US Air­gun­ning

Stephen Archer sum­marises the State­side air­gun year

Airgun World - - Contents -

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.

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