time was 24.2 foot-pounds. That’s only a little faster after the adjustment, but as I said the adjustment screw was already turned in 5-1/8 turns as the rifle came from the box.

Beeman Kodiak

The next pellet I tested was the obsolete Beeman Kodiak, which is identical to the H&N Baracuda that’s still available. In Part Two this 21.14-grain pellet averaged 684 f.p.s. for a muzzle energy of 21.97 foot pounds. In this test the same pellet averaged 706 f.p.s. for a muzzle energy of 23.41 foot pounds. The spread was 10 f.p.s. from 703 to 713 f.p.s.

Misfeeds

With the Kodiak, though, there were several misfeeds. I only recorded 7 good shots out of the first 10, The other three were misfires. And when I tried to get the last three shots by reloadinbg the magazine a second time, all three were misfires. By misfires I mean that one pellet might have gone out at 333 f.p.s. followed by a double feed that went out at 515 f.p.s. Since it happened twice with this pellet I determined that the SAM doesn’t care for Kodiaks. So I stopped using them.

I think the Kodiak pellet is either too large or too heavy for the SAM’s action and it “confuses” the semiautomatic action. The same thing happens in semiautomatic firearms when the wrong ammo is used. In the case of the SAM I think the pellet is putting more backpressure on the action than it was designed for and that is what is bolloxing things up. This is something you must pay attention to if you plan to shoot a semiauto.

JSB Exact Jumbo RS

The last pellet I tested was the lightweight JSB Exact RS dome. In Part Two they averaged 865 f.p.s with a 5 f.p.s. spread. On the high power setting today the same pellet averaged 888 f.p.s. with a 9 f.p.s. spread from 885 to 894 f.p.s. At the average velocity the RS pellet generates 23.52 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

How loud?

In Part Two I recorded the rifle’s report as 84.3 decibels. How loud is it now that the power has been increased? My sound meter recorded it as 91.6 decibels, though it still sounded pretty quiet to me. I took several readings and this one was in the middle.

SAM report
With the power up all the way the SAM’s report was 91.6 decibels.

How much air was used?

At this point in the test 34 shots had been fired (the three magazines, plus 4 additional shots for the Kodiak pellet string). The onboard gauge says 2,300 psi remains in the reservoir. In Part 2 we learned that the test rifle runs out of steam when the onboard gauge reads around 1,600 psi. So, there are lots of shots remaining.

Adjust the rifle back to the factory setting

Can I now adjust the rifle back to where it was set when I first tested the rifle? Theoretically I should be able to “eyeball” the position of the 1/4-inch Allen screw, by watching the short end of the Allen wrench and return to that setting. Let’s see what happens when I try.

Dial off 7/8 of a turn

I dialed the wrench off 7/8 of as turn and recorded the following string with JSB RS pellets that had averaged 888 f.p.s. on high power.

Shot………Vel
1………….891
2………….888
3………….886
4………….881
5………….880
6………….880
7………….880
8………….889 Oh, oh! Wrong way.
9………….880
10..……….887

The average for this string is 884 f.p.s. so some velocity has been dialed away, but not much. Until shot eight I thought the rifle was going to settle down to a lower velocity.

Dial off another full turn

Next I dialed another full turn off the power screw. Here is what I got.

Shot………Vel
1………….877
2………….869
3………….870
4………….871
5………….871

Dial off another 3/4 turn

That was much closer to the 865 f.p.s. average for the RS, but I wanted to get even closer. So I dialed down the screw another 3/4-turn and got this.

Shot………Vel
6………….857
7………….853

Dial back a half turn

Wooops! I went too far. So I put back 1/2 turn of the power adjustment.

Shot………Vel
8………….867
9………….858
10..……….854

Dial back another half turn

Well, I’m close, but I want to get even closer, so I dialed in another 1/2 turn of power and got this.

Shot………Vel
1………….866
2………….862
3………….861
4………….864
5………….864
6………….861
7………….864
8………….857
9………….856
10..……….855

By the way, that’s 64 shots on a fill and the rifle still has 1,900 psi in the reservoir. So there is at least one more magazine’s worth of air.

The average for this string is 861 and I decided to leave the power set where it is. But there are two important things I have to say.

First, why didn’t the velocity go back to exactly where it was before when I adjusted the power screw to exactly where it had been set? Maybe I miscalculated where the screw was really set. Or maybe when you mess with the power setting it takes a long time for the rifle to settle back down.

Second, How come I dialed it down 3/4 turn of power and then put a full turn back in and the power didn’t go to higher than it was before the 3/4 turn adjustment? Same answer as before, except this time I know I did adjust the screw exactly as indicated.

The bottom line

The bottom line, guys, is to get a chronograph if you want to play around like this. Don’t think that counting screw turns is an exact science. This is the reason when someone says they are shooting their AirForce TalonSS at setting 8.12, it means nothing to anyone except that guy and only at the time he records it.  If he ever adjusts his power setting somewhere else he may never be able to get back to that exact velocity! Chronograph, chronograph chronograph!

The trigger

I must tell you about the trigger. Stage two is smooth and light, but there is absolutely no hint of where it’s going to break — other than the distance it has travelled. I’m starting to know where the rifle will fire by how far I have pulled the trigger. It’s a new experience for me, but it’s not hard to learn.

Summary

Well, the SAM didn’t go up as high as I thought it would. But it still has all the power I will ever need in the .22 semiauto. 

Remember that Kodiaks didn’t work so well this time and be willing to accept that as part of the cost of having a semiautomatic action.

The accuracy test is next.


Benjamin Marauder Semi-Auto (SAM) PCP Air Rifle: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Benjamin Marauder Semiauto
Benjamin’s new Semiauto Marauder repeating PCP.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • What is it, again?
  • JSB Exact Jumbo — huge learning curve!
  • Wait a minute!
  • String two
  • Beeman Kodiak
  • JSB Exact Jumbo RS
  • Sound level
  • Shot count
  • More power?
  • The trigger
  • Summary

Today we start testing the velocity of the new .22-caliber Benjamin Semi-Automatic PCP air rifle (SAM). Your comments to Part 1 were thoughtful and enlightened. I was hoping you readers would understand that this rifle is no more a Marauder than a NASCAR racer is a stock car. And you did!

What is it, again?

The SAM is a semiautomatic air rifle. It looks something like a Marauder, and Crosman has chosen to brand it that way, but this rifle is quite different from what we have all come to know as the Marauder. Some of that will come out today. Let’s get started.

Crosman said they sent this rifle out tuned to around 22 foot-pounds, which they say is around 900 f.p.s., but of course that depends on the pellet. It’s also going to vary a little from rifle to rifle, but since the hammer spring can be adjusted, we can tune it higher.

JSB Exact Jumbo — huge learning curve!

Okay — sometimes BB Pelletier is just as confused as anyone, and this was such a time. The first pellet I tested was the 15.89-grain JSB Exact Jumbo. Let me show you the first shot string.

Shot…………Vel.
1…………….802
2…………….528
3…………….529
4…………….556
5…………….536
6…………….791

… and the magazine was empty! HUH? How did I shoot 10 pellets in 6 shots? Unless…

Wow! The SAM is double-feeding with most shots! I gotta tell my readers about that! Unless…

Wait a minute!

Oh, THAT is what semiautomatic means! I don’t have to pull the bolt back, cock the hammer and reload for the next shot. But I did! I treated the SAM like it is a bolt-action repeater. Crosman, copy that explanation and show it to whoever said the Vigilante is a semiautomatic revolver.

Yes folks, old BB was bamboozled by this plumbum launcher! He forgot it was semiautomatic! Never mind what the title of this report is — old BB plumb forgot.

Okay, erase, erase. BB gets a do-over. This time he’ll make it work.

String two

Same pellet only now BB knows what semiautomatic means. Let’s see.

Shot…………Vel.
1…………….802
2…………….804
3…………….806
4…………….802
5…………….806
6…………….802
7…………….805
8…………….802
9…………….806
10..………….800

So — better numbers, no? The average for this string was 804 f.p.s. At that speed this 15.89-grain pellet generates 22.81 foot-pounds of energy. The velocity spread was a mere 6 f.p.s., which can be attributed to the regulator. So far, so good.

Beeman Kodiak

The next pellet I tested was the obsolete Beeman Kodiak dome, which is an H&N Baracuda by another name. This pellet weighs the same 21.14-grains as the Baracuda and should be the most powerful one I test in the SAM because it’s the heaviest.

The first shot was 537 f.p.s., which I thought was slow. Shot two went out at 688 f.p.s., which was more like it. The last 9 pellets averaged 684.11 f.p.s. At that velocity this pellet generates 21.97 foot-pounds. So the way the rifle is currently set up, the JSB Exact Jumbo is the most efficient. And the real spread for those last 9 shots was just 9 f.p.s.

