Posts Tagged ‘Nitro Piston’

The SIG ASP20 - A Great New Breakbarrel Air Rifle

The SIG ASP20 was one of the most-anticipated air rifles to be introduced in 2018.

I first shot it at the 2018 SHOT Show in January, then again at the formal SIG Press Launch in July 2018. Now the ASP20 is shipping in both .177 and .22 calibers and you can buy yours from Airguns of Arizona, of course!

So, what’s been happening since the July Press Launch?

Well, SIG has been making a few small tweaks and final testing to ensure that their first in-house developed airgun performs as well as the legions of SIG SAUER firearms owners would expect. SIG Air’s Development Manager Ed Schultz confirmed to me that the company has made over 200,000 shots through multiple ASP20 test guns prior to production commencing.

Yes, over two hundred thousand!

Some individual guns have exceeded 10,000 shots each, he said. And all of this durability testing has been done by hand – no testing machines. Wow! It’s a good job that the cocking effort of the ASP20 is lighter than that of most break barrel air rifles at this power level!

The SIG ASP20 - A Great New Breakbarrel Air Rifle

SIG is currently shipping the wood stock ASP20. Synthetic stock guns will follow, as will scope bundles with the SIG Whiskey3 ASP 4-12 x44 AO scope.

The gun I’ve been shooting is .177 caliber with wood stock and Whiskey3 scope. SIG mounted and sighted-in the Whiskey3 scope before shipment, so it was ready to shoot, straight out of the box.

Immediately you shoulder the ASP20, it’s clear that this is a nicely-balanced air rifle. The center of gravity lies exactly where your forward hand naturally rests to support the stock. The forend is not too wide, just comfortable, too.

The test gun weighed-in at 9 Lbs 10 Oz, including the mounted scope. I’d rate that as pleasantly substantial but not too heavy.

The SIG ASP20 - A Great New Breakbarrel Air Rifle

The wrist of the stock is nicely-dimensioned. It allowed my trigger finger to engage the blade naturally, with no strain.

Although there’s no adjustable comb to the stock, nor an adjustable buttpad, the cheek weld was immediately pleasant for me. This means that the ASP20 is a new addition to that select group of air rifles – like the Weihrauch HW100 – that feel “just right” as they come from the factory, with no need for the stock adjustments they don’t have.

However, SIG expects to have an adjustable cheekpiece available with the ASP20 synthetic stock model in the forseeable future. Just in case…

Easy, foolproof, trigger adjustment was a design goal for the ASP20. Unusually, the trigger pull weight is adjusted from the rear of the compression tube, using a click-adjustable system. You push in then rotate clockwise to increase the trigger pull weight. Anti-clockwise reduces it.

This adjustment can be made using a Phillips head screwdriver. However, if a scope is mounted, you’ll need to use the special adjustment tool provided by SIG with the gun, as the scope blocks screwdriver access.

As received from the factory, the test gun had a trigger pull weight of 2.5 Lbs. So the trigger is light. It’s also very pleasant to pull. However, there’s not that “glass break” sensation as the sear releases, it’s a softer, slightly more gentle feeling – at least as received from the factory.

SIG gives you some control over the trigger release characteristics, too. Turning the small Allen key supplied with the gun in the setscrew located behind the trigger, allows single stage operation, two stage, or somewhere in between.

The SIG ASP20 - A Great New Breakbarrel Air Rifle

Another key focus for the SIG design team was easy cocking. The test ASP20 has a cocking effort of right around 32 Lbs – that’s the SIG Glidelite cocking mechanism at work. This is definitely low for a break barrel gun of this power level.

Cocking action is smooth and even. There’s no feeling of jerkiness and no grinding or grating of the lever against the stock in operation. Again. it’s good.

Lockup is very positive and this reassuring solidity is a testament to SIG’s Keystone breech design and the match-drilling of the pivot pin holes.

H&N Field Target Trophy pellets showed-up well for accuracy. A consistent 1035 FPS – plus or minus – showed on the Chrony for these pellets at 63 degrees F. That’s 20.59 Ft/Lbs of Muzzle Energy, slightly exceeding SIG’s claim.

Our test gun also shot well with Baracuda Match and Field Target Trophy Green pellets. As SIG is an OEM customer for H&N pellets, it’s not surprising that these pellets work well in the ASP20.

It’s clear that the SIG Air ASP20 is a capable, powerful and accurate new air rifle!

With the SIG name on it, the ASP20 appeals not only to airgunners, but also firearms shooters. That’s a HUGE potential market and SIG Air is well-placed to benefit from their growing interest in non powder-burning pellet launchers!

The SIG ASP20 - A Great New Breakbarrel Air Rifle

Serial numbers for the SIG ASP20 all begin with the initials JDH. This unusual prefix is a memorial to Justin Daniel Heckert, one of the gun’s key design engineers. Sadly, Justin died unexpectedly before the ASP20 entered production. Serial number one of the SIG Air ASP20 was presented to Justin’s family as a mark of respect by the company.

In the top half of the case, Agent X's rifle with the new scope mounted. The old scope is in the bottom half of the case.

In the top half of the case, Agent X’s rifle with the new scope mounted. The old scope is in the bottom half of the case.

I was on my way to a meeting when an acquaintance and colleague of some 20 years – who shall henceforth be known as Agent X – motioned me into his office.

“You know about airguns, right?” he said.

“Yes, a bit.”

“What would you recommend in .22 caliber for killing squirrels?” he asked.

“How far are you shooting?”

“Oh, maybe twenty yards,” Agent X said.

I recommended a pump-up Benjamin 392 or Webley Rebel, on the basis that they are very easy to shoot well, but as we chatted, it became apparent to me that Agent X had more on his mind. After further conversation, it developed that he had already purchased a Nitro Piston rifle from one of the big box stores, and he wasn’t having very good success with it.

Had he tested it with different pellets? Yes. Had he tested it for accuracy. Yes. What kind of results was he getting? “At twenty feet, I’m getting groups that you couldn’t cover with a quarter,” he said.

That’s terrible, I told him. At twenty feet, you ought to be able to stack one pellet on top of another, or very close to it.  I made him an offer: the next time you get a free day, give me a call. If the weather’s decent, and I’m free, we’ll get together at my place and see if we can sort out your rifle. Deal, he said.

On the appointed day, Agent X arrived with his gun case containing a Benjamin Titan GP. He pointed at the scope. “I changed the scope because the one that came with it wasn’t very good.” I looked at the new scope. It was a Leapers 4 power non-adjustable objective.

Using my usual test rig – a bum bag and some old boat cushions on top of a WorkMate – I banged off a few shots with Crosman Premier pellets at a target 13 yards away. Two shots grouped together pretty well, but the third jumped away by half an inch.

“Let’s change to a scope with an adjustable objective,” I said. “I want to eliminate parallax as a possible source of accuracy problems.” If you would like to know more about parallax as a source of shooting error, check out this blog:

So we switched to a Leapers 3-12 Mini Tactical sidewheel scope. I tried a few more shots with Crosman Premier pellets and got decent results but perhaps we could do better. So I tried JSB pellets. Nope, this rifle didn’t like them.

These are the pellets that worked best.

These are the pellets that worked best.

Then Agent X said, “Would you like to try the pellets I had hoped to shoot?” He waggled a tin of H&N Baracuda Green lead free pellets. I started feeding them to the Benjamin Titan GP, and it liked them! But as I was cocking the Benjamin Titan, I felt a subtle movement, as if something were loose. I check the scope rings and the scope mount, and all were snug. Then I check the two screws on either side of the forestock and, while they weren’t outright loose, I found I could snug them up a bit more. Finally, I checked the screw at the rear of the trigger guard. It was very loose, and I snugged it up.

After tightening the stock screws, we got dime-sized groups at 13 yards with the Baracuda Green pellets. “Looks like we have a winner,” I said.

