|The Benjamin Trail XL 1100 Nitro Piston
|Last year Crosman released their first Gas Piston spring piston technology which they call the Nitro Piston. It is a Nitrogen filled piston that replaces the conventional coiled mainspring used to generate the energy required to drive a projectile down and out of the barrel.
There are several advantages to this technology; and from the hunters perspective. I think the main ones are; that the guns firing cycle is stabalized so you don't get the jarring bidirectional recoil which makes these guns much easier to shoot accurately compared to traditional out of the box springers. They are significantly more quiet, and they can be left in a cocked position for a long period of time.
At the SHOT Show this year Crosman unvieled several new guns in the Nitro line, named the Nitro Trail, which are magnum springers that will be available in .177, .22, and .25.
I recently got my hands on the Nitro Trail.22 and have been putting a lot of pellets through the rifle, though I haven't had the opportunity to hunt with it yet.
Before conveying my initial impressions of this gun, let's take a quick look at what the manufacturer claims about the guns performance.
|These Gas Piston powered airguns offer several advantages, they are easy to shoot accurately, they are quiet, and they can be left cocked for long periods without damage to the gun|
|The box that the gun came packaged in, contained the rifle, a 3-9x40 scope with mounts, a sling, and had the swivels installed. It also had much of the marketing and positioning material printed on it. It stated that the gun could generate 1100 fps (with alloy pellets) and 30 fpe. That's a pretty tall order for any .22 caliber spring piston airgun, and I was curious to see what it could do. It also stated that an independent testing facility had found that the gun was 70% quieter than other "quiet" springers on the market.
The Trail XL was dressed in a hardwood thumbhole stock that had machine cut checkering on the pistol grip and forestock, not beautiful but functional, and provided a good purchase. A nice touch is the cap on the pistol grip and the ventilated butt pad with white spacers, which does contribute to the overall good looks of the gun..A bull barrel adds to both the looks (in my opinion), and a little to the weight which seems to balance out the gun during shooting. The gun is substantial, weighing in at 8.8 lb and an overall length of 48.2", but is a very manageable package.
I spent a couple days shooting several different pellets off the bench, for groups and to measure velocities. I also did a fair amount of casual plinking just to get a feel for the gun. The first thing you notice is the solid firing cycle and stability, which I think is a function of both the guns action, the bull barrel, and the stock. The recoil is less than you'd experience with a conventional spring, and it is possible to shoot this gun off a rest. There is a substantial cocking effort, but not difficult to manage, I shot a couple hundred pellets in a single session without a problem. Sometimes when shooting a springer over a long session, your head can take a jarring from the bidirectional recoil, but that was not an issue for me. Another thing I liked was that the safety, while not in my favorite location, did not auto deploy when the gun was cocked. This a feature that many new springers incorporate which I don't much care for ...... but I'm probably just set in my ways.
|The rifle I am shooting has a harwood thumbhole stock with very ergonomic handling characteristics. I like the fact that it uses a Weaver style base rather than a dovetail for mounting a scope. It allows for a wider selection of rings to be used, and negates the need for a scope stop.There is also a cleverly designed front sling mount, which addresses the problem of how to carry the gun in the field. As a matter of fact, a sling also comes packaged with the gun|
|The Nitro Trail XL has an adjustable two stage trigger, that allows the second stage to be reduced or lengthened according to the shooters preference, though I found the out of box set up worked fine, there is a little creep but it breaks crisply. I am playing around with it to see if I can get it optimized to my preference, i.e. set up with very little creep, and a crisp break at about 2.5 lb.
I've had a lot of fun shooting this rifle so far, it is accurate, has a smooth shot cycle, it's quiet, and pretty easy to cock. Speaking of cocking effort, I would guesstimate the effort at 30 or so lbs, equivelent to many other magnum springers, lighter than many. The most energy efficient way to cock the gas piston guns is a smooth and even motion through the cycle..
|In my gun the JSB Jumbo Exacts and the Crosman Premiers were the most accurate pellets often giving a single ragged hole at 20 yards. The targets shown above illustrate that several pellets shot well through this gun, I used three shot groups for large scale comparisons, the few random five shot groups fired were consistent.
The Graph below shows the avarage velocity (over 5 shots) obtained with several brands and styles of pellets that are appropriate for hunting applications ranging from 28 grain Eu Jins down to 13 grain Beeman lasers. The highest velocity I got was a bit over 900 fps for the 13 grain laser and the highest energy was 27.5 fpe with the H&N Baracuda. The advertised specs from Crosman was up to 1100 fps with alloy pellets (which I didn't have on hand) and up to 30 fpe, so I'd say they were pretty close to the mark. Any way you look at it, the rifle hits like a hammer while handling in a well behaved manner. I don't like going out on a limb to recommend a gun until I've had a lot more field time with it, but thus far I am well impressed with the Nitro Trail. While I find myself shooting pcps more often these days, these are the kinds of guns that keep pulling me back to my springer roots!