by B.B. Pelletier
Today, we’ll begin testing the Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100 for accuracy. And we’re going to do this differently than usual. Because we have many new readers to this blog, I’m going to explain how I do accuracy testing in greater detail than usual. Sort of a chance for you to look over my shoulder. Hopefully this will help the newer shooters get a grasp of what’s involved in airgun accuracy, so this accuracy report will take more than a single report to complete.
Adjust the trigger
As I begin, I think about the gun I’m about to test. What do I know about it? Well, The Benjamin Trail XL 1100 is based on the Crosman Nitro Piston Short Stroke, and I did some testing of that rifle. During that testing, I discovered that the NPSS has a wonderful, adjustable trigger. One of our readers commented just a couple days ago that his accuracy improved after he adjusted his NPSS trigger, so I’m going to adjust the Trail XL trigger right now. According to the blog I wrote on the NPSS trigger, I need to unscrew the one adjustment screw several turns to make stage two light and crisp.
Sad to report that there is very little joy in Mudville today. The trigger on the Benjamin Trail XL 1100 may resemble the one on the NPSS rifle, but it doesn’t adjust as well. It does adjust, but the second stage is mushy and imprecise. Not at all what I reported on the NPSS. However, I got it as good as it would go, which was better than when I started. It releases with 5 lbs., 2 oz. of pressure, which sounds like a lot. However, because of how the trigger works, you’ve subtracted all but the final 2 lbs. by the time you release it.
Clean the barrel
I had my Remington 788 .30-30 out last week and shot some remarkably mediocre 50-yard groups with Remington factory ammo. Factory ammo is usually lacking in accuracy, but a two-inch, five-shot group at 50 yards is a little excessive. Yesterday, I cleaned the barrel and removed a ton of copper fouling. Way more fouling than would have been left by the 20 rounds I fired. So, the rifle was dirty before I started the session. To ensure that I don’t make the same mistake with the Benjamin Trail, I’ll clean the bore with J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound.
As a recap–I was told about this by Ben Taylor, who is the Ben in Theoben. He told me to clean the bore of my Beeman Crow Magnum with J-B Paste by passing a brass brush loaded with paste through the barrel 20 times in each direction. I’m not normally anal, but after the success I had after cleaning that rifle, I’m saying to count the number of strokes. Twenty times in each direction, starting from the breech, of course. Then remove all the residue and the bore should not only be sparkling clean, it will also be smoothed as though you had shot 500 pellets through it. Don’t worry–a brass brush will not harm a steel barrel, and J-B paste is used by benchrest shooters all the time.
Normally, the first 10 passes are extremely tight, then things loosen up. That never happened with this barrel. Pass 20 was as tight as pass four. The first couple passes did loosen up just a little, but at the end of the cleaning I was still pushing hard on the rod to get the brush through the bore.
Check the screws
I do a once around the rifle to check all the stock screws for tightness. Because this rifle has a gas spring, I don’t expect the screws to loosen very much, but it’s always best to go into a test with everything right.
Mount the scope
We’re blessed when we come to mounting the scope because Crosman has put Weaver bases on the rifle, so there will be no mounting problems. The Centerpoint 3-9×40 was almost correctly set in the rings, but not quite. After the two-piece rings were cinched down tight, I loosened the scope caps and rotated the scope tube until the vertical reticle seemed to bisect the receiver tube perfectly. There’s nothing square on an airgun, or a firearm, for that matter, so trying to “level” the scope is a completely fruitless affair. There’s nothing to level it with. You rotate the scope tube until it looks straight up and down to you. Someone else may disagree, but you’re the one who will be shooting the gun, so that’s all that matters.
Pick some pellets
Someone asked the other day how I knew which pellets to select for which guns. Well, it’s simpler than it might seem. First, I know that a large number of pellets are not going to be the best in almost every airgun, so they seldom get selected. I only pick them when I can’t seem to get anything else to work.
The other side is that there are known performers that almost always get picked. JSB Exacts, with the particular weights depending on the gun. This is a powerful springer, which means that it has the same power as a lower-powered PCP, with one important difference. Springers hit the pellet skirt with a heavy blast of air at the start, so the pellet needs thicker-walled skirts to not deform. At 25 foot-pounds, the Benjamin Trail XL is about as hard on pellet skirts as it gets. Think about using .22-caliber Crosman Premiers because they have really tough skirts. Think about using H&N Baracudas because they have a heavy skirt. Think of the heavier JSBs for their heavier skirts. Definitely DO NOT think RWS Superpoints that have ultra-thin skirts made of dead-soft lead. Their skirts would be deformed badly by the powerful air blast from the Nitro Piston.
Use the artillery hold
I’ve had several readers recently discover the benefits of the artillery hold. That’s when the rifle is held as loosely as possible so it can move and vibrate as much as it wants. While it seems counter-intuitive, such a hold will improve your shooting in 98 percent of the situations. Read about it here.
Kevin added something in an answer to a reader question the other day that I need to emphasize more. When you’re shooting, align the crosshairs or sights–then close your eyes and relax. Open your eyes again. If the crosshairs moved off the target, the pellet would have moved in the same direction if you’d fired. Learn to settle in so the crosshairs are still on target when you open your eyes. That assists your follow-through, which is what this is all about. It works for firearms, too, though heavy-recoiling guns need a firmer hold than what I’ve described.
Here’s where you and I will go in separate directions. You want to hit the target. I don’t care. What I want to see is if the pellets tend to go to the same place. If they do, a sight adjustment may be needed to get them on target, but that’s a separate step. I won’t be doing anything with this gun other than making groups we can examine. If I were then going to shoot it afterwards, I would care about aligning the sights.
That bothers some people to no end. If they don’t see the groups in the center of the bullseye, they think the gun is inaccurate. My brother-in-law feels that way. I can move the groups to where they’ll look good with the sights or with Photoshop if I have to. So, hitting the center of the bullseye isn’t something I even care about. But you should, because you will be using this gun to hit things. Don’t let my testing affect your shooting.
And that’s where I’ll end it today. I’ve walked you through preparing to shoot, so next time I’ll show you the results of that.