Many wonderful classic replicas are now out of production while others seem to go on and on despite not being terribly impressive. The Marksman Repeater has been in production for almost sixty years now in one form or another. Which might lead you to suppose that it must be pretty good. But you’d be wrong.
In 1973 the Exorcist was terrifying movie audiences around the world (though my favourite movie of the year was Roger Moore’s first outing as James Bond in Live and Let Die). When she wasn’t beating me up, my big sister was listening to stuff like Elton John’s Crocodile Rock and Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain and even some weird thing called The Dark Side of the Moon. In the UK there were IRA bombs in London, the Open University awarded its first degrees and the Cod War with Iceland turned out to be less exciting than I had hoped. But really, I didn’t care about any of these things because I was fourteen years old and I had just managed to get my hands on my first replica air gun.
The Exorcist. Scary. But not as scary as my big sister.
I had owned air pistols before. My first was a Milbro Gat which took an age to load for each single shot and fired at roughly the same velocity as I could spit. Then I moved on to an elderly Webley Senior. More powerful and accurate than the Gat, it was still a single shot, spring powered pistol and having the barrel mounted above the spring tube meant that it didn’t look like a “proper” gun, an important consideration when you’re 14. As far as I was concerned, air pistol nirvana would consist of something that looked like a recognisable cartridge firing weapon and which was capable of shooting more than a single shot. And then one day while pressing my sticky nose against the window of our local gunshop, I saw what looked like the very thing. It was called a Milbro G10, it looked a bit like a Colt 1911 and best of all, it was a BB shooting repeater. It took an awful lot of saving the proceeds from my paper round, but I was finally able to buy a shiny black G10 in 1973.
Those nostalgic memories of my first replica air pistol prompted me to write this article on the Marksman MPR air pistol (because the Milbro G10 was actually just a re-branded Marksman MPR sold in the UK). When I started researching I was mildly surprised to find that there isn’t a great deal of information available on this replica. However, I was completely stunned to find that essentially the same air pistol is still being manufactured now and that there are very likely still fourteen year old boys (and perhaps some discerning fourteen year old girls) who are being introduced to the world of replicas through this simple air pistol. But, was it any good then and would you want one now? Let’s have a look.
Marksman Model MP
Morton H. Harris Inc. began production of a spring powered, single shot air pistol from a small facility in Beverly Hills, California in 1955. The original Model MP (Morton Pistol) looked a bit like the Colt 1911 and used a movable section at the rear to compress the firing spring. In 1957 the company moved to a larger manufacturing plant in Torrance, California and re-branded as Marksman Products. In 1958 the Marksman Pistol Repeater (MPR) was launched. This was a spring powered development of the MP which allowed up to 20 BBs to be fired without reloading. It could also shoot .177” pellets and darts, but these were single shot only. It was a closer match to the looks of the 1911 and the MPR was produced in black or nickel finish.
Original Marksman MPR
By 1977, the company had relocated again, this time to Los Angeles and the MPR was superseded by the new Model 1010. This was visually identical to the MPR and mechanically very similar other than that the Model 1010 had some parts (notably the barrel shroud, trigger, slide release and safety) manufactured from plastic rather than alloy.
In 1990 Marksman moved to Huntington Beach, California and became a division of US sports and recreation company S/R industries (which also went on to buy Beeman Precision Arms Inc. in 1993). The Model 1010 was superseded by two new models, the Model 1010 Classic and the Marksman 2000. Both new models were mechanically very similar to the Model 1010 though the BB capacity on both was reduced to 18. However, the Model 1010 Classic featured external construction almost entirely of plastic. At various times the Model 1010 was available in black, chrome, nickel or brass finish and later versions featured a squared off trigger guard.
The Marksman 2000 was similar to the original Model 1010 and featured some external parts made from alloy. It was provided in nickel finish only with contrasting black trigger, grips, safety, slide release and the movable rear part of the slide. As on the 1010 Classic, later versions featured a squared off trigger guard. The Marksman 2000 was discontinued in 2012.