But what about that first shot? What happened there? I have to know because this cannot be a hunting rifle with that kind of thing happening!

JSB Exact Jumbo RS

The last pellet I shot was the JSB Exact Jumbo RS — a 13.43-grain dome. Ten of them averaged 865 f.p.s. and old BB learned what he did wrong on the first shot of the previous string. He didn’t push the forward assist after inserting the magazine. The manual tells you to do that for a very good reason.

Pushing the forward assist ensures that the bolt probe is all the way forward. When the rifle fires, the inertia of the bolt as it cycles carries it forward all the way, but when you load a new magazine, the bolt probe may not push the pellet far enough into the breech and the velocity will drop. I will prove this in a little bit.

The low for this string was 862 and the high was 867 f.p.s. — a difference of just 5 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet generated 22.32 foot-pounds of energy.

Sound level

The SAM is pretty quiet. It registered an 84.3 on my sound meter.

SAM sound
The SAM registered a quiet 84.3 decibels on the sound meter.

Shot count

To this point I have fired 36 pellets on the fill. Now I shot 20 blank shots to avoid wasting all my expensive pellets. That brings us up to 56 shots fired since the fill. The onboard gauge reads about 2,300 psi remaining, and well more than half of the green scale on the pump dial remains. In other words, the rifle is still on the power band. Then I shot another string of JSB RS pellets because I have more of them than the other two types. Let’s see what I got.

Ten RS pellets averaged 864 f.p.s. on this string. That’s just one f.p.s. different than the string 20 shots ago. But this time the high was 873 and the low was 857 f.p.s., so the spread has opened to 16 f.p.s. And that’s 66 shots on the fill.

The next string, which was shots 67 through 76 is shown below.

Shot.…………Vel.
67…………….853
68…………….855
69…………….853
70…………….853
71…………….855
72…………….848
73…………….851
74…………….854
75…………….849
76…………….852

Looking at this string it seems like the rifle is nearing the end of its useful pressure, but even then, at an average 852 f.p.s., the velocity may have fallen (from 864/865 for the RS pellet) but the total variance, low to high, is only 6 f.p.s. The rifle is not off the reg, but it has settled down to a slower average. I think you could still shoot at this average and be fine out to 50 yards, because the difference between this string and the first one is still not that much. That’s at least 76 shots on a fill, when the SAM puts out 22 foot-pounds.

Let’s look at the next string of JSB RS pellets.

Shot.…………Vel.
77…………….593 (I forgot to use the forward assist!)
78…………….850
79…………….839
80…………….841
81…………….831
82…………….828
83…………….840
84…………….833
85…………….828
86…………….830

Here is where we might argue. The SAM is still shooting pretty well, but I think we would have to scale it back to 35 yards. Discounting that first shot for a moment, there is a 22 f.p.s. variation in velocity and the rifle is definitely slowing down. You could still shoot it and do okay, but maybe not on those farthest targets. Let’s add 4 more shots and say the SAM has about 90 shots for 25-35 yard plinking and at least 60 good consistent shots for long-range hunting, when the hammer spring is set as it came from the factory.

SAM gauge
After 86 shots on one 3,000 psi fill, this is where the SAM pressure gauge reads.

Secondly, I forgot to use that forward assist after inserting the magazine and there is the velocity drop again. So that’s what it is and don’t let anyone tell you different. The magazine has functioned perfectly in this test.

More power?

Yes, there is more power available and I will adjust the rifle to get it for you. But not today. We’re already doing too many things in this report.

The trigger

Here is something else I’m not going to change. I like this trigger — for this rifle! It has a long, smooth second-stage pull that I can work with. But I’ll show you what it looks like inside.

SAM trigger
The SAM trigger parts, as shown in the manual.

Trigger pull

The two stage trigger has a 5.7-ounce first stage, followed by a long second stage that breaks at 2 lbs. 5 ounces. It’s not what I’m familiar with, but I like it.

And I am going to recommend that you always store the rifle with the safety on. Remember — this rifle is a real semiautomatic. As long as there is air in the reservoir, it will fire when the trigger is pulled.

Summary

By golly, we got through it. But next time we’re going to adjust the power up and do it all over again. I hope I can remember to push that forward assist!


