by B.B. Pelletier
Well, nobody can say that moss grows on the Crosman Corporation! In two years, they’ve set the pneumatic world on edge with their price-busting Benjamin Discovery and their feature-loaded Benjamin Marauder. But they haven’t put all their eggs in the pneumatic basket, either. While the airgun world was watching them break ground there, they were quietly developing the new Crosman Nitro Piston Short Stroke series of spring-piston guns with gas springs. And now they’re bringing them to market.
I first saw the new gas spring rifles during a visit to the Crosman plant earlier this year. Ed Schultz, their director of engineering, asked me to step outside on the back side of the plant. What he had was a prototype breakbarrel that, frankly, didn’t look any different than a hundred others I’d seen. It had a fabricated Delrin can for a muzzlebrake, but knowing that springers don’t make much noise at the muzzle, I was unimpressed. Then Ed said to me, “Tom, what part of a spring rifle makes the most noise?”
The answer was obvious–the powerplant. But did Ed know that? In fact, he did! He then proceeded to cock and load the .22 caliber rifle and handed it to me to shoot. He directed me toward a high hill across the empty parking lot. I fired and almost nothing happened! The rifle did pulse, and I knew it had fired, but the sound was so low it didn’t sound right.
Then he handed me a Gamo Whisper and told me to shoot it. Now as everyone knows, the Whisper is a quiet spring gun, but that .177 example was noticeably louder than the .22 I had just fired.
Ed explained, “Everyone knows that the powerplant of a spring rifle makes at least three-quarters of the noise. So putting a silencer on the gun does very little. We’ve put a silencer on, but more importantly, we have managed to also reduce the noise made by the powerplant.”
By this time, I was cocking and firing the rifle while Ed was speaking. I noticed that this was a gas spring gun, but one with a difference. Yes, it had more cocking resistance from the start–a characteristic of all gas springs, but this one seemed much easier to cock than most. Once my arms got up to speed with the power required, it never increased (gas springs never do); and toward the end of the short cocking stroke, it seemed to diminish a bit. This was something new!
Three months later, while filming the Crosman plant tour for American Airgunner, Ed showed me another new gas spring rifle. This one had a shrouded barrel and was covered with a digital camo pattern that felt rubberized and grippy. This was the first pre-production Nitro Piston rifle! Ed asked for comments on the cocking, the feel of the stock and the general impressions of the shooters. Paul Capello was shooting this one with me, so here was another person seeing the Nitro Piston system for the first time. We were both pleased with the performance of this stunning new spring rifle, and now I want to include all of you in the experience.
What we have here is a spring piston air rifle made in East Bloomfield, New York. They’re made in both .177 and .22 and sport either a digital camo or all-gray stock. The model I’m testing has an ambidextrous thumbhole stock coated in a rubberized digital camo pattern. Inside, the rifle sports a gas spring that Crosman prefers to call a Nitro Piston, in reference to the nitrogen gas fill. And that gas is one of the things that makes this rifle so relatively easy to cock. The other things are patented, and nobody has told me anything–but I know that micro-fine surface finishes are at least part of the secret.
The barrel is fully shrouded with an aluminum shroud that extends from the baseblock to the muzzle. It’s tapered at the baseblock end and parallel out to the muzzle that it capped with a non-remnovable cap. A peek inside with a strong light shows the possible presence of technology, though as I have already mentioned, a spring rifle hardly needs it.
The rifle is light, weighing just 7 lbs., but it comes without sights and Centerpoint’s AR22 series 3-9x40AO scope that comes with the rifle boosts that to just over 8.25 lbs. Speaking of scopes, this is a good one. Usually, rifles that come bundled with a scope have the cheapest model obtainable, but this one isn’t. It’s one many of you would buy for your other rifles.
The top of the receiver has a scope stop hole to accept a vertical anchor pin. It’s a small feature but a necessary one that some other airgun manufacturers don’t seem to grasp. I’ll cover mounting the scope and the full specs of the scope in the report on accuracy.
The trigger is adjustable for the length of the second-stage pull. The safety is manual and workable with just the trigger finger.
Speaking of noise!
I couldn’t wait for the second and third reports, either, so I stepped out my back door and fired several Crosman Premiers into the ground. As I remembered, the rifle is quiet. The action is quick like all gas springs, and the recoil is very minimal. But I want to discuss noise for just a moment.
If you’re an experienced airgunner, you’ll think this rifle is pretty quiet. If you have no experience with spring-piston guns, you probably won’t. If you compare this gun to a Marauder, the Marauder will be quieter every time. But if you compare this to a silenced .22 rifle shooting CB caps, this will seem very similar. How the rifle sounds depends on your experience with airguns.
Last week I was at the firing range, and a boy and his grandfather were shooting a .22 rifle next to me. The boy was afraid my Hammerli Pneuma would be noisy. I told him that while it was noisy for an air rifle, it would seem quiet to him. Everyone had hearing protection on, and the Pneuma was just a tiny fraction as loud as the .22 rimfire. So, don’t listen to those who say PCPs are just as loud as rimfires, because most of them aren’t. And, when it comes to the relative noise a Crosman Nitro Piston makes, it’s less than a Gamo Whisper, but just about the same as a Whisper with an Air Venturi gas spring installed. And the only way to completely appreciate this is to shoot the rifle outdoors, away from buildings with reflective walls.
The Nitro Piston Short Stroke is lightweight, quiet, relatively easy to cock, comes with a quality scope, and finished with an attractive and grippy camo pattern on a thumbhole stock. Now, we need to see how powerful and accurate it is.