The Benjamin Trail NP Pistol

Monday, May 6, 2013
The Benjamin Trail NP pistol with the cocking assist handle detached.

The Benjamin Trail NP pistol with the cocking assist handle detached.

I have a weakness for air pistols. They are both fun and challenging to shoot. (Heck, any pistol is challenging to shoot because they don’t have the additional support of a shoulder stock.) I particularly enjoy shooting spring-piston air pistols because they deliver a mild jolt to the hand when they go off, and managing the recoil is the key challenge.

Nearly 18 months ago, I became aware that Crosman Corporation had plans in the works to build a spring-piston break-barrel air pistol based on the Nitro Piston powerplant. I was particularly interested because, to the best of my knowledge, no other company is building a break-barrel pistol based on gas ram/gas spring/Nitro Piston technology. From time to time I would send an email to my contact at Crosman and inquire when the pistol would be available. For quite a while, the answer always came back: “Not yet.” A couple of months ago, though, I got an email telling me that Crosman would send me one soon.  And sure enough, not long afterward, a UPS truck arrived bearing a large box containing the Benjamin Trail NP Pistol.

I yanked it out of the box, grabbed some Crosman Premier Light (CPL) 7.9 grain pellets and began banging away at some soup cans at seven yards. I found almost immediately that the NP pistol would punch through one side of a soup can at seven yards, but not both.  I tried the very light non-lead Crosman SSP Pointed pellets that were in the package, but I still could not penetrate both sides of the soup can. The other thing that I found immediately was that this pistol was fun to shoot. My initial impression was: “I like it! Decent rear sight, manageable recoil, useful cocking assist handle, and enough power to defend the birdfeeder at close range, fun to shoot.”

The rear sight hangs slightly over the rear of the receiver.

The rear sight hangs slightly over the rear of the receiver.

Before I tell you about the rest of my experience, let’s take a guided tour of this pistol. The Benjamin Trail NP Pistol is a single-shot, break-barrel pistol in .177 caliber. It stretches 16 inches from end to end, 19 inches with the cocking assist sleeve attached, and weighs just shy of three-and-one-half pounds. A metal notch-type rear green fiber optic sight that is adjustable for windage and elevation hangs over the back end of the receiver. Below that, the powerplant is made of metal and the “stock” (including the pistol grip) is made of a matte black polymer.

The pistol grip is studded with small protrusions that aid in gripping the pistol, and the same black polymer forms a guard around a black polymer trigger. Above the trigger is a push-button safety that displays a red ring when the safety is off. Beyond the trigger guard is a slot underneath the pistol that provides clearance for the cocking linkage.

The Benjamin Tral NP pistol with the cocking assist sleeve attached.

The Benjamin Tral NP pistol with the cocking assist sleeve attached.

Beyond that is a black metal barrel with has a polymer fitting on the end that serves as a protection for the muzzle and a mount for a blade-type red fiber optic front sight. Moving rearward, you’ll find the breech block and the receiver, which has dovetails for mounting the rear sight or a pistol scope or red dot. That’s all there is to the Benjamin Trail NP Pistol.

To ready the pistol for shooting, you could grab the muzzle end of the barrel and pull it down and back until it latches. But the barrel is short and the front sight would dig into the palm of your hand, so Crosman has provided a cocking assist handle that clips over the muzzle fitting but provides a slot for the front sight to poke through. Unlike other pistols that have offered cocking assist devices, the cocking assist handle for the Trail NP is designed to clip to the barrel of the gun so that it stays on while you are shooting it. It extends the length of the pistol by three inches and provides a place to grip the pistol for cocking that won’t dig into your hand.

The sight picture showing the two green dots of the rear sight on either side of the out-of-focus fiber optic red front sight.

The sight picture showing the two green dots of the rear sight on either side of the out-of-focus fiber optic red front sight.

So you grab the cocking assist handle in one hand and the pistol grip in the other and pull the muzzle down and back until it latches. This takes, I estimate, around 30 pounds of effort, but is very smooth and free of any noise. Next, slide a .177 pellet into the breech and return the barrel to its original position. Take aim, push the safety off, and squeeze the trigger.

Now, here’s where things get a little weird. When I first shot the Trail NP pistol, I was banging away at cans using a two-handed weaver grip and pulling straight through the trigger. If you had asked me then, I would have estimated the trigger pull at about five pounds. Later, however, I checked the trigger pull with my Lyman digital trigger gauge and found that the first stage requires 3 lbs. 13 oz, and the second stage is 7 lbs. 13 oz. I was astonished because the trigger didn’t feel that heavy to me. But I rechecked the pull a couple of times and those really are the numbers.  The second stage also has a lot of creep. When I was shooting groups, I found I would pull halfway through the second stage, recheck the sight alignment, and then pull the rest of the way to trigger the shot.

The Benjamin Trail NP sends 7.9 grain Crosman Premier pellets down range at 506 fps average, which works out to 4.49 foot-pounds of energy. Crosman claims, on the package, 625 fps with lead-free pellets, but that turned out to be too low.  The Benjamin Trail NP pistol sent 4-grain Crosman SSP Pointed pellets through my chronograph at a sizzling 720 fps, generating 4.6 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. The report was pretty subdued, not dead quiet but not loud enough, it seemed to me, to disturb the neighbors.

Shooting two-handed from a sitting position in my SteadyAim harness at ten yards, I found that the Trail NP would deliver 1.5-inch five-shot groups with just about any pellet I fed it. Generally I could put 3 shots into a group you could cover with a quarter but then I would get a couple of outliers that would expand the group.

In addition, as I was completing this review, I heard from the editor of Airgun Hobbyist magazine. He said that he had bought the Benjamin Trail NP pistol and could not get it to sight-in at 10 yards. There simply wasn’t enough elevation adjustment, he said. I did not have that problem with the sample that Crosman sent me, but I had to adjust the sight almost to the very limit of its travel. In addition, I have seen similar online comments from a couple of shooters. At this point, I do not know if the sight adjustment problem with this pistol is limited to a handful of units or is more widespread. Certainly this is something that Crosman should look into, in my opinion.

So where does that leave us with the Benjamin Trail NP pistol? Despite the heavy trigger, I found it a lot of fun to shoot. It is an excellent choice for an afternoon of plinking and is accurate enough and has sufficient power to defend the birdfeeder at close range. It would also be an appropriate pistol for controlling pigeons or rats in a barn. I believe a lot of airgunners will enjoy shooting this pistol as it stands so long as the sight can be properly adjusted, but with less trigger weight and creep, a pistol that I found enjoyable would be significantly improved.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

-          Jock Elliott

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26 Comments

  1. Miguel Jose says:

    Jock,

    As always, great review. However, let’s call a strike–a strike: If it can’t punch through a soup can, it can’t punch through a tree rat. So, the Trail NP pistol is essentially a marginal target pistol with a heavy trigger and questionable sights. I prefer air pistols that are capable of both target shooting and pest control. For example, the venerable Crosman 1377, although it has a heavy trigger too, can perform both roles. I enjoy the new nitro piston technology and own several of the NP airguns. Yet, the Trail NP pistol seems to fall short of the performance standard set by many of these new NP rifles. The Trail NP pistol should be pushing a 7.9-grain pellet much, much more than 506 f.p.s. Despite its new NP technology, there are better choices for backyard target shooting–and for eliminating a few pests.

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Miguel,

      Thanks for your comments.

    2. Rob says:

      (Responding to Miguel Jose:)
      I’ve been using one of these for a week now. And the trigger certainly takes some getting used to. But I would respectfully disagree with comparing this to a 1377. The Benji has a lot more power and if the Benji can’t go through both sides of a soup tin at 7 yards, then a 1377 certainly can’t. Anyway, what’s the big deal about BOTH sides? I never heard anyone complain about their gun not being able to shoot straight through a rat, in and out the other side. Normally the entrance wound is quite enough.

      The biggest complaint is the sheer weight and balance of the gun combined with the utterly abysmal fitted sights. I find it impossible to hold the gun in a normal 2-handed grip – the leading hand demands to be placed under the front stock to support it.

      But removing the back sight completely and fitting a red dot sight is a different story altogether – I don’t even feel the need for a shoulder stock. Due to the extra velocity the trajectory is far more flat than a 1377 (on 5-6 pumps), and when zeroed at 25 meters, putting the red dot on a rat-sized target at anything between 20 feet and 70 feet produces a hit 9 times out of 10. (Plus it’s a lot faster to cock and load than a 1377!)

      This gun is essentially half an air rifle, with most of the weight and heft that goes with it. I’ve yet to do purposeful target tests with it and, using a dot sight, it’s certainly not a target gun. It needs you to adjust to its oddities, but that’s quickly done, and (apart from the trigger) all the first impressions are favorable.

      1. Jock Elliott says:

        Rob,

        Thanks for the comments. I agree that a red dot would definitely improve this gun.

  2. JRMoreau says:

    Love this blog so much. Can’t wait to get my hand on one of these as well!

  3. Mark N says:

    Jock,

    For what it’s worth mine shoots low as well. The trigger is too hard for me to control.

    The angle of the barrel is clearly pointing down relative to the spring tube. It could be that the breech seal is too proud of the face of the breech creating the droop.

    Given that I can’t hit what I aim at either due to droop or flawed sights, plus the heavy trigger, I intent to return mine.

    Disappointed,
    Mark N

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Mark,

      Thanks for your comments.

  4. Primo says:

    Jock. If you get the chance could you review the Hatsan spring pistol that is similar in size to the benji.

  5. Rob says:

    ps – great article Jack! Forgot to say that!

  6. Ben says:

    Well I had to pick one of these Benji Trails up yesterday. I have to say that it is a great little pistol. I have several nice air rifles but was looking for something to plink with to work on my pistol skills. I will say this I went through 8 of them took them all out of the box and looked over each one before I bought one and there was a high degree of difference between them all. I would say that Crossman really needs to tighten down on quality control where ever they are being assembled! Thank you to the clerk who was patient enough and willing to let me be picky.
    The one I picked is lights out straight up shooter. Sights are good and the gun is well built. I will say that the only reason I looked over so many was because many of the others had bad rear sights and small misalignment on parts of the guns.
    I shoot H & N Baracuda Match and Baracuda Hunter at 10.65 grain. I did a 450 rounds last night with it and 300 today. I am still getting use to the interesting balance of the pistol but at 10yards standing un braced I am shooting sub inch 10 round groups with the H&N and 1.75 inch with JSB Exacts. I was looking around trying to figure out a good red dot and mount for it when I found this blog. As far as backyard plinker and a fun garage and camping target gun it is perfect!. Shooting pests 15 yards max. I shot 8 starlings with it today just to see how it would do and it did the job just fine. Rats should be good to out to 10 yards.
    I did some shooting with it out to 30 yards but from 20 out it got real bad but most of that is shooter error.

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Ben,

      Thanks for your comments.

  7. Art Shedlock says:

    Bought one about 2 weeks ago. Bad trigger, bad sights and hard to load.
    1- Disassembled trigger and polished all contact areas and applied moly paste to those contact areas.
    2- Put on a Pursuit red dot scope.
    3- Removed fromt sight – recrowned barrel and jigsawed off the verticle mountain, sanded and replaced. Need no cocking assist.

    Shooting 7.9 grain match wadcutters and it’s lights out at 15 yards.

  8. Joe Moraco says:

    I,am on my 2nd pistol and the 2nd is doing the same, shooting low with sight screw all the way up, the adj. screw pops out.I hate that rear sight! I am ready to take the gun back, if Walmart will take it back.I have a 1377c that shoots straight and true the np does not .

  9. Tim says:

    Your blog is great reading. I’m a little late to the game on this and purchased the Trail pistol about a month ago. Same issues as others. Rear site all the way up, Bad trigger but I also got one where the breech seal leaks, Put tissue on top of gun while shooting, it went flying off. Great idea that will fail due to poor quality control. Going back to my P1 as my fun gun pistol.

  10. Mike says:

    I have seen lots of posts about the low shooting issue. I’m not one to try 87 different kinds of pellets as I believe that they should all produce a good result. So, I’ve had my gun about 26 hours and this is what I did. After the 250 shot break in, I painted the lower part of the front ramp and used that as my guide. I noticed nice groupings at that point from 5 -10 yards. I then decided that the giant front sight was the problem. First I cut the top off and then the bottom. A few minutes with a small file to smooth out the cut surfaces and I was ready to epoxy the top back on. Once that was done I tightened the rear sight almost all the way down and experienced near perfection using premier hollow points. I was so happy with the result that I put the assist back on and had plenty of adjustment left to sight it in with it attached. I’m almost dangerous at 25 yards now and know that it is my own lack of skill, not the guns. Yes, it is stupid that I had to do this but it worked. On a side note, my gun came with an excellent trigger! A little stiff but the break is short and crisp. Hope that helps.

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Mike,

      Thanks for your comments and your innovative solution to the problem.

  11. Jimbo G says:

    Waiting on ups to deliver mine. My first air pistol. Can’t wait. I can deal with fixing sights. Hope everything else is tight. As a machinist I sometimes toy with the idea of making my own with a double spring or piston. This will be educational purchase, no fun allowed (wink wink).

  12. Jimbo G says:

    Got home from work today with a fresh tin of crosman premier hollow points. Found my new addition on the kitchen table. Took a few minutes of struggling before readinghow to “pop” the barrel open. First shot at my ding plates at 50yrds got a ringing report! After getting the feel for it the rest of the strikes were a lot less luck XD but all the worry of janky sights ,for mine at least, are put to rest. I hate to mess with them by scoping it but the eyes of a 45 yr old man-child are not so sharp. 6 out of ten hits at that distance sucks so I won’t feel like its cheating so much. I can’t seem to keep my heavy scope in place on my optimus due to the spring action but we will see if I have a little 4×28 that will do for my new Benji.The nitro piston is insane!!!smooth and QUIET!!.Gonna sand some smoothness on the grip in a couple spots but other than that, I give this gun a solid ten!!!.
    FYI- the EPA is forcing the last lead smelting plant to close in the USA. So be ready to see higher pellet prices soon.

  13. jonny says:

    Have mine less than a day and I’ve already improved the trigger. The original screw came all the way turned in from the factory. The dropout adjuster screws on 80s road bikes are the exact thread pitch and count. I cut one about 3mm longer than the original and blue loctited it in. I dremeled smooth the tip where it contacts the internals. Still somewhat heavy but no takeup slack.

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Jonny,

      Thanks for your input. Be very, very careful with trigger modifications!

      1. jonny says:

        Absolutely, always a good reminder. Just a followup, the new screw is only 2mm longer. This results in a crisp 3/8″ pull. Over travel does not go away and probably need for the charging action.

        I had a longer screw installed before and it would not cock so you can’t remove all take up. It feels a lot like my CZ 513 farmer 22lr. No staging, just a smooth pull.

  14. Jimbo G says:

    Just found out that a pellet gun less than 29″ overall length with a steel rifled barrel is considered a firearm by MICHIGAN law. I had to take it and have it registered as a handgun. Woulda been nice to know before buying it. Still happy I got it.

  15. Dale 77 says:

    I too lowered the front sight so that it would hit the target with the rear sight adjustment centered so that I could still make range adjustments. The trigger is heavy but I can live with it,
    My only real complaint now that the sight is fixed is that the gun is too heavy for off hand shooting. I must use a rest to get accurate shots. All in all it’s a good gun but it still can’t compare with my Beeman P17.

  16. Stew says:

    I bought this pistol, even though there were a lot of negative reviews. The first thing I did was lube all the moving linkages on the cocking mechanism. This made it a lot easier to cock. Then I started shooting it. And just like a lot of the reviews said, it shot low. I noticed that when the gun was fired the barrel would drop from the pressure,(break open a little). I then tightened the pivot screw just to the next notch and this problem seems to be solved. It doesn’t shoot low anymore. I do not shoot it with the cocking aid on, as a matter of fact I don’t use the cocking aid at all. When I lubed the linkages, that made it a lot easier to cock the gun. The trigger is not very good, but I put a different screw in it that is a little longer than the stock screw and adjusted it, and that seems to help a lot.
    If you choose to try the longer screw, be aware there is a fine line of adjustment to have the safety mechanism still function properly, or function at all.
    Anyway, I hope this helps someone that may be having these issues with this gun.

  17. DJ says:

    I have had this gun for a while and like it.
    Like most I don’t like the rear sights.
    Has anyone found any open rear sights that work with the stock front sight.
    I had a red dot but don’t like scopes.
    Going to go buy an BSA Optics
    Holographic Weapon Sight and see how it works.
    I’ll post up after I get a few rounds out of it.

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      DJ,

      Thanks for your comments. I look forward to reading what your experience with the BSA sight.

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