BSA R10 MK2 precharged repeater: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

BSA R10 Mk2
BSA’s Mark 2 repeater has a rubber-covered beechwood stock.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Lots of discussion
  • Before we begin
  • Prevent supersonic
  • H&N Baracuda Magnum with 4.50mm head
  • H&N Sniper Magnum with 4.50mm head
  • H&N Baracuda Match with 4.50mm head
  • Crosman Premier heavys
  • Shot count
  • Trigger pull
  • Summary

Today we look at the power of the BSA R10 MK2 precharged repeater. Remember that, although this particular rifle is no longer sold, it is very similar to the BSA R10 SE that’s currently available. So in essence this is a review of a current pellet rifle, even though it’s also something of an historical review.

Lots of discussion

For some reason this rifle sparked a lot of discussion among you readers. Most of it was about other things, which is fine with me. But a couple of you said that you did like the look of the R10. I put that “dog ugly” remark in the blog to see who would rise up to defend it. There weren’t as many as I anticipated. But you did have lots to say.

Before we begin

Before we start let’s look at a few things first. This rifle is very powerful. The .22-caliber version that’s still in production as the BSA R10 SE is supposed to generate 29 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. The rifle I’m testing is a .177, and it was supposed to generate 21 foot-pounds. That’s obviously with heavier pellets, because precharged airguns generate higher energy with heavier pellets.

Prevent supersonic

I had already fired the rifle a couple times and I knew that at the velocities the lighter pellets exit the muzzle, it is impossible to silence this air rifle. But heavier pellets should exit at a velocity lower than the sound barrier, and that would make it reasonable quiet. I plan to test it both as it came and also with a DonnyFL silencer screwed on the front. That means I will be testing heavier pellets today.

Reader Brazos comments that he had the same rifle in the same caliber and his really liked the smaller head sizes. So I will be watching that, as we go. When we get to accuracy testing that will become more important.

H&N Baracuda Magnum with 4.50mm head

This Baracuda Magnum is a heavyweight in .177. Don’t confuse it with the much lighter but still heavy Baracuda and Baracuda Match. Ten of these 16.36-grain .177 domed pellets averaged 792 f.p.s. from the R10. That generates 22.79 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. The low was 787 and the high was 798 f.p.s., so the difference was 11 f.p.s. I did see that waiting a few seconds after cocking added velocity, so the new regulator is no doubt breaking in. I’m only talking 5 seconds, or so. I started this 10-shot string with 232 bar in the rifle’s tank. At the end of 10 shots the gauge read 200 bar.

I shot the first shot with the rifle just as it came from the factory, and shot number two was with the silencer attached. Without the silencer the R10 generated 98.6 dB. When the silencer was attached it generated 82.5 dB. That is with the Baracuda Magnum pellet that averaged 792 f.p.s., so the sound barrier was not an issue. With the silencer, the R10 is as quiet as my best-tuned Diana 27. It’s definitely suburb-friendly. Without the silencer it’s about as loud as a standard breakbarrel, which is to say not bad at all. And thanks to the reader who reminded me of how to take a screen shot with my smartphone!

dB for unsilenced R10
R10 without the silencer generated 98.6 dB at the muzzle. That’s not that loud. It’s maybe too loud for a small yard, but fine for a larger one — say a half-acre.

dB for silenced R10
With the DonnyFL silencer attached the muzzle discharge dropped to 82.5 dB. That’s just over the ambient quiet room level.

H&N Sniper Magnum with 4.50mm head

The H&N Sniper Magnum domed pellet weighs 15 grains. They averaged 815 f.p.s. for ten shots. At the average velocity the Sniper Magnum generates 22.13 foot-pounds at the muzzle. The low was 805 and the high was 822 f.p.s. — a difference of 17 f.p.s.

H&N Baracuda Match with 4.50mm head

Ten 10.65-grain Baracuda Match pellets averaged 933 f.p.s. the low was 928 and the high was 939 f.p.s. — a spread of 11 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet generated 20.59 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Crosman Premier heavys

The last pellet I tested was the 10.5-grain Crosman Premier Heavy. This pellet is the lightest pellet tested, but it’s also the only pellet made from hardened lead. Ten averaged 928 f.p.s. from the R10 with a 11 f.p.s. spread. The low was 922 and the high was 933 f.p.s. At the average velocity this pellet generated 20.08 foot pounds of energy.  And, after 40 shots since the fill there was now about 140 bar remaining in the rifle.

R10 pressure 40 shots
After the first 40 shots this is what the onboard pressure gauge read. I’m calling it 140 bar.

Shot count

But after 40 shots at this power level, where do we stand? To find out I shot 5 more Baracuda Magnums. In the first string they averaged 792 f.p.s. Now they averaged 790 f.p.s. After that I fired five more Sniper Magnums. In the first string they averaged 815 f.p.s. This time they averaged 821 f.p.s. So, after 50 shots the R10 is still on the reg. The reservoir pressure now read 125 bar.

Then I fired five Crosman Premier Heavys. In the first string they averaged 928 f.p.s. Instead of showing you the average let me show the entire string.

Shot……….Vel.
1…………..933
2…………..922
3…………..920
4…………..919
5…………..917

From this short string it appears the rifle is coming off the reg. But let’s look at five Baracuda Match before we decide. In the first string they averaged 933 f.p.s.

Shot……….Vel.
1…………..938
2…………..927
3…………..923
4…………..919
5…………..913

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the rifle has come to the end of its useful air. At the end of these shots the onboard gauge reads about 105 bar. I have caught it right at that instant that it dropped off the regulator. So I am going to say this BSA R10 Mark II can get 60 good shots on a fill.

Trigger pull

As it came from the factory the two-stage adjustable trigger had a first stage pull of 9 ounces, followed by a second stage break at 1 pound, 9.7 ounces. The second stage had two spots of creep in the pull and was not crisp, though it was light. The instructions in the manual said I could reduce the second-stage travel, so I adjusted the trigger.

In the first place, there isn’t supposed to be any second-stage travel! But BSA provides an adjustment to get rid of it, so I tried it.

I did remove the reservoir that the manual calls the “buddy bottle,” and then the stock came off with the removal of one Allen-head bolt. Then I adjusted the second stage travel. To my utter surprise — it really worked! I have adjusted several airgun triggers through the years, but most of them don’t do much, if anything, to change the trigger pull. This BSA trigger, though, actually responded to my adjustment and all the creep in stage two went away!

After I replaced the stock and tested the pull again I was surprised that the trigger now breaks crisply. Often after the stock is back some creep can be detected, but not this time. Stage one is still 9 ounces and stage two is now 1 pound nine ounces on the nose!

Summary

Well, I still don’t think this BSA R10 Mark 2 is an attractive air rifle, but I now have a lot more respect for what it can do. It gets a lot of shots at a reasonably stable velocity before falling off the regulator. It has a great trigger and the magazine doesn’t stick above the top of the receiver. This is going to be a fun one to shoot for accuracy!


Pellet calibers — why .20?: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

diabolo pellet
The diabolo pellet exists in four smallbore calibers.

This report covers:

  • History
  • Back to Sheridan
  • Early success — sort of
  • Why .20 caliber?
  • The next speedbump
  • Boom
  • Bust
  • Summary

Today we take a look at the .20 caliber that is also popularly labeled as 5 mm. There were Quackenbush airguns in the late 19th century that were made in .21 caliber and Crosman made some gallery airguns in .205 caliber, but the true .20 caliber didn’t exist until it was created by Sheridan in 1947.

History

According to Ronald Elbe’s book, Know Your Sheridan Rifles and Pistols, 2nd edition, copyright 2018 by Ronald E. Elbe, the 5mm pellet (and airgun) existed in Europe prior to the launch of the Sheridan model A (the Supergrade) in 1947. This is the first time I have been aware of that fact. To the best of my knowledge, only the Zimmerstutzen parlor rifle existed as a 5mm, and that size was at the high caliber range of the rifle. It would be a new ball size 21 or an old ball size 17. But a zimmerstutzen is a firearm by the strictest definition, so I need to find out more about the existence of these pre-Sheridan 5 mm airguns.

Back to Sheridan

At any rate, Sheridan’s model A was fielded in .20 caliber in 1947 and the company maintained that caliber for all their airguns until the company was sold to Crosman. The late Ted Osborn told me that the prototype model A rifle was made in .22 caliber for testing purposes, since .20 caliber pellets were not available.

Sheridan called their new pellet a cylindro-conical design. And they stayed with that shape for the entire time the company was owned by them. In 1977 they did buy a European diabolo pellet and sell it under their brand name, but the mainstay pellet was the good old Sheridan cylindrical.

Sheridan Cylindrical
The Sheridan Cylindrical pellet has no wasp waist, but it does have a hollow tail to move the center of mass forward. The step at the base of the pellet takes the rifling.

Early success — sort of

The model A/Supergrade was a success from the standpoint of accuracy and power. Even the fine British and European pellet rifles of the day were only its equal for power and accuracy. They also equaled the Supergrade for build quality, but they didn’t surpass it. I’m using the Webley Mark III and the Diana model 58 as my comparisons.

The Supergrade has a walnut stock and separate forearm and a large cast aluminum receiver. The rifle itself is no bigger than a Sheridan Blue Streak, but when you take the time to really examine it, the quality is revealed. The valving mechanism is another place quality reigned, but that’s not visible outside the airgun.

All that quality cost money, though, and a retail price of $56.50 in 1947 was too much to pay for an air rifle. The model B that followed at $35 didn’t help sales much. Not until 1949 and the model C that was also called the Blue Streak and Silver Streak, retailing for $23.95, was Sheridan’s place in the market assured. Even then, though, both the Crosman and Benjamin pneumatics were cheaper.

Why .20 caliber?

The question everyone asks is why did “they” (Ed Wackerhagen and Bob Kraus) produce their first airgun (and all subsequent Sheridan airguns) in .20 caliber, when there was no good source of supply for the pellets? Some believe they wanted to corner the market, but that would be like a mouse wanting to subdue an elephant! It just isn’t a viable possibility. I choose to believe the inventors, who said they did it because, and I am putting their stated remarks into a succinct statement, “We simply wanted our gun to be the best. By controlling the ammunition as well as the manufacture of the rifle, we could ensure this.” What they were saying is neither .177- nor .22-caliber airgun pellets of the time were of high enough quality for the gun they wanted to make.

The next speedbump

So, Sheridan was the standalone user and supplier of .20-caliber/5 mm airgun pellets from the late 1940s until…? Well — until Dr. Robert Beeman decided to brand .20 caliber/5 mm airguns and pellets, sometime in 1981. Their 1980 catalogs (numbers 7 and 8) both say that .20-caliber/5 mm pellets are restricted to the Sheridan brand rifle, while in their 1981 catalog (number 9) they say they have developed the first precision-waisted (diabolo) pellets and followed that with the first spring-piston air rifle in that caliber — a Beeman 250, which is based on a Diana 45. Of course to get things like this into the catalog they had to be working on these things a couple years before.

In their 1982 catalog (number 10) they proudly display the new 5 mm (.20 cal.) Beeman R5 rifle on two pages. The R5 was available only in that caliber, so that marks the first big push Beeman made for this caliber.  In 1982 they offered the following pellets in .20 cal.:

  • Silver Bear
  • Silver Jet
  • Bear
  • Sheridan

Beeman R5
The Beeman R5 was produced in 5 mm only. It didn’t last long.

Boom

Following that Beeman’s push for the .20 caliber took off. But the promotional literature — mainly the catalog — maintained a stable encouragement for all three calibers — .177, .20 and .22 The .25 caliber did exist at the time but it was at a low point around the world — especially in the US, Europe and the UK. That would soon change, but in 1990/91 Beeman started a full-court press for the 5 mm/.20 caliber. Many of their German airguns were offered in that caliber, though none of the UK guns just yet. The FWB 124 and 127 (.177 and .22 caliber, respectively) almost got a companion in the 5 mm 125. But that model was stillborn for reasons to which I am not privy.

Robert Beeman said the .20 was a good compromise between .177 and .22. I always felt it was closer to .22 in terms of power for hunting. But you still couldn’t shoot anything except .177 in formal target competition. And in field target any caliber larger than .177 put the shooter at a statistical disadvantage.

The .20 caliber blossomed in the 1990s and carried over into the new millennium for several years. The Brits finally embraced it as a good compromise between .177 and .22. The Koreans and Turks included it in their PCPs, as did AirForce Airguns, who still offers it in several of their smallbore rifles and their exchange barrels.

Bust

Twenty years into the new century and millennium the era of the .20 caliber is fading rapidly. Pyramyd Air offers just 6 different pellets in this caliber and one of them is a felt cleaning pellet! There are other pellets out there that Pyramyd doesn’t sell, but nothing like what’s available in .177, .22 and even .25. If there aren’t many pellets there won’t be many new .20-caliber airguns. It’s easier for a PCP with interchangeable barrels like what AirForce makes to stay with the .20 than it is for an airgun to be entirely dedicated to the caliber.

