by B.B. Pelletier
Before I begin today’s report, I have some good news. There will be an airgun show in Arkansas at the end of April. Seth Rowland has stepped up and started organizing the show, which will be held in Malvern, Arkansas, a town about 15 miles from the former location. Malvern is located about 1 mile off I-30, so it’s easy to get to. Here are the details.
Arkansas Airgun Extravaganza. April 30 & May 1. Open to the public Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Six-foot tables are $50 each. Admission is $5. Kids 12 and under get in free with an adult. Dealer setup Friday 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
If you are interested in getting a table you had better contact Seth right away, because the number of tables available will be limited. Here’s his contact info.
For those who have been reading this blog and always wondered about what an airgun show is like, perhaps this is your chance to find out. Seth is going all-out to attract new dealers to this show, so there should be a greater variety of vintage airguns than has been seen at past shows. I’ll be there along with Dennis Quackenbush and Tom Strayhorn, a collector of fine Walther airguns. Were also trying to get new gun dealers to attend, so you may get the opportunity to see some of the guns that you’ve been wondering about online. Please try to attend this show and bring along some of those airguns you can stand to part with. That’s what makes a good show.
Okay, today we’ll finish the accuracy test for the Benjamin Trail NP XL1100. Remember, I’m letting you look over my shoulder on this one for the benefit of the newer readers who are not familiar with my way of doing things. Yesterday, we prepared the rifle for this test, so the first thing to do today is a rough sight-in at 10 feet. It took four pellets to get on target, then I was ready to move out to 25 yards. Although my 10-minute sight-in article says to move from 10 feet to 10 yards, I’ve gotten to the point that I can skip that step and move right to 20-25 yards after the 10-foot adjustment. You have to know the ballistics of the gun being tested and you need to have some confidence in the process, but it does work just that easily.
The artillery hold
The importance of the artillery hold was mentioned in yesterday’s report, but I’m repeating it today because it’s so important. There’s no rifle more difficult to shoot accurately than a breakbarrel springer. They’re twitchy and extremely sensitive to how they’re held. The worst are the super magnums (like this one) and those that have a long piston stroke–also like this one. I anticipate that hold will be critical.
I began with 15.8-grain JSB Exacts. They were among the pellets that I’d predicted would be good in the Trail XL. The first five went into a super group at 25 yards, giving me hope for this pellet.
JSB Exact Jumbo Heavies
The next pellet I tried was JSB Exact Jumbo Heavies, the new 18.1-grain pellet. They didn’t seem to group well at first, but then I learned a powerful truth about this rifle and this pellet.
Normally, I would have moved on after seeing the first 10-shot group, but now that Kevin has sparked my interest with his suggestion that a barrel needs to become accustomed to the new pellet whenever there’s a change of ammunition, I’m shooting more shots per pellet. I didn’t see what was happening with this JSB pellet until the final 7-shot group. The hold was so critical that it made all the difference. The tight group at the bottom of the seven-shot group was made with a dead-soft hold. The outliers all were made with some tension in my body at the shot. I could sense the tension and seeing these results as this group happened, because the first 10-shot group had gone the same way. It was almost as though I could wish a pellet out of the group by thinking about being tense!
What this tells me is that the 18-grain JSB Exact is probably among the most accurate pellets in this rifle, but it needs a bucketload of holding technique to do well. Fortunately, for hunters, shooting offhand is exactly what this pellet requires. As long as your offhand hold is dead calm, this pellet should do very well for you.
H&N Baracuda Match
Next, I tried the H&N Baracudas, and yes, these were the match pellets.
Crosman Premier pellets normally do very well in guns sold under the Crosman/Benjamin/Sheridan banner, but not this time. The Premiers fit the bore very loosely and were not capable of grouping within three inches at 25 yards. And, when I say Premiers I mean those in the cardboard box, but also those Premiers and Premier hollowpoints sold in tins as well as those sold under the Benjamin name. They all have the same shape and configuration. The cardboard box simply means they are all made on the same die.
The results I got with Premiers were not due to a loss of concentration, and that’s something that can take experience to spot. In this case, it wasn’t too difficult because of the wild spraying of pellets, but other times it can be closer and more difficult to differentiate.
What’s the final tally?
I think the Benjamin Trail XL 1100 is a great hunting spring gun. It packs a lot of value into a nice package with nothing more to buy or exchange. The power wasn’t all that was advertised, but any day you can get 24-25 foot-pounds from a breakbarrel springer is a good one. The scope is first-class and the sling is very nice. The sling swivels solve a common problem for hunters, and the Weaver scope base solves another difficult problem that every airgunner has faced.
The trigger leaves something to be desired. Hopefully, this will be an issue they can resolve, because the trigger that’s on the NPSS is such a delight to use once it’s been properly adjusted. The barrel seems to be first-rate. It’s accurate and well-rifled. I’m assuming it’s crowned well, because with the shroud in place it cannot be seen.
As far as quiet goes, the Trail XL is a quiet airgun. It’s not as quiet as the NPSS, but it’s still much quieter than a conventional spring gun. The only dieseling I could detect was a slight smell of burned oil when I shot the Premiers. There was no smoke noticeable during this test and never a detonation.
The bottom line is the Benjamin Trail XL 1100 is a fine new addition to spring-gun hunting. It’s too big and difficult to cock to think of general purpose shooting, but just about ideal for the airgun hunter.