Jonathan Young takes a look at Marksman pellets, a brand that’s made in England, has plenty of history and is still going strong today.
Today there is a vast assortment of airgun pellet types to ponder over. Pellet choice is a huge part of the hobby for us, but despite our love of spending huge sums of cash on the various makes and types of pellet, the ammo manufacturing world – who makes what and where – seems to be a total mystery. In the past it was far simpler.
Britain used to lead the way in pellet manufacturing, but today fewer real manufacturers exist here. Many regular favourite pellet brands and types are now made overseas as a result, with some positive and some negative associations.
There is nothing wrong with this if it keeps an old favourite alive or introduces us to a new champion. But without some forward thinking we can lose out.
The Milbro name has been around since forever. The brand changed hands a few times, and only the pellet line was saved for posterity. Eley had a hand in this initially, then the cup passed to BTAS. For big-bore .25 fans the famous green tin Rhino in .25 cal was thought to be safe for all time.
For springers, this was a unique 18 grain pellet that loved sub-12 ft-lb rifles as a result of its lower mass and weight. It was also famously undersized, meaning there were no loading issues, although conversely it may have been better suited to 1980s-era BSA barrels which, as legend has it, were made a tad smaller than true 6.35mm.
Unfortunately, with the sad demise of BTAS, the pellets were feared discontinued. It soon transpired that they were to be saved by SMK.
But then a call to SMK revealed that the Rhino had finally had its time and had already been discontinued.
Enter Marksman Pellets, made by the same Jeffries family responsible for the Lincoln Air Rifle back in the Edwardian era.
As a fan of the big .25 cal, Marksman still produce their own .25 pellet , the No.3 .25 cal. At 19 grains or thereabouts, this is now the lightest lead pellet in this calibre available on the market today.
Although it’s a bit of a generalisation, most shooters know that their springers tend to work better when shooting lighter pellets, so the Marksman .25 may bring an old dog of a springer barking back to life. Being a regular .25 compared with the unusually small Rhino, they can also be used without the same sizing issues in modern 6.35 barrels.
I use Marksman .25 in a number of quarter-inch airguns which include CO2 and PCP, not just my manky vintage springers.
That is not to say every airgun barrel will love every pellet ever made.
Some basic pellet testing still has to be undertaken, but it’s good to know you can still shoot certain guns, even if it is only with the one pellet!
The Marksman range is small, but there are benefits to this. Opening a tin of their .22 Pointed pellets revealed very clean and superbly formed pellets in a darker grey lead.
It is clear that production, although on a smaller scale, encourages a very clean workflow. It’s always good to see zero lead swarf in a tin of fresh pellets.
Weighing in at a consistent 15.5 grains on the home scale, they show a good solid skirt edge. The darker lead mix used for these is a softer amalgam compared with that used in many shiny pellets that can be a fair bit harder. Whilst shape and weight affect a pellet’s speed, its composition can also affect its performance.
In restoring a pre-War BSA Improved Model D, the usual lengthy process of pellet testing was envisaged. A tin of Marksman’s domed No.2 .22 was opened. Whilst many favourites tend to hover around 15.5 grains, this lighter pellet weighs in at a very consistent 14 grains and is used for comparison-testing a number of modern springers due to this slight edge. Despite being lighter, the skirt is still surprisingly thick enough not to invite any damage.
In writing this article I was asked if these Marksman pellets have any special affinity to older vintage and some classic springers. I do own and use such guns, but testing a selection of pellets will only reveal if one barrel likes one particular pellet.
There is no such thing as a specialist or a brilliant pellet – or indeed a rubbish pellet. What works well in one gun can be totally useless in another, sometimes even the same model of airgun. This is why we test.
The issue over older airguns, especially British-made in .22 cal, is that some have oversize bores. Testing a selection can bring a better than average result.
One favourite BSA Model D was underpowered with many pellets, but shone with one modern 5.5mm pellet. Unknown to many, Marksman make a dedicated large .22, specifically in 5.6mm calibre. They do not advertise this. This, in theory, is more suited to older barrels and these are available from Marksman.
I’ve been trying Marksman Pointed and Domed pellets in a number of modern CO2 and PCP guns, and both modern and vintage springers. It was refreshing to handle heavy tins containing 500 pellets in .22 again, as recent tin purchases all contained far fewer. It’s hard to believe pellet choice is still a clouded subject for some shooters when we have these Marksman pellets made right on our doorstep.