Summary

Will the .20-caliber/5 mm go away completely? Probably not. At least not right away. But the demand for innovation in this caliber just isn’t there today. Of the four smallbore calibers it is number four.


AirForce Texan: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Texan
AirForce Texan big bore.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • Mr. Hollowpoint
  • The test
  • Two important things
  • Bullet seating
  • Shot count
  • 255-grain bullet target 2
  • 300-grain bullet group 1
  • 300-grain group 2
  • 350-grain bullet
  • 365-grain bullet 
  • Discussion
  • Summary

Today I finally report on my AirForce Texan .458 that we looked at last in September. Some reader asked me to try different commercial bullets in my rifle, and while I was talking to Ton Jones at AirForce he said they really like the bullets Mr. Hollowpoint, Robert Vogel, makes. So I contacted him and ordered a selection of bullets to test.

Mr. Hollowpoint

Robert was on a hog hunt when I contacted him, but when he returned we communicated and he generously sent me a sampling of some of his .45 caliber bullets. I asked for them to be sized .459, because my Texan’s bore is .458. He said he understood and would try his best to satisfy my needs.

If you get nothing else from today’s report get this. The best accuracy with lead bullets comes with bullets that are sized exactly the diameter of the bore, measured from the depth of one groove to the depth of the groove on the opposite side, or up to one-thousandth of an inch larger. In my experience, one-thousandth of an inch larger is best.

Because Mr. Hollowpoint casts his own bullets, he can control the sizes, up to the limits of his molds. And I have to tell you this — I have been casting lead bullets for over a half-century and I can see that Robert Volgle does excellent work. Not all who cast bullets do. Many people cast hard lead bullets because the antimony that hardens the lead also makes the lead flow better. But these are bullets so soft a thumbnail can scratch them. That’s what you want for a big bore airgun.

By maintaining a tight watch on the temperature of the lead and the bullet molds during casting good bullets can also be made from soft lead, and it’s obvious that Robert Vogel knows what he is doing. Every bullet mold has a “personality” of its own, which means you have to learn what they like before you can do good work.

One last observation. Casting hollowpoint bullets involves extra steps that many bullet casters won’t take the time to do. Not only do the bullet molds have to remain at a constant temperature — the hollowpoint pin also has to, and that’s not a given.

Robert sent an me assortment of bullets to try, and I’m not going to rush things. I selected four of them to start with. We will refer to them by their nominal weights in grains. There is a 255, a 300 a 350 and a 365.

Texan bullets
Mr. Hollowpoint’s lead bullets are well-cast. As you can see, the shapes differ a lot, though they are all hollowpoints.

The test

I shot 5-shot groups for this test because of the amount of air being used by the rifle. I shot off a concrete bench with the rifle rested in a long sandbag. The rifle is scoped with a UTG 6-24X56 SWAT scope.

Tom shoots
It was good to get behind the Texan once more.

Two important things

When I visited Ton in September he reminded me of two important things. The first is to always seat the bullets deep in the Texan’s breech or they will tilt in the bore. That destroys accuracy. The second thing is to adjust the rifle’s power adjuster for each bullet you shoot. It’s best to find one good bullet and set the rifle up for it, rather than to hop from bullet to bullet. It’s the same as for a pellet rifle that likes certain pellets, only with the Texan it’s more sophisticated because you are adjusting the powerplant for each bullet you shoot.

I did one of those things in today’s test but not the other. I seated each bullet deep into the rifling like Ton said, but I did not change the power adjuster. Until I find the bullet I’m searching for there is no sense adjusting the power for each bullet. I will waste all my samples just trying! So let’s look at bullet seating first.

Bullet seating

I started shooting the 255-grain bullet first. Shots one and two overlapped each other on the paper, and then shot three landed 1.5-inches lower. I wondered what caused that and then remembered my lesson from Ton in seating each bullet. So bullet 4 I seated properly and it went back to bullets 1 and 2. Lesson remembered! Let’s look at what I’m saying.

Texan 255 1
Bullets one and two overlapped, but bullet 3 dropped because it wasn’t seated properly. Bullet 4 was then seated correctly and went back to bullets 1 and 2. Group measures 1.991-inches between centers at 50 yards, with the top three in 0.516-inches.

