Crosman's new Nightstalker
Crosman Nightstalker (November 2005)
By Tom Gaylord
Crosman launched their new Nighstalker semiautomatic air rifle in November of 2005. This is the first true semiautomatic pellet gun Crosman has made since the model. 600 pistol ended production in 1970. There aren't many real semiauto pellet rifles on the market, and the new Nighstalker is the most affordable and practical of the bunch.
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IT LOOKS LIKE SOMETHING YOU'D FIND IN A SCI-FI MOVIE!
The Nighstalker is a conventional carbine with some black rifle styling. The internals are housed in two plastic clamshells that envelope most of the rifle's working parts. Think of it as an exoskeleton, like the futuristic guns used in the movie Starship Troopers. The power source is Crosman's 88-gram AirSource cartridge, which fits into the butt. The AirSource also provides power to work the blowback action that cocks the rifle every time it fires. Conventional 12-gram powerlets do not work with this rifle.
The rifle weighs four pounds, with a fresh AirSource cartridge loaded, and feels even lighter. The weight is very centered and might leave you wanting a bit more weight toward the muzzle. For maximum accuracy, you have to find a way to hold the gun lightly while grasping it firmly enough to pull the trigger with control. Of course, most of the time the semiautomatic feature will have you pulling the trigger as fast as you can!.
YOU CAN SEE MODERN ENGINEERING IN ITS FEATURES
BARREL: The rifled steel barrel is 16-3/4" long. It's capped with a black plastic muzzle cap that protects the true crown, which is also recessed. Crosman has gone to great lengths to protect the crown of the muzzle!
TRIGGER: From the early pictures, some airgunners thought the Nightstalker was a bullpup, but it isn't. The trigger directly contacts the sear. Even so, the trigger-pull is very heavy and not too consistent, varying between eight and nine pounds. It's a two-stage, but all the weight is in the second stage. There is a lot of creep, but stage two is not as long as the second stage of a 1077 trigger.
SAFETY: The crossbolt safety, located just above the trigger, works perfectly, which is important because this rifle is always cocked when there is CO2 in it. The moment you hear the hiss from a new AirSource cartridge, the gun is cocked and ready to fire, and remains so as long as it's charged. So keep that safety on unless you're shooting.
SIGHTS: Whoever designed the Nightstalker's sights deserves a bonus! The rear sight is an aperture with two different hole sizes to peep through. Switch between the two sizes by flipping from one to the other - like an early M1 Carbine sight. It's that easy! The rear sight also adjusts for windage but not elevation.
The front sight is a completely new design that looks like a square post to the shooter, but it's actually an inclined ramp spiraled around an adjustable cylinder. As you twist the cylinder, the spiral grows higher (by turning the adjustment screw counterclockwise) and the strike of the pellet drops on target. The front sight also has detectable detents set at close intervals, so you can return to a given elevation later on. In all my years of testing airguns, this was the fastest set of open sights to get on target and the easiest to adjust! Some Crosman engineer deserves high praise for inventing this new system!
VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT THE 12-SHOT CLIP!
The rifle is fed from a 12-shot circular clip that it shares with Crosman's popular 1077. Three clips come with the gun. During testing, I discovered how this clip works in the Nightstalker. It's self-indexing and very easy to load.
The front of the clip has small ratchet teeth. The rear has no teeth. The teeth must be forward for the clip to work properly. When you insert the clip into the gun, feed it more from the side than from the top and make certain the sliding cover is all the way forward. There isn't much clearance. It helps to hold the cover forward when inserting a new clip. I found the sliding clip cover was bulky. It was helpful to control it when sliding the cover both open and closed - especially closed!
Each clip has 12 holes or chambers for pellets. You will notice that the inside wall of these chambers has eight parallel ribs running from one end to the other. They grab the pellet when it is loaded, and I discovered that the pellets MUST BE DEEPLY SEATED, or they will fall out of the clip backwards and bind the gun's action! Apparently, this happens when some of the gas pushes them from the front when the gun fires. It happened several times before I figured out what was going on. (link added on 02/17/2006: See reference to the indexing issue in the daily blog by BB Pelletier. Scroll to: No need to seat pellets deeply)
Seating the pellets deeply with the thumb is not adequate to keep the pellets from falling out. They have to be seated as deep as possible.
DEEP-SEATING THE PELLETS FIXED THE PROBLEM
I loaded all 12 chambers with pellets, then used the tip of a ballpoint pen to push each one forward, flush with the end of the chamber. Do not allow them to go beyond the end. Hold your thumb over the pellet chamber when pushing each pellet to prevent them from going too far forward. This sounds like a big deal, but it's actually very quick to do. Your reward is a perfectly functioning gun!
I tried the following pellets: Crosman Wadcutters, Crosman Premier domed 7.9-grain, RWS Supermag, RWS Hobby, Gamo Match, H&N Match, a Chinese match wadcutter and Skenco Hyper Velocity Type 2. The most accurate were the Crosman Premiers and the Gamo Match. All pellets would shoot a group of one inch at 15 yards, but I expected a 1/4" at that range. Only the Premiers did that, and not every time. The best pellets besides Premiers were Gamo Match, H&N Match and Skenco Hyper-Velocity Type 2. They averaged 1/2" to 3/4" groups at 15 yards.
Crosman rates the gun to a maximum of 580 f.p.s. I tested it at 75 degrees and got an average of 519 f.p.s. for Crosman Premier 7.9-grain pellets and 559 f.p.s. for Gamo Match pellets. The extreme velocity spread for the Premiers was only 14 f.p.s., which is pretty tight.
The accuracy is adequate for an air rifle in this price range. It's in the same ballpark as the 1077. The rifle wants to group when given half a chance, but it's best to remember that the primary purpose of the Nightstalker is to shoot fast. I mounted a 9x scope on the 11mm dovetail rail on top of the receiver to see how good things could get, but the groups were not much better than those obtained with open sights. I would leave the scope off and use the gun as the rapid plinker it was intended to be.
After the pellet seating problem was handled, there were no more feeding failures or jams. The gun was always ready to go, and the first AirSource cartridge lasted for hundreds of shots. When shooting heavy RWS Supermag pellets, the gun had several bouts of valve bounce, as though the valve could not close with such a heavy pellet in the barrel, but it functioned perfectly with every other pellet I tested.
DON'T FORGET THESE!
If you do buy a Nightstalker, don't forget to order some AirSource cartridges, pellets and Crosman Pellgunoil. Why Pellgunoil? Because Crosman recommends a drop on the tip of every third AirSorce cartridge to oil the seals inside the gun. If you do that, your gun will hold gas for years and years. That's been my experience.
The Nightstalker is a groundbreaking air rifle. Until now, getting semiautomatic operation with a pellet rifle meant spending over $400 - and sometimes up to $1,000 - for five quick shots. Here you get 12 shots for a little more than $100. If that's not a deal, I don't know what is!
Accuracy and the trigger are about what you might expect at this price level. The sights are better than expected. Don't forget that this gun is also offered in a fully loaded kit configuration
with a red dot sight, tactical flashlight and bipod! If you're looking for something cool to shoot, the Nightstalker is your gun!