We put a woodchuck paper target in the pellet trap and moved it out to 20 yards. After adjusting the elevation, I asked Agent X to shoot the chuck. He did just that, plugging him in the chest and in the head. It looked to me like he was ready to send some squirrels to that Big Acorn Patch in the Sky.

“But what if I want to shoot indoors at 20 feet? How do I adjust the scope?” he said.

“That’s the beauty of the mil-dot scope we mounted on your rifle. You can use the mil-dots as different aiming points for different ranges,” I said. Then I asked him what kind of pellet trap he was using. “A Boston phone book, backed by a piece of ply wood,” came the answer.

That’s not good enough, I said. “You start putting pellet after pellet in the same hole, you’re going to blow through the phone book and the plywood.”

To demonstrate, I drew a cross on a seasoned piece of 2 x 6 board and shot it at 13 yards. The pellet penetrated more than three-quarters of an inch. Agent X made immediate plans to build or obtain a more substantial pellet trap.

So what did we accomplish? By swapping scopes, tightening stock screws, and finding the right pellet, we were able to shrink Agent X’s groups from “larger than a quarter at 20 feet” to nickel-sized at 20 yards. He should be in good shape to take care of his squirrel problem, and I’m pretty sure that he was smiling as he drove away.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

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

nitropistoncomparison 11-09 (Medium)

A while back, Freddy King responded to one of my blogs and posted a question: “Could you give some info on Nitro Piston mechanism? How does this system work?”

Okay, Freddy, here goes. If you have ever seen the gas strut that lifts the back window of an SUV or the rear door of a hatchback automobile, you have seen the basic working mechanism of a Nitro Piston – also known as a gas ram or gas spring – airgun powerplant. At the heart of the gas spring is a cylinder with compressed gas. At the far end of the cylinder is a piston. The mechanism works the same way a conventional spring-piston airgun powerplant: when you cock a breakbarrel rifle equipped with a gas ram or Nitro Piston, you drive the piston down the cylinder (further compressing the gas inside the cylinder, which is comparable to compressing the spring in a conventional spring powerplant) until it latches. The powerplant sits there, under tension until the shooter pulls the trigger. When that happens, the gas expands, driving the piston down the compression tube, compressing the air in front of it until the compressed air squirts through the transfer port into the breech, propelling the pellet down the barrel.

To find out more about this technology, I spoke interviewed Ben Taylor, who invented gas ram technology, by telephone in England. In 1976, he and his business partner Dave Theobald were unhappy with the state of the art in spring-piston powerplants. They had made and sold eight spring rifles, and they all suffered from not keeping the energy that Taylor wanted. So he had a thought: what if you used compressed gas in a cylinder with a piston instead of a spring?

So he built one, using a brake seal for cars from Lockheed, and it worked! At first, he pressurized the gas ram with 150 psi air from the shop and got only about eight or nine foot-pounds of energy. “Then we tried 300 psi nitrogen from a bottle and got 1,000 fps in .177. I shot that same gun for five years with the same charge in it,” Taylor says.

In 1981, Taylor and his partner applied for a patent and tried to interest various airgun manufacturers in licensing the technology. A couple of times they came close, but ultimately no deals were consummated. “So we decided to manufacture it ourselves. It took 10,000 pounds to get set up. We sold 490 the first year, 1,000 by the third year,” he says.

Gas rams offer a number of advantages, Taylor says. “They are totally tireless. You can leave them cocked for as long as you like. Nothing wears out. The seals don’t wear. Recently I serviced gun number 25 from 1982, and it was the first time it had been serviced since it had been manufactured. You have to remember to shoot, or cock-and-decock, a gas ram every few months, otherwise the seal can get bonded to the bore, and that will cause failure.”

He adds, “We found that if a gas ram is going to fail, it will do so within the first week. Otherwise, it will last for years. Right now, there are more of our guns out there that have never been serviced than those that have been serviced.”

There are a few disadvantages to gas rams. Unlike a spring powerplant, which often will keep operating at reduced velocity even if the spring gets broken or bent, if a gas ram fails, it won’t work at all.

The biggest problem, Taylor says, is that, because Theoben gas ram powerplants had a valve where people could increase or reduce the pressure of the gas inside the powerplant, people, in a quest for more power, tend to overfill them.

“There is a sweet spot on the pressure vs. velocity curve,” Taylor says. “If you go beyond that, you increase the pressure, but you don’t get any benefit. The gun becomes hard to control and won’t shoot straight. In addition, there is the danger of burning the piston seal. We actually had to design our high powered guns so that over-pressurizing them wouldn’t create reliability problems.”

Taylor told of an interesting experience at the test range one day. “We had two 30 foot-pound guns of the same caliber shooting the same pellets. One was a gas ram and the other was a precharged pneumatic. We had chronographs set up at the muzzle, halfway down the range, and at the target. We found the gas ram was retaining energy much better at the target. When we recovered the pellets, they looked like they had come from two different manufactures. The pressure from the gas ram had flared the skirt of the pellet flat to the bore, so that it looked like a cylindrical pellet, and the gun was shooting flat like a laser!”

The Weihrauch HW90 incorporates the Theoben gas ram system.

The Weihrauch HW90 incorporates the Theoben gas ram system.

Although Theoben Airguns has gone out of business, you can still buy a breakbarrel rifle with a gas ram powerplant based on Ben Taylor’s design: the HW90.

I also interviewed Ed Schultz, Director of Engineering for Crosman Corporation, to get his views of Crosman’s Nitro Piston Technology.

“Nitro Piston offers an advantage in longevity in modern spring guns that operate at the velocities that people want,” Schultz said.

“When you are using a mechanical spring in an airgun, you are just doing bad things to the spring,” Schultz adds. “A rule of thumb in engineering is that you don’t want to stress a spring past 50% compression to maintain reliability, but that doesn’t work in a spring gun. Instead, you compress the spring almost 100%. You take up almost all the gap between the spring coils to get ultimate performance, and that tends to weaken the spring.  And if you leave it cocked, you’re taking some life out of the spring. So you use special materials and do special heat treatments to deal with that, but you’re basically fighting a losing battle.”

“But a gas ram, Nitro Piston, powerplant eliminates the weak link in the system. The gas doesn’t care if it is compressed, it’s not going to degrade the life of the powerplant,” he says. “A life of 5,000 shots is probably a good rule for estimating spring life in an average spring-piston powerplant. The life of a Nitro Piston powerplant is easily twice that, and at the end of that time, it will shoot close to the original numbers. It’s either working completely fine, or it’s not working at all.”

Schultz adds that a Nitro Piston powerplant has few moving parts, there is no spring torque, no vibration, no need for spring guides. “To make a spring powerplant really quiet and vibration free, you have to custom fit inner and outer spring guides because every spring is slightly different,” he says. “You don’t have to do that with a Nitro piston powerplant. There are billions of gas springs in use throughout the world. Automobile manufactures have adopted them because of their reliability, and we know how to make them with high precision. With a Nitro Piston gas spring powerplant in your airgun, you get a lot of the advantages of an expensive, custom-tuned powerplant at a more affordable price.”

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The .22 Remington NPSS in digital camo.

When I reviewed the Crosman Airgun and Pellet Capabilities Chart discussed in last week’s blog, I was struck by the fact that, aside from the .25 caliber  Benjamin Trail NP XL 725 (which I had written about a while back), only one of the breakbarrel air rifles listed on the chart consistently offers the longest estimated effective maximum range.

That rifle is the .22 caliber Remington NPSS. The chart suggests that it is capable of taking pigeons and squirrels at 42 yards, prairie dogs at 45 yards, raccoons at 15 yards, and turkeys at 30 yards. That’s quite a resume. And while I had reviewed the original Crosman NPSS in .177 a couple of years ago, I decided I needed to have a look at the Remington version in .22.

The Remington NPSS comes with a 3-9 x 40 scope and one-piece mount.

The good folks at Crosman were kind enough to send me one, and here’s the skinny. The Remington NPSS, which proudly displays “Made in the USA” on the receiver, stretches 43.75 inches from end to end and weighs 9 lbs exactly with the 3-9 x 40 CenterPoint scope mounted. Physically, the Remington NPSS is identical to its Crosman-branded predecessor. It has a weatherproof ambidextrous polymer thumbhole stock that features a soft rubber cheek piece and “nubbly” texturing at both the pistol grip and the forestock. It’s available in a digital camo finish (on the sample I tested) and a carbon fiber look, neither of which affect the performance of the gun.

The Remington NPSS is fitted with a soft rubber butt pad and cheek piece.

What really sets the Remington apart from other breakbarrel air rifles you may have shot is the NPSS powerplant. That stands for Nitro Piston Short Stroke. Unlike conventional breakbarrel air rifles, it has no spring. Instead it has a gas ram – much like the gas strut in the liftback of an SUV. When you break the barrel of the Remington NPSS to cock it, instead of compressing a spring, you’re driving back a piston which compresses gas in a cylinder. When the cocking mechanism latches, it holds the gas under pressure until you pull the trigger, allowing the piston to shoot forward, compressing air in front of it and launching the pellet down the barrel.

It works exactly the same as a conventional “springer,” except there is no spring, and that gives the NPSS some advantages. For example, you can leave it cocked for long periods without worrying that the spring will take “a set” and weaken the power of the air rifle. In addition, cocking is generally smoother, and there is no torque or vibration when the shot goes off. Crosman also claims that the NPSS powerplant is quieter than a conventional springer. From the shooter’s position behind the receiver, that is difficult to prove, and I’ve found that trying to measure the relative loudness of various airgun powerplants can be fiendishly difficult. Bottom line: if the NPSS didn’t seem especially quiet to me, it didn’t seem particularly loud either, which in my mind works out to “average” loudness.

Getting the Remington NPSS ready to shoot is straightforward. Grab the barrel near the muzzle and pull it down and back until it latches. This takes about 23-24 pounds of effort, according to Crosman. The cocking stroke is incredibly smooth, with no spring noise or creaking. Insert a pellet into the aft end of the breech and return the barrel to its original position.

Take aim. Flick off the safety (The Remington NPSS has a lever-style non-automatic safety inside the trigger guard). Squeeze the trigger. At 3 lb, 15 oz, the first stage comes out; at 6 lb, 8 oz, the shot goes down range. That’s heavier than I would like, but the trigger seemed very consistent and didn’t appear to interfere with accurate shooting.

With .22 Crosman Premier pellets, which went down range at about 850 fps and generated around 22.9 foot-pounds of energy, I was able to shoot essentially one-hole groups at 13 yards, but the groups opened up to 1.25 inches (edge to edge) at 30 yards. I also noticed that the point of impact would shift if I moved from sitting position to shooting off a rest to shooting offhand. It seems to me that the big trick with this air rifle is either (a) to learn where the point of impact will be from various shooting positions or (b) shoot consistently from only one position such as offhand.

In the end, I liked the .22 Remington NPSS. It seems to me to be a solid, workhorse air rifle that would serve many shooters well for pest control and hunting duties.

Til next time, aim true and shooting straight.

–          Jock Elliott

One of the nice things about being an airgun writer is that occasionally I get news releases from various airgun manufacturers and distributors concerning new things that they have going on.

On Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, I received an email from Crosman announcing “CROSMAN CORPORATION® LAUNCHES WEBSITE REDESIGN.” Now, normally I don’t get too excited about website redesigns, but I also know that Crosman has set a pretty high standard in coming out with interesting new products, so I thought I would poke around the new website to see if anything caught my eye.

And, sure enough, something did. On the home page, if you scroll to the bottom of the page and look at the lefthand side, you’ll see a section entitled “Croswords Blog.” Run your eye down the column a ways and you’re likely to run into a link entitled “Crosman Releases Hunting Capabilities Guide. (If the link has disappeared from view by the time you read this, here’s the direct link: )

The upshot is this: apparently a bunch of folks at Crosman got together to determine the proper hunting distances for their full line of hunting rifles. You can download the chart here:

To be perfectly candid, I found the chart intriguing. (A warning: at the time of this writing, if you try to print the chart on 8.5 x 11 paper, you will need an electron microscope to read it. It is designed to be printed on 11 x 17 paper.  The best plan is to download the chart to your computer, open the chart with the PDF reader, magnify it to 100%, and print “current view.” This will allow you to print half of the chart at a readable scale. Then magnify the other half of the chart, print “current view” and tape the two halves of the chart together.)

At the top left of the chart, in red, you’ll find a box that says: “Recommended kill zone for all species is a head shot.” Across the top of the chart, you’ll find categories such as: powerplant, caliber, velocity, energy, pellet type, pellet weight, estimated effective maximum ranges (with sub categories of smaller-sized game, medium-sized game, and larger sized game), sound scale, and suggested optics. Down the lefthand side of the chart, you’ll find categories for powerplants (and specific gun models underneath them): multi-pump, break barrel – spring piston, break barrel – nitro piston, pre-charged pneumatic, electronic pre-charged pneumatic variable power.

Taken altogether, the chart is a cornucopia of interesting data. For example, you’ll find out that a Benjamin 392 multi-stroke rifle, launching a 14.9 gr pellet at 685 fps is generating 14.9 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle and might be used to shoot a prairie dog or woodchuck at 25 yards. A .177 Benjamin Trail NP XL1500 could be handy for popping turkeys at 20 yards.  The .25 caliber Benjamin Trail NP XL 725 might be used to hunt coyotes at 20 yards while the .25 Marauder could be used for Coyotes at 30 yards. Only the .357 Benjamin Rogue is recommended for hunting hogs, out to 60 yards, depending upon what weight projectile is used.

I was curious about the genesis of the chart, so I called Laura Evans, marketing coordinator for Crosman.

“About a year ago, we began to get into television advertising to promote adult airguns for hunting, and we realized that some education needed to take place,” Evans said. “A lot of potential airgun hunters are unfamiliar with airgun powerplants and energy and simply didn’t know what to expect from them. Education and safety are the driving forces behind this chart.”

So Crosman put together an informal committee of engineering, marketing, sales personnel and industry sources, as well as anyone else at Crosman who hunts with an airgun and wanted to have input. The goal was to pull together a kind of spreadsheet of conservative suggestions of the ethical effective range at which Crosman’s various hunting air rifles could be used. 

Evans says, “We must have gone through 20 revisions before publishing the chart. It’s a living document that will be continually revised as appropriate when new models are introduced and more data and input are gathered. We’re recommending a head shot on all species because we feel that is the best and most ethical way to hunt with an airgun.”

I think Crosman has done well in publishing this chart. It’s my belief that both newcomers and old timers will find it instructive and useful.

Oh, yeah, one final note: as an airgun hunter, it is up to you to know and understand the legalities of hunting with an airgun in the jurisdiction in which you plan to hunt. Don’t give our sport by doing something illegal, even if through ignorance.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

The third most interesting aspect of the Benjamin Trail NP All Weather – and the one that is bound to be most controversial – is the trigger. Now, I need to preface the following by explaining that I shot the All weather for a while and got some pretty nice accuracy results (which I will reveal below) before I ever attempted to measure the weight of the trigger pull.

That’s when things got interesting. When I first measured the trigger pull with my Lyman digital trigger gauge, I saw the following: at 1 lb 11 oz, the first stage appears to come out of the trigger and there is a hard stop. Then there is a long creepy pull and another hard stop at about 4 lbs 13 oz. Finally, at around 5 lbs, 4 oz, the shot goes off.

I had never encountered anything like this before. Weird, I thought, this air rifle appears to have a three-stage trigger. So I called Crosman about it. No, they said, what you think is the first stage is simply pulling against the trigger return spring. The second section that ends at 4 lbs 13 oz is actually the first stage, and 5 lbs 4 oz is where the second stage releases, they explained. They added that if you comparatively test breakbarrel rifles produced by Crosman, you’ll find that the Quest, the Phantom, the Summit, the Vantage, and others all have very similar triggers.

