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Benjamin Marauder in .177 (Part 1)

I haven’t owned a PCP airgun since I foolishly sold my custom-built Stalker Cheetah 17 years ago. But then about a week ago I gave in to temptation and bought the new (Gen 2) version of the Benjamin Marauder PCP gun:

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I’d been thinking about buying a PCP since Crosman introduced the Discover a few years back. It received good reviews, and was downright cheap by PCP standards. Then they brought out the Marauder, a better gun in every respect that was still cheaper than anything ¬†else on the market.

It’s a good thing I waited, as between the time I first thought about buying one and when I actually got around to it, Crosman had introduced a number of really significant I provments, including better efficiency (more shots per charge), higher output, a new synthetic stock, and an adjustable cheek piece on both the synthetic and wood stocks. I opted for the synthetic as its lighter, more stable, and the wood version is just plain poplar or something similar. Not that the sythetic stock is all that attractive, unless you go for the “tacticool” look ūüėȬ†I went back and forth between .177 and .22 for some time. .22 is a better hunting caliber in a 20+ foot pound rifle, but .177 is still effective, especially with heavier pellets, and it would allow me to use it in Field Target if the mood struck.

I didn’t have a suitable scope for it when it arrived so I bolted on a beat up Marksman 3-9x that lived on my Beeman R7 for several decades until the ¬†reticle rotated. I’d just finished repairing it and figured it should be okay on the recoiless Benjamin until I found a more suitable scope. For charging I found a reconditioned Hill Mk4 hand pump, the Cadillac (or BMW, if you like) of PCP hand pumps. I could have gotten¬†a Benjamin for a lot less, but the Hill has four stages to the Benjamin’s three,¬†and that¬†makes a difference in pumping a gun to 3,000psi. I’d had an original Axsor three-stage pump with my Stalker and it took a lot of work to fill it. The Hill still takes some work but it’s much more manageable. The gun arrived with under 1000psi in the reservoir and it took about 140’strokes to get it up over 2600psi, which many say is the sweet spot for the gun. (I may try pumping it to 3000, which is the specified max, for comparison.)

So far I’ve only shot it at short ranges, but at 15 yards, with 10.5gr Crosman Premiers and the beat up scope, it’s a one hole gun. It’s also the quietest air rifle I own, and the others are all spring guns. It’s quieter than my tuned Air Arms Pro Sport, which also has a barrel shroud type built in moderator. Very impressive. The 10 shot magazine is easy to load, works perfectly, and is a nice feature for hunters and competitors. I’ll be ordering one or two more. Cocking takes a bit of effort but it’s not unmanageable. The hammer spring, which controls how much air is dumped from the reservoir when you fire the gun, is adjustable, but the gun is working so smoothly I’m not going to touch it.

Next at step is to find a suitable scope, of course, and to take it to the club range, as I’m anxious to see what it can do at 25 and 50 yards.

 

 

Crosman Custom Shop 2300: Part II

As I discussed in part I, the Custom Shop 2300 has adjustable sear tensioning, which allows to lighten the trigger pull but doesn’t do anything about getting rid of the long, scratch trigger pull. My first attempt at fixing this was to smooth and polish the sear. To do that, you have to remove the right hand side grip panel, exposing the inner cover plate:

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Remove the three screws holding the inner cover plate and very carefully lift the plate off, revealing the trigger and sear mechanism:

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If you carefully remove the spring under the sear, you can lift out and remove the sear. After doing that, I smoothed all the rough edges on the sear and polished all metal-to-metal contact points.

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Result: Marginal improvement. The next step was to buy a replacement sear. Air guns of Arizona has a very nice adjustable one with hardened inserts for $30, but I cheated out and bought a $18.95 kit from Archer Airguns. This was a simple one piece sear that came with three additional washers for removing play from the sear and trigger:

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That’s it on top. I inserted in the gun, along with the shims:

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After reassembly, the long, scratchy, trigger pull was gone, and in its place was a solid, crisp, trigger with no take up at all. Not bad for less than $20.

Unfortunately I did manage to pop out the safety spring and detent ball while doing this! I made a new spring from a Bic lighter spring, but the second time the ball popped out I lost it for good. I ordered a¬†pack of 100 3/32″ ball bearings on eBay (I’m set for a while at least) and learned the proper way to replace the spring and ball detent:

Detach the grip assembly from the rest of the gun by removing the screws at the front and rear of the grip frame.

Remove the inner cover plate, and insert the ball and spring along with a dab of lithium grease to keep them in place.

Replace the inner cover plate.

Holding the grip upright, reattach the grip frame to the rest of the gun.

 

Crosman Custom Shop 2300 CO2 Pistol

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Michigan changed their laws regarding air pistols recently, no longer classifying air pistols as firearms. ¬†Crosman updated their policies regarding this effective July 1st (they had previously banned shipments to Michigan), which meant that I could now order a custom Crosman 2300, something I’ve long wanted to do. I’ve had (and customized) a few 2400s, but buying the whole package¬†direct from Crosman is a bit cheaper, as you don’t end up with extra parts after you install custom ones, you get better finished standard parts (like the cylinder) and it gets you options and parts you can’t normally buy, like the adjustable trigger stop.
My pistol spec was as follows:
  • 10″ Lothar Walther 0.177″ barrel
  • Black muzzle brake
  • Black trigger shoe
  • No sights
  • Plastic grips

I skipped the sights as I meant to use my Swift pistol scope, or perhaps a red dot sight. I went with the plastic grips as wood grips would have added $45-60, and the gun was already over $170. I skipped the custom printing as I figured I would help speed up delivery. As it was, the gun arrived exactly four weeks after I ordered it.

First impression: This is a nice looking gun- much nicer than the stock $45 model.

Second impression: This is the worst trigger of any gun I own, including my Russian Nagant revolver.

Okay, maybe not THAT bad. But it’s long, scratchy, and heavy. ¬†There’s an adjustable trigger stop, but even with the stop set for minimal travel, the pull is long. Luckily there’s a fix for most of that, but curiously, it’s not mentioned in the manual.

If you take off one of the grip panels, you’ll find a knurled adjustment wheel:

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Spin the wheel a few times and you can get the trigger pull down under two pounds. It’s still long and scratchy, but it’s manageable, although it means using a different technique than most of us have been taught. Just about everyone learns that you should take up the slack in a trigger and then slooowwwly squeeze until the gun fires. The idea is that the actual discharge should almost be a surprise, and will help prevent flinching. The technique has its origins in military shooting, with its heavy triggers and heavy recoiling cartridges.

It turns out that bullseye shooters often use a very different technique: They don’t put any pressure on a trigger until they’re ready to fire, and then they pull straight through. With low powered target ammunition, flinching is not an issue, and with light match triggers, squeezing is not practical. I’ve been practicing this technique with my Daisy 747 and with some of my my .22 target pistols, and I’ve found that it’s a much better way to shoot with high accuracy than the old slow squeeze. When you’re shooting offhand, your point of aim is wobbling all over the place, and it’s only settling on the target for brief instants, you want the gun to fire when it’s on target, not at some random moment.

While I ordered this gun thinking I’d use an optical sight to accommodate my aging eyes, lately I’ve been finding that with practice, and with techniques learned from Bullseye shooters, I can shoot as well, or better, with iron sights. And so I’ve decided to add iron sights to the gun, which gave me two straightforward choices, both from Crosman. One is a custom sight from Williams, here in Michigan, that clamps to the 11mm scope grooves. I’ve owned the peep version of that sight, and had it on my R7 for many years; it’s an excellent sight, but in many ways it’s overkill for this pistol. Crosman’s otheer option is a simpler, smaller sight from LPA that fits in the dovetail slot. LPA has made a good name for themselves in recent years with their sights, and the LPA costs about half of what the Williams costs, so I ordered one last night. I’ll add my comments when it arrives.

Postscript: I ordered a replacement sear to see if I could get the trigger pull a bit smoother and crisper, but in the meantime I removed the stock sear lever, smoothed out the rough edges (it’s a pretty crude stamping) and polished the surfaces. The result is much smoother. The replacement sear uses hardened steel engagement surfaces and has a screw to adjust the amount of engagement, so it should be an improvement over that. I’ll write it up when it arrives in a week.

Reloading Gamo Shotshells

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Good old news for those who bought the now-discontinued Gamo spring air shotgun. Ray-vin offers new, reloadable, Shotshells as well as the tools need to made wads, measure shot, and load the shells. You can contact them at http://www.ray-vin.com.