Marocchi SM45 C02 ‘BB’
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- Last updated: 30/01/2017
Increasingly well-known as makers of excellent O/U and semi-automatic shotguns, this year’s IWA trade fair saw Marocchi unveil their first airgun: the CO2-powered SM45. At the time there was no information on a UK distributor, but then I heard that Daystate were looking into bringing them in, and a quick chat with Sales Manager Tony Belas secured a pre-production example for review.
The SM45 is a striking, if somewhat quirky-looking gun, thanks to its full-length, side-mounted, tubular magazine, and to the irregularly shaped action, with its protruding shoulder and bottle-necked rear.
Pick it up, however, and you’ll be struck not only by how handy and well-balanced it is, but also by the feel of its black synthetic stock. Despite some rather unsightly mould lines, especially on the integral trigger guard, the build is pleasingly stiff and solid, and this, together with the hand-filling effect of its open-radiused curves, lend it an air of quality. What’s more, a tactile rubber insert in the underside of the pistol grip and a matching butt pad give a level of comfort rarely seen on a BB-gun. Indeed, the impression that the SM45 is aimed more at the adult than the junior market is strengthened by a full-sized length-of-pull of 14 ½”. Finally, if basic black isn’t sophisticated enough for you, Marocchi also offer the stock in a “soft-touch” version and with smart walnut and carbon-fibre dipped finishes.
Another nice thing about the stock’s design is the way it hides the rifle’s power-plant, an 88-gram CO2 cylinder. The cylinder is mounted discreetly amidships behind a hinged cover secured by a knurled screw in front of the trigger guard. This is an excellent arrangement, both ergonomically and cosmetically, as the “mid-engined” layout contributes to the SM45’s fine handling. When you need more gas, just loosen off the screw and the spring-assisted cover pops open for access – although you won’t have to do this very frequently since each cylinder gives over 300 shots.
A load of Balls
Ammunition is 4.5 mm copper-plated BBs rather than the usual waisted lead pellets, and the magazine holds 30 rounds.
To fill it, draw back the sprung catch at the muzzle end – watching out for its sharply-pointed tip - and slide the tube clear of the rifle. Then retract the magazine spring by sliding the knob on the follower back from the breech end until it locks into the notch provided. Now pour a load of BBs into your hand, cup your palm, and slide the open end of the tube repeatedly into the resulting clump of shot until full. To re-fit the magazine, hold the rifle muzzle-down and insert the open end into the recess in the breech, then latch the other end back into the muzzle shroud, before releasing the magazine follower from its notch.
The procedure may sound complicated, and I was all fingers and thumbs to start with, but after a couple of refills it all became much easier, and the magazine functioned flawlessly throughout my testing. It did seem long for a 30-rounder, though, but then I found out that Marocchi also make an “un-restricted” 80-shot version, which makes a lot more sense of the design.
The safety catch is conveniently located on the rear R/H side of the action and slides up for “fire” and down for “safe”, the former condition being shown by a red dot. Behind it is a knurled knob which can be dialled anti-clockwise to reduce the power and increase the number of shots per charge. Or at least that’s what it says in the manual, yet when I tried to adjust it, it wouldn’t budge, or at least not until I relieved the edges of the stock slightly, and even then I could only dial the power down, and not up. This was a little disappointing, since despite being marked and boxed as the “10 Joules” hi-power model (there’s also a “standard” 7.5 J version) the test gun was generating just 7.1 J (5.25 ft/lbs energy) at the muzzle. Hopefully the power issue can be resolved since the “hi-power” version is the obvious choice to bring into the UK – 10 J is just 7.4 ft/lbs energy - and the extra “oomph” ought to extend the useful range a bit, while the ability to turn down the power will let you get over 300 shots per cylinder at 7.5 J as compared to 200 shots at 10 J.
Rapid Fire Semi
The trigger pull is fairly heavy, and unusually long, as it has to operate the shuttle that transfers the BBs from the magazine to the barrel as well as release the sear, but the break, when it comes, is quite crisp nevertheless. The blade is metal, and comfortably curved too: a good thing on a rifle designed for rapid fire!
You see, the SM45 has an important trick up its sleeve: it’s a semi-auto. This makes for some great fast-firing fun, and the gun is kept on the right side of the law by the fact that the barrel is smooth-bored, rather than rifled.
So how does it perform? Well, even the test rifle’s “standard” muzzle energy was enough to make decent holes in targets out to 20 yards, and to pop, dust, spin and bowl over a variety of reactive targets at 10-15 yards.
Accuracy was also fair at this distance, with the SM45 producing groups of around 1.5” at 10 yards, although these opened up quite a bit at 20 yards, showing an increasing number of “flyers” around a central cluster.
My first thought was that perhaps the sights didn’t help, since although you can adjust the rear sight for windage and elevation, its “V” notch is too narrow for the fibre-optic element in the front sight, making it hard to obtain a clear and consistent sight picture.
Mounting an optic to the short rail fitted to the action proved to be tricky, however, because the dovetail was too fine for some mounts, and a protruding screw head at the front reduced the already limited mounting space. What’s more, the rail starts 1”-1.5” further forward than on most rifles, and this, combined with the longish length-of-pull, called for extended mounts to give the correct eye relief. Unfortunately, my trusty Sportsmatch mounts wouldn’t grip the rail properly, so I finally resorted to a cheap red-dot sight, which was more fun to shoot with than the open sights, but sadly didn’t produce smaller groups. Fortunately, an optional full-length rail with a chunkier cross-section is also available, and Daystate plan to supply one with every rifle, along with a nice little 4x32 scope and mounts.
So what are we to make of the SM45? Well, being limited to shooting BBs means it’ll never win any prizes for accuracy, and it’s certainly not suitable for hunting, yet its full-sized stock makes it less than ideal as a junior gun, and at around £360 it’s expensive for a backyard plinker. On the plus side, the rifle handles well, and the semi-auto action is tremendous fun, impressively reliable, and delivers a huge number of useable shots from a single cylinder of gas. The gun feels nicely made too, not refined, it’s true, but solid, substantial, and with no rough edges.
Ideally I’d like to see Marocchi improve the open sights to give a better match between the front and rear elements, and offer a slimmer butt pad or plate to reduce the L.o.P. for younger shooters. In the meantime, though, I reckon Daystate are very much on the right track by offering the gun with a proper rail and optic – though personally I’d go for a red-dot rather than a scope, and if they can round off the package with the 80-shot magazine and a full 10 J of ME too, then so much the better.
So, this pre-production test gun is some way from perfect, but all the same, every time I go to put it away in its box I can’t resist topping it up with shiny copper-plated BBs and taking it out into the garden for “one last go”!