Benjamin Franklin Model 317
Mark Camoccio looks at a real classic air rifle from the 1960’s
I’ve always had a penchant for self contained airguns; be they single, or multi stroke pumps. The second hand gem in the spotlight here is the classic Benjamin Franklin model 317, and this one comes into the latter category.
Visually neat with the outward profile more akin to a pump-action shotgun than an airgun, but the streamlined, rather simple profile holds great appeal. Manufactured in St.Louis, in the USA around 1965, this model hails from the original Benjamin factory, founded by Walter Benjamin in 1899. In 1977 Benjamin acquired the Sheridan airgun company; then in 1991, both Benjamin and Sheridan operations were acquired by the Crosman Corporation, who to this day remain big players where airguns are concerned Stateside.
Benjamin’s long history of manufacture gives this model added desirability, and it’s certainly a rifle that would look good on display. Construction of both the barrel and main compression cylinder are of brass, and this really gives the 317 a distinctive look.
Apparently, all the metalwork would have originally been treated with a black nickel process, but this coating seems to have rarely stood the test of time, considering the few examples of this rifle I have come across over the years. That said, I reckon the visible brass surface looks really attractive, begging the question why Benjamin chose to cover it up in the first place?
This particular specimen seems in great condition, with no real marks to speak of. Thankfully, no one has tried to refinish the metal surfaces, which would not only ruin the aesthetics, but mark down any residual value into the bargain - the kiss of death to many a vintage gem! Given its age of course some natural wear shows on the bolt handle and cylinder end
PUMP IT UP!
As mentioned, this model is a multi pump pneumatic, which means that an integral pumping system sits at its heart. With no heavy mainspring and piston to worry about, unsurprisingly, the model 317 is a super lightweight, and that to many, can be a selling point.
Where it falls down is the ‘energy in for energy out’ routine, often meaning a healthy physical input is required to generate a decent level of power! In this case, five pumps produces around 490 fps with Accupell pellets, but the system can take up to ten cycles apparently, with correspondingly greater effort and higher velocities the reward.
One thing to bear in mind is the pump handle needs to be drawn forward to its full extent each time, to ensure that a consistent amount of air is compressed on each stroke. Consistent velocities and therefore better accuracy should, in theory, result from such careful operation.
In the case of the integral pump, some resistance on the operating stroke at least proves the seals are all in order too, which is another possible area to consider when buying this type of gun second hand.
As for the firing cycle, a characteristically quick snap of the recoilless action, and a pleasantly light trigger, all add to the civilized feel of this neat little Benjamin. Indeed another gun that would look good in my collection! For the record, the asking price for this piece of airgun history, is £375.
Many thanks to Andrew and Craig at MGR Guns.
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates