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Benjamin 397 Variable Pump Air Rifle: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Benjamin 397
The new Benjamin 397.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • Dot sight?
  • The test
  • Accurate with JSB Exact Heavys
  • Adjusted the rear sight
  • H&N Baracuda Magnum
  • H&N Sniper Magnum
  • Adjusted sights
  • 10 shots
  • Summary

It’s been a while since we have looked at the Benjamin 397 Variable Pump Air Rifle. This is a multi-pump .177-caliber air rifle that was advertised as getting 1,100 f.p.s. It can be pumped up to 10 times and we learned that the test rifle was good for 773 f.p.s. when shooting RWS Hobby pellets. A thousand f.p.s. takes trick pellets that nobody uses.

It’s not a quiet airgun, because from two to 10 pumps of air it produces 105 dB pretty consistently. So it’s not friendly for small suburban backyards. But it is a shooter!

Dot sight?

I intended to shoot the rifle with a dot sight or a scope, but there was a question about whether the scope base that attaches to the two holes that are drilled and tapped into the receiver will work with scope bases that are for older 397s, or even with peep sights that I have for my older Benjamin multi-pumps. I tried them both and discovered they won’t fit. The holes are in the wrong place.

The Air Venturi intermount is a sight base that fits this receiver, if it is 0.540 to 0.565-inches in diameter. The test rifle receiver measures 0.567-inches in diameter and I’m going to order one of these bases to see if it fits.

The test

I shot today from 25 yards off a sandbag rest with the rifle rested directly on the bag. Obviously I used the open sights that came on the rifle.  I used a 6 o-clock hold on a 10-meter pistol target, which is perfect for this distance when you use open sights. I shot 5-shot groups because of the pumping, but I did shoot one 10-shot group at the end with what I felt was the best pellet. I pumped six times per shot.

Accurate with JSB Exact Heavys

At 10 meters we discovered the 397 is very accurate with JSB Exact Heavy pellets. So they were the pellets I started with today without adjusting the rear sight. Five pellets went into 0.689-inches at 25 yards. It was high on the bull and to the left.

JSB Heavy group 1
Five JSB Exact Heavy pellets went into 0.689-inches at 25 yards.

Wow! That is a good group for me with post-and-notch open sights at 25 yards! I lost my glasses on Saturday and I had to use reading glasses to see the front sight, but the bull at 25 yards was very blurry. I normally wear my regular glasses for 25 yards. Let’s try a different pellet.

The test at 10 meters showed this rifle likes heavier pellets and also prefers pure lead pellets to harder ones like Premiers. So today I’m exploring the heavier pellets

Adjusted the rear sight

Since the first group was high and left, I adjusted the rear sight. The next pellet was 60 percent heavier than the first one so I left the elevation where it was, but  I adjusted the windage to the right a little. The manual does not tell how to adjust windage, but what you do to go right is loosen the left screw a little then tighten the right one.

Build a Custom Airgun

H&N Baracuda Magnum

Next up was the 16.36-grain H&N Baracuda Magnum. This pellet is extremely heavy in .177 and I don’t see it for sale on the website anymore. Six of them went into 3.7-inches at 25 yards. I guess I lost count! But this is obviously not the right pellet for this air rifle.

Baracuda Magnum group
I don’t need a dime for this group, I need a manhole cover! Six Baracuda Magnums made a 3.7-inch group at 25 yards. Not the pellet for this 397!

H&N Sniper Magnum

The last pellet I tested was the .177-caliber H&N Sniper Magnum. This one weighs 15 grains in .177 and I no longer see it on the website, either. The 397 liked them, though, and put five into 0.709-inches at 25 yards.

Sniper Magnum group
Five H&N Sniper Magnum pellets made this 0.709-inch group at 25 yards.

Adjusted sights

It was time to take the best pellet and shoot a group of 10. I adjusted the rear sight more to the right and down. Then I set out 10 JSB Exact Heavy pellets.

10 shots

I hate to make excuses but on this group I was having a hard time seeing the sights and the sight picture. And my target shows it. Ten shots went into 1.241-inches at 25 yards. The group is completely open and I think it’s obvious it was me and not the rifle. My eyes just couldn’t keep up. I want to try this again when I have regular glasses and am fresh.

JSB Heavy group 2
Ten JSB Exact Heavy pellets went into this scattered 1.241-inch group at 25 yards.

