by B.B. Pelletier

This is a report that’s been on the list for more than a year. Something always pops up at the last minute to take its place, but today is reserved for the Benjamin HB22, an air pistol whose roots are fixed in the 1930s. When I write about Benjamin airguns, I refer to them as heirloom guns, because they’re built well enough to be handed down through many generations and also because they’re among the very few things that are still made the way they were in the beginning. If you get one of these, you’ll be linked to airgunning’s rich past.

The .22 caliber HB22 and its .177 sibling, the Benjamin HB17, are the direct descendants of the model 242/247 that are themselves the offspring of the ubiquitous 130 series. Right there, we’ve gone back to 1946. To go back farther, we have to accept the troublesome transitional pump mechanism of the 110 series, which was the child of the famous 100-series with its front pump rod that dates to 1935. Benjamin rifles date back to 1898 (in their former incarnation as the St. Louis Air Rifle), but the pistols lagged behind by more than three decades.

The gun
The pistol weighs 2.5 lbs. and measures slightly less than 12″ overall, with a barrel length of 9.25″. The barrel is brass, just as it has always been, and so is the pump tube and receiver. The frame is cast metal, no doubt a zinc alloy, and the functional powerplant parts are mainly steel. The metal is painted with a tough matte charcoal gray paint, and the grips and forearm that look like wood are, in fact, oil-finished wood!

This is a multi-pump pneumatic that shoots with 3-8 pump strokes – BUT, the manual online says at least two pumps and doesn’t give a top number. The numbers I give you here are from the printed owner’s manual that came with the gun. This subject is so misunderstood by airgunners that I plan to do a separate report on it tomorrow.

Pump handle is extended as far as it goes.

Bolt withdrawn two clicks cocks the gun and opens the breech trough to accept as pellet. You can see the adjustable rear sight.

The gun is cocked by rotating the bolt knob to the left (counterclockwise) and retracting the bolt until two clicks are heard. I made the mistake of only pulling back to the first click and was rewarded by a weak-sounding discharge. The pellet is laid in the trough that’s revealed with the bolt pulled back. When you push the bolt back home after loading, which seats the pellet in the barrel, be sure to rotate it to the right (clockwise) until it stops. That locks it in position. Failure to lock it results in the bolt being blown back at the shot, robbing the pellet of most of its power.

How hard is it to pump?
This is a question that readers ask, so I thought I’d answer it today. I’ll give you both a subjective and a quantitative answer. First the subjective. Pumping starts out easy, but with a fair amount of resistance to the pump lever being pushed home. After 3 pumps, the effort required to pull the lever away from the pump tube increases, and it becomes very difficult after 5 pumps. Some of the resistance is due to the newness of the gun, but most of it will remain throughout the gun’s life.

When pushing the pump lever home, it has to go all the way flush to the gun, so keep your fingers out from between the pump lever and gun. Push home with the flat of your pumping hand, which is opposed by your other hand that holds the gun. Please do not ask about scoping this pistol. Pump it before you ask and you’ll understand why scoping is impractical.

Now, the quantitative. Pumps 1 through 4 peak at about 22 lbs. of force, at a point when the pump lever is still 1.5″-2″ from home. Pump 5 increases to 25 lbs. Pump 6 climbs to 28 lbs. and pumps 7 and 8 each hit 32 lbs. of force. The effort to close the pump handle is negligible compared to the effort needed to open it after 5 pumps have been put in. This is not a pistol for those with arthritic hands!

The front sight is a ramp, and the rear is an adjustable notch. It adjusts with simple jam screws, so you have to be careful when you work.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at velocity, accuracy and a test of how a multi-pump REALLY works!