Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend – Part II

Monday, July 22, 2013
Two of Your Humble Correspondent's Sheridans. At top, a 50th anniversary Sheridan. At bottom, a modern Silver Streak modified with a globe front sight.

Two of Your Humble Correspondent’s Sheridans. At top, a 50th anniversary Sheridan. At bottom, a modern Silver Streak modified with a globe front sight.

Today, the modern Sheridan lives on, in a sense, in the Benjamin 392 (.22 caliber) and Benjamin 397 (.177 caliber) multi-stroke pneumatic rifles that Crosman Corporation still manufactures. They are identical in all but caliber with the modern generation of Sheridans.

When I wrote about the modern Sheridans in 2004, retro-cranks complained that “they don’t build them like they used to.” From a certain perspective that is certainly true. But from what I’ve seen on the factory floor, there is a lot to be said about the benefits of modern manufacturing.

Today, the barrels, made with the same alloy and same process, are purchased from the same supplier that made them for the Racine factory. The breech is now CNC machined so they are consistent and precise from unit to unit. The trigger guard is now a zinc casting and the trigger is made from powdered metal. Previously, they were stamped parts. The biggest change is that brazing the action together – an operation that was highly dependant on operator skill and often required re-work – has been automated so that it is far more consistent from day to day, gun to gun. Modern Streaks weigh six pounds and measure 36.5 inches end-to-end, including a 19.38-inch barrel with one turn in 12 inches.

While the manufacture of parts for the Benjamin/Sheridan has been largely automated, the assembly and testing of the guns is still done manually by highly skilled operators in the same way that it was done back in Racine. Every gun is tested for compression, velocity, operation and safety, and a portion of the guns are tested for accuracy.

These multi-stroke pneumatic (MSP) air rifles have their own particular charm. They are easier to shoot well than a spring-piston air rifle, but they must be pumped up multiple times after each shot. They seem to me to be the air rifle equivalent of a muzzle-loader, a Hawken gun. Shooting is more deliberate. You have to work a little for your shots, but then it seems that I enjoy each round a bit more. Give a Benjamin/Sheridan a trio of pumps, and you can plink or shoot targets at short range. With eight pumps you can easily dispatch the rabbit that has been raiding your garden. With a peep sight mounted, accuracy is sufficient to hit anything that appears as wide as the front sight blade. When a neighbor calls wanting a pest control “favor,” a Benjamin or Sheridan MSP air rifle is my go-to choice.

There three common complaints about Benjamin/Sheridan multi-stroke pneumatic air rifles. The first is that it is difficult to mount a scope on them. That is true, and there are two solutions that I can recommend. The first is to forget about the scope and mount a Williams peep sight. It keeps the rifle light and there is no scope to interfere with hand placement while pumping. The second is to forward-mount a pistol scope, scout rifle style. You can read more about that here: http://198.154.244.69/blog/2011/06/benjamin-scout-rifle.html

The second common complaint is that the trigger is mediocre. You can readily improve it by installing a Supersear. You can read more about that here: http://198.154.244.69/blog/2009/03/installing-benjamin-supersear.html

The third complaint is that people don’t like all that pumping. Steve Woodward has addressed this by developing the Air Conserving Pumper, which drastically reduces the time and effort between shots and is quieter than the factory model. You can read all about the ACP here http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/BenjaminACP.htm You can read my review of the first generation ACP here: http://198.154.244.69/blog/2009/01/steve-from-ncs-wicked-cool-air.html

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

2 Comments

  1. Don Clark says:

    Hi, Jock,

    If the Sheridan “lives on” in the Benjamin 39x, it is probably also true that the Sheridan C/CB was born as the Benjamin 31x. So many parts interchange between the two that one might think Bob Krause used the Benjy as a model in designing a replacement for his masterpiece A/B that wouldn’t sell. I miss our buddy Ted, too, and still think about him often. And I wonder what, if anything, the heirs to his Sheridan collection and research intend to do in furthering his labor of love.

    Best,

    Don

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Don,

      Thanks for your comments, and, yes, I miss Ted a lot.

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