What do YOU want?: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • In an air rifle
  • The marketing
  • Not my idea
  • Last visit
  • So what?
  • The $100 PCP
  • What do YOU want to see in an air rifle?
  • Over to you
  • Summary

In an air rifle

It was February 2006. I’ll never forget standing in the office of Crosman’s CEO, Ken D’Arcy after making my pitch about a single shot precharged pneumatic air rifle that only filled to 2,000 psi.  I was on fire that day, because Ed Schultz had taken my idea and in three days had prototyped two rifles — one in .177 and the other in .22. To his surprise — it worked! He had turned two Crosman 2260 CO2 rifles into prototypes of what the company would eventually call the Benjamin Discovery. [Note: Crosmnan has changed the rifle to a Sheridan 2260.] He was getting 20 shots at almost 1,000 f.p.s. in the .177 and he hadn’t even tweaked the valve yet!

After my presentation and toward the end of the day D’Arcy looked at me and asked me one question. Did I think they could sell a thousand of the rifles in the first year? I had no idea, but I said I thought they could sell two thousand. The idea was sound — it all depended on their marketing.

The marketing

Fully two-thirds of my idea was how to market this new air rifle. It was 2006 and PCPs in general were still looked at as “the dark side.” Crosman had imported some expensive PCPs from England and tried to sell them without success several years before. They had no name in the PCP world.

My idea was to put everything the shooter needed into one box and to price it at $250 out the door. It would have the rifle, a hand pump, a small tin of good pellets (this was Crosman, so I was thinking Premiers) and a bunch of good literature. Not only would there be a solid owner’s manual that I would help write; there would also be a “Welcome to the World of Precharged Airguns” pamphlet that explained how the rifle worked. That would dovetail with online tutorials on how to fill the rifle with either a pump or a scuba tank, an explanation of how the scuba tank would last a long time because the gun was only filled to 2,000 psi, and an explanation of how just 2,000 psi was enough to propel a .177 pellet to 1,000 f.p.s.

Not my idea

Folks — the Benjamin Discovery was not my idea. I would love to be able to claim it, but the idea really came from Larry Durham and Tim McMurray. They built a field target rifle called the USFT that got a large number of shots from a very low-pressure fill.

USFT
My USFT from Tim McMurray filled to 1,600 psi and got 55 shots of 10.6-grain Beeman Kodiaks at just under 900 f.p.s.

USFT
The test target Tim sent with my rifle. It’s 25 Beeman Kodiak Match pellets in 0.663-inches at 51 yards.

USFT best target
My first time out with the USFT my best 5-shot group at 50 yards was 0.335-inches, c-t-c.

What I’m telling you is I am not the inventor of the Benjamin Discovery. I just saw a great idea and took it to some folks who could do something with it.

As I was about to leave Crosman for the airport that same day, Ed Schultz showed me a rack of walnut stocks that were in-process. Some were finished, some were awaiting finish and some were raw lumber waiting to be turned into stocks. He told me there were 4,000 stocks that had been for a special 2260 project that was cancelled. He said he was of a mind to put them on the first Discoverys. Imagine getting a budget PCP package that included a rifle with a walnut stock!

Well, in 2007 Crosman did exactly that — they put a walnut stock on the first Discoverys. I have one that I bought (no — they didn’t give me a rifle, but I was paid for this project) from my buddy, Mac, at one of the last Virginia airgun shows. Toward the end of that first year I noticed that they had switched to beech stocks, so I reckoned what I had told Ken D’Arcy the year before held up.

Last visit

I went back to Crosman one last time to discuss the project and was shown their first rifling machine for the Discovery. Ed also told me they were testing the first rifles for holding by filling them and watching them for 24 hours. They knew they had to do it right from the start or risk sniping from the internet peanut gallery. I told Ken D’Arcy that in two years Crosman, a company known for kid’s guns and CO2 guns, would be a household name in the PCP world.

So what?

Okay, that was an idea that I got to see all the way through to fruition. There were changes along the way, as there always must be, but Crosman remained true to the core idea. And it worked better than I hoped. The next year they brought out the Marauder that they had been planning all along. But they took my advice and launched the Discovery first to establish a reputation in the world of PCPs. Today there are airgunners who are unaware that Crosman came into the game as late as 2007.

The $100 PCP

In 2014 I did a 6-part series where I tested an airgun Dennis Quackenbush made up for me. He took a Crosman 2100B and turned it into a PCP. I asked him to hold the cost as low as he could and when he was done we both felt it was possible to build a precharged pneumatic that could retail for one-hundred dollars.

At the 2016 SHOT Show, Crosman surprised me with their Maximus — a new PCP that retailed for $200. Guess what — it still does today — over four years later!

Maximus
The Maximus looks similar to the Benjamin Discovery and will retail for under $200. A complete package with a pump and pellets will retail for about $430.

The Maximus is probably the big reason the Discovery is no longer made. They don’t need two budget PCPs and the Maximus was cheaper. It also had their new barrel that is more accurate by virtue of being reamed before rifling. So 2007 to 2016 is a nine year period in which Crosman went from being the maker of airguns for kids to one of the top makers of PCPs in the world! — nine years!

What do YOU want to see in an air rifle?

That’s a long intro for the title subject, which is — if you had your way, what sort of air rifle would you like to see? I’ll get you started. I would like to see a Sig ASP20 with some changes.

Keep the barrel, but shorten it by 4 inches. Keep the gas spring, but let out some air so the rifle with the shorter barrel cocks with 20 pounds of force. If necessary, put a longer muzzle brake on the barrel to increase the length for leverage but not the weight. Lighten the synthetic stock by a significant amount and thin its profile at the grip and forearm where the hands fall. Keep the trigger and safety exactly as they are.

What you are giving me is a 12-13 foot-pound breakbarrel air rifle that’s 1.5 pounds lighter and a lot easier to cock and to hold. And, now that it’s all that, folks will want open sights. 

When Ed Schultz was still at Sig I gave him an idea for an open front sight that would be revolutionary in the world of airguns. It’s been in use in the firearms world for the past 80 years, but I haven’t seen it on an airgun yet. With that dandy Picatinney rail that’s on the rifle right now Sig could offer an adjustable rear sight that would attach easily. I recommend offering a peep , but it could also be a conventional notch if it could be extended forward far enough for the eye to see.

There you are, Sig. That’s a new SKU for you that won’t cost you very much engineering time to create. I bet an engineer could knock out a prototype in a week, if his time was dedicated.

Over to you

Now it’s your turn. Tell us what air rifle you would like to see. Here is a tip. Companies are not likely to get out a clean sheet of paper for anything. When they do that, they are looking at heavy 6-figure investments. Give them something that’s easy for them to do — but for some reason they haven’t done it yet. What if we sliced the loaf of bread before selling it — that kind if thing.

Summary

Want to affect the world of airguns? Then stop tipping over the porta-potties and help us empty the garbage cans!


Marlin Cowboy BB gun – Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I start, I wanted you to know that the December podcast posted yesterday.

Part 1
Part 2


The new Marlin Cowboy BB gun is a beauty!

Today, I’ll test the Marlin Cowboy for accuracy. It’s a good-looking new BB gun but a couple issues like hard cocking, a heavy trigger and a couple failures to feed have me riding the fence on its success.

We have three BBs to test in the gun: Daisy zinc-plated BBs, the Crosman Copperhead BBs and the RWS BBs that Pyramyd Air doesn’t currently stock. Testing is offhand, standing 15 feet from the target and using a Crosman 850 pellet and BB trap because it traps most of the BBs.

Trouble from the get-go!
First out the spout were Daisy zinc-plated BBs. They tended to group near the point of aim, which was a 6 o’clock hold on a 10-meter pistol target. When I went up to the trap, I found only 5 of the 10 holes in the target. So, 5 BBs missed the 7″x8″ target paper altogether. From 15 feet! Now, I’m not a great marksman by anyone’s definition, but at this same distance shooting a Daisy Avanti Champion 499 BB gun, I can keep all my shots on an American dime, which is 0.705 inches. So, missing a target that’s 10 times larger is pretty bad.

I moved up to 12 feet and shot again. Now, all shots landed on paper. In fact, they were in a pretty good group. If I had shot that target from 15 feet, all would have been right with the world; but having to stand 3 feet closer was a bummer!


A pretty good group, but I had to shoot it from 12 feet instead of 15. Daisy zinc-plated BBs.

I wanted to blame the wide rear sight notch for my accuracy problems until I checked a Daisy Red Ryder. My vintage No. 111 model 40 Red Ryder has a rear notch three times wider then the one on the Marlin Cowboy, so no complaints, there. Not because a Red Ryder is all that accurate, but because it has been the gold standard for the past 60 years.

Following Daisy zinc BBs, I loaded up with Crosman Copperheads and tried again. This time, I started at 12 feet, which was a good thing, because Copperheads were not as accurate in the Cowboy. There were also more failures to feed with Copperheads than with the other two BBs, though the gun did have feeding problems with all three.


Crosman Copperheads didn’t group as well, despite shooting from just 12 feet. They seem too loose for the shot tube.

Following the Copperheads I loaded some of the new RWS BBs in the Cowboy and shot once more. Again, the distance was 12 feet. The RWS BBs fed better than the Copperheads and grouped almost as tight as the Daisy zincs. I think this is a BB that needs more testing, because they seem to run neck-and-neck with Daisy zincs in most guns, and who knows what they would do in a 499? In fact, that sounds like a good test to me.


As we’ve seen in other tests, the RWS BBs hold their own with Daisy zincs. They merit future testing.

I also think I might test an original Red Ryder this same way, just to get a comparison between vintage and modern. Because the Marlin Cowboy has a gravity-feed magazine it wouldn’t be fair to test it against a Daisy No. 25 with its forced-feed magazine, but a vintage Red Ryder might be very interesting.

Back in the 1950s, I can remember wanting to mount scopes on my BB guns, because I was under the impression that a scope would somehow make the gun more accurate. The Daisy guns of that age were just beginning to come with scopes, so it was very possible to get them that way, though I never had one. But, I’m mentioning it because I can see no similar provision to mount a scope on the Marlin Cowboy. Have we forgotten the lesson of the upsell?

Final impression
Wood and metal seem to be the Cowboy’s strong points. Functioning and accuracy are its drawbacks. Only time will tell if this new BB gun will take its place alongside the classics.


Marlin Cowboy BB gun – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1


The new Marlin Cowboy BB gun is a beauty!

Well, we’ve certainly heard a lot of passionate comments about the new Marlin Cowboy from the Part 1 report! Today, we’ll test velocity, and I’m including the new RWS BBs in this test. You can’t buy these from Pyramyd Air as of this date, but perhaps if they test out well in a couple guns we’ll give them a reason to stock them.

Somebody commented that the Cowboy looks like theDaisy Red Ryder, but I don’t think it does. In fact, there’s very little resemblance between these two BB guns, other than the fact that they both have levers. The Marlin is a little larger, overall, and perhaps not as refined as the Red Ryder.

Cocking
Cocking the Cowboy will seem strange to anyone familiar with American BB guns. It has a ratchet that incrementally grabs the cocking lever as it’s pulled away from the gun, hence a ratcheting sound accompanies every shot you make ready for. It’s more of a TX200 sound than a BB gun sound, and I’m still not used to it. It does no harm, but it does remind you that this is a different kind of BB gun.

Thankfully, the safety is manual, so it doesn’t come on when the gun’s cocked. However, the ratcheting mechanism is an anti-beartrap device, so there’s no uncocking this gun. If you cock it, you must fire it. Cocking is hard enough that I think smaller kids will be challenged.

Trigger
The trigger-pull is single-stage and breaks between 6 and 7 lbs. That sounds heavy –and it really is; but when you’re shooting the gun, it doesn’t seem as bad as it sounds. I guess you can get used to anything. I don’t know what effect it’ll have on youngsters, though.

There’s also not a lot of room inside the triggerguard for your trigger finger. Adults with normal-size hands will find it tight, and large hands may find it impossible.


Not a lot of room inside that triggerguard for a finger. Those with larger hands will find it difficult to operate.

Velocity tests
Velocity with Daisy zinc-plated BBs averaged 328 f.p.s. The spread was very tight, from 324 to 332 f.p.s. Pyramyd Air says these BBs weigh 5.1 grains, but I weighed mine and they averaged 5.3 grains The average muzzle energy works out to 1.27 foot-pounds.

Crosman Copperhead BBs really do weigh 5.1 grains, and in the Marlin Cowboy they averaged 331 f.p.s. The spread went from 327 to 335 f.p.s., so once again it was tight. They averaged 1.24 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

And, now for the RWS BBs. They look so uniform; and when I weighed them, they all weighed 5.3 grains. The average velocity was 335 f.p.s., for the fastest of the test. The spread went from 333 to 339 f.p.s., so another tight distribution. The average muzzle energy was 1.32 foot pounds — the highest of the test.

There were several failures to feed during this test. They happened with all the different brands of BBs. It seemed that if I jarred the gun when it was held level, I would get a failure to feed. So, I’m thinking the BB is falling off its magnetic seat.

Thus far, I’m on the fence about this BB gun. The looks are good and the power is right where it should be, but the trigger’s heavy and there have been a few failures to feed. The accuracy test should tip the balance.


Marlin Cowboy BB gun – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier


The new Marlin Cowboy BB gun is a beauty!