Now, I’ll grant you that All Weather’s trigger feels unusual at first, but I’ve shot it for a while now, and I’ve found that it is quite consistent and doesn’t interfere with accurate shooting (and it’s not as heavy as some military triggers I’ve been told about). For those who don’t want to deal with the All Weather’s trigger, after market triggers are available, but take note: if you fit one to your All Weather, you will void the warranty. So my advice is shoot your All Weather until your one-year warranty is up, and then put in an after market trigger if you still want one.

To cock the All Weather, grab the end of the barrel and pull down and back toward the buttstock. This is where the All Weather begins to show the advantages of the Nitro Piston powerplant. You’ll hear a “snick” when the breech unlatches and another snick when the powerplant is fully cocked and . . . nothing in between. The cocking stroke is one smooth, noiseless glide. It’s like cocking a break barrel springer that has been fully romanced by one of the master spring gun tuners.

With the breech open, slip a .22 caliber pellet into the aft end of the barrel and return the bullbarrel to its original position. The safety is non-automatic. If it is pushed back toward the trigger, push it forward toward the muzzle to ready the rifle for firing, and pull the trigger.

The sample of All Weather that I tested launched Crosman Premier 14.3 gr. pellets at 687 fps average, which is just a teensy bit below 15 foot-pounds of energy. When the shot goes off, the weight of the All Weather becomes your friend, helping to gentle the shot cycle. The recoil is quick and surprisingly smooth, with no torque, twang or vibration. Further, the report is quite subdued, even for a breakbarrel air rifle. The accuracy is very, very satisfactory. At 35 yards, I was able to put three Crosman Premier pellets into a little tiny group where all the holes touched each other before my technique went to blazes. I think a really good spring gun shooter (which I am not) could achieve some impressive results with this rifle.

In the end, I liked the Benjamin Trail NT All Weather. As I have explained before, I am not a trigger Nazi – what I care most about is how the overall system performs. In my view, the All Weather delivers a lot of performance and accuracy in a reasonably-price package. As such, I think a lot of shooters will enjoy it.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

Ever since I got caught in a light summer shower with an airgun, I’ve had an interest in all-weather airguns. It just seems to me that, in general, it’s a good idea to have airguns be as impervious as possible to bad weather.

So when Crosman offered me the opportunity to evaluate the new Benjamin Trail NP™ All Weather air rifle, I said “You bet!”

The All Weather, which is available only in .22 caliber, is a break barrel air rifle, and there are several interesting things about it. First, it has an all-weather synthetic stock. Not only that, but the all weather stock is fully ambidextrous, nicely styled, and downright swoopy looking.

The catalog says that All Weather weighs 8 lbs (and stretches 43 inches long), but it comes with a scope and mount, so the whole package weighs 9 lbs 12 oz when fully assembled. That might seem like a lot to tote around for a day afield. Fortunately, also included in the package (at least during an introductory period) is a sling. It easily attaches to the swivels that are provided and makes carrying the All Weather so much easier that it makes me scratch my head and wonder why I hadn’t tried a sling before now.

Let’s take a tour of the All Weather. Starting at the back, there is a soft black ventilated butt pad, separated from the synthetic stock by a gray spacer. The buttstock has a cheek piece on either side, which ought to make lefties happy and a stud near the end for mounting a sling. Forward of that is a large thumbhole and nearly vertical pistol grip that is checkered and has a pronounced flair at the end. Moving forward again, the trigger guard is molded into the synthetic stock. Inside the trigger guard is a metal trigger and forward-and-back lever safety.

The forestock stretches out in front of the trigger guard. There is checkering on either side near the end and a long slot underneath to provide clearance for cocking the break barrel action. The other attachment for the sling is fastened to the breakbarrel mechanism near the end of the slot. Beyond that is the bullbarrel/shroud.

