Stephen Archer summarises the Stateside airgun year
Stephen Archer gives us a mid-year round up of the US airgun season
Yes, yes, I know! You’re thinking, ‘What the heck is Steve talking about now? It’s November. How can that be mid-year? Well, firstly, I’m actually writing this story in September, so please give me a chance here. Secondly, we need to think about what the ‘airgun year’ actually is. The SHOT Show in Las Vegas is generally defined as the start of the airgun year because it’s held at the end of January. However, rather more important in the annual airgun calendar is the IWA Outdoor Classics show in Germany. That’s held in March, and there are usually many more new airgun products announced then from countries around the world. Counting from March to September gives six months. That’s right, it really is mid-year in the airgun calendar!
Added to this, the industry is gearing-up worldwide for the pre-Christmas shopping season. If a product announced at the SHOT Show or IWA has not yet reached the shelves, it’s getting dangerously late to be available for sale this year. This makes it a fair time to take a mid-year round up of what’s happened in the airgun industry, on this side of the Pond at least.
THE NEW BENJAMIN FORTITUDE
Stateside, the Umarex Gauntlet has cast a long shadow on the airgun industry since its launch in 2017. The $300 regulated, multi-shot, silenced PCP air rifle market that this gun created has now been joined by a major new rival: the Benjamin Fortitude. The Fortitude represents Crosman’s answer to that dynamic ‘$300 PCP’ market space and it’s an interesting answer indeed.
As with the Gauntlet, we have a $300, regulated PCP which delivers 60-plus shots per fill, uses a 10-shot magazine feed and offers backyard-friendly sound levels. Both have similar muzzle velocity capabilities and reassuring multi-year warranties.
Crosman has always had a core competency in re-using existing parts to build new products. That’s very sensible engineering, so it’s no
surprise to find that the new Fortitude uses many parts proven in previous models. In fact, the Fortitude looks, conceptually, like a cross between a Benjamin Maximus and a Marauder air pistol, with a regulator built-in.
Compared to the familiar Marauder, the Benjamin Fortitude is a much lighter, less bulky air rifle. It weighs about 2lbs less than the Marauder rifle and just 5oz more than the single-shot, unregulated Maximus. This means that it feels light and handy to shoot.
The Benjamin Fortitude that I tested shot at around 750 fps with 14.35 grain JSB Jumbo Exact 14.35 grain pellets, in .22 calibre, of course. That’s just under 18 ft.lbs. of muzzle energy. The Gauntlet we tested gave 805 fps, 20.75 ft.lbs. with the same pellets.
On the down side, unfortunately the Fortitude needs a stock with an adjustable cheek piece. I got a chin weld, not a cheek weld when shooting it! The Gauntlet has an adjustable comb to the stock which is much better.
The Gauntlet’s trigger is also superior. The Fortitude’s trigger is non-adjustable and the sample I tested had an average pull weight of 5½lbs. Ouch!
Although both have heavy bolt actions, the Gauntlet’s is much easier to operate. The bolt handle is longer and larger, there’s more space to avoid skinning your knuckles on the scope, and the pull effort is less, but all-in-all, the Fortitude is very competitive with the Gauntlet at this ‘bargain’ price point. Versions of both air rifles might make it to the UK in due course.
THERE ARE NAME CHANGES, TOO
Interestingly, Crosman Corporation has changed its name. It’s now called ‘Velocity Outdoor’.
The new corporate identity better reflects the diverse portfolio of brands currently under the Crosman Corporation umbrella, says the company. Crosman airguns, pellets and other products retain the Crosman name. Likewise with Benjamin products.
However, that name change emphasises that the company is no longer focused primarily on airguns. It’s serving a broader range of outdoor enthusiasts. Just this month, the company announced that it has acquired Ravin Crossbows, increasing its participation in the archery market.
Then there’s SIG Air. No, it’s not your new favorite airline! SIG Air is the new name for the SIG SAUER advanced sport pellet business. This new name was launched at a press event at the SIG SAUER headquarters in New Hampshire in July, but there’s more to it than just a name change.
The SIG Air name is a statement of direction for the future of airgun products at SIG SAUER. Not only is it applied to the existing SIG SAUER ASP range of products, but it’s also the brand name for the new SIG Air ASP20 break-barrel air rifle, also announced on the same day, and there’s more … Future SIG Air products will also include airgun and airsoft versions of the same gun developed concurrently by the same team. There have been airsoft SIGs before, but they have been produced by another company licensing the brand. Now that’s over, and all SIG Air products will come directly from SIG.
NEW SIG AIR PRODUCTS
SIG Air has shipped the new SIG X-Five ASP CO2 pellet pistol, first shown at the 2018 SHOT Show. This model uses SIG’s 20-shot, belt-loading system. It combines this with a blow-back action and an adjustable rear sight. There’s another new pistol coming very soon, too – the M17.
Also, SIG Air will be shipping the ASP20 air rifle in the US very soon. Of course, Terry Doe and I covered the launch of this gun in the September issue of Airgun World. In fact,
production will have started by the time you read this and I hope to bring you an exclusive first review of this exciting new break-barrel next month.
MORE BIG NEWS IN REPLICA BB PISTOLS
Back in September 2017, Umarex announced that it had signed an agreement with Glock to produce officially-licensed replicas of Glock centrefire models. Now we have the first results of this agreement shipping in the USA.
The first Glock BB pistol is an interesting choice. It’s a non-blow-back replica of the Glock 19 Generation 3 model centrefire pistol – the compact version of the Glock 17.
The look and feel of this Glock 19 CO2 BB gun is extremely good, as you can see from the photographs. In compensation for having a non-blow-back action, this Glock gives an outstanding combination of shots per CO2 capsule and muzzle velocity. We found an excellent 96 shots before the muzzle velocity dropped down to 200 fps. Maximum muzzle velocity for the Glock 19 CO2 BB gun we tested was an average of 412 fps with Crosman Copperhead 5.13 grain BBs, at a temperature of 70°F. That gives a muzzle energy of 1.94 ft.lbs., which is very creditable for a BB pistol.
NEW PELLETS AT THE PYRAMYD AIR CUP
The annual Pyramyd Air Cup is held in Ohio in September. It’s sponsored by Pyramyd Air, the world’s largest airgun retailer. This is often the venue for some product introductions or ‘leaks’, and this year was no different.
The most prominent new product to be seen was the new H&N Baracuda FT pellet. Florian Schwartz – the General Manager of H&N – had travelled over from Germany specially to launch these new pellets in the US. He had sample packs of differing lots for PA Cup competitors to try out, in both 4.50 and 4.51mm head sizes. Each pack included about 350 pellets. Not only that, but H&N is also seeking feedback from those lucky enough to get these samples. That’s a great example of a company actively looking for customer feedback. Well done, H&N!
Baracuda FT pellets are specifically designed for field target competition. They have a weight of 9.57 grains in .177 calibre and are handselected for exceptional consistency, Florian told me. For example, the weight tolerance is specified to a maximum of +/- 0.25%.
Production of Baracuda FT pellets is in small batches. Each batch is test-fired on an indoor 50-metre range and the centre-to-centre group size must be just 12mm or less for 5 shots. Very impressive!
THE FIRST SIGHTING OF A REGULATED DIANA STORMRIDER
Another German company showing dedication to the US market at the 2018 Pyramyd Air Cup was Diana. International Sales Manager, Tobias Schmidt, was shooting a left-handed version of the popular Stormrider multi-shot PCP air rifle.
Not only did this gun have left-hand bolt operation, but it was also regulated, shrouded and fitted with a German Diana barrel. Upfront, there’s an air stripper. Also, there’s a second gauge underneath the stock, showing the regulated pressure. Is this a peek at a forthcoming new Diana model? We’ll probably find at at the 2019 IWA Show
IT’S AN EXCITING MID-YEAR!
So yes, there’s plenty of progress to be seen at the mid-point of this airgun year. Manufacturers are continuing to introduce dynamic new products. Even if not all of them appear in the UK this year, they probably will in 2019 and that has to be good news for all of us!
Stephen Archer is the Publisher of the US-based online publication Hard Air Magazine.
The Benjamin Fortitude is the new $300 PCP from the company formerly known as Crosman.
This is the new CO2-powered, pellet-firing pistol from SIG AIR. I enjoyed shooting the SIG M17 CO2 pistol, as you can see from this photograph taken at the ASP20 press launch. Photograph SIG SAUER.
The Fortitude is very similar to the Benjamin Maximus. They’re actually the same length, but perspective distorts that somewhat in this photograph.
The Glock 19 is an outstanding new replica BB pistol.
The General Manager of H&N travelled to the US to launch these new pellets.
The company is asking for shooters’ feedback on their new pellets. They should be highly commended for this.
Diana’s Tobias Schmidt was clearly very pleased with the new prototype regulated Stormrider.