Well, I may have lost it but at least we know the rear sight adjustments work as they should.

Summary

This new Benjamin 397 is a wonderful follow-on for the line that began back in the 1940s. It has a longer pump stroke that’s more efficient, though 1,100 f.p.s. is a pipe dream unless you shoot only trick pellets โ€” and nobody who wants to hit the target does that!

The synthetic stock is not right for use with open sights, and to my mind this rifle is made for open sights. Also, changing the hole pattern for the peep sight wasn’t such a good thing, either. Now I have to abandon the handful of sights and bases I have for these rifles and get something new. 

I plan to test the rifle with a dot sight and perhaps with a scope if I can get it mounted securely. And I have a secret up my sleeve that only one reader knows about. So you will see the new 397 again, and again.

61 thoughts on “Benjamin 397 Variable Pump Air Rifle: Part 4”

  1. B.B.,

    Too bad they not only messed with the stock they also messed with the sights! Not good for old airgunners but good for new ones that don’t have much history yet along with a collection of accoutrements. You might want to put a lanyard on your glasses so they are with you all the time.

    Siraniko

  2. I love this rifle. I’m okay with the synthetic stock, but the cheek piece is unacceptable. If her cheek piece were reasonable, the 397 would be in my short list. In my opinion, an adjustable cheek piece would’ve been great for this rifle. As the pump powerplant does not have the coil of a springer or a gas ram, there would be no issues with cracks on the adjustable cheek pieced stock.

    I wonder if there are any after market stocks for this beauty.

      • RidgeRunner,
        I emailed Steve Corcoran at https://www.scstocksandgrips.com/about in regards to inletting the 45deg holes on forestocks he said :

        Me: Q about the 45deg hole. gamo/bsa etc

        SC: Not worked with those guns but some of the older FWB guns had angled forearm mount screws and have built many of those. I use a duplicator to cut my stocks and those holes are oriented by the machine so I don’t drill or locate them after the fact. Not sure how I would do that otherwise.

        Me: Whats a duplicator? can you send a picture on one please?

        Yes a stock duplicator. I don’t free hand anything except the design and you can drill and patch until you get things right on the master and then it is correct for the stock itself.
        I do this for a living and can only survive with the help of machinery.
        Thanks for looking.
        Steve

        So there you go. Try, try. try again and then duplicate! Of course!

        Thank you to Steve Corcoran for answering my emails and supplying a picture of his duplicator. If we can all visit his website for a nosy around I am sure he would be pleased. This guy took time to talk to me knowing that I would share with you guys. I was impressed that he got back to me so quickly and took time to write some words. This is great, and he certainly has the magic. Do we love craftsmanship! Yep. : – ) Robert.

          • RidgeRunner,
            Dreams can be a very good way to kick off an action. You consider things and maybe one day work out how to make that a reality. I dream about having something of that look but hand made by me. This is realisable. ( of course it will not be as amazing…) and Steve caters to the non DIY market. He has a business. I have not that kind of spending money but have diy skills so I can dream a bit harder in that amazing direction. : – ) Robert. PS Watch this space!

  3. Multi pumps were the only thing that you saw in Boyโ€™s Life and Popular Mechancs and Popular Science when I was a kid back in the 60s and 70s. I never saw any Dianas or break barrels for sale. You didnโ€™t worry whether you could put a scope on it or not because you had young eyes.You even got some good groups at 25 yards with older eyes ๐Ÿ™‚

    Brent

      • Gunfun1,

        Me, too. When I was a Boy Scout, I drooled over the ads for Benjamins and Sheridans in “Boy’s Life.” It’s what I remember most about the magazine. Articles about fire-buiding or best methods for chopping firewood? Snake bite first aid? Nah. I sought out those ads first!

        Michael

        • Michael
          I remember the shooting and hunting magazines had like a classified ad in the back of the magazine. I would always check that first before looking at the magazine articles. If remember right thats how I ended up with my first ARH catalog

    • Brent,

      Like you, when I was a pre-teen reading “Boy’s Life,” serious air rifles were multi-pumps. I don’t believe I ever knew springer pellet rifles existed until I got into airgunning in my 40s.

      My 70-year-old brother-in-law still thinks of multi-pumps as the most powerful airguns available, because when he was a child, that was the case. I’ve given up explaining to him that the most powerful springers are more powerful than stock multi-pumps. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure he knows about springer pellet guns to this day.

