Spring-piston pistols

Walther’s new LGV Master Ultra .177 air rifle: Part 6

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Walther LGV Master Ultra 177 air rifle
The LGV Master Ultra with a wood stock is what readers have been asking to see. Today we shoot it at 50 yards.

This is the final installment on the Walther LGV Master Ultra. When combined with the 6-part review I did of the .22-caliber Walther LGV Challenger, that’s 12 separate reviews of the new LGV rifle. I think that’s more than enough information to help anyone make up their mind.

For this report, I took the rifle to my outdoor rifle range two different times. The first time, the wind kicked up as I was shooting the first group, so I only managed to shoot one 10-shot group that day. It took a long time because I had to wait to shoot between wind gusts. The second day at the range, the weather was perfect. It was one of those rare days where the wind never gets up to one mile per hour all day long, so I feel the rifle has gotten as fair a test as I’m able to give.

To remind you of the way it’s set up, the LGV Master Ultra is scoped with a Bushnell Banner 6-18X50 AO scope mounted in BKL 1-piece rings. Nothing special about the scope or mounts, except that they both work very well with this rifle.

Today, I’m shooting at 50 yards. Two things about this are exceptional. First, I’m shooting a spring rifle at 50 yards. If you’ve never tried it, don’t knock it. You can’t just double the size of a 25-yard group and get what it’ll look like at 50. Second, I’m shooting 10-shot groups. They’ll always be 40% larger than 5-shot groups. So, factor that in as you read my report.

Day one on the range
This first day began okay; but before the first group was finished, the wind picked up. I waited between gusts, and I’m pretty sure the wind did not account for any increase in the group size. I shot 10-shot groups, as is my custom. That way, I seldom wonder if the results are anything but representative of the rifle. Yes, it’s harder to shoot 10 shots well, rather than 5; but I find that if you start thinking that way, the next thing you know is that you’ll be looking for only the best 5-shot groups among all you’ve shot. That’s harder to do with 10-shot groups because they take so long to complete.

The shooting at 25 yards had convinced me that I needed to rest the forearm at the end of the cocking slot, instead of with my off hand touching the triggerguard. That gives the rifle a very stable hold without the normal shakes you get when you hold it the other way.

I got just one group this day. There were more shots, but the wind picked up enough that I found it impossible to say that it wasn’t influencing the size of the groups. The single group I shot was with Crosman Premier lites, the 7.9-grain pellet that had performed so well at 25 yards. At 50 yards, 10 pellets made a group that measured 1.509 inches between centers. So I brought it home, to await the perfect day for another test.

LGV Master Ultra 177 air rifle Premier lite group 1
The first group of Premier lites went into 1.509 inches at 50 yards. Due to the wind rising, this was all I could shoot this day.

That day came last week. It was supposed to be raining, but the skies were dry and overcast. As mentioned, there was barely a breath of air the whole four hours I was at the range. The first group was shot with the Premier lites, for which I had so much hope. Ten went into a group measuring 1.561 inches between centers. It was time to face facts — this was the best the rifle was going to do with this pellet at 50 yards. Now, it was time to experiment.

LGV Master Ultra 177 air rifle Premier lite group 2
This second group of Premier lites was shot on a perfect day. It measures 1.561 inches between centers. The first group was also the best group.

Next, I tried Beeman Devastators — a lightweight hollowpoint pellet that has no hope at 50 yards, except when the conditions are perfect, as they were this day. Ten went onto a group that measured 1.852 inches between centers. I think that’s pretty good for a hollowpoint at 50 yards, but it probably doesn’t look too good in the photo.

LGV Master Ultra 177 air rifle Beeman Devastator group

Beeman Devastators did very well for hollowpoints at 50 yards. Ten went into 1.852 inches.

The day was still dead calm, so I thought I’d keep shooting. The next pellet I tried was the H&N Baracuda Match that hadn’t done as well as I’d hoped at 25 yards. At 50 yards, 10 of them made a 1.637-inch group…but this group was strange. Six pellets landed high in a tight 0.829-inch bunch and the other four landed low, making a 0.777-inch group of their own. This result would bear some further investigation, if I owned this air rifle.

LGV Master Ultra 177 air rifle H&N Baracuda group
H&N Baracuda Match pellets printed these two groups. Six on top and 4 below, for a total size of 1.637 inches between centers. There are no holes under the dime.

I can see sorting these pellets by weight and being very selective of each pellet, rather than just shooting everything straight from the tin, as I did in this test. I make no promises; but when you get results like this, there may be a good reason.

