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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!

 

Downton Abbey’s “field sports” Part II

Guess I shot from the hip, shot first and asked questions later, didn’t identify my target too well, or another euphemism you may enjoy applying to the lack of foresight I brought to yesterday’s analysis of Downton Abbey’s field sports.

Yes, I could have sneaked a peak ahead of the coming scenes, like many other avid watchers of PBS’s hit show do, but because I lack the time and the inclination to sneak anything, I just sat down in my easy chair and watched the show unfold last night without advance knowledge of its content.

My Sunday afternoon essay about the mediocre depiction of the field sports of Downton Abbey was written beforehand.

So, yes, there was a shooting scene last night, or more accurately, some scenes of wing shooting at driven partridge from bona fide shooting butts, using authentic guns and nice clothes, woven in and out of the story about the Scottish castle party.

But once again, there was more focus on the clothes on the people holding the guns than on the Purdeys, Rigbys, and other Best-quality side-by-side shotguns being used to down the birds.

In 1924, $150,000-then-equivalent Purdey shotguns do not get left with the menial help in the kitchen. They are fussed and obsessed over by their owners, kept locked in their rooms, cased with abundant hand-made accoutrements, labeled beautifully by their makers, and often proudly handed down from generation to generation and worn with traditional hunting clothes.

Scottish castles are loaded with arms and armor, and we barely got a peak at the edged weapons welcoming guests through the front door.

The wagons taking the hunters to the field were right, and a nice touch.  I have ridden in such wagons on traditional hunts, and they are today an unnecessary throwback.  But back then, they were a necessity through muck and muddy moors.

Shooting driven partridge from the butts was mostly done right, with gun loaders ducking to avoid being seen by the birds, and we did see some people bunched up waving white flags, but a real drive could have been filmed for full authenticity.  Actual dead birds could have fallen.  Smoke could have emitted from the barrels.  Etc etc.

Depicting the shooting sports in so briefly and so shallow a manner is the equivalent of dressing Lady Mary in a perfect 1920s top with modern hip-hugger blue jeans below. It is just wrong.  Don’t do that!

A lot of non sequiturs occurred last night that really deprive the Downton Abbey audience of a full appreciation of the English field sport lifestyle, which actually reached its pinnacle in the 1920s (when cheap skilled labor was matched with newly superior steel and modern technology to create firearms that even today still command huge sums of money, not to mention the introduction and propagation of Asian pheasants to the English countryside), the time we are watching in the show.

I am sorry to criticize you, Julian Fellowes, because Downton Abbey is otherwise a great show, everything we want it to be. 

Last night was disappointing, because the rich details of noble Scottish and English hunting rites should have been indulged.  As a student of English history, you are missing a great, even important opportunity here to dig into a meaty subject which your audience will surely enjoy, even if it involves G-U-N-S. 

Maybe in January 2016 we will get a more thorough treatment of a subject that may be missing from Mr. Fellowes’ life today, but which was a nearly daily ritual for the actual residents of Downton Abbey and their peers in the 1920s.

Shoot straight, Downton Abbey!

Downton Abbey is my favorite TV show of all time.

Every in-season Sunday night at 9:00 we eagerly gather round the big screen, home made spiced popcorn by the bucketful for each family member, and we drink in the beautifully done details and attention to form and grace we might otherwise mock, but which suddenly doesn’t look so quaint nowadays.

Everything Downton Abbey is done just right: The clothes, the rooms, the landscapes, the attitudes, the horses’ braided manes and cropped tails, the food, the historic cars, the cobblestone walks, the Upstairs Downstairs separate lives of the nobles and their low-born helpers constantly saying “Yes, m’Lord,” and deferentially bowing.

That awesome acting!

For an award-winning PBS Masterpiece Theater show that has so carefully threaded the yarn of social commentary through the needle of the dramatically changing times of the early Nineteen-Hundreds and Twenties, it is bizarrely deficient on one count: The depiction or even the meaningful presence of field sports at Downton.

Field sports, like pick-up, informal, cross-country steeplechase horse races, formal horse-back fox hunts, weekly and near-daily hunts for driven pheasant, partridge, rabbits, stag, and red deer that for hundreds of years  made up the lives of real-life Downton Abbey residents and their peers until the 1970s, but still lingering on in remote places.