The final iteration of this design (so far!) was the Model 2002, introduced in 2010. The 2002 is identical to the Model 1010 Classic other than that it has an extended barrel and a fibre-optic front sight. The Model 1010 Classic and the Marksman 2002 are still in production and can still be bought from a range of suppliers, mainly in the US.
Marksman Model 2002
Licensed versions of the MPR and the Model 1010 have been sold under the names of several other companies over the years. In the UK Milbro sold the MPR as the G10 and versions of this pistol have also been sold with Crosman, Umarex, Beeman and Sears branding.
Milbro branding on a Marksman MPR
More recently, something called the Blanca Air Pistol has appeared for sale in India. This is sold by the Amar Chauhan Group from Mumbai. The Blanca is claimed to be all-metal, so I assume it’s a either a copy or a licensed version of the 1970s/1980s Marksman Model 1010. It certainly looks identical to the 1010.
The Blanca Air Pistol
The Marksman repeater has gradually become lighter as construction has been switched to plastic over its production life. The Marksman MPR (1958 – 1977) was constructed almost entirely of zinc alloy with some steel internal parts. The Model 1010 (1977 – 2000) and the Marksman 2000 (2000 – 2012) were mostly alloy but with some plastic parts. The Model 1010 Classic (2000 – present) and the Model 2002 (2012 – present) are made almost entirely from plastic.
The mechanical design of all models is very similar. A section of the rear part of the pistol is moveable, and pulling this fully back and then pushing it forward until it locks compresses the internal spring and piston ready for firing. On all models a crossbolt type manual safety is provided in approximately the position that you’d find the magazine release on a Colt 1911.
Pellets, darts or BBs are loaded by opening the hinged front part of the barrel. Pellets or darts are single shot only. However, up to 18 steel BBs (20 BBs on the MPR and Model 1010) can be loaded into a small chamber above the breech. As the pistol is cocked, a single BB is fed in to the barrel. Probably.
Press the slide release down and the cocking slide will move ¼” back.
To cock all models, you first press down on the slide release on the left side of the pistol. This allows the movable part of the slide to move approximately ¼” to the rear with a satisfying “clack”. You then pull this section fully back until the end of its travel (around 2”) and then push it forward until the latch locks. It takes relatively little effort to cock, probably a good indication of just how weak the compression spring is. If you feel the need, the manual safety can be engaged by pushing the crossbolt fully to the right which locks the trigger.
Cocking slide fully retracted, barrel rotated up for loading
To load pellets, darts or BBs, the front section of the barrel must be rotated up. This is done by pressing a release button below the muzzle. This front section cannot be opened unless the pistol is cocked. With the barrel open, you either push a single pellet or dart directly into the breech or pour steel BBs into the small reservoir above the breech. The front part of the barrel is then rotated down to close and you’re ready to shoot. Unless you are using BBs in which case you’ll want to wave the Marksman around like a man guiding an airliner into a parking spot. The manual says that you simply need to tilt the barrel up to load a BB from the reservoir into the breech. On my G10 you needed to be a little more emphatic and I managed to put more than one round into my bedroom ceiling while vigorously waving the G10 around trying to make sure that a BB was loaded as I was too impatient to use the manual safety.
Single pellets and darts are loaded directly into the breech, BBs into the rectangular opening above.
You are now ready to shoot and at this point it’s probably best to prepare yourself for several disappointments. First the sound, or rather the lack of it. All models of the Marksman shoot with an apologetic “blip” sound. This really is a very, very quiet air pistol. Then you’ll notice the power, or rather the lack of it. When I bought my G10, I used a cardboard box stuffed with an old blanket as a backstop. My Webley Senior and even my Gat shot through the target and the side of the box to bury a pellet or dart deep in the blanket. So I was a little surprised when I first shot a pellet out of the G10 and it failed even to penetrate the card target. It simply bounced off. Mind you, it didn’t always do that. Sometimes the pellet didn’t even leave the barrel at all. Marksman claim around 200fps for all models, but perhaps they use special Californian feet for their measurements? Most people note that 130 – 150fps is probably more realistic for pellets, but this may drop even lower depending on the type and weight of pellet used. BBs will typically shoot at around 180 – 200 fps but darts amble out of the muzzle at a leisurely 70fps. And no, that isn’t a typo, I do mean 70fps.