The last pellet I tested was the JSB Exact heavy, a 10.34-grain dome. I had high hopes for these, as well; but when the first 6 landed in 1.586 inches, I stopped because the final 4 had no chance of tightening that.

LGV Master Ultra 177 air rifle JSB Exact Heavy group
Six JSB Exact Heavy pellets went into 1.586 inches. I didn’t complete this group.

So that was the test at 50 yards. It didn’t turn out as I’d expected. The 12 foot-pound .22-caliber LGV Challenger produced better groups that hovered around one inch. The wind cannot be blamed for this, so the 12 foot-pound rifle just turns out to be more accurate at long range.

The final word
I said the Walther LGV is the TX200 of breakbarrel springers at the end of the other test, and I’ll not change that assessment. The action is incredibly well-built, the trigger is fine and the accuracy is better than average for a good spring-piston rifle. I like the barrel latch, and I no longer need the last foot-pound of power to validate an airgun’s worth. What I’m after is a wonderful shooting experience that this Walther delivers.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol: Part 4b

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4a

Benjamin Trail NP pistol
Benjamin’s new Trail NP breakbarrel pellet pistol, with cocking aid removed.

Before I begin today’s report, I have sad news. Our friend Earl “Mac” McDonald passed away on Sunday, May 5, at 4:30 a.m. He was surrounded by his family.

Mac was diagnosed with a prion disease in April of this year. I don’t want to discuss it here, but if you want to know more, here is a link. This disease affects one person in a million. It is not only very rare, but the cause wasn’t even discovered until the 1980s. Scientists are still unsure of all the details.

I was aware of the probable diagnosis when I went to visit Mac last month but was asked not to disclose the details. Fortunately, when I arrived, he was able to recognize me. I sat with him and talked about old times whenever he was awake. My wife, Edith, and our friend Otho Skyped with Mac. Via the computer, Edith showed Mac the SHOT Show report in Shotgun News, which was the last thing he photographed for me.

Like everyone who knew him, I’m saddened by his passing — but that is more than offset by the pleasure of knowing him as long as I did. The fact that he was able to attend this year’s SHOT Show was especially rewarding.

As this blog moves forward, I will occasionally refer to Mac and some of the things he did. The best memorial I can give him is to never forget the time he was here.

Today’s report
I left you with a cliffhanger last Friday — more than I imagined, as it turned out, because I thought I was writing Thursday’s report and would publish the second part on Friday, rather than today. I know you all want to know what happened when I seated the H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets deep in the bore with the cocking aid attached and rested the pistol directly on the sandbag.

If you were expecting a Cinderella story, it didn’t quite happen. The group got measurably better — in fact, it was the second-best group of the test to this point. Ten shots made a group measuring 1.105 inches between centers. Compared to the previous group, which was larger than 2 inches, it seemed clear that this was the best way to shoot this pellet — deep-seated, gun rested on the bag and the cocking adapter attached.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol H&N Finale Match Pistol group gun rested-deep seated cocking aid on
Ten shots with H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets seated deep with the cocking aid attached and the gun rested directly on the bag made this 1.105-inch group. So, deep-seating these pellets reduced the group size by half.

Did you possibly think that it put all 10 into the same dime-sized hole that the 5 good ones went into on the previous test? I hoped that would happen, too, but it didn’t.

Not H.P.White Labs
Before you start looking back at all the testing done on this pistol to-date to recommend different things for me to test, let me say I am not H.P. White Laboratory, and the goal of this test is not to see how accurate the Benjamin Trail NP pistol can possibly be. My purpose is to evaluate the pistol as it comes from the box, so those thinking of making a purchase will have something to go on. I think I’ve done that already, and the gun is definitely worth the money. But the test is far from finished.

Air Venturi Pellet Seater
Blog reader Nomobux asked me how deep I seated the pellets with the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Pellet Seater. Well, that varies, based on how thin the pellet skirts are. But I measured the seater with the pin protruding by 0.163 inches, which seated the pellets about 0.125 inches deep.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol H&N Finale Match Pistol Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Seater
I set the pellet seater to this depth months ago and have been using it this way ever since.

Crosman Destroyers
A blog reader asked me to test Crosman Destroyers — a new hollowpoint that has a large open cavity in the nose. Since I was playing, I decided to shoot 5 shots and see if it was worth finishing the group. With the pellets seated deep, the cocking aid attached and the gun rested directly on the bag, 5 shots made a group measuring 2.546 inches, so I stopped there. Since that was already very large and 5 more shots would not make it any smaller I decided to save my time and effort.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol Crosman Destroyer group gun rested deep seated cocking aid on
Five shots with Crosman Destroyer pellets seated deep with the cocking aid attached and the gun rested directly on the bag made this 2.546-inch group. I stopped after 5 shots because the group was already too large.