Not to mention salmon fishing with spey rods and picnic baskets filled with bottles of phenomenal Scotch!

Field sports were core to the luxurious but physically challenging lifestyle of the English landed gentry and nobility (and also to their Welsh, Scottish and Irish counterparts), and generated significant economic, technological, and cultural evolutions across the planet.

Downton Abbey’s second season delivered on the natural expectation among educated viewers that accurate depictions of field sports would be part of the rural landscapes designed around them.  And then, in one evening, Downtown Abbey did it right, to the hilt, as we expected.  As we had a right to expect.

Indeed, upon his visit to Shrimpie’s Scottish family castle, properly stocked with historic arms and armor, the most pedestrian Matthew (now dead) successfully stalked Highland stag, using period-correct clothing, ponies, and best-quality rifles, complete with attentive Ghillies nattily attired in the Hebrides’ best men’s skirts.  And he enjoyed it.  A lot.  How true that would have been.  How accurate it was to portray Matthew that way.

How normal that experience was, in real life, at the time Downton Abbey is set in, not only among the Scottish castle dwellers, but among the Downton Abbey residents, as well.

So then, inexplicably, we must wait another year and a half before we see even a brief hunting scene.  Sure there is a steeplechase, and Mary’s galloping sidesaddle was impeccable.  Exciting to watch, and viewers around the globe worried that she might fall; I did.  Jumping sidesaddle is a rare skill, which a gentlelady like Mary would have time to perfect.  Seeing it was, in fact, perfect to my eyes.

Well done!

But the hunting scene this season is awful.  It is shamefully bad, I am sad to say.

This time Tom, Mary, and one of her suitors take a walk on the Downton grounds with best-grade shotguns to hunt up some hares for the house pot.  Incredibly, Tom hesitatingly walks out into the middle of an open field, where no self-respecting rabbit has ever lived or been shot with a gun or caught by a hawk, points his gun up at shoulder level, and pulls the trigger.

At which point we are supposed to believe, what, that a Monty Python-style King Arthur quest-rabbit-on-a-string slowly sailed up into the air and delivered itself to the careful arc of Tom’s staged, static, single shot?

Come on, Downton Abbey!  This is not right. Not only is it not technically right, it’s not naturally right, but most important, it’s not socially right.

Just think of the potential social commentary available to the writers about a radical Irish Socialist private limo driver who then becomes the family’s land manager.

From being against estates, he is now the arm of the Lord of the estate.  From opposing monarchy, he literally gets in bed with it and his (now dead) wife Sybil bears him a child born to wealth and noble high status.

Putting the equivalent of a $150,000 best-quality shotgun in Tom’s hands, and a $5,000 wool suit on his handsome frame, while he hunts on the estate with pure-bred gentry at his side, surely we could have been treated to some scenes of rabbits dying in the place of King Edward, in Tom’s mind’s eye, or some other subtle but visual tension as we have seen elsewhere in Downton, such as where Tom feels physically drawn to the material comforts of the life he once intellectually opposed.

One can only guess why this dearth of hands-on hunting, riding, and fishing is an elephant standing in the castle’s drawing room.

Is it that Julian Fellowes is like so many of England’s effete cultural elite, openly disdaining even rudimentary firearms like single-shot rifles and double-barrel shotguns, and so including them only of the barest necessity in Downton Abbey?  And what a shame this is, because even for liberals there is rich mining to be had, a wealth of opposites, a world of contrasts in the universe of noble field sports.

Reality is not scary, Julian, nor is it objectionable.  Reality is reality, and if you are going to be historically accurate for our viewing pleasure, reality must be shown and said.  And as your loyal fan, I am telling you that you can put rose tinted lenses on anything at Downton, and we will eat it up, including rabbit hunting and driven pheasant shoots.

I hope you do it right next time, and include more accurate field sports portrayals.  To be prosaic, make sure you serve the other course with our otherwise fulfilling meal, please.  It should be roast duck or pheasant, with a scattering of chilled lead six-shot picked out from the rear molar with a pinky nail or toothpick like any Lord or Lady would have happily done in 1927.

 

My take on tonight’s Corbett – Wolf Debate, and Tom Brokaw’s Plea for Control of Our Lives

Like a few thousand other attendees at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce dinner tonight, I sat in the audience and watched Governor Tom Corbett and Democrat nominee Tom Wolf debate each other, with reporter Dennis Owens moderating.  Dennis was outstanding.  I also stayed for the Tom Brokaw speech afterwards.

Here are the highlights as I see them:

1) Corbett beat Wolf hands-down, in substance, poise, accuracy, and humility.  And damned if I am not still surprised.  Given how insipid the Corbett campaign has been to date, I expected the worst performance from him tonight.  That did not materialize.

2) While overall the debate was Dull vs Duller, and neither man was exciting or inspiring, the amazing fact is that Tom Corbett found his voice tonight.  Tom Wolf talked in circles, kept stating that he is a businessman (six, seven times), mis-spoke (“the vast majority of married Pennsylvanians file separate tax reports”), spoke in vague generalities bordering on fluffy clouds and flying unicorns, and addressed none of the substantive issues pegged by moderator Dennis Owens or by Corbett.

3) Wolf seemed to play it safe, venturing nothing new, nothing specific.  He did not even respond the to the Delaware Loophole questions posed to him.  He simply ignored them.  If he persists in this evasiveness, Corbett can catch up and beat him.  Voters can now see it, and it ain’t pretty.  Corbett may be The Most Boring Man in the World, but Wolf looked completely unprepared to be governor.

4) Wolf’s “I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it” response to policy and finance questions is not acceptable for a candidate to run a state government.

5) Corbett actually ate some humble pie, admitting that he is not a good communicator.  Understatement, yes, but he is not a guy who likes to admit he’s wrong.  So that was big.  Again, expectations for Corbett were super low, and he started out looking and sounding defeated.  But even he recognized that he was beating Wolf, and his performance picked up as the debate went on.

Brokaw:

1) Ancient establishment reporter Tom Brokaw has a great voice, and lots of stage presence.  He’s good looking for a guy that old.  He wrote a book about The Greatest Generation, so he must be a pretty great guy.  That is the marketing, anyhow.  His ideas run the gamut from standard liberal to downright contradictory and mutually-exclusive confused, to pathetic control freak.

2) Although Brokaw started talking about the Tea Party, and he complimented its members for getting involved in the political process (which he said is necessary), he never said or recognized the American Constitution as core to tea party’s goals, values, principles, or guiding role. So although he talked about it, it didn’t seem evident that he understands or has thought about the Tea Party much.

3) Brokaw said “I leave it to you determine if the Tea Party is good for America. I’m just a reporter, I just report the facts. You have to come to your own conclusions.”  As if he was not passing judgment on the Tea Party.  Yet, he asked the question and obviously thinks the Tea Party is bad for America; that is his hint.  Given that Brokaw is a liberal at war with America, this is a big cue to conservative activists: Keep it up, the liberal media establishment is scared of you.

4) He called for “filtration” and a “filter” of the internet, and talked about the “simple people” who manage his Montana ranch and get news from the Internet, which he disavowed and sees as unworthy.  This is the kind of intellectual region where Brokaw makes no sense.  On the one hand, the big establishment media is all over the Internet, so if people get their news from the Internet, and not TV chatterheads or fishwrap newspapers, then there’s no real problem with the Internet as a news source.  What Brokaw seemed to be challenged by is the fact that Breitbart and citizen reporters (think Watchdogwire, or my own blog) are circumventing the establishment media.  He does not understand or care that the ‘simple’ masses are hungry for unfiltered news, for real news, for facts and not liberal agenda.  How his imagined filters jibe, square, or conflict with the First Amendment was not mentioned; I am unsure it even occurred to Brokaw that purposefully filtering information is censorship.  But he is a guy who believes in sixty years of past liberal censorship, so I guess he has to stay consistent today.

5) Brokaw implied that the establishment media are the source of accurate information and “big ideas,” and that alternative news and opinion sources are not.  He said he doesn’t believe what he reads on the internet.  He is clearly bothered there’s now no difference between establishment media and bloggers and citizen reporters in terms of equal accessibility. He’s having a tough time letting go of controlling the message Americans receive, which is really his objection: Liberal media elites are losing the propaganda war because they no longer have a choke hold on the information flow; ergo, the Internet is full of bad information.