Well, I’m getting to this just in time for Christmas. And to tell the truth, I haven’t had this gun that long. The Marlin Cowboy, imported from China by Crosman, is a lever-action BB gun made with much of the nostalgic past in mind. On the top of the color lithographed box, they point out the metal lever and mention that the gun is made from solid wood and metal — the same battle cry big bore maker Dennis Quackenbush has been espousing for over a decade. Apparently, they have discovered what the U.S. buyer wants. And from the first look, I would have to say they got it right.

The Cowboy is a 700-shot BB repeater. The instructions say to limit the distances to the target to 10 meters or less; of course, I’ll be shooting it at 15 feet, the same as all other BB guns. The Cowboy has been priced right, at less than $40, to compete with its obvious foe, the Daisy Red Ryder. While I don’t like to make comparisons in my reports, it’s impossible to ignore the market this gun is targeting. Everything about it screams “first BB gun” to me. The size, price and features focus on a small person as the shooter.

The gun (it’s not a rifle because it hasn’t got a rifled barrel) is 33.25 inches long. It weighs a scant 2.75 lbs., and has a cocking effort of 20 lbs. Because the cocking lever is short, kids are going to have to learn to use leverage to cock this gun. You aren’t going to hold it on your shoulder and cock it, that’s for sure. The front sight is a very cowboy-looking blade and ramp, and the adjustable rear sight is a plain notch with a stepped elevator slide. Windage is not adjustable. There are no fiberoptics, thank goodness, so the young shooter gets to learn the basics the right way.

There’s a built-in safety, because this is the age of blame over responsibility; but, again, thank goodness, it’s entirely manual. And it’s small enough to be disregarded unless you mean to use it, which I do not recommend. For the benefit of new shooters, safeties are not the safe things they sound like. They simply mean that a gun may be cocked and loaded and “on safe,” which is never a good thing. Better to not cock it at all, and the safety will not be needed. If you do cock it, which loads a BB in preparation for firing, shoot the gun immediately afterwards to return it to the safest condition of all — uncocked.

The wood is stained with a blonde finish, which contrasts with the dark black finish of the metal. The manual says to oil the outer surfaces of the metal parts to prevent rust, so I would assume they’re finished with black oxide and not the electrostatic paint that’s more common these days.

Cocking will seem strange to those with BB gun experience. The cocking lever is connected to a ratchet that catches it by increments as it swings through its arc. Once caught, the lever cannot be returned to the starting position until the gun is completely cocked. You cannot uncock this gun by any method other than shooting.

At first glance, I thought the gun was put together with rivets until I examined the heads on either side of the receiver and discovered them to be Allen screws. Not that I recommend disassembling a BB gun, which is more complex than disassembling most spring-piston pellet rifles; but when the time comes, the Cowboy should be able to be taken apart.


Both sides of the receiver are covered with Allen screw heads. You can see the manual safety button behind the trigger.

Loading is done on the left side of the outer “barrel” that shrouds the real shot tube. A door is pushed up to open access to the BB magazine. You can then pour BBs in until the reservoir fills.


Lift the loading door and pour in BBs.

I found an undocumented feature on the gun that piqued my curiosity. It appears to be a window that allows you to see if the gun is loaded. It appears to look directly at the shot seat and shows the BB next in line for firing. I bet it was intended to do that very function and somebody decided at the last minute that it was a liability to have it as such, so they left it there but do not mention it in the manual. Because BBs work via gravity feed in the Cowboy, you’re best-advised to believe that the gun is always loaded, even if the last shot fired no BB.


You can see through this window on top of the outer barrel shroud directly into the space above the shot seat. That BB you see is the next one to be fired, but the owner’s manual does not mention this “feature.” You’re well-advised to ignore it in operation of the gun, because the gravity-feed mechanism can always dislodge a BB when you don’t expect it.


When the gun is cocked, the BB falls down onto the shot seat in preparation for firing.

There’s an oil hole in the outer barrel shroud, and the owner’s manual advises oiling with a drop of Crosman Pellgunoil every 250 shots. I over-oiled the test gun before shooting it the first time, and the excess ran out the rear of the receiver and onto the floor — so, oil sparingly!

Overall, I would rate the Marlin Cowboy as a very nice BB gun. It’s one you can be proud of the whole time you own it. I wish there had been BB guns this nice when I was a kid back in the 1950s!

Many of you have waited patiently for this review, so I’ll hurry it along, knowing that there are holiday decisions waiting in the balance. I expect to complete the report before the end of next week.