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.

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.

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!