Walther LGV Challenger: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Walther LGV breakbarrel air rifle
Walther’s LGV Challenger breakbarrel was a short-run success in 2013.

History of airguns

This report covers:

I have been thinking about doing this report for several years. The Walther LGV Challenger is an air rifle that went extinct just after I reported on it in 2013. There was an entire range of modern LGVs. Many had wood stocks and upgraded features and they are all gone now, but it was the Challenger in its black synthetic stock that caught my eye at the 2013 SHOT Show.

The one I am reporting today retailed for $566.10 in 2013. Others in the line went up into the $600s.

The first LGVs

There was an old LGV, of course. Several of them, in fact. They represented Walther’s high-water mark in the 1970s with breakbarrel recoiling spring-piston target rifles, coming at the end of a long line of developments in that field. They were contemporary with the LGR Universal I tested for you last month.

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 10-22-10-01-Walther-LGV-Olympia Walther LGV Olympia was a top-quality 10 meter target rifle from the 1970s. The weather cooperated yesterday and gave me a perfect day at the range, so I was able to shoot the Walther LGV Olympia at 50 yards. I also shot the Talon SS with the 1:22" twist barrel before the wind kicked up and stopped all airgun shooting, so I'm on the way to the final test of the different twist rates. I knew the LGV Olympia was never going to hit the target, no matter what I did to the rear sight, so I placed two 3-inch bulls on a 2-foot by 4-foot piece of target paper and used them for sighting. The shots landed far below these bulls, of course. How far is an eye-opener, so I took a picture of it so you could see. 06-22-13-01-Walther-LGV-Olympia-50-yard-groups The pellets landed about 18-inches below the aim point at 50 yards. The sights had the pellets hitting the center of the target at 25 yards, so this is how far they drop in the second 25 yards. Notice that the center of the group of JSB Exact Jumbos on the right is about 2 inches lower than the center of the RWS Superdomes on the left. I fully expected this to happen, so I stapled the bullseye targets to a huge piece of target paper, so the pellet holes would show. Knowing they could well go to the same point I used two separate bullseyes as aim point, and from the picture you can see that was a good idea. I selected the two best pellets from the 25-yard test for this. They were the JSB Exact Heavy, which was the best pellet at 25 yards, and the RWS Superdome that took second place. I shot off a sandbag with the rifle rested on the flat of my hand in the classic artillery hold. The flight time of both pellets was extreme. Although I couldn't see them in flight, the flight time told me they were dropping rapidly as they moved downrange. JSB Exact Heavy The first pellet I tried was the 10.34-grain JSB Exact Heavy. It is far too heavy for the LGV Olympia powerplant, but in the 25-yard test 10 Exact Jumbos went into a group that measures 0.354-inches between centers. So a novice might expect that since the range was doubled, the group size would be as well. That would give us something like a 0.70-inch group for this pellet. 06-22-13-02-Walther-LGV-Olympia-50-yard-group-with-JSB-Exact-Heavy The 50-yard group was larger than expected. Ten JSB Exact heavys went into 2.285-inches What I actually got was 2.283-inches between the centers of the two pellets that were farthest apart. Thats roughly 6 times larger than the 25-yard group and more than 3 times the expected size, if you simply try to extrapolate from 25 yards to 50 yards. This is why you have to be careful when making generalizations about accuracy. The shooting conditions were perfect for this test. There was no breeze to speak of and if I felt something I always waited it out. I also had no shots that were called as anything but perfect. So what you see here represents the best I was able to do with the LGV Olympia at 50 yards with this JSB pellet. RWS Superdome The second-best pellet at 25 yards was the RWS Superdome that gave me a 10-shot group measuring 0.695 inches. Multiply that by 6 and you get an anticipated group size of 4.17-inches. I'm doing that because of what happened with the JSB Exact Jumbos. 06-22-13-03-Walther-LGV-Olympia-50-yard-group-with-RWS-Superdomes RWS Superdomes opened up even more than JSB Exact Jumbos. This group measures 3.062-inches between centers. What Superdomes actually did was put 10 shots into 3.062-inches -- so it was better than predicted (if you use the 6-times predictor) but was certainly much larger than simply double the 25-yard group size. The lesson here is that group size does not simply increase linearly with distance. We hear that all the time. If a certain gun shoots 1-inch at 100 yards we say it should shoot 2 inches at 200 yards. I'm saying that rarely happens. Usually the group will open faster as the distance increases. Not always, but usually. Evaluation The Walther LGV Olympia is a remarkable airgun. Out to 25 yards it is extremely accurate, plus it is very easy to cock and quiet to shoot. Beyond 25 yards, though, the LGV Olympia quickly gets outside its comfort zone. There just isn't enough power pushing the pellet to hold the group size to what you might expect. These results are consistent with the results I got when shooting the FWB 300S at 50 yards. Installing a scope helped, but only marginally. So I'm not going to put a scope on this rifle. I'm satisfied with this test and that's as far as I'm going in this test.
Walther LGV OLympia.