Your final disappointment will be the complete lack of anything approaching accuracy. At 6m it is almost impossible to put all your shots within a one foot square target. General groups will be of the order of 6 – 8” with flyers. You will have to use very large tin cans indeed if you want to regularly hit them from anything other than point blank range with one of these.
The main problem with all models is the barrel. It’s smoothbore and very short indeed. This is a large and chunky replica, but the barrel is only around 2.5” long. That simply isn’t long enough for a pellet, dart or BB to build up a respectable velocity before it leaves the barrel. To be fair, I should note that I haven’t tried the latest Model 2002 with the extended barrel, and this may be better.
Buying a Marksman Air Pistol
The first question you probably want to ask here is, why would you want to buy one of these? It’s underpowered and accuracy is very poor and it isn’t a particularly well-made or technically interesting replica. However, there are probably a couple of good answers to that question. The first one is nostalgia. If I could find a good Milbro G10 or a Marksman MPR, I would buy it without hesitation just because playing with this thing was such a large part of my early teens. Given how many of these were produced, I’m sure there must be many other people who would feel the same way.
A well-used MPR
The second reason is that compared to most “classic” replicas, these are cheap. Really cheap. Whether you buy a new or an old model, they’re probably not going to cost you much more than the equivalent of $20 – $30. There aren’t many repeating replica air pistols of any type available for that sort of money. Given that you don’t need CO2 or gas, shooting is very cheap too. So if you’re just starting out or if you’re looking for a way of keeping the costs of your hobby down or if you’re just looking for a classic pistol which won’t break the bank, perhaps there is something to be said for this replica?
MPR in chrome finish
If I was looking for one of these, I’d certainly want one of the early, all metal Model MPRs. They don’t shoot any better than the newer incarnations, but I like the chunky heft of the original more than the newer partial or all plastic versions. You can expect to pay more for a boxed early version in good condition with a manual, but even a pristine example will cost substantially less than a new set of grips for your Umarex Beretta 92. Just remember to treat it gently. Zinc alloy tends to get more brittle as it ages and early MPRs (which weren’t especially robust when new) will be anything up to 60 years old now. It’s not uncommon for the movable part of the slide to break, or for other internal failures which will prevent the replica from shooting. In this respect, the most recent plastic versions may actually prove to be more durable even though they lack the satisfying heft of the originals. Barrels also wear and it’s not uncommon to find on an elderly MPR that pellets and darts drop out of the barrel if you point it down after loading. It’s also worth noting that availability of anything other than consumable parts isn’t great. Unsurprising really – on a replica this cheap, it’s hardly worth spending money on repairs so there isn’t much scope for anyone to make money on replacement parts.
It does seem a little ironic that while other more powerful, accurate and technically wonderful replica air pistols from the 1950s have long since gone out of production, this one is still around. With only minor technical changes it has been continuously manufactured for almost 60 years now! I have no idea how many have been produced over the years, but if you take into account all the clones, copies and licensed versions I’d guess it must be in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. In terms of sheer longevity, this is probably one of the most successful replica pistol designs ever. That’s a slightly sobering thought.
There will always be a market for sophisticated, high quality replica air guns. But I guess there will also always be an even bigger market for simple, low cost replicas and these are the guns that young or beginner shooters are most likely to encounter. The Marksman MPR exemplifies this better than almost any other replica and perhaps for that reason alone you might want to find a corner in your collection for one of these.
Gordon Buck has produced this video review of the Marksman Air Pistol and the Marksman Repeater: