As I mentioned the other day, I’m finally getting a chance to work on some of the projects and gear reviews I’ve been planning… building a budget hog rifle, and trying out the Benjamin Marauder .25cal air rifle.

The new Savage Axis, “budget” hog rifle got it’s first trip to the range over the weekend, but that one has had to go back to the workbench.  I’ll give it another go soon, after I’ve worked out a few challenges.

The other project, though, the Benjamin Marauder is off to a roaring start!  I have raved about this rifle since I first shot it at the SHOT Show this past winter.  The quiet power and screaming accuracy tickled every part of my gun-loving soul, and I couldn’t wait to sit down with one on my own time where I could really put it through the paces.

The rifle and accessories arrived at my doorstep a couple of hours before I took off on my last work trip to Spokane, so all I had time to do was open the box and drool a little before rushing off to the airport.  I couldn’t wait to get home and put it all together.

Assembly wasn’t bad, as it was mostly just a matter of mounting the Centerpoint 3-12×44 scope.  I tried to boresight the thing, but apparently the muzzle diameter is a little bigger than the .25 caliber bore.  Nevertheless, I figured at 20 yards (the longest shot I could get at my little “range”) I’d be able to get on paper and dial it in easy enough.

I have a pair of SCUBA tanks that I will be using to charge the rifle.  I’d never worked with a PCP (Pre-Charged Pneumatic) before, but the instructions were clear and simple enough.  The Marauder is designed to take up to a 3000psi charge, but the factory settings limited my initial fills to 2000psi.  According to the manual, that should be plenty sufficient for most hunting and target shooting purposes.

Loading the Marauder’s rotary magazine with eight pellets was also simple enough.  I got a little impatient at first, in my eagerness to shoot I tried loading the mag without reading the manual.  It’s not that tricky, but it wasn’t really intuitive.  After a few tries, I grabbed the booklet and learned what I needed to know.

I was ready to shoot.  I grabbed my old Black Hole archery target and set it up at about 20 yards, with a redwood privacy fence behind it.  I took a big sheet of cardboard, and stuck some Shoot-n-See pasters (1″ circles) on it.  On the second shot, I realized that my pellets were hitting the fence!  This thing was sending those pellets right through that archery target and embedding them deeply into the wooden fence slats!  Now granted, the target is pretty old, but it still stops arrows from my Mathews without much complaint.  I couldn’t believe the power and penetration.

I stuck an old piece of foam behind the target, and wrapped the whole thing with an old carpet runner.  That should stop it.  I fired a couple of shots, and didn’t hear the sound of pellets hitting wood.  Relieved, I proceeded to zero the rifle… a process that really didn’t take too long.  After about four or five adjustments, the next two shots went dead into the bullseye.  I fired another shot and it went right beside the other two.   (Turns out the Marauder was still shooting right through all of that padding and embedding pellets in my fence… oops!). 

I reloaded the magazine, and took a shot.  This time, my pellet dropped about an inch and a half below the bull.  I tried again and hit almost the exact same place.  I flipped the rifle over and checked the air gauge.  Sure enough, it was down into the yellow, a little less than 1500psi.  Hmm… it went through almost 500psi in about 10 shots.  The gun was still packing a whallop on the target, but the pellet was definitely dropping faster.

I pumped the gun back up and reloaded.  Picking another dot, I started shooting.

12 shots later, it looked like this.  Even though this is only 20 yards, I think that’s pretty danged consistent.  Consider that I was shooting from my Vanguard bipod (no bench), sitting on a concrete walkway.  This is definitely not my old Red Ryder!

One of the big things I want to do with this rifle is take it turkey hunting (it’s legal in CA to hunt turkeys with a .20cal or larger air rifle).  I had my doubts about the kind of accuracy that would require, but after shooting a few dozen shots with this thing, I have no doubt I can head-shoot a turkey at 20-30 yards.  I’ll be shooting a lot more before the November season arrives, but I already have a pretty high level of confidence in this gun.

You’ll probably be hearing more about the Marauder as I take it out for ground squirrels, and maybe for rabbits.  The gun is pretty heavy for serious field carry, but I think I can find places to use it where I won’t have to hike too much.