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.”
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.
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.
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