Recently, a fellow ham radio operator and writer called me. He had just bought a place in the country, and he wanted an airgun for pest control: squirrels in the nut trees, rabbits and woodchucks in the garden, and possibly raccoons in the garbage.
“At what range are you going to shoot?” I asked.
“Not more than 15 yards,” he said.
“How are your eyes?”
“How ‘bout your arms?”
“Fine,” he said. “Are you going to recommend an airgun or give me a physical?”
“Just one more question: how much do you want to spend?”
“Not a whole lot,” he said.
In the back of my mind, an answer was lurking. . . and it was obvious, too. What he needed was my go-to gun.
Before we get to just what my go-to gun is, you need to know a couple of things. First, I am not a big-time airgun hunter. I spend most of my time punching paper or shooting field target. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have anything against hunting; I just don’t spend much time doing it.
Second, many of my neighbors know that I am an airgunner. As a result, occasionally I get phone calls requesting that I do a pest control “favor.” When that happens, I reach into one of my cabinets and pull out either a Benjamin 392 or a Sheridan Streak.
Both are multi-stroke pneumatic air rifles that stretch a hair over three feet long and weigh around six pounds. The chief difference between the two is that the Benjamin 392 is .22 caliber, and the Sheridan is .20 caliber. Both will generate around 13 foot pounds of energy when pumped up with eight strokes.
Whenever I’ve used either of these guns to do a pest control favor for a neighbor, I’ve been successful. So I told my friend to get a Benjamin 392 or a Sheridan, keep the range short if it is a bigger pest animal like a raccoon, and be selective about his shots, because with a multi-stroke pumper, he won’t get a fast second shot.
Recently, I had the chance to check out two of the latest crop of Crosman Corporation’s multi-stroke pneumatic pumpers. The first is a Benjamin 397, which is the .177 version of the 392. The other is a Sheridan Silver Streak. Both of these guns are, in my opinion, among the best-looking Benjamins and Sheridans that have ever been made. That’s because of the restyled stock that has been created for these guns, with a slightly raised cheek piece and a slanted “cut” between the forestock/pumping arm and the rest of the stock. The overall effect is very sleek and elegant.
I ran into a curious problem with the Benjamin 397. I could not get the gun zeroed at 13 yards with the Williams peep sight mounted. With the peep sight bottomed out, the gun was still shooting 1-2 inches high. I tried shooting with just four pumps in the gun, but that didn’t work. I called the factory, and they acknowledged that they sometimes see this problem. Further, they are looking into a solution, which may involve increasing the height of the front sight.
Ultimately, I solved the sight problem with the 397 by mounting a Bushnell Trophy Red Dot sight out on the middle of the barrel, scout rifle style. I used a pair of Crosman intermounts, which clamp to the barrel, and a pair of 30mm scope rings to attach the red dot to the intermounts. By mounting the sight midway up the barrel, it leaves me room to grab the 397 just forward of the breech when I am pumping it up. The result is an air rifle that handles well, swings easily and can be sighted with both eyes open.
In enjoy both of these pumper air rifles. The 397 launches 7.9 grain Crosman Premier pellets downrange at 741 fps average. That works out to about 9.6 fp of energy. I wondered what kind of penetration I could get with that kind of energy, so I nested three tin cans inside each other (a soup can inside a vegetable can inside a fruit can) so there were potentially six layers of metal to penetrate.
At eight pumps, the 7.9 grain Crosman Premiers blew through two layers of metal and several deformed the third. So I tried Crosman Silver Eagle lead free hollow points. They penetrate two layers and ripped a ragged tear in the third layer but did not fully penetrate. Finally, I tried Dynamic SN-1 7.9 grain non-lead pellets. They punched a hole through all six layers of metal like a hot knife going through butter.
The Sheridan Silver Streak was problem free. With a Williams peep sight mounted, tt zeroed just fine at 13 yards with eight pumps, sending Benjamin 14.3 grain .20 cal cylindrical pellets through the chronograph at an average of 640 fp. When I’m not shooting the Silver Streak, I like to look at it. It certainly is one of the prettiest air rifles I’ve seen in a long while.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott