This article originally appeared on prostaffer John Hatcher’s personal blog,

The last time I shot an air rifle on a daily basis, I was 12.  A Benjamin 397 was my weapon of choice at the time and I shot it every day.  I killed countless squirrels with it and could drop shot after shot through the same hole with iron sights and a blindfold on.  That was 18 years ago and a lot has changed since then.

As the years passed, I moved on to other things and I’ve been totally oblivious to the advancements made in air rifle technology.  My air rifle knowledge began and ended with my old Benjamin 397 and after a short bit of research I realized how far behind the curve I really am.  I quickly found out that pellet rifles of today are viable mid sized game weapons and capable of accurate shot placements at distances I previously thought impossible.

I reentered the air gun world when I got my hands on the Benjamin Trail NP2 at the end of May.  This is Crosman’s second generation of its popular Nitro Piston rifle and I was excited to shoot it.

Once my work schedule slowed to a manageable pace, I started shooting the NP2 almost every evening.  Unlike the Benjamin Marauder which I loosely equate to a rimfire .22, the Trail NP2 is a break action piston driven air gun and it’s the first piston gun I’ve shot.  I’ve shot a spring driven gun before, but that’s not even on the same level as the NP2.  I started plinking at the air rifle range where I work, shooting off hand at a variety of targets.  I was really impressed by how accurate and hard hitting it was but it’s a different style of rifle than I’m used to and it took a little time to get adjusted.

The Trigger: The biggest difference that stood out in shooting the NP2 versus what I’m used to shooting is the trigger.  I’m used to shooting guns that have a single stage trigger that is no heavier than 4 pounds.   The Trail NP2 has a dual stage trigger that breaks crisply around 5.5 pounds.  In the air gun world though, this is pretty standard.  You take up the slack until you hit “the wall,” then slowly squeeze until the shot is fired.  This took a lot of getting used to and I flinched for at least the first 25 shots.  Once I got over that, the flinch disappeared.  The weight of the trigger on the NP2 is non adjustable, however there is a screw located behind the trigger that adjusts the where the second stages starts.  You can basically make the first stage as long or short as you want.  Neat feature.



Recoil: I shoot a lot of centerfire rifles.  They have recoil.  Backward, shoulder bruising recoil.  When the Trail NP2 is fired, the piston in the receiver travels forward, creating recoil in the opposite direction of a powder burner and at first it felt like there was a lot of muzzle jump.  It really wasn’t that big of a problem  but a lot of times, I found myself anticipating the shot and sometimes would tense up or flinch, pulling the shot down and right.  This was a bigger issue later when I was trying to get the gun to group from sandbags.   Once again, a little practice made the difference.

After shooting one hundred rounds or so, I wanted to see how this thing grouped.  I was hitting everything I shot at from an off hand position so I figured when I threw this thing in some sandbags, there wouldn’t be anything to it.  I backed it off to 30 yards shooting the Crosman Premier 14.3 grain pellet.  The first group was a little wide.  No problem there, I just wasn’t warmed up.  Group 2 was even wider group 3 was still pretty bad.  Here’s where I started to get really frustrated.  I can shoot.  I’m confident in my abilities and know what I’m capable of doing and this wasn’t it.


I blamed the trigger and my air gun inexperience on spraying pellets all over the target.  With some practice, my grouping improved but it was still lacking.  In search of answers, I did what any red-blooded American would do and turned to Google.   I was immediately overwhelmed and my search returned vague answers related to piston gun break-in periods, faulty optics, alloy versus lead pellets, dieseling and a bunch of other things I had no clue about.  In short, I was still at square one of why my rifle wouldn’t group.

I was fairly confident the Centerpoint 3×9 scope wasn’t the problem.  I secured all the screws with red Loctite and since shots never wandered farther than an inch or so, I was fairly confident that the optics weren’t the issue.  I tried different ammo but the results remained the same.  Domed, wadcutter, pointed, lead, alloy, it didn’t matter.  No consistent group could be achieved.  Scratch that off the list.  My lack of grouping was starting to get to me, so I took a break.  When I returned to the shooting bench, I had a revelation…I’m not holding on tight enough.

When shooting a rifle from sandbags, I typically have a very loose hold and just kinda touch the trigger off without moving anything.  This is the way I’ve always done things and it has always worked.  The Trail NP2 doesn’t like this hold at all. You have to hold on to this thing.  Not death grip hard, but you have to be in control of it without shaking the crosshairs all over.  It’s a fine line but is easily achieved.  It made sense because shooting off hand when I first got the gun, I was hitting 2 inch steel flipper targets with no issue.  I also had the rifle sucked up tight to my shoulder with a good grip on the fore end.  That is what makes this rifle shoot.  It’s all about the hold.  After this realization, things got a lot better.


Here is my first 5 shot group with a firm hold.  5 shots produced 3 holes that could be covered with a dime.  Now we’re talkin’.  My frustration was finally alleviated and for the first time, I felt like I was shooting the NP2 to its full capability.  I kept clipping off 5 shot goups until I felt totally comfortable behind the gun.  The recoil, trigger, and all the other stuff that felt alien to me now felt normal.


It only took 2 months of feeling like an idiot before I realized you have to hold on to this thing when shooting from sandbags.  I still shoot it almost every day and have no problem putting the shot where I want it.  I dropped a Starling a couple mornings ago and when I hit it with a range finder after the shot, I was pretty surprised to see the distance was 71 yards.  I’m really enjoying sliding back into the air gun world and the Benjamin Trail NP2 is to thank for that.  I’m slowly getting versed on the ins and outs of air gun shooting and learning more every day.  I think it’s safe to say I found a new truck gun.