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
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.
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.
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.
The test target Tim sent with my rifle. It’s 25 Beeman Kodiak Match pellets in 0.663-inches at 51 yards.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Want to affect the world of airguns? Then stop tipping over the porta-potties and help us empty the garbage cans!