An indication of just how undeveloped his thinking is: Richard Nixon, Richard Nixon, Richard Nixon…for Liberals, Nixon was the High Priest of Done Bad in Government.  It does not seem to occur to Brokaw that Nixon’s crimes pale in comparison to the lawless tyranny Obama has inflicted upon American citizens. E.g. NSA spying and IRS crushing of political dissent.

6) On the other hand, he’s into high tech and the future of technology.  Very impressed by Google staff and all of the “big minds” gathered at tech conventions.  Brokaw doesn’t reconcile his adulation with his view of information flow on the net.  I am guessing here that he’d be OK if Google ran all the news on the Internet, because Google is made of liberals who share his political agenda.  “Good” liberals and “bad” conservatives is what he is after.

7) Annoyingly, Brokaw dropped names all over the place, as if to impress us with how important he is: Jon Stewart, the NFL commissioner, et al. “I was emailing with ____ _____, and he says ‘Tom..’.” “My books.” “I’m on the board of…..” This seemed self-conscious and actually undermined his standing, because truly great people never look at themselves this way.  They simply Are Great.

8) Finally, he called for a new form of foreign service corps, some hybrid of the Peace Corps, Americorps, and the military.  It was terribly confused, but it was also the kind of Big Idea he admires others for having, so evidently he must have one, too, even of it makes no practical sense.

For shotgun slug hunters, relief

If you hunt deer in a shotgun-only zone like southeast Pennsylvania, Long Island, or New Jersey, you know the common futility of shooting rifled slugs (Foster slugs) out of your smoothbore barrel.  Within 50 yards, odds are you’ll connect, but beyond the likelihood of bagging the deer drops like a stone.  Foster slugs are effective in close, but never real accurate. (My friend, attorney, and hunting partner George A. would like me to remind readers that he has shot many deer with his Remington 870 rifled barrel, and he can attest to its great accuracy with sabots)

After flinging about a lot of wasted lead slugs last month, most of which were within 60 or 70 yards at deer standing broadside, my frustration reached epic levels.  Instead of leaving my otherwise trusty Remington 870 wrapped around a tree in the woods like some tennis pros beat up on their racquets, I decided to join the growing crowd of shotgun hunters and buy a rifled barrel.

Rifled barrels are known for dramatically improving shotgun accuracy, and effectiveness.  Even a barrel that is nearly snap-on/ snap-off, like the Remington 870, is reported by many hunters to shoot remarkably accurately out to 100 yards.

So, scoring a brand new 12-gauge Remington rifled barrel (open sights, not the cantilevered scope ramp) for $170 was exciting, but was only step one in improving my score.  Next I had to determine which sabots (pronounced say-bo-z) would emit from that new barrel.

After extensive research (which now means reading both drivel and gold on the Internet blogs, forums, product web pages, etc.), I selected the reloading components at www.slugsrus.com.  These are the folks who invented, patented, and until recently marketed the Lightfield slug, as well as the Hastings slugs of yore.  Their proprietary wad and lead mushroom head slug (“hammerhead”) result in astonishing accuracy with 490-grain lead slugs.  Not just claims of accuracy, but demonstrated accuracy in all kinds of circumstances.

That kind of freight, moving at 1600 feet per second, is a whopper, the Hammer of Thor, a ton of bricks, a falling grand piano, and every other appellation you care to assign.  It is a stopper of enormous magnitude. Forget lil’ old deer; grizzly bears and other large dangerous game will have a tough time resisting the urge to lay down and go into the long sleep once they meet this slug.

So I spoke with Pam at www.slugsrus.com, at length, and ended up purchasing sufficient components to reload 40 shells at home.  Reloading is a lot, lot, lot cheaper than buying pre-made shells off the shelf. If you are like me, and you want to see for yourself that the new rifled barrel is indeed capable of incredible accuracy, then a good half or more of those handloaded slugs are going to go down range off the cabin porch.

If you are a shotgun shooter by necessity or choice, and you resent paying ludicrous prices for shotgun slugs, I strongly recommend that you contact www.slugsrus.com and see if they can help you both improve your gun’s effectiveness, and save you a lot of money.