Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gear review: Benjamin Trail 1100 pellet rifle

I've always been a pellet gun guy. Growing up in the deep woods of East Texas, my brothers and I were pulled into the country by squirrels and cottontails, and in the chill of a Big Thicket winter, spending a day wandering through the quiet forest with my Crosman 760 Powermaster cradled in my arms was about as close to heaven as we could get.

The Benjamin Trail 1100 NP–a potent weapon for small game.
So, when the Outdoor Blogger Network offered up the chance to review Benjamin's new Trail 1100 NP air rifle, I entered the contest and crossed my fingers. Luckily, I won. Unfortunately, the Idaho deep freeze has taken a good eight weeks to thaw out–I only just got the chance to put this weapon through its paces.

And, for clarity, folks, it is a weapon. This isn't your grandfather's Red Rider. Not even close.

The Trail 1100 NP is a .22 caliber, high-quality rifle. The fact that .22-caliber pellets are propelled by the gun's nitrogen piston is immaterial. At reasonable distances, this rifle is every bit as potent as a traditional .22. Using alloy pellets the unique "nitropiston" can propel a .22-caliber pellet up to 1,500 feet per second. Judging from my experience shooting the gun on a target range, that's deadly to a ground squirrel or a marmot at 50 yards. And, with the rifle's 3-9x40mm Center Point scope, the weapon is dead-on accurate if you take the time to sight it in.

The first thing I noticed about the gun was its heft. I own a 30.06 synthetic-stocked hunting rifle, and the high-quality hardwood-stocked Benjamin, at 8.8 pounds, outweighs it. Thankfully, it comes ready for a shoulder sling–it would be difficult to tote this rifle around the field without being able to sling it over your shoulder, especially if you're hunting in challenging terrain.

The second thing I noticed was the craftsmanship. The hardwood stock is very handsome, and the thumbhole grip really feels nice when this rifle is at the shoulder. The break-barrel cocking system takes some getting used to, especially for a guy who's used to the pump of the old Crosman 760, or the more modern Daisy models that are patterned after that old classic. But, once you load the weapon a couple of times, you'll come to appreciate the power that the single action can provide, and the relative ease of loading a pellet and being ready for the next shot. In all, it just takes a few seconds.

What's more, with the nitropiston technology, you can load the rifle and keep it cocked and ready without worrying about losing too much air pressure and having to pump the gun again. This weapon holds its load for a long time–a luxury for air rifle hunters who spend a lot of time glassing trees for squirrels or waiting for the next rockchuck to make a curious appearance.

There's simply no questioning the quality of this product, and its retail price–right around $300–is more than reasonable. I'm anxious to spend some more time in the field with this gun, and I hope to report back on some squirrel hunting adventures in the near future–the kids are getting antsy to be outside, and this rifle will offer a good excuse to spend some time together as a family.

One note of caution–we all take care to follow all the rules and regulations that accompany gun use in the field. If you're interested in purchasing this rifle for a youngster, make sure there's an adult close by. As I said, this weapon is potent and powerful, and in inexperienced hands, that can prove dangerous. Use caution, stay close to the kids and enjoy this fine piece of hunting equipment.

I plan to.

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