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Filson and Leupold, Two Great American Outdoor Firms

Time for a quick Thank You to two great outdoor products firms, Filson and Leupold.

Filson has been around since the 1890s Alaskan Gold Rush, providing rugged clothing to rugged men and women.

They use the best virgin wools, waxed cotton and canvas, brass fittings, bridle leather…this is super quality clothing that will never, ever wear out. Virgin wool is the washed wool right off the sheep, with super long fibers that hold warmth like a sheep would want, and it also wears like iron.

I have had the pleasure of owning many Filson sweaters, vests, socks, jackets, and canvas coats. They are made in America and of unsurpassed quality, especially in contrast to today’s mass produced Chinese junk.

Yes, they are more expensive than most clothing, but as soon as you wear them, you will agree they are worth every cent. Ten years later, when your garment has begun to show a bit of wear, you will be utterly amazed. In a world of built-in obsolescence, Filson’s is throwback, old-timey bomb-proof.

Just yesterday morning I was retrieving a live coyote I had trapped on a grapple (a drag that gets caught in brush). He had managed to go through a massive wall of brush made of multiflora rose, Japanese honeysuckle, Russian olive, Asian bittersweet vines, raspberry brambles, and other assorted sharp, pointy, and painful trash brush that is impossible for humans to get through.

At first I used a chainsaw to cut my way in close to the growling, barking, gnawing alpha male. Then, I went back to the truck and put on an old Filson “Tin Cloth” hunting jacket, turned my back to the brush, and began bulldozing my way backwards through it. The various sharp things just bounced off the coat and in seconds I was standing in front of the nest raider (I trap predators to save ground nesting birds and for no other purpose).

There isn’t a Carhartt or Dickey’s anywhere that can do that, nor a Barbour, either. The downside to Tin Cloth is that when it goes on cold, you feel like a medieval knight putting on his steel armor. It is pretty stiff. But as you move and it warms up from your body heat, it flexes easily, and is indestructible. The way around this is to put it near a stove, heating vent, or in a warm vehicle before putting in on.

Anyhow, Thank You to Filson’s for their incredible garments. Nothing else comes close.

Leupold is the other firm I have had such good fortune with.

Leupold has made scopes and binoculars in Washington State since the early 1900s, and to most hunters their scopes are a household name.

What is amazing about their firm is not just the high quality products, but the incredible customer service.

To wit, this past November I fell while bear hunting in Northcentral Pennsylvania. Falling flat on my face in the thick mountain laurel, my chest crashed into a bunch of laurel trunks. They stick up like pungi sticks. A pair of Leupold Mojave binoculars was harnessed to my chest, and they took the brunt of the fall.

The diopter setting control popped off, and although I was able to find it and more or less get it back on, it did not work.

So I sent it to Leupold and asked them to fix it.

Instead, Leupold sent me a brand new pair of their latest model, the Pro Guide HD. Shrink-wrapped in the box and all.

This new binocular is really just the culmination of a series of slight improvements and modifications to the now discontinued Cascades, Mojaves, and other mountain-name-themed models I cannot recall now. But think about that, a company takes something you broke and gives you a new one.

Buddy, THAT is customer service!

Yesterday while flintlock hunting in the afternoon at French Creek State Park with my friend George, we met another hunter who joined us. We ended up doing three-man deer drives through the western end of the park. This new fellow, Gary Yoder, had around his neck a nice pair of Leupold binoculars.

When I told him my story about the brand new Leupolds on my chest harness, he told me the same story! He, too, had broken his previous pair, sent them in for repair, and instead had received this upgraded new pair, new in the box.

Needless to say, we were both very impressed by Leupold’s dedication to their customers.

A note about the new Pro Guide HD 8x42s: These have high quality glass, excellent, really. Looking through Swarovski, Zeiss, Leica, I do not see much of an improvement over this Leupold glass. When you look at the price difference, there is no comparison at all, because the German glass is two to four times the price of the Leupold and only slightly, marginally better in terms of clarity and crispness.

As good as the clarity is, all Leupold binoculars come with the worst and strangest eyepiece covers of all binoculars. While hunting in Scotland last October, I did a belly crawl up a hill to take a shot at a distant red stag. On my chest harness was that prior pair of Leupold binoculars. Behind me lay a trail of Leupold eyepiece covers, all of which came off and lay in different places in the bog. There has to be a way for Leupold to improve this one odd, inconsistent anomaly. Otherwise, their products are quite perfect and their customer service is even better than that.


Benjamin Marauder Air Rifle 3.0 Review

With Pennsylvania recently adopting regulations allowing the use of air guns for hunting, a new air rifle was acquired to take advantage of the new opportunities. It is the .25 caliber Benjamin Marauder, version 3. This is a PCP version, which is to say, highly compressed air from a specialized hand pump that gives you a heck of a workout, or from a SCUBA tank, to a maximum of 3,000 psi. These PCP air guns are quite powerful and nothing like the Daisy BB guns my generation is familiar with.

