Reporting on the Crosman Challenger PCP

Ray and Hans Apelles

Meet Ray and Hans Apelles – Crosman Pro Staff, and National and World Field Target Competitors

The father and son team of Hans and Ray Apelles “The ‘A’ Team” started shooting field target in 1995 after reading a magazine article about competitive field target matches. They attended a local match together, and the rest is history.

By 1998, they were competing at Nationals and placing in the top 5. In 2000 Ray attended and placed 5th in the Worlds/Nationals after a 3 way shoot off.

During 2007 Ray and Hans were invited to become members of the Crosman Pro Staff. As members, they are supplied prototype airguns to review, compete with, and comment on for us. While shooting a prototype of the Discovery PCP at the 2008 Nationals, Ray placed second in the International PCP competition, one point back from the leader.

Since many suggestions made by Ray and Hans have been successfully applied in our Benjamin Discovery and Marauder PCP’s, and since we greatly respect their expertise and opinion, we thought we would give them a shot at our new Challenger PCP CH2009 competition air rifle. This is what they told us….

Ray Reporting on the Crosman Challenger PCP CH2009

Hans and I just received our new Crosman Challenger 2009 PCP air rifle, and want to share our comments on the gun right out of the box.

Our intent is to turn the Challenger into a field target gun. Giving you a step-by-step description of what we change to bring the Challenger up to World Field Target Federation power levels, we will share what we replace or modify on the Challenger by giving you the part number (whenever possible) and exactly how we accomplish those modifications.

It is our hope that if you do exactly the same things we do, you will have your own reasonably priced world class field target rig. We will tell you what scope rings we use for which scope, and how it gets mounted with settings on the adjustable hammer stroke and spring tension. What the fill and recharge pressures are, and how many shots we get from a charge. You will have a chance to see a sample of our shot string, and once we sight it in together, we’ll even give you a hold over trajectory.

Let’s get started by taking a first look at the Challenger.

The Challenger is packed well in a plain brown box with no graphics. Included in the box are a user’s manual, some Allen wrenches, and a degassing tool which would mostly be used for CO2 users. (We will not be using or testing the Challenger with CO2 but it is designed as a Duel Fuel PCP Airgun as the Discovery is.)

Holding the Challenger reminds us very much of our highly modified Discovery match prototypes. The stock is the same style we have been shooting for over a year now and are very comfortable with. The stock has an adjustable comb (cheek riser), and an adjustable pull length that can be varied by loosening two screws.

The butt pad can be adjusted in height through a sliding and rotating pad customary on 10 meter 3 position guns. We notice that the butt pad post can be rotated and adjusted to an angle that fits perfectly and will prevent any tendency to cant the gun as it is shouldered.

I have shot many guns that are a chore to hold perpendicular when shouldered because of the fit. A simple few degrees of rotation on the shoulder pad forces a correct upright position when the gun is shouldered.

The bottom of the stock has an accessory rail which can be used for a variety of after market accessories such as a palm rest, sling swivel quick release, forearm riser, bipod, and additional weight sets to name a few. Although Crosman doesn’t offer these particular accessories currently, it is nice to know they can be easily added to the stock if you procure them elsewhere.

On the right side of the stock is the built in manometer (pressure gauge). It is in very easy view so you don’t have to turn the gun upside down to see it. We did suggest to Crosman that it be placed on the left side of the stock so it would be in plain view of right handed shooters (the majority) but Crosman didn’t want something to possibly distract the shooter.

The stock is completely ambidextrous and will fit all shooters with a little bit of adjustment. With a very comfortable vertical pistol grip, it is an easy reach to the match trigger.

The advertised weight is 7.3 lbs. which stays within the 7.5 lbs. limit of the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) Sporter Class specifications, which the Challenger has been approved for.

The Challenger action resembles a Discovery but only at a quick distant look. It uses the same reservoir size as a Discovery and same barrel diameter, and while you may notice similar barrel bands and filler cap, things change after that.

At the back of the action is a T handle cocking bolt. This is a very comfortable and ingenious mechanism. Pull straight back on the T handle (from either side as it is ambidextrous) and the bolt opens. Pull further back to cock the gun. Once cocked, drop into the pellet trough your chosen pellet and push the bolt straight in to close the bolt. Make sure to push the bolt all the way in and you’re ready to fire.

The trigger is the same one designed for the Marauder which has proven itself very well.

The Challenger comes set to meet the CMP trigger specifications. It can be adjusted as desired. (We will test the trigger later and report on just how it was set). Moving the manual safety to the front of the trigger guard turns the safety off and the trigger is ready to fire. Pulling the trigger reveals a long first stage and a very crisp second stage… and the shot is away.

Below the T bolt handle is a thumb screw that can be used to adjust the hammer spring tension. We would have preferred this to be an internal adjustment via an Allen wrench but it is enough out of the way to not be accidentally adjusted. Normally a gun is set to the shooter’s specifications and left alone (to maintain consistency) which is why we prefer to not have this adjustment readily available with no tools required for adjustment. Adjust the hammer stroke by inserting the appropriate sized Allen wrench through the center of the thumb screw. The degassing tool works the same way through the thumb screw.

The upper receiver is another departure from the Discovery as it is longer and allows the peep sites required for 3 position shooting. The loading port was moved forward to allow more room for the rear sight. This effectively gives us more room to mount a scope as well. The upper receiver also has a more professional look than the Discovery.

Moving forward of the upper receiver you find a Lothar Walther barrel. Accuracy won’t be an issue with this barrel. Lothar Walther barrels have become a standard that many strive to match and rarely exceed. Just a bit further down the barrel from the upper receiver you come to a barrel band which has been placed there to help hold down the receiver (as we did in our Discovery Match Prototypes). Further down the barrel you see another barrel band which is actually a barrel protector band. The barrel is free floated from the first barrel band forward. So if you bump the barrel and hear a “tink” you are reminded that the barrel is free floated and designed as such. Moving further forward is the front muzzle break which sports a dovetail for the front globe sight. The muzzle break is squared off to very attractively match the upper receiver.

So ends our “out of the box” review of the Crosman Challenger.

Hans and I performed some preliminary tests on our Challengers as soon as we took them out of their packages. I charged Hans’s Challenger to 2000 psi and fired through the chronograph. The first shots were a little low in velocity and quickly came up to the 530 fps velocity advertised by Crosman. Hans’s Challenger appears to prefer a 1950 psi charge at this time.

For our next segment, we’ll post our first shot strings of the Challenger, some of our initial accuracy tests and begin discussing those adjustments we mentioned. We will then take a journey to turn your Challenger into a cost effective “world class” field target gun.

Follow along and see where the journey leads…….

Oh yeah, we attend many matches and always invite fellow competitors and spectators to shoot our guns so they can see for themselves what can be done with airguns, and how easy it can be when the equipment is set up for their individual needs. We always invite people to shoot our new Crosman prototypes as well. While we enjoy the feedback, it also helps us to decide which direction to go with our next project.

Ray and Hans ~ The “A” Team

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