July 12, 2010

Benjamin Trail XL - Nitro Piston-powered!

Benjamin Air Rifles, from the Crosman Corporation, have been churning out some very nice air rifles of late. The Discovery was the first pre-charged pneumatic from Crosman, and then the multi-shot Marauder arrived on the scene.

For the break-barrel enthusiast, Crosman has now introduced the Benjamin Nitro Piston series of air rifles, powered by the nitrogen-filled gas ram licensed by Crosman. Placing this power-plant into some very fine rifles has given Crosman some wonderful new offerings for the air rifle shooter, and today we will look at the Benjamin Trail XL.

As you can see, this is a handsome rifle that comes with a thumbhole stock, a 3-9x40 AO scope with a mil-dot reticle, and a weaver-base mounting system that is secure and sturdy. White-line spacers between the buttpad and stock highlight the fit and finish of the rifle, and the barrel features a full-length shroud.

 

I mounted the scope in the provided rings, placed it all on the gun, and went outside for some shooting and pattern evaluation. I shot several kinds of pellets from the Trail XL and found each pellet performed well. This gun was not pellet fussy, though other rifles of the same make may prove fussy. It all depends on the barrel that each gun has, so I always steer new buyers towards trying out several different kinds of pellets just to be sure of what works the best in their gun.

This 3-shot pattern proves how well each pellet performed. All the pellets I tried gave a similar result, as the next photo shows.

I really like a gun that isn't pellet fussy, and this one is on my list of candidates for membership in my stable of airguns!

Now the Trail XL is a long gun, just slightly over four feet in length. That length helps in the cocking of the gun as you have a longer lever for compressing the gas ram that powers this machine. To aid in carrying the gun afield, Benjamin has located a sling swivel at the front, and a mounting stud installed into the butt of the gun.

The power of the Benjamin Trail XL is well into the high 20's in foot-pounds of energy (fpe). With a 15-16 grain pellet, I was getting just over 27 fpe, quite a punch for a break-barrel rifle. This is coupled with the lower recoil and smoother firing action of the nitro-piston rather than the traditional twang and torque of a coiled spring. The rifle feels different during the firing process, and it is quieter than the comparable spring piston rifle. And, you can leave it cocked for extended periods of time in the field with no damage or wear to the powerplant.

For a hunting rifle that is self-contained and powerful, you really need to consider this Benjamin Trail NP XL1122. (That is the designation for the .22 caliber version - the .177 version is XL1500). The chrony readings I got placed the afore-mentioned medium-weight pellets in the high 800's. Here's a pic of a chrony reading from the shooting session to confirm that for our readers.

Chrony reading from a 15-16 grain pellet from the Benjamin Trail XL.

 

Smack a squirrel or rabbit with that kind of power, and you have game in the bag! Want to knock over a nice metal silhouette? This one will do it!

Currently selling for $299.90, you will receive an air rifle, scope, mounts, and a sling all in one package. Add some pellets, and you are ready to go!

June 30, 2010

My Favorite Crosman Products at Airgun Depot

This post is a purely subjective post, with no reason for the nominations I make other than.....I like them! That's it! That is the whole reasoning behind the following products I'm going to discuss briefly.

Let's start with Ammunition:

For pellets, I choose the Crosman Premier.  Why? Of all the pellets I've tried over the years, I have found the Crosman Premier to be an excellent choice for almost every air gun I have. It isn't always the absolutely most accurate, but it always seems to come in among the top contenders on a very consistent basis. They are American-made, hard hitting, and come in the most common calibers available to please a majority of shooters.

 

The well-designed Crosman Premier in .177

 

Now. let's move on to Handguns:

Once again, the Crosman corporation has an almost universally-accepted contender for a favorite pistol. I am talking about the Crosman 2240, a work-horse of a CO2 gun for a lot of shooters. Widely available, with an enormous amount of modifications available from the aftermarket, this little pistol truly is a treasure. In stock form, it delivers accuracy and power. Want more? Dive into the world of modifying, and you'll find entire forums and websites devoted to just this one gun!