It was purchased from LG Outdoors brand new in the factory box, for $465.00.

The .25 caliber was selected because the slightly larger pellets can carry significantly higher kinetic energy, as measured in foot-pounds, than the .177 and .22 caliber PCP air rifles. Supposed to function like a firearm.  That was the idea, anyhow.

A UTG 3-9×40 AO mildot scope was added to it, because the gun does not have open sights. UTG was selected on the basis of internet reviews and recommendations. It is designed for .22s and air rifles, which are much harder on scopes than even heavy caliber big game rifles. This was purchased from Midway for $85.00.

Pellets used were .25 caliber 25.39-grain JSB Match Diabolo Exact Kings. According to internet reviews I have read, these seem to be the best performing pellets in the Marauder. They are pure soft lead, rounded blunt, with a pronounced skirt, so no sharp, pointed, killer-type field tip contours here.  But within 25-35 yards, they are going to be deadly.

Shooting Experience

The clip included with the rifle broke right away, and I could not get it to work more than once (eight shots). Apparently the internal spring sprang, and the clip would not rotate afterwards. The clip is an over-engineered, overly complicated contraption, designed to frustrate most users. After those first eight shots, the clip was broken, set aside, and the gun was tediously fed single shots by hand.

After the first ten shots, accuracy began to drop, so more air needed to be pumped in with the hand pump. While the gauge on the rifle showed 1,500 psi starting out with the re-charge, it then went to 2,500 psi after just a few pumps. On the other hand, the hand pump gauge showed 3,000 psi, which is the limit. Mind you this was only the second time the gun had been pumped up. When the bleeder valve was opened and the pump disconnected from the rifle, the rifle gauge needle dropped into the white area below the marked pressure range. In other words, the rifle’s gauge died immediately upon use. Only the pump gauge was accurate.

The de-gassing tool needed to quickly let out the compressed air is not included with the gun, which is ridiculous.

The awful matte finish on the barrel and air tank attracts scuffs, holds any paint it encounters, and the metal underneath rusts easily from even the slightest exposure to moisture. This is not your old Daisy single-pump BB gun’s black finish, a finish that even decades later may be somewhat scratched but is still robust and protecting the steel underneath.

After wondering about how the barrel could be counted on to remain accurate without being rigidly supported by the front barrel band, I learned in a phone call to Crosman customer service that a rubber O-ring was missing from the barrel band on this rifle. That O-ring would grip the barrel inside the barrel band and keep the barrel from flexing or moving, which would destroy accuracy.

Despite lacking the O-ring to hold the barrel rigidly, this gun was accurate. With the barrel band O-ring installed, I’ll bet it is amazingly accurate. The adjustable trigger is outstandingly crisp.

After shooting it into and through half-inch-thick dried oak boards, which are iron – hard, we learned this is a gun quite capable of cleanly taking squirrels, rats, starlings, European sparrows, and rabbits, either hunting or in pest control out to about 35 yards. I am unsure if I feel comfortable using it for more challenging pest control like skunks, groundhogs, possums, raccoons, or feral cats, all of which are very tough, unless it is a head shot at point blank range, like in a trap. Having just killed a large porcupine gnawing on our pavilion the other night, which required five point blank Federal Premium .22 LRs, there is still a distinct power difference between even a “mere” .22 and this souped-up air rifle.

Crosman did respond to this gun’s deficiencies. They sent a new clip (the size of a fifty cent piece) in a package the size of a shoe box. I guess shipping costs are not an issue at Crosman. Days later a new air pressure gauge and barrel O-ring arrived. After looking at the terribly illustrated and poorly worded user’s manual, which did not include instructions on installing either the O-ring or the pressure gauge, I decided against trying to install the barrel O-ring or the gauge myself. The gun is going back to Crosman. They can fix this one or send a new one.

Bottom line

The Benjamin Marauder 3.0 PCP air rifle is very accurate up to ten shots, and then it needs to be pumped up again to 3,000 psi. Don’t push this rifle beyond what it was designed to do, and it will perform fine within 35 yards. Just make sure you actually get a functional rifle when it comes “new” out of the box!

UPDATE: 6/2/17 Crosman customer service is shipping the rifle back at their cost. The nice lady told me the serial number is from late 2015, which made her think the gun may have already been returned to LG Outdoors once before, as it should have moved through the channels of trade long before June 2017. She also said we’ll be receiving a new gun. That’s good customer service!

UPDATE: 6/23/17 Crosman delivers back to me the same rifle I had sent to them for repair or replacement. Judging by the small amount of pressure indicated by the gauge, the gauge has been replaced. However, the O ring in the barrel band is still missing. It has not been fixed. This means that the barrel is just flopping around, unsupported. This means mediocre accuracy, at best. Dear Crosman (went my unanswered emails and phone calls), WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON OVER THERE? This is not customer service, it is a rip-off. I purchased a brand new air rifle, and months later, it still doesn’t work right. To be continued!