The barrel attaches to the breech block. Moving rearward, you’ll find the receiver, on which is mounted a picatinny/weaver scope rail. That’s it. The result is an air rifle that looks and feels good in the hand and balances very well.

Included with the All Weather is a CenterPoint 3-9 x 40 scope and weaver rings. When I saw the beauty and simplicity of how the scope rail and rings worked together, it made me wonder why all airgun manufacturers don’t standardize on the slotted weaver rails. You don’t have to worry about whether your rings will hold, whether your anti-recoil pin is seated deeply enough in the socket or whether you have to really crank down your mounts. All you have to do is drop the bars on the weaver rings into the slots on the scope rail, snug the mounts down, and you’re done. Hats off to Crosman for doing this!

Another key aspect of the All Weather is that it is powered by the Nitro Piston powerplant. (That’s what the NP stands for.) Unlike a conventional breakbarrel springer, which uses a spring to drive a piston that compresses the air which in turn launches the pellet, the Nitro Piston technology uses a gas strut, much like the strut used to elevate the back window on many automobiles. As a result, there is no spring to wear out, no twang when the shot goes off, no vibration or torque on discharge. Further, you can leave a Nitro Piston powerplant cocked for as long as you want without worrying about damaging the spring.

Next time, we’ll take a look at how the Benjamin Trail NP All Weather performs.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott

There has been a lot of buzz on the Internet lately about the Crosman NPSS (that stands for Nitro Piston Short Stroke) air rifle. Crosman sent me one in .177 caliber (.22 is also available) for review, and I found it pretty interesting in a lot of ways.

The first thing that sets the NPSS apart from the herd is its looks. It has an ambidextrous composite “thumbhole” stock that has a carbon-fiber-look “soft-touch” covering. A digital camo version is also available. Starting at the rear of the NPSS, you’ll find a ventilated soft black rubber butt pad. Moving forward, a soft rubber cheek piece wraps over the comb of the stock and down both sides. Moving forward again, there is a triangular hole in the buttstock that serves as the thumbhole.

The pistol grip has small bumps on either side (as does the forestock) that provide additional gripping surface. Just ahead of the pistol grip, the trigger guard is made of plastic and has a hole toward the rear edge, through which a screwdriver can be inserted for adjusting the length of the trigger’s second stage. The black trigger is made of metal, as is the Gamo-style safety lever (push forward to fire, pull back to safe the action).

Moving forward again, you’ll find the forestock, which has a screw hole on either side for securing the receiver and a slot down the middle on the underside to provide clearance when cocking the break barrel action.

Ahead of the forestock is the barrel, which swells from the breech block into a 7/8-inch matte-black-finished bull barrel. Moving back on the top of the NPSS, you’ll discover the breech block. Move back again, the shiny black metal receiver is fitted with dovetails for mounting a scope and a hole for engaging an anti-recoil pin from a scope mount. The extreme rear of the receiver is covered by a black plastic cap.

Included in the box with the NPSS is a CenterPoint 3-9 x 40 scope and a one-piece scope mount. To mount the scope, of course you have to take the tops off the scope mounts, and when you do, you need to take the smaller allen wrench included with the mount and use it to run the anti-recoil pin down so that it will engage the hole on the receiver. The NPSS weighs 9 lbs, 7 oz with the scope mounted and stretches 43 7/8 inches from end to end.

To cock the NPSS and open the breech for loading, pull the bull barrel down and back until it latches. Cocking requires about 27 pounds of effort, and this is where you’ll encounter the second thing that sets the NPSS apart from the herd: the gas-piston action (sometimes called a gas spring, and which Crosman calls a Nitro Piston) action. Because of the gas-piston action, there is no spring noise during cocking, and the air rifle can be left cocked for extended periods without worry about spring fatigue. Slide a pellet into the breech, return the barrel to its original position, and you’re good to go.

Next time, we’ll shoot the NPSS.

Til then, aim true and shoot straight.

– Jock Elliott