The Crosman 2240 CO2 pistol

 

Need a good rifle? Crosman can certainly deliver in that category. Here's my pick of the litter for this category:

Rifles

The Benjamin Marauder has won my heart for an extremely economical bolt-action repeater that delivers power and accuracy. I know that it is labeled a Benjamin, but it falls under the roof of the Crosman corporation, and has become a wonderful seller for airgun companies, and a great shooting piece for the air gun enthusiast. With all the features of the more pricey European air rifles, this wonderful rifle competes with the best of them in the field or at the target range. My first squirrel hunt with the .22 caliber version gave me conclusive evidence that this gun would be a winner for some time to come for Crosman, and I applaud them for their work on this model.

The Benjamin Marauder, a 10-shot bolt action repeater from Crosman

 

In Accessories, I have to choose the following item:

Crosman CO2 Powerlets 

The Powerlet from Crosman powers CO2 airguns with a minimum of fuss, easy convenience, and the ability to carry extra power in the field with out the need for bulky tanks. Well made and able to fit most CO2 airguns designed for their use, this cartridge or powerlet is well designed and stable, and very simple to use. If you've ever wondered how these were made, watch this video for an explanation:

How CO2 Cartridges are Made

 

 

So, there you have it....my pick of the Crosman products featured here at Airgun Depot in the 4 categories of ammo, rifle, pistol, and accessories. Give us some feedback and let us know what item you like the best!

June 29, 2010

Nitro Piston Air Rifles

For many years, the spring piston power plant has been the main force behind the performance of the break barrel, side lever, and underlever air guns. It is a tried and true power plant that has performed for many, many decades. Variations of the spring-powered air rifle have refined and brought the firing behavior of the spring piston to unbelievable levels of performance, as can be observed in so many of the beautifully designed 10-meter competition air rifles.

Not too many years ago, the Theoben company brought out a new twist in the power plant design of the piston rifle. Rather than a spring, they used a gas-filled strut, and it has been nicknamed the gasram, a term commonly used for this type of powerplant. Instead of having a spring that is subject to kinking, metal fatigue, and some twang (when not properly fitted), Theoben substituted the gasram and pretty much made history. The results were a definite difference in firing behavior, one that was quite enjoyable straight from the box. I've owned several rifles over the years that were equipped with Theoben's gasram, and found them to be exceptional performers and wonderful guns to shoot.


 

Now Crosman has introduced the Nitro Piston series of air rifles that use the same idea. Filled with nitrogen, the gas piston technology is now offered in nearly a dozen different configurations in the Crosman line of rifles. Here's a link to the page containing those selections:

Nitro Piston Rifles

Recently, Jim Chapman of the American Airgun Hunter website performed some tests on the Nitro Piston rifles from Crosman. Jim is the airgun editor and columnist for Predator Extreme Magazine, as well as some other outdoor magazines and venues. Click on the links below to access his initial reports of his testing section. You will find some very useful information in regards to the performance and accuracy of the Nitro Piston design.

Jim Champan's Nitro Trail Report

Squirrel Hunting with the Nitro Piston Air Rifle

Jim and I have had the pleasure of hunting together over the years, and enjoy getting together for small and big game hunts. I have found Jim's insight into the many different air guns that he gets to test both useful and accurate when making purchases of my own, or offering advice to others who are in the market for a new air gun.

As Jim notes in his articles, two of the main advantages of using a Nitro Piston air rifle are that you can leave the gun cocked for extended periods without damaging the power plant, and you will realize a decreased effect of the bi-directional recoil that is a proven scope killer. The firing behavior of a Nitro Pistol air rifle versus the traditional spring piston is noticeable, and if you get the chance, I urge you to test them side by side in order to readily notice the differences.

On Airgun Depot's website you will find several configurations of Nitro Piston powered guns. Synthetic stocks, wood stocks, and wood laminates offer a nice range of options for the shooting enthusiast. Be sure to drop by and take a look at all they have to offer the air gun shooter!

June 24, 2010

Why Do You Enjoy Airguns?

Let me ask you a question that may have not been asked of you before:

Would you please explain to me what is is about shooting an airgun that you enjoy the most?

Now, once that question has been asked of you, I'd like for you to take a minute and think about your response before you put it into words. The rest of this article is my answer to that very same question.

"What do I enjoy the most about shooting an airgun? I suppose that as a hunter, I enjoy taking my prey with the least amount of power possible. The use of firearms in many of the places I hunt would be frowned upon, so I elect to use air guns instead. But that isn't the only reason.