Why the Challenger?

My LGV Challenger has several features that I like. It is quite accurate. It is easy to cock — at least for the first part of the stroke. It is .22 caliber, which makes it easier to load. The pivot joint is very tight which contributes to the accuracy — or at least we all feel that it does. And it has a barrel lock that helps keep the breech sealed tight. It shoots most pellets well, which makes it a real plus for the guy who doesn’t have a lot of different brands on hand.

Walther LGV Challenger breakbarrel air rifle barrel lock
Challenger barrel lock

The barrel lock makes the breech very tight.

The bad points

The LGV Challenger is not perfect, however. It has a slight buzz when it fires. In 2013 I could tolerate it, but in this day of Tune in a Tube there is no longer any reason to put up with it. It also has fiberoptic sights—boo! But I found they don’t gather light too well and they look dark when shooting — yea! The muzzle is threaded for an add-on silencer, which is next to useless with a spring piston rifle that generates all its noise in the powerplant. Still, it is there for those who want it.

Walther LGV Challenger breakbarrel air rifle rear sight
Fiberoptic sights!

Walther LGV Challenger breakbarrel air rifle threaded muzzle
A threaded muzzle — your call.

The rifle was advertised as having a match trigger. It does not. While the vintage LGV really did have a match trigger, just saying it doesn’t make it so. When are the marketing departments going to realize that calling something “match” only draws attention to it and makes everyone scrutinize it more closely? The second stage of the trigger on the LGV Challenger is somewhat creepy.

Power

The power is just under 11 foot-pounds. When I learned that in the last test I said, Ten years ago, that would be a suicide marketing venture, because the 1,000 f.p.s. mark was considered the gold standard (and 800 in .22). Today, we know better, and I’m here to tell you — this is a seriously classic air rifle. I can see a long and successful life ahead for the new LGV series, as long as it holds up in the accuracy department.”

Well — I was wrong. It was accurate, but the entire line was discontinued in about 18 months. I was so sorry to see what had the potential to become a time-honored classic disappear. You know FWB tried to resurrect the success of their 124 in the new FWB Sport and they missed the mark, but Umarex was sitting on a potential icon and they killed it. Well — I got mine!

This report

So, this will be a traditional report with a couple things added. I will inject Tune in a Tube into the mainspring to quiet the action and I will attempt to adjust the trigger to be crisper. At 1 lb. 10 oz. it’s light enough — just a little creepy. I will quiet the spring before testing the velocity — just so we know.

I tested the rifle out to 50 yards last time. That proved to be a bit too far, but at 25 yards it was really good.

Summary

What we have in the Walther LGV Challenger is a modern air rifle that has transitioned over to the historical section. If you sometimes wish you had been around when airguns like the FWB 124 and the Hakim were available, this is your chance to turn back the clock.


What do you want?: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • So what?
  • The most important thing
  • What gives accuracy — the barrel
  • What gives accuracy — the trigger
  • Safety
  • What gives accuracy — the breech lock
  • Powerplant
  • Sights
  • My idea
  • Between the lines

This is the start of a series that I think will be quite different. The inspiration comes from the SpaceX company that has now successfully put two astronauts on the International Space Station. SpaceX has significantly reduced the cost to build rockets and launch payloads, making space exploration more affordable. Elon Musk determined that he could buy the materials to build a rocket for just three percent of what the Russians wanted for theirs. That was what put him in business.

So what?

What does any of that have to do with airguns? Everything, I think. Because it illustrates just how much can be accomplished when there is a plan and when the schedule is not artificial but is based on realistic forecasts. This report is not meant to criticize any company or person, but it will also not permit the hardening of attitudes that stifles progress.

We are going to design an ideal airgun. In fact we are going to design a couple of them, and I am starting with the spring-piston powerplant. This will be an air rifle

If we are successful, we will design an air rifle that can be manufactured at low cost and yet have all the things shooters desire. I will start the conversation, but you readers are as much a part of this as I am. So — speak up!

The most important thing

I think the most important thing about an airgun is that it hits what it’s shot at. Power alone is not important because power without accuracy is meaningless. Beauty isn’t of chief importance because, while it might satisfy the taste, if it can’t hit the target it won’t get shot. Ergonomics aren’t that important because it can fit like a glove — if it doesn’t also hit the target it’s not going to be picked up. Price is not the primary importance because if it can’t be relied upon to hit the target, who cares how cheap it is?

Nobody made me full ruler and controller of anything, so if you disagree with me on this point, make your case. I’m not saying that power, beauty ergonomics and price don’t matter; I’m saying they only matter once there is an accurate airgun to apply them to.

What gives accuracy — the barrel

Accuracy is not just the barrel, but it certainly begins there. Crosman has learned that if they first ream the inside of the barrel tube before they rifle it, they get the best results. Sig has learned that the barrel doesn’t have to be choked — as long as the bore size is relatively uniform from breech to muzzle. Add that to what Crosman has learned and we know what must be done to rifle an accurate barrel. AirForce has learned that by cutting a progressive leade into the rifling at the breech, pellets will load straighter and deform less when shot. Add that to what Crosman and Sig have learned and we start to see the beginnings of good barrels.

FX has learned that it is possible to swage in the “rifling” from the outside of the barrel and lower the cost to make a barrel. But, they also know that a barrel rifled this way will be very picky about what pellets it likes. The barrel will be very accurate with a certain pellet within a certain range of initial velocities, but that range must be maintained. Oops! Perhaps we have gone too far.

I could go on and talk about lapping the barrel after rifling. Bartlein laps before rifling and again, after rifling. Their barrels are considered some of the finest in the world. But for our project, I think lapping after rifling is one step too far. It takes a $100 barrel and makes it a $250 barrel rather quickly. If the reaming process is run slow enough and the tools are kept sharp enough to prevent chattering, I think we have gone as far as we need to.

What gives accuracy — the trigger

An accurate air rifle needs a good consistent trigger to realize its maximum potential. But it doesn’t have to be a 50-gram trigger from a 10-meter rifle. I have told you of the benefits of the ball bearing trigger that certain vintage Dianas have. They were great for their day, but that day has passed and those triggers contain far too many parts to be economically acceptable. We also know that Rekord triggers have been superb for nearly 70 years, and the Air Arms version is the highest evolution of that design in production. Ivan Hancock used to make and sell a brass version of the same trigger that was called the Mach II, and that handmade version was perhaps as good as the design ever got.

But we don’t need a trigger that good in our ideal air rifle. Let’s turn our attention to Sig, instead, and look at their  Matchlite trigger that’s in the ASP20 breakbarrel rifle.

Sig ASP20 trigger graphic
Sig Matchlite trigger. Graphic provided by Sig.

Sig produces an American-designed airgun trigger that’s ideal for our project rifle. Ideal, only we can’t use it unless Sig also builds the rifle. What it demonstrates is that the Rekord is not the only good airgun trigger design. The Matchlite cannot be adjusted as light as the Rekord, but within the box of its performance it’s good enough for the rifle we are building.

Sig ASP20 trigger box
The adjustments on Sig’s Matchlite trigger work inside the bounds of safety. You get a light trigger that the lawyers are okay with.

What we need is a trigger with the adjustability of the Matchlite but with simplified design. It needs to have fewer parts and should retain some adjustability. And it should have a positive trigger stop.

Safety

Yes, there should be a safety. It should be ambidextrous and manual. 

Design the breech so one hand has to pull down on the muzzle of the barrel to fully access the breech for loading. That’s your anti-beartrap. You just made the shooter part of the safety equation.

What gives accuracy — the breech lock

Sig also showed us that a breech lock can be built that locks up a breakbarrel like a bank vault without an overly aggressive detent. Their Keystone breech is light-years better than any other one on the market. But is that the only way to do it? I think not. I think with some thought a different type of lockup can be created that doesn’t infringe on the Sig patent — unless Sig decides to built the rifle I’m talking about!

Spring-gun manufacturers other than Sig haven’t been investing any thought in how to lock a breakbarrel breech or how best to reduce friction in the pivot joint without allowing the base block to wobble when the barrel is closed. Through corporate hardening of the attitudes they have put progressively heavier detent springs and more aggressive chisel detents into the hinge joints. I can think of a system right now that would lock a breech solidly and be nothing like the Sig Keystone. And I am not an engineer!

Powerplant

The powerplant is where this project really takes off. In the recent report on the Beeman R10 you learned that the piston stroke is where power lives — not the diameter of the piston. Now, stay with me on this.

Why do people love the FWB 124? After the accuracy, the one big reason for liking the 124 is how easily it cocks, relative to the power. So, let’s do this — let’s reduce the piston diameter to around 20mm, and let’s increase the stroke to around 90mm. Let’s reduce the power of the mainspring to a third of what it is now to create a breakbarrel that cocks with 15 lbs. of effort, yet puts out 12-13 foot-pounds in .177. Can it be done? I’m not sure, but it would be something to strive for.

The Vortek PG3 tuning kit suggests what kind of powerplant parts are needed to do what I’m suggesting. Knowing that up front means designing a powerplant from the beginning that meets the specification for light cocking, reasonable power and vibrationless operation. Button the piston during the design stage and make the buttons easily replaceable (they literally fall out when the piston is out of the spring tube!). Or, take a page from the TX200 book and put a rotating nylon ring front and rear on the piston with no possible spring tube contact of the piston body in-between.

What if the piston wasn’t made entirely of steel? What if the body was nylon with a steel head? The loss of weight would combine with the lighter mainspring and tighter powerplant tolerances to eliminate vibration.

What a powerplant like this gives us is a rifle that doesn’t weigh a lot. That’s why I say it should be a breakbarrel — to keep the weight off. I’d like the rifle to weigh no more than 6 lbs. And lighter is better. That means a synthetic stock. I want a stock with a 14-inch pull, a sculpted pistol grip with a palm swell that fits both right and left-handed shooters equally well. It should have a very slim forearm that’s not too deep. We save weight plus get a rifle that feels right instead of a fencepost! Fill the butt of that stock with sound and vibration-damping compound, or cross-braces that create the feeling of a solid butt without the weight.

Sights

I have spent a lot of time discussing good open sights with you, and several readers have taken up the crusade. Ditch the fiberoptics, or at least make them either optional or an included part that doesn’t have to be installed. The basic front sight should be a square post that is sized to match a square notch in the rear. But — make the sights removable so options can be installed by the owner.

Sure — give them a Picatinny scope base on the spring tube — BUT — make it a screw-on option!

The rear sight should be easily and positively adjustable for both windage and elevation. There are plenty of good rear sights on the market today, so this should present no challenge.

My idea

There — that’s my idea for a new spring-piston air rifle that I believe would be very popular. It’s nothing like what you are ever likely to see, but if each feature/component were done right, and that means as close to what I said as possible, I think the world would have a new icon to celebrate.

But who says I know what everyone likes? Well, I sort of got it right with the Discovery, didn’t I? I missed on the Rogue, but what Crosman brought out under that name bore no resemblance to what I briefed them on. I was in the hospital while that one was being put together. And the Bronco was reasonably successful. At least people liked it once they shot it. 

Between the lines

If you know the airgun industry you can read between the lines of today’s report. Some companies are in better position to execute such a new spring gun than others. But the sad thing is when the ammo trucks arrive at the battle a half hour too late for resupply. Let those who know understand!

Now, you readers take it from there. Or tell me why I’m wrong and what needs to be done, instead.


Benjamin Fortitude PCP air rifle Gen2: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1


Fortitude
The Generation II Benjamin Fortitude.

This report covers:

  • Fill to 3,000
  • Crosman Premier Heavys
  • Discussion 1
  • RWS Hobby
  • JSB Exact Heavy
  • Where are we?
  • After lunch
  • Discussion 2
  • Noise
  • Trigger pull
  • More velocity testing to come
  • Summary

Watch out, spouses! The Great Enabler is about to strike!

Today’s report is so astonishing that if I hadn’t been there I probably would have my doubts. The velocity test took me two and one-half hours to complete! That’s because the .177 Benjamin Fortitude had so many shots on a single fill to 3,000 psi! Let’s get started.

Fill to 3,000

I filled the rifle to 3,000 psi as indicated on the gauge of my large carbon fiber tank. The gauge on the rifle also showed the pressure was 3,000 psi, and I know the gauge on my air tank is very accurate. I waited for 4 days after filling and the pressure still showed 3,000 psi on the rifle’s onboard gauge, so I know the rifle holds well.

Fortitude fill
The Fortitude gauge agrees with my tank gauge.

Crosman Premier Heavys

Since this is a Benjamin (Crosman) airgun, I started the test with 10.5-grain Crosman Premiers. The Pyramyd Air website, as well as a slip of paper Crosman puts in the box, says the rifle comes from the factory with the power adjuster turned up 4 turns, which is on the more powerful side, but not the most powerful. They say to expect up to 90 powerful shots.

The first ten 10.5-grain Premier Heavys averaged 726 f.p.s. The low was 719 and the high was 733 f.p.s. — a difference of 14 f.p.s. For a regulated airgun that is not that tight.  But keep an open mind because today’s report is a lesson in PCP operation.

At the average velocity the 10.5-grain Premier going 726 f.p.s. generates 12.29 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Remember, this is just the factory setting.

The next string of 10 shots averaged 722 f.p.s. and the spread went from a low of 717 to a high of 726 f.p.s. — a difference of 9 f.p.s. It seemed to me the velocity was falling. So I shot a third string of Premier Heavys that I will now show you.

Shot……..Vel.
1…………717
2…………711
3…………708
4…………720
5…………did not register
6…………718
7…………713
8…………691
9…………693
10………..680

After this third string I was prepared to say that the rifle had fallen off the regulator, but when I looked at the pressure gauge, it was still 2,800 psi! So I shot another string of 10. They looked like this.

Shot……..Vel.
1…………718
2…………687 Waited 20 seconds before this shot
3…………714 Waited 30 seconds before this shot and all the rest
4…………704
5…………720
6…………717
7…………702
8…………714
9…………681
10………..718

Discussion 1

The average for this string of 10 was 706 f.p.s. What’s happening is the regulator is taking a long time to fill — AND, the reg and valve are both breaking in! I will continue to shoot the Fortitude and wait 30 seconds between each shot for the remainder of the test, until I say different. We have now seen 40 shots with Premier Heavys — let’s see what other pellets do.

RWS Hobby

The 7-grain RWS Hobby pellet averaged 867 f.p.s. from the Fortitude. At that velocity it generates 11.69 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. The spread went from a low of 854 to a high of 876 f.p.s. That is a 22 f.p.s. spread.

JSB Exact Heavy

The next pellet I tried was the 10.34-grain JSB Exact Heavy. They averaged 743 f.p.s. with a 12 f.p.s. spread from 737 to 749 f.p.s. The average energy is 12,68 foot-pounds. I am still waiting 30 seconds between each shot.

Where are we?

The Fortitude has now fired 60 shots. The onboard pressure gauge reads 2,400 psi remains, so there should be a lot more shots. I therefore switched back to the 10.5-grain Premiers Heavys to continue. 

Shots 61 to 70 with Premier Heavys averaged 724 f.p.s. The low was 715 and the high was 735 f.p.s. — a difference of 20 f.p.s. That’s a total of 70 shots on the first fill. We are not done yet!

The next string of Premier Heavys averaged 718 f.p.s. The low was 707 f.p.s. and the high was 721 f.p.s. — a difference of 14 f.p.s.

The next string of Heavys averaged 717 f.p.s. with an 8 f.p.s. spread from 711 to 719 f.p.s. The string after that averaged 714 f.p.s.with a spread from 704 to 723 f.p.s. I thought surely at 100 shots on the fill the gun was out of air. But I continued.

The next string averaged 706 f.p.s. with a low of 691 and a high of 713 f.p.s. For sure the rifle had to be out of air by this point except that highest velocity was the last shot — number 110 since filling the rifle. So I continued.

The next string of 10 shots averaged 715 f.p.s. The low was 709 f.p.s and the high was 720 f.p.s. The string after that averaged 718 f.p.s. with a low of 710 and a high of 726 f.p.s. The last shot — number 130 since the rifle was filled — registered 723 f.p.s.

The next string of 10 shots, also Crosman Premier Heavys, averaged 718 f.p.s. The low was 704 f.p.s. and the high was 727 f.p.s. — a difference of 23 f.p.s.

At this point I had been shooting the rifle and recording the shots for a solid 2 hours 10 minutes. It was lunchtime and I hoped when I returned that this velocity test would be finished soon. Oh, and by the way, I ran out of Crosman Premier Heavys!

After lunch

I stopped for about 50 minutes for lunch. When I returned I continued the test, but my Crosman Premier Heavys were gone. So I switched to JSB Exact Heavys that had averaged 743 f.p.s. on the 6th string of this test. Let’s look at what they did now — starting with shot number 141 since the test began.

Shot……..Vel.
1…………790
2…………789 waited just 15 seconds before every shot that follows
3…………790
4…………792
5…………790
6…………778
7…………787
8…………778
9…………783
10………..776

Discussion 2

Why did I start waiting 15 seconds between shots instead of 30? Because the rifle was ready sooner. It indicates the regulator and valve are breaking in. Where I had to wait twice as long before, now the time is cut in half. Also the rifle does seem to perform more consistently with these pure lead pellets better than with the harder Premiers.

The average for this string is 785 s.p.s. That is 42 f.p.s. FASTER than the average for the same pellet 80 shots before!!! But the next string is the real telling point.

Shot……..Vel.
1…………776
2…………767
3…………766 started waiting 30 seconds between shots from this point on
4…………765
5…………761
6…………751
7…………750
8…………746
9…………736
10………..734

It should be obvious from the steady drop in velocity on this string that the Fortitude is now off the regulator and in need of a fill. But that last shot with 10.34-grain JSBs is just 9 f.p.s. slower than the average from the same pellet on the 6th string. I call that 160 effective and powerful shots on one fill. Over a total of 140 shots (with two strings of other pellets included) Crosman Premier Heavys varied from a low of 680 f.p.s (shot number 30) to a high of 735 f.p.s (shot number 61). That is a difference of 55 f.p.s. 

When the last shot was fired the gun gauge registered 800 psi. On the next fill my tank gauge agreed with that exactly.

Fortitude fill
When shot 160 was fired this is what the onboard gauge read.

Noise

The Fortitude is QUIET! I have to rate it a 1.6 on the Pyramyd Air 5-point scale. This is an airgun most people will be able to shoot without disturbing their neighbors — at least at this 12 foot-pound level.

Trigger pull

For the first 20 shots I thought the Fortitude had a single stage trigger. Then I felt a very subtle stop in the pull, and I got curious. What the Fortitude trigger does is pull heavy through stage one — just like the expensive Geisselle trigger on my AR. But then it stops against a definite wall. You have to feel for the wall. Bubba will miss it every time. But it is there.

Stage two has one spot of creep in it sometimes and then it breaks. Other times I don’t feel the creep. Like the valve and regulator, the trigger is also breaking in. I think when I get to the accuracy test I will be able to control it well.

Stage one stopped at 4 lbs. 8 oz. Stage two broke at 4 lbs. 15 oz consistently. In think I can work with this trigger.

More velocity testing to come

I still have not adjusted the Fortitude all the way up or down. I had hoped to get that in today, but this test took so long there wasn’t time.

Summary

I am getting excited about this air rifle! I think today’s test shows two things very clearly. First — if you want to shoot a PCP and just use a hand pump this might be your airgun. It does manage air remarkably well. As a regulated gun it isn’t too consistent, but both the reg and valve need more time in use to say that. When it is full broken in I would expect a velocity variation at this power level of 15-20 f.p.s. for the Premier Heavy pellet.

And, for those wanting quiet airguns, I can hardly think of one that’s quieter. Maybe the sound will increase when I dial the velocity up, but we shall see.


Benjamin Fortitude PCP air rifle Gen2: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Fortitude
The Generation II Benjamin Fortitude.

This report covers:

  • Fortitude Gen II
  • Back to today
  • What is the Fortitude?
  • Accurate
  • Crosman barrel
  • Lightweight
  • Trigger
  • Cocking effort
  • Longer series
  • Summary

Some days are funner for me than others, and this is a fun day. I have waited a year and a half to do the test that begins today. For starters I will show you what I said about my first experience with the Benjamin Fortitude Gen 2 . The following is extracted from Part 1 of the 2019 SHOT Show report.

Tom and Rossi
Rossi Morreale (right) was at the Velocity Outdoors event. Yes, BB (second from left) now has a white beard — ho, ho ho! (photo from January, 2019.)

Fortitude Gen II

Okay, you readers have been jazzed about this. I shot the new second generation Benjamin Fortitude. The short story is that a few of the original guns had leaking issues and many owners felt the rifle was too hard to cock. I tested the Fortitude for you and mine cocked easily enough, plus it held air fine, but Crosman took your comments seriously and took a second look at the gun.

As long as they were doing that they figured why not make other improvements. The new rifle is very easy to cock, has a nice light trigger that’s also crisp, gets 80 shots on a fill (with a 20 f.p.s. variation), and has a more accurate Crosman-made barrel. Rossi and I both shot it and the new rifle is quite nice. I may need to do a full retest — it’s that much different.

The rifle looks the same as the first Fortitude. But now you can adjust the striker spring from the high 500 f.p.s. (in .22) range to the mid 800s! And high power is where those 80 shots are. On low power they counted over 200 shots — on a gun so quiet you cannot hear it fire! Rossi and I both commented on how quiet the rifle is!

Fortitude target
This Zombie target was shot by three different people at 20 yards offhand. The zombie’s eye is about quarter-sized. The new Fortitude Gen II is accurate!

Back to today

That was what I saw at the Velocity Outdoors (Crosman) presentation on Sunday, January 20, 2019. I was mightily impressed but it has taken this long for me to get a Fortitude Gen 2 in my hands. But this is not the first Fortitude I have tested. In late 2018 I tested the first generation Fortitude for you in a 4-part series. But there are differences in the second generation rifle and I plan to show them and test them for you.

What is the Fortitude?

The Benjamin Fortitude is a bolt-action precharged pneumatic repeater that’s priced just under $300. As such it meets my criteria for a price-point PCP (PPP). When these rifles first came out in 2017 I knew the world of PCPs had arrived. I wrote two separate reports on PPPs — The game-changing price-point PCP PPP and How the Price-Point PCP (PPP) has changed the face of the airgun world

Let’s now look at what the Fortitude brings to the table. It is a 10-shot  repeater that’s offered in both .177 and .22 calibers. It is regulated and the power is user-adjustable, which means you can dial it down (650 in .177 and 500 in .22) and get as many as 200 shots on a single fill to 3,000 psi or up (950 in .177 and 800 in .22) and still get as many as 60 shots. Guys — that is performance! And you get it for just $300! But wait — there’s more!

The Fortitude is fully shrouded, as in quiet. I mentioned that in my 2019 SHOT Show report. I also commented on it in the 4-part first-generation series I wrote in 2018. And I remembered specifically that quiet was one of the key features that impressed me so much about this air rifle. But it wasn’t the biggest one.

Accurate

The second-generation Fortitude is accurate. And when I say accurate I mean it can hold its own with most of the top world class PCPs that sell for upwards of a thousand dollars. Yes, there are some very expensive rifles that can beat it, but you are not going to get this much accuracy for anywhere near this price. That is why I ran that 2019 SHOT Show clip in the beginning.

The first-generation Fortitude I tested came with a test target. So did this one. It’s a 5-shot group of domes that I assume were Crosman Premiers. I can’t tell whether they are lights or heavies, but I will find out in this report. I measured it with my digital calipers and got a 10-yard spread of 0.114-inches between centers. Folks — that is a gold-dollar group!

Fortitude test group
The Fortitude came with a test group that shows 5 frots from 10 yards in 0.114-inches.

Crosman barrel

Let’s talk about that accuracy a moment. Crosman rifles their own barrels. Here is another clip from the 2019 report.

Crosman barrels?

Here is a story within a story. Remember I told you that Crosman rifles some of their own barrels? Well Senior Product Design Engineer, John Solpietro, who showed me all the guns told me that Crosman has had an internal program going to create better barrels. As a result, they now rifle ALL their own barrels — .177, .22 and .25! They have found no significant difference between the new barrels they are rifling and the premium barrels they were buying from Green Mountain. John didn’t give me any details, but I did verify that reaming the seamless tubing before rifling is now a step used for Crosman barrels.

I think this internal program is laudable. I wonder why their marketing department hasn’t touted it more?

Now I am back to 2020. Yes, Crosman learned that reaming the seamless hydraulic tubing they use to make barrels (a very common practice in the airgun industry today) before rifling improves the consistency of the inside of the barrel. The firearms industry has known this for years and there is an ongoing discussion of whether hammer-forged barrels or reamed button-rifled barrels are better. That’s because hammer-forging does leave the barrel with slight differences in interior diameter that can sometimes be felt by pushing a wire brush through the bore. Both types of barrels are quite accurate and only when you get down to the gnat’s eyelash is there any difference to report, but airgunners, like centerfire benchrest shooters, are an anal group.

The bottom line? Crosman makes accurate airgun barrels. Naturally we will be delighted to test this one to see how accurate!

The barrel is free-floated inside the shroud. And, yes, there are baffles.

Lightweight

When I picked the rifle up out of the box I was reminded what a light rifle the Fortitude is! It’s full-sized in every way, with a 14.25-inch pull on the synthetic ambidextrous stock. And the overall length is 42.6-inches. Yet it weighs just 5.3 lbs.

The stock is hollow and a knock on the butt confirms this. There are ways to correct this, though it does not bother me, so I will just live with it.

There are no sights, so you will have to scope it, but that is a foregone conclusion these days. The scope you select will impact the weight of the riofle as well as the handling characteristics.

Trigger

The trigger pull was one of two things owners complained about with the first-generation Fortitude. I didn’t have a problem with it. That first trigger was two-stage. Stage one required 2 lbs. force and stage two  broke at 5 lbs. 7 oz. I found it crisp, which is far more important than light for me. I have already tried this trigger and will report on it in the next part. So far it feels good. It’s no Marauder trigger, but it’s very useable. If you shoot a PPP you don’t get to be a trigger snob!

Cocking effort

This was a big complaint with the first generation Fortitude and I even noticed it and made mention in my report. Suffice to say the problem has been fixed. I will be more specific in Part 2.

Longer series

Because of the possibility of owner velocity adjustment, this will be a longer report. Crosman does not include a  3/16″ Allen wrench to make this adjustment, but most airgunners should have at least one in their tool kit. I will report on how the rifle came set up, plus we will look at the high and low velocity that can be achieved — plus the shots count. That’s going to take some time — so more reports.

Summary

The Gen 2 Benjamin Fortitude is a worthy PPP. This will be a full test.