Texan 255 loose
The 255-grain bullet lies loose in the loading trough. Whatever you do, don’t close the breech with the bullet laying out like this!

Texan 255 cocked
Here I’ve pushed the bullet into the breech half-heartedly. Don’t do this! the rear of the bullet is tilted up. I have exaggerated the angle for you to see. But I can feel a much smaller tilt when it clicks down straight. I press the bullet down and then in with my thumb.

All bullets do not seat in the barrel to the same depth, but each different type of bullet does seat into the rifling to the same depth every time when the same thumb pressure is applied. And it takes a LOT of thumb pressure! The rifling straightens the bullet, aligning it with the axis of the bore and setting up the rifle for the best accuracy.

Texan 255 seated
This is how deep the 255-grain bullet seats when it is done right. 

Seating the fourth bullet right is what caused it to return to where the first two bullets strike the target at 50 yards in that first target. And here is BB’s tip to Texan owners. Press the base of the bullet down and in to seat it correctly.

Shot count

I remembered refilling the Texan after 3 shots in the past, but that was in 2016 when I was shooting at 100 yards. This time I fired 4 times on the first targbet and there was still 2,300 psi remaining from a 3,000 psi fill. So, on the second target I fired the rifle 5 times on a fill. That is very good air management for a rifle in the Texan’s power range. I haven’t chronographed these bullets yet, but suffice to say we are getting something in the low 300 foot-pounds range with a bullet this light.

255-grain bullet target 2

I just shot the second target and did nothing special. Just 5 shots, one after the other. This time the group was more open, measuring 2.388-inches between centers. I still think this 255-grain bullet is worth spending some time on, but for now I moved on.

Texan 255 group 2
The second group of 255-grain bullets is more open and larger. Five shots in 2.388-inches at 50 yards.

300-grain bullet group 1

Next to be tested was the 300-grain bullet. This one has narrow bands that the rifling engages It seats easier and a little deeper. The first 5 shots landed in 1.258-inches at 50 yards. Shot number 4 is the stray and the other four bullets are in 0.504-inches between centers. Wow! Now, THAT is a group!

Texan 300 group 1
Five 300-grain Mr. Hollowpoint bullets are in 1.258-inches at 50 yards with 4 in 0.504-inches.

This is a bullet worth pursuing! And I can tell that the power adjuster is set almost optimal for this one. It probably needs to come out (less hammer pressure) just a little. A second group might tell us more.

300-grain group 2

The second 50-yard group of five 300-grain bullets is also small, measuring 1.232-inches between centers. Three of the bullets are in 0.349-inches. This bullet really wants to shoot!

Texan 300 group 2
Five 300-grain bullets are in 1.232-inches at 50 yards, with three of them in 0.349-inches.

350-grain bullet

Next to be tried was the 350-grain bullet. Five of them (still on a single 5-shot fill) went into a vertical 3.714-inch group at 50 yards. Given the 300-grain bullet’s performance I think I’ll leave this one alone.

Texan 350 group
Five 350-grain bullets strung vertically in this 3.714-inch group.

365-grain bullet 

The final bullet to be tested was the 365-grainer. The Texan put five of them into 4.857-inches at 50 yards. It was another vertical group and the worst one of the test.

Texan 365 group
The Texan put five 365-grain bullets into this vertical group that measures 4.857-inches between centers. It’s the largest group of the test.

Discussion

In light of the 300-grain bullet’s performance, I think it is the one to pursue. The 255-grainer is also good and shows promise to be even better, but the 300-grain groups tell me they are the bullet the Texan likes the best out of the ones I tested — so far. I have one more Mr. Hollowpoint bullet to test — a 333-grainer. I also want to try adjusting the power setting to optimize the rifle for the 300-grain bullet. If it turns out the way I imagine, that will be the bullet to order in quantity.

Of course I also need to test the velocity of this bullet, so we can find out the power. No sense doing that until I’m sure the power adjustment is set to the optimum. And then if this bullet warrants it I will shoot it at 100 yards.

I did measure the diameter of the 300-grainer, though, and my caliper says it is 0.4570- to 0.4595-inches across at the base. Soft lead bullets usually measure out of round after they have been handled awhile. But their softness squishes them into all corners of the bore, which is where the accuracy and velocity come from.

Summary

That’s it for this report. But as you can see, we aren’t finished with the .458 Texan just yet.