Benjamin Trail NP All-Weather .22 Air Rifle
Like a lot of older folks, I grew up with air guns, although they took a back seat to firearms by the time I was in the first grade. Dad had a Benjamin pump-up pellet pistol that was a very good quality unit. Though generically they were all �BB� guns I didn't have much use for them, as there was a Marlin Levermatic .22 LR always available, along with a High Standard .22 automatic pistol.
For whatever reason, I ended up with a new 5mm (.20 caliber) Sheridan Blue Streak several decades later. In an area infested by rabbits, the Sheridan was more effective than I had thought it would be. I quickly tired of the iron sights, the pumping and the horrible trigger of the Blue Streak, so I wanted something better. That led me to a Beeman R-9 .20 caliber that was and is a superb air rifle with a fabulous trigger. The factory iron sights are quite good on the R-9, but scopes are hard to resist. The R-9 received a Millett Buck Gold 3-9x44 illuminated reticle scope and no unwanted rabbit at short range has been safe since. It has been a superb air rifle.
As seems customary in the air rifle game, stated velocities are with the lighter pellets, Silver Bears in the case of the R9 at 800 fps. Kodiak Crow Magnum 12.8 grain did 739 fps average muzzle velocity recorded from my rifle, with 14.3 grain Crosman Premier pellets averaging 676 fps. Benjamin states �up to 950 fps,� but that is with alloy pellets, up to 800 fps with 14.3 grain pellets. We will see. There are a lot of goodies in the Benjamin box, to be sure, but no pellets. The first order of business was to get some 14.66 grain H&N Field Target Trophy, 18.21 grain H&N Crow Magnums and 21.14 grain H&N Baracuda Match pellets on their way.
Comparing downrange performance has never been easier, thanks to the folks at Hawke Performance Optics. Go to www.hawkeoptics.com, download their �ChairGun Pro� software and prepare to be amazed. If you upgrade to something like a Hawke Airmax EV scope with their MAP 6 reticle, the ChairGun Pro software will give you precise aiming points in a jiffy.
With this Benjamin, you get a lot of value. Aside from the rifle itself, a 3-9x40mm AO Mil-Dot Center Point scope already mounted in rings is included, along with a sling. One of the things I appreciated right away was the integral Weaver style rail scope base brazed to the top of the action. With fifteen slots, you have the flexibility to mount any sighting system you want.
I don't manufacture problems, but anyone who reads my reviews expects to hear what issues, if any, are present. The Benjamin Trail came with an owners manual, just not the right one. It also came with a goofy plastic trigger lock, but was missing the equally goofy special key to remove it. It took only a minute to break it off, so no great drama there. Crosman e-mailed the manual to me in PDF form, so the lack of a manual was only momentary. You can also download the manual online.
� Model Number: BT9M22SNP
� Power Source: Nitro Piston
� Caliber: .22 Caliber
� Velocity: "Up to 950 fps"
� Weight: 8 lbs.
� Length: 43 in.
� Barrel Type: Bull Barrel
� MSRP: $299.99
The Benjamin trigger is extremely poor. Purported to be a �two stage� trigger, it might be that by some theory, but not any theory I'm familiar with. It feels like you are pulling on the thing for an eternity. There is an adjustment screw, said to shorten the pull of the second stage. It did nothing substantial to improve the trigger. You might as well get used to holding on your target as you pull for a mile or so. This part is a shame, as the rest of the rifle turned out to be excellent.
I did want better optics than supplied in the box, so I mounted a Hawke Optics AirMax 4-12 x 40mm AO scope, a substantial and satisfying upgrade. I also used the Hawke rings, the two piece medium Hawke Match Mounts. They are Weaver style and have built in cushion tape on the inside of the rings making for a nice, rigid, no-slip array.
The Benjamin is easy to cock and showed a preference for the heavier H&N Baracuda Match pellets. Despite fighting the trigger, it delivered quarter-sized groups at 25 yards with little trouble. These H&N pellets are 21.14 grain pellets. You can forget the �up to 950 fps velocity,� though, as it just isn't in the cards with heavier pellets. Benjamin claims 70% less noise. It is a very quiet air rifle, to be sure, but most spring guns aren't that noisy to begin with. There is something to be said for the Nitro Piston system, though. There is just no discernible shake and vibration when you fire this rifle, it is extremely smooth and pleasant to fire.
There is a good thing about heavier pellets. Though ballistic coefficient is talked about with most centerfire rifles, there is a huge difference in pellets. H&N states that the Baracuda has a B.C. of .033, one of the better flying pellets out there. The Hawke ChairGun Pro program can help you compare what this means downrange. Overall, the Benjamin Trail NP All-Weather is an engaging rifle, with the trigger the sole component that you might consider as the reason to go elsewhere. If Benjamin decides to include a usable trigger with the Trail NP they will get all kinds of accolades from me. Until that time, they won't. It is a horrible distraction from what otherwise could be a superb .22 air rifle.
Copyright 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.