Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review - Benjamin Trail NP XL-1100 - Part 1

Yesterday afternoon I received my long awaited Benjamin Trail XL-1100 air rifle. I have only been exposed to air rifles for a few months but in that brief time I have become quite enamored by them. Being an engineer by trade and someone who enjoys sports shooting by hobby the world of air gunning seems to scratch a natural itch. I have purchased two air guns previous to the Benjamin trail and though they were both probably decent guns in their own right, I was somewhat disappointed with them both. I became quite interested in the new Crosman Nitro power plant technology and had considered ordering a conversion kit for one of my guns. When I began searching for my third gun I was quite delighted to find that the new Benjamin Trail series would come with this power plant as standard equipment.

I have never purchased a product that I did not first invest a significant amount of time researching, perhaps even to a fault. As I begin to investigate the XL-1100 I was discouraged to find so little information about it. As I am quite familiar with the typical new product development process I suspected that the Crosman Nitro was a pilot program for field testing of the new Nitro power plant tech before deployment across a broader product line. I read the reviews on the Nitro and was pleased with what I found. Leaning on the Nitro reviews and hoping that there was still something to the Benjamin legacy I decided to take the plunge with the new gun.

Before going any further with my review I would like to point out that the main reason for posting this review is to provide people like me with a layman's perspective on this new product. My guess is a lot of guys are sitting on the side lines waiting for the first few customer reviews to roll out before they commit to a purchase. There are several experts who do a great job providing detailed reviews on air gun products and I am sure within the next few weeks they will have videos and technical reviews posted on this much anticipated rifle. I have little experience with air riffles and no measurement equipment so take this review for what it is; a simple assessment of the rifle by someone trained in engineering, materials science and manufacturing processes. If you are reading this review and find mistakes and technical oversights please post a comment and point them out.

So on with the review. The UPS driver dropped off the new riffle just before I arrived home from the office. I opened the box with a bit of hesitation, wondering if had made a mistake spending this much money on an air rifle. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. In a word, Wow! It had a really nice look and feel. I unpacked it and found everything to be in order. It was a bit oily in a few spots; probably due to intentional over lubrication to guard against corrosion for the boat ride over the pond.

The Center-Point scope looked really nice and mounted nicely on the Weaver rail. It made solid positive engagement with no perceivable play even with the mount screws just finger snug. This is my first time to work with this type of mounting system and I must say it will be hard to use anything else in the future. The scope has an adjustable magnification from 3 to 9 power, 1" tube, and 40mm adjustable objective. The objective adjustment spans from 30 ft through infinity. It also has an adjustable eye piece and Mil-Dot style reticle. Its very similar to the Adventure class scope without the red/green illumination feature.

I had maybe 20 minutes before sunset so I quickly mounted the scope and scurried out back to squeeze off a few rounds to get a feel for the trigger. The first 3 or 4 shots had to be dieseling as each had an accompanying "crack" that sounded like a .22 LR rimfire. I suspect this is normal and attributable to the excess oil in the barrel and piston cylinder. A large amount of smoke could be observed coming from the breach after each shot. By the fifth shot the "crack" was gone and for the first time I began to get a sense of how quiet a gas spring power plant can be.

The trigger had a perceptible first stage and a deep second draw with a moderately heavy pull in my opinion. I did not attempt to make adjustments as I had made the assumption that the Trail and Super Streak share triggers and everything I have read about the Super Streak suggested replacement was a good idea. (I do not know for certain if these guns share the same trigger) I removed the stock and wiped away the excess oils from all the metal works leaving only a lite film. I removed the factory trigger and replaced it with a GRT III which dropped in quite nicely. I noted that the original trigger (shown at right) is solid metal, not a folded stamping like the Gamo for example. It appears to be a forging with a small amount of machining work. A single tool pass makes a slot perpendicular to the pivot arc and the three holes are drilled. I also noticed that the factory trigger has nearly identical geometry to the GRT III except the trip arm of the GRT III is set at a slightly different angle with respect to the center line of the pivot pin bore. I laid one on top of the other, aligned the two pin bores and they appeared to be almost clones. I did not try it but my guess is you could remove the slack spring from the stock trigger and, if you have enough adjustment in the second stage screw, achieve similar performance to the GRT III. As I already had the GRT III from another project I did not bother with the experiment.

The form of the stock and the details in the checkering, grip end plate and butt plate are really nice. The Crosman team went all out to make this an attractive gun. Judging from the photos I have seen this is the same stock as used on the Super Streak. The walnut stock finish leaves a little to be desired. Nice tight grain with no apparent wood filler but there does seem to be a few spots where debris contaminated the the stain and sealer. The sheen of the finish was flat and it felt almost as if the stain were still wet. As the grain appeared to still be somewhat open and as I prefer a satin appearance I wiped the stock down with Brichwood Casey gun stock wax. This made a noticeable improvement to the appearance and improve the tactile "feel" of the stock. It should also help protect the stock from minor scratches and weather.

Part 2


  1. Hi Rick,

    am waiting for your results shooting the rifle and how she groups. By the way, BB has recommended that if you use JB non-embedding bore paste on a brass brush and pass it through the barrel 10 times, you won't have to be concerned with shooting 100 or 200 pellets down the barrel to break the rifle in.

    Fred PRoNJ

  2. Fred,

    Thanks for that tip; BB is a wealth of information for the air riffle community. Unfortunately I have already cleared the 200 shot hurtle the old fashioned way. Just finished with part 2 and linked it. Will post a part three in a day or so.

  3. This Gun Is A BEAST!