But I also figured some of you wouldn’t let me rest if I didn’t test at least one more variable with this pellet, so I shot it seated flush, as well. Surprise! It turned out better. Ten shots went into 2.086 inches. That’s not a world-beater group, I know, but it is better than the 5 shots with deep-seated pellets. It points out that deep seating has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol Crosman Destroyer group gun rested flush seated cocking aid on
Ten shots with Crosman Destroyer pellets seated flush with the cocking aid attached and the gun rested directly on the bag made this 2.086-inch group. Though it’s not a great group, it is better than the 5-shot group with deep-seated pellets.

Michael, Michael, Michael!
Blog reader Michael saw that I hadn’t yet tested the best-shooting RWS Hobby pellets from the rested position with the cocking aid attached, but he was standing on my shoulder as I played with the pistol. I knew you would want me to go back and test it this way, so I did. This time, the magic didn’t work, however, and the 10-shot group size was 1.536 inches, so no improvement.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol RWS Hobby group gun rested deep seated cocking aid on
Ten RWS Hobbys seated deep with the gun rested on the bag and the cocking aid attached measured 1.536 inches at 10 meters. It’s not bad, but no cigar. The gun shot better when not rested on the bag.

Isn’t it interesting how changing one variable will change the entire performance of the gun? I think so.

The bottom line is that the Benjamin Trail NP is still a whole lot of value for the price tag. And I’m not finished, yet. There’s still another accuracy test to go with those lead-free pellets; and then I want to recheck the velocity of the gun, now that several hundred shots have been fired. There’s more to come, so sit back and enjoy.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol: Part 4a

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Benjamin Trail NP pistol
Benjamin’s new Trail NP breakbarrel pellet pistol with cocking aid removed.

Today we’ll make blog history. This is the first half of a 2-part report on the Benjamin Trail NP pistol. I was shooting it yesterday and found myself going in so many directions that I collected too much data for a single report. So the second half of today’s report will come on Monday.

I told you in the last report that I decided to “play” with the pistol rather than subject it to a rigidly structured test. Well, that must be catching because I did it again today. Something about this air pistol seems to invite experimentation.

It doesn’t have to shoot low!
I said that it shot too low in the last report. It did, but I was using the sights in a way the manufacturer did not intend by using the tip of the front sight for a 6 o’clock hold. That caused the gun to shoot a little low by itself. But, today, I replaced the rear sight with a red dot sight and found that the gun can shoot to the point of aim with ease. In fact, I had to adjust the sights down, but I will talk about that later.

I mounted a Tasco Pro Point dot sight on the 11mm dovetails that are on the rear of the spring tube. You could use anything that has a decent amount of adjustability.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol with doit sight
This old Tasco Pro Point dot sight installed on the Trail NP pistol without a fuss. It brought the point of aim and point of impact together.

It’s so much easier using a dot sight because there’s just the dot and target to watch, instead of the sight alignment. Shooting the pistol was much easier.

The first pellet: RWS Hobby
In the last test, RWS Hobby pellets were the most accurate, so those were the first pellets I tested this time. That made it simpler to test the gun because I knew I was starting with a reasonably accurate pellet.

And because this will become important in a while, let me tell you that these first groups were shot without the cocking aid on the gun. It’s a little harder to cock without the aid, but installing and removing it for every shot takes too much time.

The first group surprised me, because it wasn’t as good as it was the last time I tested this pistol. The first shot was a low flier caused by my unfamiliarity with the dot sight; but after that, all the rest of the shots were the best I could do. I think the measurement for 9 shots is more representative in this case, and let’s exclude that one low shot.

Nine shots went into a group that measures 2.04 inches between centers. That’s still larger than the group I got with open sights, which is 10 in 1.155 inches. I wondered if some of the stock screws might have loosened in all the shooting. I checked, and they certainly had. I tightened all stock screws; but instead of running the same test again, I proceeded to the next test. How would the pistol respond to pellets seated deeply with the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Pellet Seater?

Benjamin Trail NP pistol RWS Hobby group flush
The lower shot is a called flier resulting from an improper sight picture. Nine pellets went into 2.04 inches at 10 meters.

Deep-seated pellets
Not only did the group improve measurably, the point of impact rose by two inches when I seated the pellets deep into the breech with the pellet seater. This pellet seater is really proving to be a valuable piece of equipment when used on certain guns — like this one. And this rise in the point of impact is why I say there’s no problem with the Trail NP shooting low. You simply need to seat the pellets deeply.

