First, a big shout out and thanks to Paul Capello, Airgun Reporter, who saved my audio bacon at the 2014 SHOT Show in Las Vegas. More on that later.
This is my first report from the 2014 SHOT Show. Given the level of interest, I’m going to start with the new Crosman/Benjamin Nitro Piston II air rifles. Other blogs will trickle in over the next couple of days.
Although I was sorely limited in the distance I could roam from a restroom, due to something I ate that didn’t agree with me, determination got me to make Media Day at the Range in Boulder City, about 45 minutes by shuttle bus from the Show itself. I was a bit disappointed to see that there was only one airgun maker at the range, Crosman. But there were enough other things to shoot and check out that I managed to make it interesting for my other shooting interests. And the Crosman lane at the range had enough stuff to satisfy most any airgunner.
They had the synthetic stocked marauder, a challanger, a woodswalker pistol, a new semi-auto bb pistol, and the star of the exhibit, the new Benjamin Nitro Piston II Trail air rifle.
The new Trail comes in three versions, with the synthetic black or realtree camo stocks, or a wood stock. All are thumbhole style. The particular gun on display at the Range was the camo version.
My previous experience with the Nitro Piston line was an Elite version in .177 cal. It was exceptionally heavy and long, had a trigger only a lawyer could love, and was really not that pleasant to shoot. So in that light, and with some skepticism for marketing hype, I was about as excited over the ‘new II’ as I would be about getting a haircut.
But I have to say, I was actually quite impressed with the new version. The first time cocking it, I remember preparing myself for the ordeal, and being very surprised with how easy it was. It must have shown on my face, because the Crosman reps started giggling when I looked up in surprise at how easy it was. It does have a long barrel and shroud, but according to the design engineer who worked on the Nitro Piston II project, it was the re-design of the cocking linkage, along with some internal changes, that made the difference.
I could tell you all about it, but why not hear from the designer himself, Jeff Hanson of Crosman;
The audio that accompanies the range video was unintelligible, due in part to the wind and noise. So this was shot at the Crosman booth at the SHOT Show itself. You might be able to pick out Randy Bimrose, former Beeman Senior Gunsmith and now owner of Bimrose Precision Airgun Repair, Bob Sloan, noted airgun enthusiast from San Luis Obispo, CA, and I believe Joe Brancato in the background.
Back to Range Day. I was able to take some shots with the new rifle, and I can say that it has recoil, but didn’t feel anything like the old nitro piston. The weight seems to be under the middle of the compression tube, with little at the barrel or buttstock, so although heavy, it balanced pretty nicely. It was easy to cock, surprisingly so, and was easy to bring up for sighting with the Centerpoint 3×9 scope. The mounting rail is a Picatinny style, which allows for an easy stop for scope creep if it were to happen. The trigger was not noticeable to me, which is a good thing. Jeff Hanson mentioned that the trigger was re-designed to get a cleaner break and better 2 stage adjustability. The other thing I noted was it was very quiet, due to the internal changes and the new sound suppression system.
I managed to take down a field target with the rifle, and put shots into the bull at about 10 yards. All were offhand shots, which for me is quite challenging. We’ll have to wait to see about accuracy in less controlled conditions, but it was a promising start.
We met up again with Jeff Hanson at the Crosman SHOT Show booth on Tuesday afternoon. Part of the new piston design is the ‘piston arrestor;; a synthetic washer situated just behind the piston seal. In a typical springer, when the piston approaches its maximum stroke near the front of the compression tube, the piston actually stops and bounces back off the compressed air, hence the 2 way recoil common to spring piston guns. In the case of the Nitro Piston II, the new synthetic washer swells as it is ‘squished’ slightly from the momentum of the piston as it starts to slow. The swelling basically grabs the compression tube, holding the piston in place so there is minimal or no bouncing. Hence more power and less vibration.
Put this in the ‘there’s really nothing new under the sun’ file; Randy Bimrose, who’s been working on airguns since the War of the Roses, mentioned to Jeff that the ‘new’ recoil arrest system had actually been tried by Webley back in the 1980’s. Jeff said he had just been apprised of that fact, I’m guessing by another old timer with a long memory.
So, my question is, ‘why did Webley drop it’, if it is such a great mechanism to reduce vibration and gain power? All I can surmise is that the materials of the 1980’s just couldn’t hold up to the constant pounding that the synthetic ‘recoil arrest’ bumper was taking. After all, its job is to get squished by the piston and expand against the cylinder wall on each shot. Perhaps our more recent synthetic materials will hold up better. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Altogether, I was quite impressed with this new Nitro Piston II break barrel. My initial thoughts were that it might make a pretty decent .25 cal rifle, and might even be a nice target rifle if tuned a bit lower and put into an underlever platform. But that’s just typical airgunner thinking, show me something new, and I’ll immediately start thinking of ways to make it better or different.
One day at the range, and another being able to look and hold but not shoot, well, isn’t enough to make a definitive statement. But it sure looks promising. We will just have to wait and see as the new technology gets out into the hands of a few airgunners to put it through its paces.
I’ll leave you with the Crosman official video of this rifle;
Oh, I almost forgot to mention. The audio equipment I brought to the SHOT Show was all wrong. It turns out that the lavalier style mic I brought picks up every sound in the building, so my audio recordings were unusable. I mentioned to Airgun Reporter Paul Capello that I was going to have to convert to being a photo blogger for this show. So, he offered me the use of his EXTRA directional microphone. Not only does he bring the right equipment to the show, he brings spares in case he needs them!!! There’s some lessons there, folks. Thanks again, Paul,