      Michael

      • Michael
        I was kind of the same about pump guns when I was a kid.

        Funny thing is I knew about the FWB 300 back then as well as the hw30. The problem back then was I couldn’t afford those European air guns at 80 to a 150 bucks or so when I was a kid. But I dreamed about them. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. You got a couple of fine groups at 25 yards, especially using the open sights! I have had to give up on open sights, and go to either a scope, or something like my old BSA red dot. And, getting a red dot that works with my eyesight is not easy. Some dot sights present a fuzzy blob, or even a a star with a comet tail. The BSA unit is not bad. It states that is is a 5 moa, but is actually much smaller than that, which I like. Also, the mount base flips over so it fits either a dovetail 3/8 rail, or a Weaver Picketinney rail, which is a genius feature. I shoot better groups generally with a scope with crosshairs, but this BSA isn’t far off the pace. Ha! I have it on my Red Ryder right now! Just dong some quiet and fun plinking.

  5. BB,

    It is a real shame that they did not have a shooter try out that new stock design before they ordered a gazillion of them. It is sounding like there are a few other “minor” changes they should have left alone. I guess those changes are to help the other companies to sell new products. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. “The holes are in the wrong place.”
    B.B.,
    That’s really sad! Someone’s asleep at the wheel there. Those rifles are really sweet with peep sights. On my old Sheridan, I had to have a machinist drill and tap it in order to install the factory-purchased peep sight (from Williams); but when I bought a later Benjamin model for my brother, they had the factory-drilled holes for the peep sight…a nice touch and much-appreciated. Why in the world would a manufacturer mess with a winning formula? You want to give the gun a bit more power? Great. But do not mess with the things you developed over the years that were working so well!
    (Any Crosman execs listening? I hope so. I love your products, in general, but you really need to fix this one!)
    Great groups, though, B.B., so this gun has potential. =>
    Take care & God bless,
    dave

  7. I have a Crosman 1400 and 2200 So I probably wonโ€™t buy another multi-pump unless I find a Sheridan, a Sharp or some oddball in a pawnshop. Why mess with multi-pumping when you can get 17-18 FPE with one pump thatโ€™s semi recoilless in a Diana 54.

    Brent

  8. BB’s a great shot, even with a campsite shooter like this. This is what I consider a knock about type of tool.
    Not too precious, durable, reliable, and with the right pellets, plenty accurate, with just enough power
    to be humane, if that’s what is required. It looks nice with with a wood stock too. If the stock sights were a little nicer, like on a break barrel,it would encourage users to adjust them, but they seem to work well enough.
    Maybe the paint on the barrel end acts like a choke..
    Rob

  9. B.B. and Readership,

    Just received three notifications that Geo and R.R. had replyed to a post of mine. The problem is that it ws from January 20, 2020! Also, they showed up in my SPAM Folder! Maybe they got hungup in the translation pooka in China?

    I wonder what else the IT folks are up too?

    shootski

  10. “The synthetic stock is not right for use with open sights, and to my mind this rifle is made for open sights.”

    B.B., I agree! The very low open sights, being close to the bore line, make the 39x rifles far superior to nearly all other guns for high angle shots on pests in trees (much less projectile trajectory deviation from the shooter’s line of sight with distance). My Silver Streak is my favorite tree and roof pester, but my 397 and 392 are right there with it.

    It’s really a shame the excellent Williams peep sight no longer fits the rifle too. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts about drilling and tapping the new gun for the Williams peep. Would both holes need to be drilled and tapped or would the William sight fit with just one new hole (is there room for new holes)?

    Even the last of the wood stocks had a comb that was a touch high for some shooters using iron sights. A buddy of mine took the comb down on his wood 397 stock. If I had a new plastic stock model, I’m pretty sure I could cut down the plastic and then cover it with a new 3D-printed cheek piece–maybe even make it adjustable.

    -Cal

    • Cal,

      The new Air Venturi William 64 Peep sight will work with this Benjamin according to PA. The bottom line is quoted from the PA site. The peep sight that BB tried was the older version, for the models older than 5 years, I assume.
      “Williams Peep Sight for Benjamin Sheridan multi-pump rifles manufactured in the last 5 years. Factory-drilled and tapped for easy installation. Comes with two screws for mounting.”
      https://www.pyramydair.com/product/air-venturi-williams-64-peep-sight?a=5
      I wonder if BB has the new Williams peep sight at home. Maybe the new stock might work flawlessly with the new peep sight. PA should send one to him. I wonder how it’ll work.

      • Fish, Thanks! That link you provided to PY-A-5 is the sight I got from PA for both my 392 and 397 rifles. I checked my receipt and it was just over five years ago. I think maybe my 39x sights are “newer” and will also fit the plastic stock 39x guns.

        I think the 5DSH (Mac1 Airgun Shop and Midway still list them) is the older sight and it’s the one that won’t work on the new plastic stock 39x guns. (I also think I knew all this stuff years ago, but I’ve forgotten it all! :()

        • Cal,
          I believe it was about a year ago when i checked the compatibility of that sight, and on the PA page, it was saying the same thing, ‘in the last 5 years.’ So at the moment, we are sure about the last 6 years. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • “The very low open sights, being close to the bore line, make the 39x rifles far superior to nearly all other guns for high angle shots on pests in trees”
      Cal,
      I am with you 100 percent! In my younger days, running around the woods with my Sheridan, I might get a shot at a squirrel that was 20 yards up in a tree, but at a lateral distance of only 15 feet. With the Sheridan, you could shoot dead-on and be on target; with a scoped rifle, you would over-shoot unless you held the crosshairs low, below the squirrel’s head, since, gravity-wise, this is only a 15-foot shot. =>
      Keep lovin’ that old Sheridan,
      dave

      • P.S. And I know that from scoping my Sheridan for a time, before I removed the scope; it is so much nicer with the peep sight, better balance (in my opinion). Although, I do have to admit that, shooting this afternoon, a scoped springer will outshoot it…
        …as sadly, my 62-year-old eyes are not as good as my teenage eyes were!
        But I’ll still keep the old Sheridan un-scoped for nostalgic reasons; when I run around the farm with it, I can pretend I’m back in my teen years…good memories. =>

      • Thedavemyster, Exactly! Even if you have the scope hold-under worked out, “gravity-wise” (I like that term), it’s too hard to estimate and remember it. I Just put the Sheridan front sight on the pest and, like you said, a dead-on hold makes ’em dead!

        I still get a lot of tree rats. They jump off the trees and onto our roof and then chew through the soffits and into our ceiling space where they wreak more havoc. After about two years of seriously culling the pests (and I never lost one with the Sheridan) and culling them all, I broke their reproductive cycle within their nests in our ceiling and attic space. I think the offspring used to return to the home of their birth and then the cycle would start all over again. Lately, they’ve returned around the house in numbers but they’ve been staying out of our house. Of course I put up barriers but it’s amazing what they can chew past and around!

  11. By my count B.B. pumped this msp 130 times for todayโ€™s report.

    Has anyone else done this for an intense accuracy test with a msp? This is a significant factor that is being over looked in this open sight review.

    Now onto something else that happened today at Pyramyd Air. Theyโ€™re now selling the FX Impact MK3. The release of the FX Impact MK3 upgrades from previous model by FX were just was detailed formally today. FX for all of their faults are ingenious in their marketing. The buzz on all forums are at all all time high. On one forum I saw 9 FX Impact previous renditions listed for sale on their classifieds within 90 minutes.

    It would take a 20 part series at least for B.B. to review the new FX Impact MK3 but it would be interesting

  12. Hello.
    Just decided to have a shoot at 6m after doing some intense weeding in the garden. ( weeds are carnivorous over here…).
    I was shaking like a leaf from exertion but still managed a good group. (Standing ! No rest!) The right one. Now that is “one ragged hole” right? And the scope is ranged for 20m. So I have an n hold over at 6m, Zero at 20 and two mil dot hold over at 50. Tonight is range night! Yey so I get to shoot at the not muddy, wet, raining or windy 21m range! Lets hope it’s actually on this time…. Robert.

    PS. looked at the https://www.pyramydair.com/product/benjamin-multi-pump-air-rifle-black-kit?m=4942
    and now the scope looks way too high. The rings, the rail and the clamps… shake my head. Fugly…. that’s a definite nope form me. Did the person who decided to make that combo even shoot it ? This is where tacticool and utilitarian have a train wreck. Maybe it needs a laser as well? ;- )

    • Robert,

      Very nice. Better than I can do. I usually need to brace off on at least something.

      I think it was Shootski that was talking about “handy slings?” awhile back. You wrap your arm into it to improve steady when shooting standing/off hand.

      Chris

      • Chris USA,
        Went to the range and had some interesting experiences. 1) Twits: I was shooting with a mixed group. .22LR sub sonic semiauto/bolt action and myself .177 slow to load sproinger. a) I was getting pelted with brass. b) They started talking loudly while I was on my last shots out of five for the stance ( they had no range manners ). Was not impressed by this on range, in contest mode nonsense and the worst offender missed the entire target twice. If they took a little bit more time to shoot and stopped blinking talking….
        2) I did good! ( targets in my box too far to reach and photograph fro the now….) The guy who is 2IC came up to me and gave me a talking to about improving. I was slightly aghast as I thought I had done bad… turns out I was right up there with the irregulars and turning in groups that just need to move onto the bulls eye. All that practice in the garage has paid off! Now, I wonder how much is coming down to the pellets ???? and how the heck do I work out what is good ? At $25 a tin I am not buying a selection to find out! and this: The flight time and clonk of the .22lr sub vs the .177 8.6 gr at 21m is pretty close. There does not seem to be much difference. All I have to do now is get good. Robert.

        • Robert,

          I would not care for that range,… but if you must,.. you must.

          Ammo? Well,… there is various sorting techniques out there. If you are using good stuff (JSB, HN, etc.),.. a lot of people can not get a difference unless you have a top end gun and are an extremely good shooter. Sorting is a whole other can of worms/rabbit hole. A scale for weight and some digital calipers is better than nothing. At the least,… you can weed out anything that is really off.

          Thanks for the update,……….. Chris

          • Chris USA,
            It’s the only range in town. Will try to instigate some range manners. Talk to the boss. I think there might be some leadership issues which has let bad manners creep in. No one seems to really take it seriously and yet they drive there, carry all their kit in, buy everything they need and more etc. There is no sit down debrief about peoples shooting etc. Where is the love ??? Heck if it was my range I would do things waaaay different. For a start we all shake hands first !!! I go to a range and trust others to look after my health and vice versa. Trust starts with a good handshake ( in my book anyhow ). Then we all learn each others names. Jack , John, Marylou, Martha etc. and it’s not about following the range masters guide as matter of course, it’s about doing the right things as a learned safety skill ( this includes being mindful of others ) . and getting good at shooting, talking to each other and being social and relaxed. Having worked with educating people directly for last few years I have learned a lot about how to get people encouraged and moving forward. The self respect and respect for other shooters is basic common sense. One guy burped loudly. I mean come on that is just childish BS. I was on my last shot when he did that. If I could go to a range that has a much higher IQ I would. But that means a 100click drive one way to get there…. and I am pretty sure if you turn up with anything less than FWB/Steyr/Anschutz etc etc they will think I am a knuckle dragger and ask me to get better kit. ( not really urban hillbilly enough for my taste…). But I will not let this get in my way. The range is good, the people are marginal. Fix the people! The range is literally five minutes drive from my home, so I am pretty interested in helping it along. Would shoot there two/three times a week no problem… but no, twice a month. Darn!
            Talking loudly on the range while shooters are still shooting?…. gosh and darn. Children….. please be quiet! ; – ) Robert.

        • RobertA,

          Thanks for the update! The pellet really makes a difference. It depends on your objective. Just to shoot any inexpensive pellet will do. To always hit where you aim an expensive pellet might be the ticket, unless you have a rarity that shoots cheap pellets accurately.

          Siraniko

          • Siraniko,
            So if I was to go up or across in quality… from the HN Field target trophy 8.6gr … what would you suggest?
            CROSMAN Premier .177 cal 10.5 grains Packs of 1250 $45.00
            JSB Exact Diabolo 4,52 size 8.44gr or 10.34 gr Packs of 500 $27.00
            RWS SUPERDOME & SUPERFIELD .177 cal Dome head 8.3gr Packs of 500 $23.00
            I’m new to selecting pellets and so far I can get the HN no problem. Thanks! : – ) Robert.

            • RobertA,

              I agree with Chris. The HN Field Targets seem to be doing you will enough. Until you get a hankering to seek more accuracy that’s when you have to invest in a tin and find out how much a difference they can make.

              Siraniko

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