Squirrel Hunting with the Crosman Nitro Gas Piston Airrifle
Jim Chapman
Do Gas Ram spring piston airguns represent a disruptive Technology ? Time will tell, but I've got a gut feeling we'll be seeing them around in growing numbers

I have long been a fan of the hunting springer, and have been using one model another to hunt small game and varmint over the last three decades. This class of gun offers the hunter  some distinct advantages; excellent power suited to any North American small game, capable of very good accuracy, and they are fully self contained as the charging mechanism is an integrated part of the gun. But these guns have some less desirable characteristics as well; they take some effort to cock, they cannot be left in a cocked position too long or the gun can be damaged, and they can be difficult to shoot accurately due to the recoil characteristics.
Enter the Gas Spring Piston airgun; the technology has been around for a while now, but only recently is it being offered in a standard production gun. This technology allows the coiled steel mainspring to be replaced with a sealed piston containing a volume of Nitrogen which is further compressed when the gun is cocked, in effect creating a ďgas springĒ. The gas spring does not provide an increase in the power output when compared to a traditional mainspring, in fact it may decrease a little depending how the gun is set up. But it addressed two of the more serious issues; substantially reducing the felt bidirectional recoil and allowing the gun to be left cocked for long periods of time without damaging the gun.
I have been shooting the Crosman Nitro Gas Spring piston air rifle for a few months now, and have found it powerful and inherently accurate, but as important it is much easier to shoot accurately than most standard spring piston guns Iíve used in the field. Iíve also found that I can shoot this gun off from a rested position as well, and believe these guns are less hold sensitive that traditional designs. There are other consideration that may be associated with the improved shooting characteristics such as stock design, and it is probably a combination of factors. But somepoints that are clear to me after several hunts, I can shoot this gun well, it does an excellent job on small game (Iím using the .22 caliber), and it is advantageous being able to leave the gun cocked as I stalk the woods.
On a recent squirrel hunt I drove up to a State Recreation Area in Northern Indiana, parked my car off the side of the road, grabbed my pack and the Nitro, and started working my way along a clear cut bordered on both sides by stands of woods. It was 9:30 and the morning was fairly warm and clear. I walked very slowly, covering maybe twenty feet in ten minutes as I listened and watched the tree tops for any motion. I heard the occasional nut or branch fall from high in the trees, there was a lot of mast in the form of walnuts, acorns, and hazelnuts in the area, but I didnít hear anything consistant. Then I picked up on that typical gnawing sound from high up on a big oak tree. Walking around while scanning the upper branches I saw a limb shaking, and after a short time saw a red bushy tail twitching. I stepped a couple feet to my left while still looking at the spot, until I could make out the whole squirrel. I brought the gun up and laid the crosshairs right on the head, squeezed off the shot, and watched him drop to the ground a dozen yards away, I collected my quarry and dropped him into my pack and moved on. I was walking down a game trail not more than thirty yards on when I glanced up and thought I caught some motion, but couldnít see anything as I scanned the tree. Leaning the rifle against a nearby tree I used my binoculars, which hung on a chest strap and scanned the tree. About halfway up I saw the top of a head peering down from behind a fork in the upper trunk. I picked up the rifle and rested on the limb of a fallen tree, and looked through the scope as the squirrel shifted his position, taking away my head shot but leaving me with a chest shot. I heard the pellet hit and watched my second squirrel of the morning drop. The Nitro paired up with Crosman Premier pellets was an effective combination, delivering both excellent accuracy and great terminal performance.  After collecting the second bushytail I shouldered my gear and spent the last hour I had hiking the area scouting; seeing a decent buck, a couple does, a couple turkey and a few more squirrels. I marked all these areas as waypoints on my GPS, and will follow up on them when the appropriate seasonís open, then go back for late season squirrels afterwards.
The more Iím shooting the Nitro, the more I like it. I think that this is a gun even those new to spring piston airguns can learn to shoot well with a short learning curve. As far as performance, it does everything I want a hunting rifle to do.
The Nitro Gas Spring Piston air rifle is addresses traditional springer shortcomings.
Five shot group at thirty five yards with Crosman Premiers. of my tripod shooting sticks.... not bad!!!
cocking effort is comprable between coiled sadn gas spring.
The terminal performance with the Nitro was very good, and squirrels hit went down clesanly. Early season squirrel hunting is a challange, trying to find a shooting lane through the thick folliage.
I like the ergonomics of this rifle and found it to come comfortable to shoulder. It is the least hold sensitive springer I've shot.
" The Nitro is intrinsically accurate, has power in line with many PCPs, is not hold sensitve, can be left cocked without damaging the gun"
"This rifle may be the wave of change in spring piston airguns, and the beauty is most springers could take advantage of Gas Spring technology in existing designs"