This time, 10 RWS Hobbys went into 1.025 inches between centers. That’s remarkably close to what I did last time with open sights, but just a trifle better.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol RWS Hobby group deep-seated
Deep-seated pellets made the difference. Ten went into 1.025 inches at 10 meters, and the point of impact raised by over two inches. Deep-seating is the trick, then.

Since deep-seating seemed to produce such good results, I decided to seat all pellets from this point, on. For my next test, blog reader Victor suggested that I try some good competition pellets. He recommended some H&N pellets, so I selected H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets. I seated them deep and proceeded with the test. But, oh, my, they didn’t do well at all! At least not when taken as a whole.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol H&N Finale Match Pistol group deep-seated
Victor, Victor! Where did we go wrong? Ten H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets made a 2.008-inch group. But look at the 5 in the middle. Perhaps there’s hope.

Five of those pellets managed to make a very tight little group. They gave me hope that this pellet wasn’t as bad as the numbers said. Perhaps something more was required?

Shaking
The dot showed that I was shaking a lot more than I was comfortable with, despite using a two-hand rested hold. My forearms were resting on a sandbag, and the pistol was held in my hands, just in front of the bag. It sounds like a solid rest, but the dot said otherwise.

Since I was playing with the gun anyway, I stopped shooting for score and started experimenting with different holds that were firmer. I tried using my off hand as a modified artillery hold, but that was just as shaky. Then, I laid the gun directly on the sandbag and had a go. That proved to be the best way to hold it, as all shaking stopped and the pellets landed together again.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol H&N Finale Match Pistol rested position
This shooting position with the pistol rested directly on the sandbag proved to be the best and stablest position of all.

I also thought that if I was going to rest the gun on the bag, I might as well use the cocking aid again, too. I had now fired the gun about 50 times in all and wanted to relieve some of the strain on my hands. So the cocking aid went back on the gun.

And that’s all I’m going to tell you today. Tune in Monday to see if this new position paid off.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Benjamin Trail NP pistol
Benjamin’s new Trail NP breakbarrel pellet pistol, with cocking aid removed.

Accuracy day has arrived. And this is going to be a report that’s different than the ones I normally write because I decided to do things differently with the Benjamin Trail NP pistol. First of all, there’s some interest in the gun. Readers have said they’re watching the reports because this gun seems to deliver a lot of performance for a very reasonable price.

Next, I’ve read some owner reviews that talk about the gun hitting low. I wanted to test that for you. Owners also say the pistol shoots to two different impact points, depending on whether or not the cocking aid is attached.

Finally, I received a call from Crosman’s head engineer, Ed Schultz, who noticed I was testing the pistol now. Ed confirmed that the pistol does indeed shoot to two different points of impact, depending on whether or not the cocking aid is attached. He was also intrigued by how much I seem to like the air pistol, so we chatted about that for awhile.

How this test will be different
I decided to “play” with this pistol today instead of plowing through a formatted test with X number of pellet types. What that means is that I decided to let the pistol lead me through the test, and to look at those things that were interesting — even if they didn’t conform to my normal test format. I think the test went well, but it lead me in directions I might never have taken otherwise.

It shoots low
The first pellet up was the RWS Hobby. The first shot wasn’t even on the paper, so I elevated the rear sight as high as it would go, then I held up the front post above the rear notch in a style that was popularized by Elmer Keith. That got me on paper, and I put 10 shots through the gun. They landed in a group that measured 1.155 inches between centers. This turned out to be the best group of the test, and I think it shows the accuracy potential of the pistol quite well. You see, I was estimating how much front post to hold up above the rear notch while I shot this group, so my aim point was only an estimate.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol Hobby group
Ten RWS Hobby pellets made this 1.155-inch group at 10 meters. This was with a Keith holdover sight picture, as described in the text.

Open sights Benjamin Trail NP air pistol
When Elmer Keith wanted to shoot handguns farther than their sights would allow, he used this holdover sight picture. Keith inlaid gold lines on his front sights, but I am simply estimating the height from shot to shot.

Even when I held over a lot, the pellets landed below the aim point. So, I used another trick by drawing a secondary aim point above the main bull and using the holdover sight picture on it (at 6 o’clock). My sight picture now looked like the drawing above.

Powershot Penetrators
Next, I tried the lead-free Crosman Powershot Penetrators. Using the higher aim point, I put 10 of them into a group that measured 2.527 inches between centers. Obviously, they’re not right for this pistol.

Different impact point?
I told you I was playing with the pistol, so next I tried an experiment to see the difference in point of impact when the cocking aid was left on the gun or removed during firing. And there was a difference! For this test, I used JSB Exact RS domes.

I used the same high aim point, and the pellets landed about 2 inches lower when the cocking aid was left on the barrel during firing. I’ll show both groups on the same target, so you can see what that looks like.

The group fired with the cocking aid installed was slightly tighter than the one with it removed. The one with the cocking aid measures 1.369 inches between centers, while the other group measures 1.636 inches.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol JSB Exact RS groups
Here are two groups of JSB Exact RS pellets. One was fired with the cocking aid installed, and the other with it removed. Notice the difference in the point of impact.

Cocking effort
I reported that the cocking effort is low for this pistol. Well, that’s fortunate; because when I shot it without the cocking aid, I also cocked it that way. The effort required with the aid installed still measures 25 lbs., and with the aid removed it increases to 35 lbs.

Noise
This time, I shot the pistol indoors, and I still must say that it’s very quiet for the power. I think some new owners may have had a few detonations when their guns were new and thought their pistol was going to always be that loud, but I doubt that many will fault it for the sound after it calms down.

Trigger
The trigger-pull isn’t so much heavy as it is long. It does take some concentration and even discipline to shoot the pistol at its best. But there’s no creep in the second stage.

Crosman Premier heavies and JSB Exact 10.34-grain heavies
I had thought that heavier pellets might do best, so I tried both Crosman Premier heavies and JSB Exact heavies. Since I was just playing with the gun instead of conducting a formatted test, I decided that if either pellet didn’t show any promise by 5 shots, I wouldn’t complete the group. Well, neither one did, so I ended each group at just 5 shots. Both would have been over 2 inches for 10 shots.

Crosman Premier lites
The last pellet I tested was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier lite, figuring that if the heavy didn’t group, the lite might. And that was correct. The lites gave me a 1.775-inch group, which doesn’t sound good. But 9 of those pellets are in 1.314 inches, which is a lot better.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol Crosman Premier lite group
Crosman Premier lites showed some promise in the Trail NP pistol, grouping 10 in 1.775 inches, with 9 in 1.314 inches.

What’s the verdict?
The verdict is — it’s too soon to tell. I still have some things to test with this pistol. For starters, the sights that are on the gun are so problematic that I want to try it with a good quality dot sight and see what I can do. If I can adjust the sight so I’m able to aim at what I’m hitting, and if I use the 3 pellets that worked well in this test — RWS Hobbys, JSB Exact RS and Crosman Premier lites — then we might just see a more accurate gun.

I also want to test pellets that are seated deep in the breech to see if there’s any difference. There are the two lead-free pellets that Crosman sent, but I didn’t get around to testing this time. I’d also like to run a velocity test after all of that because, by then, I think the gun should be broken in.

More than ever, I think Crosman should build this gun as a carbine, using exactly what they have here but with an extended barrel shroud and a rifle stock. As easy as it is to cock as a pistol, I can see it losing another 10 lbs. of effort as a carbine. What a wonderful little plinker it would make!

Benjamin Trail NP pistol: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Benjamin Trail NP pistol
Benjamin’s new Trail NP breakbarrel pellet pistol with cocking aid removed.

Okay! The moment of truth has arrived. It’s velocity day for the Benjamin Trail NP pistol that claims to shoot 625 f.p.s.

I am still at my friend Mac’s home on Maryland’s eastern shore, so I brought the chronograph with me. I also brought some pellets I wanted to test, as well as all 3 types of lead-free pellets that Crosman sent with the pistol.

RWS Hobby
The first pellet I tried is the lightweight lead RWS Hobby. This pellet fits the bore very tight, so I may come back and test it seated after the accuracy test. Seated flush, they averaged 494 f.p.s. The range went from 477 to 509 f.p.s. That’s a spread of 32 f.p.s. Remember that Crosman said this pistol would have a wide velocity range for several hundred shots when it breaks in. At the average velocity, this 7-grain pellet generates 3.79 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

I can hear the naysayers warming up now. But hold onto your skirts, because this pistol is about to come alive.

Crosman SSP hollowpoint
The first pellet that Crosman sent me to test with the pistol was their lead-free SSP hollowpoint. This one weighs exactly 4 grains and looks like one of those new high-performance hollowpoints that performs well at lower speeds. In the NP, the average velocity was 632 f.p.s., so that substantiates the Crosman claim. The spread went from 531 to 697 f.p.s., but that first shot was way out-of-profile. The second slowest shot was 597 f.p.s., and the bulk of the shots ran between 630 and 660.

