With ammo shortages expected to last another 24 months (and maybe longer), gun owners have been forced to get creative to stay behind the trigger. Some are waking up at 3 a.m. to wait in line at sporting goods stores to claim their rationed ammunition. Others are branching out to less common calibers or dusting off the reloading bench.
Some folks are trading in their smoke-and-powder firearms for air guns. While most air rifles can’t replicate the long-range performance of firearms, modern .22-caliber products have more than enough juice to hunt small game, and they offer all the fun and flexibility of a .22LR. Most importantly, air pellets are (still) cheap and can (still) be found online and at local sporting goods stores.
The Semi-Auto (SA) Benjamin Marauder might be the nearest stand-in for the .22-caliber firearms we used to know and love (to shoot). The Marauder can push a 14.3-grain pellet 900 feet-per-second (fps) at the muzzle, making it powerful enough to take small game and accurate enough to hit a one-inch target at 50 yards. Plus, the semi-auto action and 10-round rotary magazine means more time shooting and less time reloading.
It ain’t cheap. At $729.99, the SA Marauder rivals a mid-level firearm in terms of cost. But the rifle you can afford to shoot is better than the rifle in the safe, and these days, that’s enough to justify an even more spendy purchase.
Powerplant: Regulated Pre-Charged Pneumatic
Weight: 8.2 lbs
Overall Length: 43 in.
Barrel Length: 20 in.
Magazine Capacity: 10
Air Tank: 3000 psi
Air Tank Fitting: Male quick-disconnect Foster fitting
I should say at the outset that I’m reviewing the SA Marauder as a gun guy moving into the air gun world—not as an air gun expert. If you’re an air rifle nut, feel free to sound off in the comments. But since I know many gun owners are buying air guns as a stand-in for their usual firearms, I hope GunsAmerica readers will benefit from my perspective.
As an air rifle newbie, I first had to figure out how to charge the air tank. The tank is the black cylinder under the barrel, and it should be loaded to 3000 psi. Your garage shop compressor won’t get the job done. This tank needs a special air compressor, the cheapest of which (from what I can tell) costs about $300.
Adding $300 to a $729 gun isn’t something most gun owners are willing to do. The ammo shortage won’t last forever, and $1,000 can buy a nice hunting rifle or 50 rounds of 9mm.
Fortunately, users can also purchase a hand pump for $70. That’ll save you about $250 and give you a great triceps workout in the process. I will admit, hand-pumping this tank isn’t for the faint of heart (especially at first). Going from 1000 psi to 3000 psi usually takes me 5-10 minutes (with a break or two) and 180 pumps.
If this sounds difficult, there is some good news. The tank can power about 50 regulated shots and, based on my experience, an additional 50 un-regulated shots before it fails to cycle reliably. Also, if you’re shooting with friends or family, you can take turns at the pump, which makes the process relatively painless.
The SA Marauder is a beautiful gun. The hardwood stock is gorgeous, and the comb height can be adjusted by loosening two set screws. The stock also features some nice texturing on the grip and swelling around the cheek rest.
The gun is a bit on the large side, especially for young shooters. The 20-inch barrel is longer than most rimfire rifles, for example, and the 8.2-pound weight is much heavier.
The SA Marauder must accommodate an air tank, which partially explains its weight, and its overall size isn’t unmanageable in the squirrel woods. But I wouldn’t recommend the Marauder for small kids.
If you’re accustomed to the glass-clean triggers of modern firearms, the Marauder’s trigger will take some getting used to. The Marauder’s trigger is long and there isn’t much of a “wall.” You can get a sense of what it’s like from the video below:
Even though the pull is long, the trigger isn’t very heavy. The weight can be adjusted using a small screw in the fire control group, and I adjusted it from four pounds to just under two. This improved the overall experience, and no one who shot the rifle had any trouble with the trigger.
The trigger can also be adjusted for “position at rest.” The user’s manual says that this adjustment can affect sear engagement, which “could allow the gun to fire when dropped or jarred.” I didn’t mess with it.
Most people associate air rifles with kids. This makes sense. Air rifles aren’t usually as powerful as firearms, and they can be loaded and fired without much adult supervision. The SA Marauder is a little different.
First, loading the magazine is, as one of my relatives put it, “like solving a math problem.” Users must put tension on the spring by rotating the clear cover, flip the magazine over, insert a pellet backward, flip the magazine back over, and then load the pellets one at a time into the slots. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not that bad. But you might have difficulty teaching the process to your kids.
Once the magazine is loaded and the rifle is charged, each pull of the trigger will shoot one pellet down range until the magazine is empty. This is great for kids—as long as they’re supervised. My five-year-old absolutely loves shooting the Marauder at our little backyard range, even though the gun is waaay too big for him.
I’d be nervous giving this gun to a preteen without supervision. It shoots pellets fast enough to seriously injure or kill something, and it’s tough to tell whether it’s loaded. The magazine has a shot counter printed on the side, but I can imagine a user forgetting about the final shot in the chamber and walking down range of a loaded gun. (To mitigate storing the rifle with a loaded pellet, the SA Marauder can be de-cocked, which keeps the trigger from releasing any air when it is pulled. Crosman recommends always storing the rifle de-cocked.)
It’s also not always clear when a pellet has cleared the barrel. In several instances, whether because the air pressure was too low or some other reason, the gun didn’t clear the pellet from the barrel. The only way to tell is by listening for the sound of the pellet downrange, but if an inexperienced kid is shooting quickly, they may not notice until several pellets have stacked up.
The SA Marauder is a blast to shoot, no matter your age. Between myself, my friends, and my family, we’ve put about 1,800 pellets down the barrel, and everyone has loved it, especially the kids. But if you’re looking for your 10-year-old’s first pellet gun, I’d go with something more user-friendly. (Benjamin’s bolt action Marauder is a great choice!)
At first glance, the Marauder’s power potential doesn’t stand up well to a standard velocity .22LR. The old double-deuce launches a 40-grain bullet at 1,070 fps, resulting in about 102 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. The Benjamin Marauder pushes a 14.3-grain projectile about 900 fps, resulting in 25 foot-pounds of energy.
One-quarter the energy may not seem like a close comparison, but it’s important to consider the likely applications before making a firm judgment. The Marauder has plenty of power to target shoot at 50 yards, for example, and it has enough energy to hunt small game like squirrels, cottontails, and even raccoons. The projectile isn’t heavy enough to go after coyotes and other varmints, but it’s at least in the same ballpark as the 10/22 from an application perspective.
Accuracy is pretty close, too. The folks I spoke with at Benjamin insist that the SA Marauder will put together 0.5-1” groups at 50 yards. That’s good enough for the vast majority of .22LR rifles.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to replicate these results in my testing. The Benjamin product manager I spoke with said they’d been getting the best results with basic domed Crosman pellets, which I tried. I got better results from the hollow point pellets and the Copper Magnum pellets. Crosman told me other users had been shooting small groups with FX and JSB pellets. I didn’t have a chance to test these, but if you purchase the Marauder, it’s worth a shot.
These results were shot from 50 yards using a 3-9x scope from a sled.
Crossman Copper Magnum 14.4g: Small Group: 1.1″, Average Group: 1.125″, Velocity: 880 fps
Crossman Hollow Point 14.3g: Small Group: 1.25″, Average Group: 1.4″, Velocity: 900 fps
I was curious to see how velocity changed as the tank pressure dropped. Crosman told me the regulator keeps velocities consistent for the first 50 shots and then the velocity should stay within a 20-fps spread for 10 shots after that. I verified this in my testing. After the first 50-60 shots, I started to see a significant drop in velocity.
Crosman doesn’t recommend shooting much past 60 shots. The gun can stop cycling reliably, which can lead to jams and stuck pellets.
But I was curious: what happens if you shoot all the way down to 1000 psi? The gauge on the bottom of the gun shows green all the way down to 1000 psi, and I figured some users would shoot that low.
Surprisingly, the gun remains fairly accurate. I saw the point of impact shifting to the right (for whatever reason), but the groups remained about the same size. Reliability suffered, but only on the final 10 shots before hitting 1000 psi.
I did notice that, even at full pressure, the point of impact shifts vertically quite a bit between 35 and 50 yards, something most .22LR rifles don’t have trouble with. If you’re going hunting, be sure you sight in for the distance from which you expect to target animals.
The gun should also be oiled for consistent reliability. But don’t use gun oil! The SA Marauder should be oiled with silicon oil, and only on the rubber O-ring just inside the breach of the gun.
Along with all its other good qualities, the SA Marauder has one advantage over every other firearm on the market right now: ammo is cheap and readily available. Even during the shortage, I’ve been able to find 500-pellet tins of Crosman Premier for about $6 at my local Walmart. Just over $0.01 per round is better than the cheapest .22LR in the best of times, and I’ve been able to keep shooting throughout the last two months.
More importantly, the SA Marauder is a blast to shoot. It’s my go-to activity when company comes for dinner, and it’s a low-recoil, low-volume way to introduce people to shooting.
For me, that makes the SA Marauder worth every penny.