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DIY Benjamin 397 Variable Pump Air Rifle: Part 5

Benjamin 397 Variable Pump Air Rifle: Part 5

Benjamin 397
The new Benjamin 397.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

This report covers:

  • New stock’s comb too high
  • The secret
  • Not firewood
  • Bumper quiets operation
  • Stippled
  • Crosman did it right!
  • Does it work?
  • No more info

Today’s report takes a second look at the Benjamin 397 variable pump air rifle.

New stock’s comb too high

The new 397 is supposed to shoot .177 pellets at 1100 f.p.s. but that was disproved in Part 2. It also has a high comb that is better suited to the use of a scope.The open sights can’t be seen when shooting with this stock unless you slide your head back behind the cheekrest.

You will remember that we tested this with a different stock so BB could see the open sights, and when we did the rifle was very accurate. But I had to install the stock from my Benjamin 392 pump-assist rifle, and I only mounted the butt because the forearm is held on by two roll pins that I didn’t want to remove. More on that in a bit.

397 wood
The wood stock from an older 392 doesn’t have the high comb and is therefore suited to see the open sights. But it looks horrible. I wouldn’t leave the rifle this way.

The secret

I mentioned at the end of Part 4 that I had a secret that only one reader knew about. That reader was Hank, whose handle is Vana2. We all know that Hank is a woodworker whose 6-part report about building a firewood stock was a reader favorite. I contacted Hank and asked about the possibility of him making a firewood stock for the new 397 and we came to an agreement. He has been quietly making the stock for this 397 behind the scenes since mid-April.

Not firewood

For some reason, Hank couldn’t make a firewood stock. I think it has to do with a thin place in the forearm and the pump arm putting too much pressure on that place. So he asked if I would like one made from curly maple. Would I ever! Curly maple is some of the most beautifully figured wood, in my opinion. Even a piece that isn’t fully figured can be beautiful. But Hank being Hank, the stock and forearm he made are 100 percent figured. 

Hank stock
The stock and forearm Hank made are 100 percent figured curly maple. Gorgeous!

Now, I know that woodworkers have a select reserve of beautiful wood they hold back for special projects. This wood didn’t come from a pallet! This is some of the good stuff Hank has been keeping in reserve. I now thank him publicly for letting me have some of his special timber. The beauty of this stock means I will purchase this 397 from Pyramyd AIR and keep it for myself. You can bid on it at my estate sale.

Bumper quiets operation

In Part One I said this about pumping the rifle:

The forearm is longer by several inches for increased leverage, and it makes a loud clacking sound when it slaps agains the pump tube. This is the perfect place for some thin rubber, and my old silicone kitchen cutting mat is probably the perfect thickness. If I were keeping the rifle I’d glue a sliver of the mat on the pump tube where they connect.”

Well, I don’t have to do that because Hank fixed it when he made the stock. He put a synthetic bumper at the point the forearm contacts the pump tube.

bumper
Hank put this synthetic bumper pad at the inside end of the forearm.

Stock Up on Shooting Gear

Stippled

You will notice stippling in the pictures. Hank has stippled the pistol grip and the forearm very tastefully. It is aggressive and provides a good grip. The grip also has a small palm swell on the right side, for a more comfortanble fit.

Crosman did it right!

And one more thing. When Crosman made this new 392 and 397 series they quit attaching the forearms with roll pins and used Phillips screws. That means it’s easy to detach the factory forearm and attach the one Hank made. Thank you, Crosman, for this change.

Does it work?

Yes, friends, this new stock does work. Hank got rid of that overly high cheekpiece and I have already fired the rifle at 12 feet, putting a pellet through a pellet hole at which I was aiming. This is the stock the 397 should have, though not in curly maple.

No more info

I know a few more things about this stock, but I’ll let Hank tell you about them himself. He will be writing a guest blog to tell us about this project. And there is no rush, Hank. I intend to test the rifle for accuracy with the new stock. And then I guess I’ll get the new sight base that fits this receiver so I can test with a dot sight and a scope.

All I can say is I now “own” (I still have to pay Pyramyd AIR for it) the most beautiful 397 on this planet!

397 with new stock
The Benjamin 397 with the new stock made by reader Hank, turns the rifle into one that can be used with the open sights that come from the factory.

author avatar
B.B. Pelletier
Tom Gaylord is known as The Godfather of Airguns™ and has been an airgunner for over a half-century, but it was the Beeman company in the 1970s that awoke a serious interest in airguns. Until then, all he knew were the inexpensive American airguns. Through the pages of the Beeman catalog, he learned about adult airguns for the first time. In 1994, Tom started The Airgun Letter with his wife, Edith. This monthly newsletter was designed to bring serious reports about airguns to the American public. The newsletter and Airgun Revue, a sister magazine about collectible airguns, was published from 1994 until 2002, when Tom started Airgun Illustrated -- the first American newsstand magazine about airguns. Tom worked for three years as technical director at AirForce Airguns, the makers of the Talon, Condor, and Escape precharged air rifles. Today, he writes about airguns and firearms for various publications and websites. He also makes videos, and you'll find short clips embedded in some of his artices on Pyramyd AIR's website. Tom is a consultant to Pyramyd AIR and writes under the name of B.B. Pelletier.

51 thoughts on “Benjamin 397 Variable Pump Air Rifle: Part 5”

  1. B.B.,

    That is such a beautiful rifle! Hank/Vana2 you have gone way over the top with that curly maple stock! It seems you have found a sight base from your collection that fits this rifle. Is that sight base still in production? Pellet on pellet at 12 feet may seem a short distance but it is sufficient to tease us regarding its accuracy in the future.

    Siraniko

    • GF1,
      Maple is nice to work with.
      Sorry, many of my stocks were made before I had a digital camera so there are no pictures available. That DIY series I did has most of the recent ones.

  2. Hank,

    Oh man, what a chunk of wood! You did it up right dude! That is one gorgeous stock!

    BB,

    Quite frankly, I would be afraid to shoot that very much. If I dinged that stock one itty bit, I would cry.

    That is the one bad thing about synthetic stocks; they are not easily fixed. I know it is beating a dead horse, but TCFKAC should have at least asked a shooter before they did this. They were trying to bring this old classic into the “new age”, but did not understand this air rifle. In today’s market, this thing has a very narrow niche. This air rifle is for the person that truly understands the strengths and weaknesses of a multi-pump.

    This would be great for sitting on the back porch on a leisurely Sunday afternoon, lazily popping feral soda cans and gee jawing with friends and family. It would also be excellent for ambushing the little garden pest.

    Hunting? Only if you limit yourself to a relatively close range, one shot kill. If you miss, your quarry is gone. Do you think a bushy tailed tree rat is going to hang around and watch in fascination as you stand there gyrating and flapping your arms around in some strange ritual that involves reloading for another shot? Only if he is laughing too hard to run away.

    With the coming of personnel and portable air supplies and a few decent sproingers, the “glory” days of these airguns have faded, but fortunately not gone away.

    Nice job Hank!

  3. Maybe instead of this beautiful rifle being sold at your estate sale ( in thirty or so years) you might will it to Hank. Just a thought. And to Hank. You do great work. Beautiful!

  4. B.B.,

    My Walther LGV Challenger is shooting SMOOOOOTHLY. Just as you described, it shoots with a quick, not loud “THUK.” There is zero vibration and twang. No honking. Just a mild, quick forward pulse.

    We’ve had on and off rain here that’s kept me from shooting my Walther LGV Challenger over my chronometer and into the berm at the rear of my backyard much, but on two occasions, after five warming-the-action shots, it launched 7.0 grain RWS Basic pellets from 924 fps. to 928 and climbing in velocity until it settled in at the upper 930s, with two shots just slightly above 940 fps. It has, by far, the tightest velocity spread of any of my springers (of those I have chronied). And as I kept shooting, it kept getting smoother, with the “THUK” getting quieter and quieter. My wife commented on how the honk is gone. I haven’t yet put a target out to see how accurate it is, but I expect it to be very good.

    Thanks so very much once again for fixing my sick LGV. I really think of it as your curing an ailment, not just tuning it.

    Michael

    • Michael,

      Thank you so much for posting this comment. I have been awaiting to hear your thoughts with nervous anticipation.

      The thing is — it was easy, once the gun was apart. And it came apart easier than I expected. And the amount of TIAT that’s needed is far, far less than I imagined. If I hadnb’t done the second tune I never whould have known how little grease is required — even for a buzzer like your rifle!

      BB

  5. B.B., et al,
    First, Hank. that stock is a kind and most generous piece of work. That is most certainly a “keeper.” Both for the craftsmanship and for your choice of wood for the stock. Speaks much of quality of the giver.

    Early on in theBible, God says that. “It is not good for man to be alone.” I don’t think that He was advocating for universal marriage. No one knows all that is needed in life. We do need others to come alongside and supply the missing pieces; information, skills. A bit out of context, but indeed, “No man is an island.” Often it is not what we know, but rather, who we know.

    RR, I agree that a 392 may be just the thing for ambushing a garden pest. I have too many pellet rifles that I’ve acquired trying to find the “one”, low tech reliable, accurate shooter. I need to revisit Hank’s guest blog regarding the firewood stock. My woodworking skills are at the building framing level, circular saw, tape measure, framing hammer. I will have to stretch a lot to make a stock, but it may well be worth the task.

    Be well, be safe, be kind,
    Dan

    • Dan,

      I agree completely. That is why I jumped on the possibility of Hank making this stock. Of course I never knew what a blessing he would make it, but that’s how we are to live our lives — with open hands to receive generous blessings.

      BB

    • Dan,

      Glad you like the stock!

      Don’t be shy about making your own. It’s not difficult, it just takes a bit of practice. Reread my stock making series and make a couple out of construction lumber to get comfortable with the process before tackling hardwood.

      Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

      Hank

  6. That stock is a beautifully-crafted work. The gift and skill of woodworking are ones FM wishes he had. Definitely, that little “pumper” is a keeper. Still can’t understand the design of the synthetic stock, but the thought and design process of so-called “modern” people seems to be…rather thoughtless.

    May you enjoy this beauty many years, B.B.

    • FM,

      The stock design was laziness. That is the same as the newest version of the Marauder. We are likely going to see it appear on quite a few of their upcoming models. Hopefully, they will not have open sights.

      • RR,

        Yeah, it seems totally half-assed to me. It would make sense if they’d combined it with a redesigned grooved breech or provided a good Picatinny adapter for easy red dot/scope mounting but they didn’t do that work, so we’re left wondering why they even bothered with the new stock shape instead of copying the old one.

        Maybe they’ll cough up the investment needed to either re-do the butt stock or design a good optics mounting option, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

        Nathan

  7. Hank is not only gifted with woodworking skills he’s an airgunner. Great combination for this project. Curly maple, palm swell, stippling and installing a synthetic button to quiet the “quacking” while pumping are evidence of Hanks “other gifts and knowledge” as an airgunner that he brought to this project.

    ps-the honking in Michaels LGV is gone and the quacking in B.B.’s 397 is gone. Must be nesting season for these birds.

  8. Hank,
    That is beautiful work on the stock. I look forward to reading about how you made it. I am particularly interested in learning about your method of inletting the action and your stippling technique. Keep up the good work.
    -Airman

    • Airman,

      I don’t go into any detail about making the Benjamin stocks because I did a 6 part stock DIY a while back (BB linked to it above). That series goes into the whole process from layout to finishing. I even show how I make my stippling tool.

      For inletting I use (fine) incremental passes on the tablesaw to cut the rough channel for the barrel (or pump tube) then clean up the little “steps” with sandpaper.

      For the trigger block I drill overlapping holes with a forstner bit, chisel off the “webs” and file/sand to the final size.

      Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
      Hank

      • Hank,
        Thanks for taking the time to reply and for sharing your expertise with us all.
        I will certainly revisit your series on stock making to read about the process in more detail.
        – Airman

  9. B.B., you are so right; you definitely had to buy that gun now that it has that stock!
    Hank, you outdid yourself on this one; that new custom stock is gorgeous! =>

  10. Vana2-Yowza! Now that is guilding the lilly! I guess the wood cost more than the pumper.
    Will sunlight fade the grain pattern? It just makes me want to pick it up.
    You are definately an air gunner!
    Rob

    • Rob,
      I wouldn’t leave any stock exposed to sunlight for extended periods but I’m pretty sure that the grain color won’t fade with normal use. It’s Aqua-fortis and the color comes from the reagent’s interaction with the wood itself so it is not just a surface pigment.

      With the new stock, the Benjamin “points” very well, I’ve balanced it for fast shooting and plinking.

      Yup, been an airgunner a (very) long time. 🙂
      Hank

  11. Hank,

    Wow, that is a gorgeous piece of wood! Almost feels like a waste to use it on the 397 instead of that HW30, but the final result is striking!

    Nathan

  12. BB,

    One thing I’ve noticed with the new site is that if I’m browsing the airgun catalogue comparing models or reading through a number of linked blog entries, I quickly trip the site’s rate limiter and am blocked from the Pyramydair site completely.

    I don’t know what the administrators have done with the settings, but as a regular reader and someone who works in IT, it’s annoying. For a new visitor or customer, it may well be a deal breaker.

    I’ve attached a screenshot, so they know what to look for.

    Thanks,
    Nathan

  13. Vana2 and B.B.,

    Hank: glad you made a fantastic looking stock for the 397! Downright SNEAKY way to “enable” Tom into buying another airgun. Of course it is now also a part of your inheritance and will have quite the Provenance!

    Tom: not to let your Enabler Creds go stale; my wife just pulled the trigger on a D.O.A. Shooting Bench for my Father’s Day gift. She bandied about your name and roll reviewing it. I hope you still think as highly of it!

    shootski

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