So — what’s the power of these lightweights? How about 3.55 foot-pounds? However, I don’t think this string is really representative of the pistol because of the other SSP pellet I tested later.

Crosman Powershot Penetrators
Next I tried Crosman Powershot Penetrator. They are a synthetic-bodied pellet with a metal nose. Crosman guarantees them to be 20 percent faster than lead pellets. They weigh 5.4 grains, and in the NP pistol they averaged 576 f.p.s. The spread went from 561 to 586 f.p.s., so it’s tightening up quite a bit. I do feel this is more of the break-in process, rather than the specific pellet, though I don’t want to take anything away from these Powershot Penetrators.

Like the SSPs, this pellet also fit the bore loosely. And the average energy was 3.98 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. I really can’t wait to see how accurate these are because they look like they might have a lot going for them.

Crosman SSP pointed pellet
The next pellet tested was the Crosman SSP pointed pellet. Like the SSP hollowpoint, it also weighs 4 grains, yet this one went so much faster on average that I believe the pistol was breaking in right in front of my eyes. The average was 685 f.p.s., with a spread from 667 to, get ready for it — 704 f.p.s. Yes, the pistol broke the 700 f.p.s. level with lightweight pellets. Crosman has to advertise the highest velocity the pistol is capable of achieving, so setting the bar at 625 f.p.s. is conservative.

At the average velocity, this pellet generated 4.17 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. Because it weighs the same as the hollowpoint SSP and fits the bore the same, I think the pistol is still breaking in.

JSB Exact RS
The last pellet I tested was the JSB Exact RS dome. I included it because of the accuracy potential. Although it’s light like the Hobby, it has a thinner skirt, so it was anyone’s guess how it would do in this pistol (because the gas piston is known for blowing pellet skirts out from the sudden pressure spike).

They averaged 487 f.p.s., but the range was tight — from 480 to 499 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this 7.3-grain pellet developed 3.85 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

Trigger-pull
Next, I weighed the trigger-pull. It is two-stage, and stage one weighs about 3 lbs., while stage two breaks at 7 lbs., 3 oz. on the test gun. I have to observe that the design of the grip makes the trigger-pull seem a lot lower. I had guessed it to be 5 lbs. before putting the gauge on it.

Sound
I shot this test outdoors, so the sound was different than usual. But I must say the discharge is very quiet for a gun of this power.

Cocking assist
This pistol remains easy to cock. In fact, I shot it about 60 times in this test because there were a number of shots that didn’t register on the chrono. And I wasn’t tired at all at the end of the shooting. This is an all-day gun for sure.

But the cocking assist came off the muzzle a couple times as I was closing the barrel. It held tight when the barrel was cocked, but popped off several times when the barrel was closed. The trick is to not hold it out at the end, but, instead, under the muzzle when you close the barrel.

Cocking effort
The pistol cocks with exactly 25 lbs. of force. The effort ramps up to 25; and just when you think it will go even higher, it drops off. This is an all-day air pistol for any adult. I don’t know how they did it, but the Crosman engineers are to be commended.

Impressions so far
I’m still very impressed with this pistol. It cocks easier than I thought possible and shoots smoother than it should for the price. I can’t wait to see what it can do on targets!

Benjamin Trail NP pistol: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Benjamin Trail NP pistol
Benjamin’s new Trail NP breakbarrel pellet pistol, with cocking aid removed.

There’s been a lot of talk about this new breakbarrel air pistol from Benjamin — the Benjamin Trail NP pistol. First and no doubt foremost is the price — just $80 at launch time. When you consider the power this pistol is rated to — over 600 f.p.s. with lightweight alloy pellets — you can understand the interest. You get the power of a Beeman P1 or a Diana RWS LP8 for a fraction of the price.

Yeah, but is it accurate? I don’t know yet, but you all know I’m going to test the heck out of this pistol to find that out.

But in the back of many minds is that NP label, which we know stands for Crosman’s Nitro Piston. That’s the brand name they use for the gas springs they put in airguns, and this is the world’s first pistol to get one as far as I know. If anyone knows different, please speak up.

So, a gas spring is often hard to cock. In fact, that’s the single disadvantage to the technology, in my mind. But not all gas springs are hard, and Benjamin has offered certain Nitro Piston rifles in the past that were quite easy to cock. Then what’s the story with the Trail NP pistol?

No worries
No worries, mate! Old B.B. has already cocked the gun. I have the news you have been waiting for. This 65-year-old codger says the Benjamin Trail NP pistol is very easy to cock. Let me put that into perspective for you. I think this pistol is in the same difficulty class as the two pistols I compared it to — the P1 and LP8. In other words, this isn’t for a young person, nor for anyone who doesn’t mow their own lawn with a push mower or ride a bicycle; but if you’re in reasonable shape, you’ll find the Benjamin Trail NP remarkably easy to cock.

I am not going to tell you exactly how hard it is to cock until the Part 2 velocity test, but I’ve already put it on the scale and I know the number. The Crosman engineers designed the pistol with the optimum cocking linkage and pivot point. Just when you think the effort is going to soar, it actually falls off sharply — giving you a pleasant surprise. As far as I’m concerned, Crosman should put some sort of trademark on this pistol’s cocking effort like “POW-R BOOSTER” (or something similar). Even if there’s no special or patentable technology involved, they’ve crossed the line and given us not only the world’s first air pistol with a gas spring, but also one that’s easy to cock.

In fact, I would like to see this pistol turned into a small rifle. They don’t need a longer barrel — just a barrel sheath that takes the front sight out farther, and a stock to hold the action. It would be a sort of Air Venturi Bronco with a gas spring. How cool is that?

Think I’m impressed? YOU BETCHA! This is the second time in 2013 that I’ve had the pleasure of testing a remarkable new airgun with impressive technology. The LGVs were first, and now this Benjamin Trail NP is something else that makes B.B. smile! I haven’t done much of that in recent years. I see so many clones that all seem to blend together with too much weight, cocking that’s too hard and a nerve-shattering firing cycle. But this new pistol is smooth.

Ooops! Did I just slip and reveal that I’ve also fired the new Trail NP? Why, yes I did. I’m not going to elaborate today because I need material for the Part 2 velocity report but, believe me, this pistol shoots smooth.

The gun
Okay, B.B., quit hyping this pistol and tell us about it.

The gun I’m testing is a .177 breakbarrel that’s fairly straightforward, except for the Nitro Piston. Being a breakbarrel, it’s also a single-shot because the barrel must be broken open every time to both cock the spring and to load the next pellet.

It looks like a large air pistol. The grip is actually a stock that holds the entire barreled action, so the spring tube sits high above the hand. You would think that would make the pistol recoil — and it would if this was a firearm — but since it’s an airgun and one with a gas spring, the recoil is quite light.

The grip/frame is synthetic, which it should be for the price and also to keep the weight off. The grip has large rectangular knobs that provide a good grip. The pistol weighs 3.46 lbs. and balances surprisingly well. It looks very front-heavy, but that cocking aid is just hollow plastic and weighs almost nothing. And speaking of the cocking aid, you leave it on the pistol while shooting. When it’s off, the pistol is about the same size as the Beeman HW 70A we’re currently testing.

Sights
The front sight is fiberoptic. Unfortunately, the top is rounded instead of being flat, so it’s going to be harder to obtain a sharp sight picture. With proper lighting of the target, it should be possible.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol front sight
The front sight is fiberoptic and the cocking aid fits around it.

The rear sight is also fiberoptic, plus fully adjustable for both windage and elevation. each adjustment knob has crisp detents that leave no question about the movement. I’ve seen guns for twice this much that didn’t have sights as nice as these.

Benjamin Trail NP pistol rear sight
The rear sight has crisp adjustments in both directions. It’s also fiberoptic, but the fiber tubes are very short.

Trigger
The trigger is single-stage and adjustable for the break point. I don’t know how they managed to pack that feature into an $80 pistol that’s also the first of its type. Of course, I’ll report on its performance, but something in the owner’s manual made me stop and take a second look.

The owner’s manual?
I know, it’s very girly to admit I read the manual, but I wanted to find out about the trigger adjustability. However, in this manual I found more.  Just after the introduction to the parts of the gun, they have a short paragraph about the break-in period. They tell you that accuracy may be inconsistent during this period, and that the gun may sound louder than it will later on. That blew me away! Not that the gun needs to be broken-in, but that a manufacturer acknowledged it and even addressed it in the manual. In the bad old days, you were either expected to know such things or get out of airgunning altogether. I joke, but it’s not far from the truth. It’s one big reason that I became an airgun writer in the first place.

What this passage indicates is that someone at Crosman spent some time with the pistol and put their findings into the owner’s manual. That sort of thing is very uncommon these days and is one more indication that Crosman is serious about what they’re making.

First impressions
I guess I gave you all of my first impressions at the start of this report. But I’ll say one more thing. Putting a gas spring into a pistol is a daring move. It’ll bring many initial sales to those whose curiosity has to be satisfied at all costs; but if the pistol doesn’t perform, it’ll quickly get a black eye from word-of-mouth on the internet. All companies must know this, but many of them act as if they don’t care or don’t appreciate the power of this kind of publicity. They must think that the novelty and power of their airguns will trump any bad press it gets on the internet. If they have an established distribution network in the large retail outlets, it can last for a long time; but if they don’t, this kind of bad press will kill them.

Crosman does have one of the largest distribution networks, yet they obviously still appreciate what their customers think. That fact is demonstrated by this new pistol. They could just as easily have made it hard to cock and shoot with a harsh firing cycle as gas springs are so prone to have, but they went beyond that and built a powerful pistol with a very acceptable cocking effort and a smooth firing cycle.

The Benjamin Trail NP pistol has my attention!

Beeman HW 70A air pistol: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Beeman HW 70A air pistol
Beeman’s HW 70A breakbarrel spring pistol.

Remember that I said I would return and do another accuracy test of the Beeman HW 70A pistol because I didn’t test the best pellet seated? I felt a little guilty about missing that; but after my wife, Edith, got done with me, I felt really guilty. Good job, Edith!

Today is a revisit to see the effects of deep-seating the best pellet, which you may recall was the Beeman H&N Match. The other two pellets I shot last time aren’t in the running, so they don’t get retested.

However, a reader commented that his HW 70A really likes the JSB Exact RS dome, so that one got tested, too.

Several readers described their pistols as very accurate. One person even said his was a tackdriver. That really drives me nuts because of the results I’m getting. And I’m a good pistol shot — plus, I’m shooting the gun rested! I ought to be there with the best of you, but up to this point I’m not.

Beeman H&N Match
This was the best pellet in the first accuracy test, so this is the one I started with. And I started with the deep-seated pellets. I’m using the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Seater, and the adjustment hasn’t changed since the last time, so everything is equal.

The first group was pretty poor. I thought I’d forgotten how to shoot because it looked nothing like the group of flush-seated pellets from the last time.

Beeman HW 70A air pistol Beeman H&N Match deep-seated
Ten deep-seated Beeman H&N Match pellets made this 1.532-inch group at 10 meters.

That prompted me to try a group of the same pellets seated flush. You will remember in Part 3 that, when these were seated flush, 10 of them made a 1.085-inch group. This time 10 flush pellets went into 1.067 inches. That’s pretty close to the last time, and very persuasive that flush-seating is what this pellet likes!

Beeman HW 70A air pistol Beeman H&N Match flush-seated
Ten flush-seated Beeman H&N Match pellets made this 1.067-inch group at 10 meters. That’s close to what they did the last time.

JSB Exact RS
Next I tried some JSB Exact RS domes — just to see if I could duplicate what a blog reader reported. Lo and behold, I did! As I was shooting, I could see that the group didn’t seems to be growing, and I had a sense that the pistol was drilling the target. As you can see, it was doing exactly that! Ten pellets in 0.761 inches at 10 meters. I wouldn’t call it a tackdriver, but it’s the next best thing.

Beeman HW 70A air pistol Beeman JSB Exact RS flush-seated
Ten flush-seated JSB Exact RS pellets made this 0.761-inch group at 10 meters. Pretty good!

Next, I was going to try the same pellet seated deep, but that’s when I saw that the barrel was flopping from side to side at the breech! Oh, no! All that work for nothing!

Fortunately, this pistol has a pivot bolt that can be both tightened and also locked in position with a jam screw. However, I didn’t have time to do that because I was crashing on tests to put in the bank for my trip to see my friend Mac.

When I return from my trip, I’ll tighten the breech and rerun this entire test — plus shoot the RS pellet deep-seated. So, there’s fifth part coming.

Swiss Arms P92 replica pistol
Swiss Arms P92 CO2 BB pistol

More and more, we're hearing that airguns are ideal for firearm training when it comes to improving trigger control, acquiring a target and increasing accuracy. While all those are big pluses, let's remember the other reasons: (1) Save a fortune on ammo (if you can even get firearm ammo!). (2) Shoot at home. (3) No hearing protection needed. (4) Airguns are a fraction of the cost of firearms. So, click on the image & add this to your gun vault.

New .22-cal. Sheridan!
Sheridan 2260MB CO2 rifle

Sheridan has always made .20-cal. airguns. So, this new .22-cal. rifle is particularly exciting. And, it's available only in limited quantities. If you collect Sheridans (or just love them for their quality), you MUST add this to your gun vault. It's a single-shot CO2 rifle with a metal breech. Bolt-action single shots like the 2260 are ideal for teaching proper gun handling. Everything you love about Sheridan guns…and more. Get yours NOW before they sell out!