The Benjamin 392/397 – 60 years later!
by B.B. Pelletier
Let’s look at the latest rendition in a line of air rifles that had their beginnings more than 60 years ago. Where some products have been so vastly changed and cheapened over time, the Benjamin 392 remains a steadfast leader for very high quality. The 392 is the .22 caliber version of the gun, while the 397 is the .177. This gun is one that truly harkens back to “the good old days.” Even when Crosman bought Benjamin, they left the quality alone.
Radical state laws are changing which airguns are being produced
Thanks to laws in states like Michigan, where all air rifles over .18 caliber are considered to be firearms, the big box stores like Wal-Mart don’t stock the .22 air rifles any more. There may be exceptions in a few stores, but the last time I looked in three different states, .177 was all I could find! Crosman is a volume seller, so if they don’t have the sales in .22 as they do in .177, they will cancel the model. It has already happened in other Crosman guns, so don’t wait too long to get your gun.
Fortunately, airguns are sold by dealers like Pyramyd Air, but the combined volume of all airgun dealers is small compared to the big box stores. It won’t take too long before Crosman has to make a tough decision. By the way, .20 caliber guns are in jeopardy for the same reason.
Adults only, please!
The 392/397 is an adult-sized air rifle, though not overly long or heavy. The pull (distance from the butt to the trigger) is proportioned for adult sizes, plus the pump effort requires some strength that younger children don’t have. That’s fine, because the power level dictates that this rifle should be used by someone who can exercise great responsibility.
Classic design meets modern technology!
For decades, all Benjamin stocks were made of American walnut, a relatively fast-growing hardwood that has adequate strength for rifle stocks. Today, the gun has an “American hardwood” stock, which gives the manufacturer other options that may be more readily available. That probably contributes to the continued modest price of this rifle.
The stock is nicely sculpted in the classic American style that suits most shooters. The forearm has a very pronounced beavertail swelling where the hand grabs to pump the rifle. It would be cheaper to eliminate this swelling, but they keep it because it makes pumping easier.
You can’t do better than brass for a pneumatic barrel! It doesn’t rust when exposed to the condensation from every shot, and it can be made smoother than a steel barrel. Smoothness allows for good velocity and accuracy without a lot of after-rifling work.
How to make a great gun even better? Add a peep sight!
One really nice upgrade is the Crosman 64 peep sight. It installs easily and just about doubles the precision of your aim. You can install red dot sights and scopes as well, but for that you also need to buy the Crosman B272 4-piece Intermount to serve as a base for the dot sight or scope mounts.
With the right pellets, I get 0.50″ groups at 60 feet!
I recommend Crosman Premiers and JSB Exact domed pellets for both calibers of this rifle. Pyramyd says you can expect 1/2″ groups at 33 feet, but my experience says you’ll get that out to 60 feet – if you do your job! This air rifle is definitely one that can train you to be a better shot.
Quality American airguns are still being made – affordably!
The bottom line with these two air rifles is that they’re out of the past, yet as modern as they have to be. If you appreciate quality American products, these two certainly fit the bill. I guess you can tell I’m a big fan of this air rifle! I hope owners of these guns will comment on how much they enjoy them.