I really do enjoy the satisfaction I get from hitting my target with a well-placed shot. One of my favorite activities is to simply plink with an airgun that can deliver the accuracy I demand of my airguns. Inaccurate air guns don't interest me all that much.

What I enjoy about shooting an airgun is the workings of the mechanisms employed to make the shot possible. The balance of a coiled spring pushing a piston forward just far enough to create that pulse that expels the pellet from the barrel on an accurate journey is sheer beauty. The balance of internal pressure in a sealed cylinder, when directed through a port to arrive behind the pellet, and being able to reproduce that effect shot after shot.....that is interesting stuff to me. The graceful lines of an airgun that incorporates all the moving parts needed to provide a workable power plant for the simple purpose of pushing a small lead projectile through a barrel.....those are works of art that show craftsmanship beyond any simple ability I have on my own.

The history of airguns is also an enjoyable part of my air gun hobby. Knowing even a little about the evolution of the airgun, who carried one in combat, who went on great journeys of discovery with an airgun.....that is neat stuff! I had no idea until I looked into it that the biggest airgun ever used in combat was on a US warship....a neat little tidbit for the history buff!

Shooting with my children is a great pastime, and air guns allow me to do that more frequently than if I used firearms for the same purpose. My children and I sit on the front or back porch and plink away at whatever target is available that day. The simple joys of rolling a can across the yard brings grins to my faces of my children, and ultimately to me as well. It also allows opportunities for safety training in a safer environment.

But perhaps the best thing that I enjoy about shooting air guns is the people I meet while doing it. I have made some very good friends that I talk with on a weekly basis, though we are separated by geographical locations and time zones. With the internet, I converse with individuals from all over the world who enjoy the same sport and hobby I do, though they may have different reasons for that enjoyment. The longest trip I have ever made in my entire life was made with fellow air gun shooters who I met on the internet.  And the swap meets and air gun shows I attend serve to further cement those relationships as we all get together to enjoy shared interests and  hobbies.

Air guns have enriched my life in a way I never thought possible. All I really wanted to do those several years ago was get the squirrels out of my attic.....I could not have predicted how much air guns would have changed my life a decade ago.

So.....why do you enjoy airguns?

June 18, 2010

Got a PCP? Then you NEED a chronograph!

Alrighty now.....you've picked up your new PCP, either new from the store or new to you from another owner. Out the door you go, targets in hand, a full reservoir of air in the gun, and a pocket full of pellets. At 20 yards you set up your target and run through 20-30 shots, with the pellet producing remarkable patterns that tells you the gun shoots the same place every time! What a gun! You've found the Holy Grail of airguns.....it never misses!

The next day, or even later the same day, you pop a pest bird at a given distance. Then on the next pest you get a clean miss! Huh? All your testing up 'til now tells you the gun is shooting the same place no matter where in the fill you are. What gives?! (I'll bet you the pests were at different distances from you, the shooter).

Did you test your gun at different ranges? Remember you are shooting a PCP (pre-charged pneumatic) that has, from shot to shot, a different amount of air pressure driving the pellet. Unless your gun comes with a regulator, it will have a bell curve if you plot out the velocity. And that's why your shots will register at different impact points once you stop shooting at a short-range, given distance all the time.

There was a recent post on the yellow forum that got me thinking about how this was a great topic for the newer air gun shooter. My thanks to Robert for planting this blog topic in my brain, and this is why you NEED a chronograph to better understand your air gun. You see, at 20 yards, there will hardly be a perceptible difference in the points of impact because you are so close to the target. The differences from shot to shot will really show up when you start shooting at longer ranges.

Here's a link to the entry discussing Robert's results, and I challenge you to follow some of his testing procedures to determine how your gun shoots at different ranges and different pressures.

 

Why You Need a Chronograph

 

As you can see from the author's testing, there is a sweet spot in the fill pressure where there is little more than 20 fps difference for a series of shots. That's what you want for repeatable performance. At short ranges, you'll hardly notice any difference, but if you stretch out your range, you'll begin to notice quite a bit more variance in the point of impact, though you may be rock solid in your hold and aiming technique. It isn't you, it's the nature of a PCP air rifle. Pay particular attention to the graph that is contained in the post referenced above for a good visual aid on how declining pressure affects your point of impact.

Some things you need to know when you use a chronograph are:

1. The first sensor starts the clock, and the second sensor stops it. There is an oscillator inside the gun that is quite steady, and the onboard computer know how many oscillations between the start and stop points triggered by the shadow of your projectile passing over the sensors.

2. In order for #1 above to work, you need a constant light source. Fluorescent bulbs flicker and mess up the readings. You need diffused sunlight or an incandescent bulb that gives a steady light supply for the chrony to work correctly.

3, Muzzle blast can set off the chrony and produce an erratic measurement that isn't true. Back up just a little in order to make the chrony work better. Point blank range isn't all it's supposed to be when measuring velocities. Back up a foot or two from the sensors.

4.  Shooting from a repeatable rested position is best in order to get accurate reading that don't vary because the shooter is moving too much, or not holding the gun in the same position.

 

Here is a link to Airgun Depot's selection of chronographs. You will find great prices on these useful tools for the shooter. Enjoy!

Chronographs

May 30, 2010

Shooting for the Physically Impaired

This particular entry's title may come as a bit of a surprise. It is probably an unusual title, but is certainly appropriate considering my current physical condition.

This weekend I broke my back in two places. I had a lawnmower turn over on me and do a number on my spine, but I am home and wishing I could go out shooting. Here are some things I am confident of right off the bat:

1. I will NOT be shooting any hard to cock springers. I have a weight limit of 5 lbs. that I can lift with the doctor's permission. Nothing more! So trying to cock even a spring pistol, much less a rifle is out of bounds.

2. Bending over to get a good sight plane is out of bounds for several weeks. I have a brace covering my entire torso keeping my injured spine in place while it heals.

3.  Moving heavy air tanks from place to place in order to air up a PCP is going to be a problem.

4. Hand pumping doesn't even exist in my current universe!

5. CO2 air guns are going to save the day for me!

 

Once I took stock of my physical condition, I began to see some of the challenges that my physically-handicapped shooting brethren are trying to overcome on a daily basis. What I take for granted as easy to do and achieve has suddenly become almost impossible without some help.

The CO2-powered pistols such as the Crosman 2240 and the EB series of pistols from Benjamin will be the easiest air guns for me to enjoy for the next little while. Airgun Depot has quite a selection of other CO2 air pistols that would also fit the bill for shooting enjoyment. Here is a link to the entire category of CO2 pistols:

CO2 Pistols

These are some of the air guns that I can physically handle at this time, considering the weight limits the doctor has imposed on me, my own ability to aim and shoot, and enough accuracy for me to enjoy shooting at animate or inanimate targets.  There is also the added enjoyment of being able to shoot these guns inside with an adequate backstop in place.

Another range of air pistols would be the AirSoft line of air guns that Airgun Depot carries, too. Here is a link to those items which may be of interest to a shooter in my condition:

AirSoft Guns

Being physically challenged as a shooter doesn't have to mean you must give up shooting. You simply have to work around whatever obstacles are in your way to continue your enjoyment of a great sport. Let Airgun Depot help you out with their great selection of equipment for your shooting needs!

May 27, 2010

How Scuba Tanks are Made

I have always found it helpful to know as much as possible about any given subject that interests me.....and knowing about the gear we use as air gunners falls in that category.

Here is a brief 7 minute video on how the high pressure scuba tanks are made. Many airgunners use this kind of setup to fill their PCP airguns, and understanding how they are made just adds to the enjoyment of our hobby.

Direct link - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPJpufCj89I

Different tanks from different makers and made in similar fashion. The latest development in high pressure vessels involves the carbon fiber wrapped aluminum tanks that greatly reduce the weight of the gear. And there is a new development for firefighters that puts a flat pack tank, consisting of 5 different chambers, in a harness that is worn in place of the more traditional cylindrical tank on the back. It is slimmer and lighter, and is being tested according to the reports I have read.

Having a good relationship with your local fire department pays big dividends for the air gun shooter. I get my air for free, and as a thank you I will drop a turkey or ham by every so often, or several pounds of venison during deer season. The fire fighters appreciate it, and it goes a long way towards recognizing their contribution to your hobby/sport, not to say the least for the way they lay their life on the line when doing their jobs on our behalf.

Enjoy the video!


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