Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review - Benjamin Trail NP XL-1100 - Part 2

Part 1

This morning I rose with a bit of excitement, looking forward to giving the XL-1100 its first workout. The first task was to make a new pellet trap. I know metal traps and other types are readily available but I fabricate them by simply layering sheets of card board and heavy cloth (denim) with sheets of hard board (the material clip boards are made from). This pack is then placed in a 12X12 cardboard box and any remaining void stuffed with old news paper. Takes less than an hour to make and will last several hundred rounds. Its advantage over the metal type traps is simply that its quiet. As I live in the city noise is a major factor to take into consideration when engaging in backyard shooting activities.

With the trap made and my targets (from printed I set up my simple shooting bench and placed the trap 10 meters away. I ordered RWS Superdomes (14.5 gr) and JSB Exact Jumbo's (15.9 gr). I thought I was going to be able to pick up a tin of Crosman Premiers (14.3 gr) at the local outdoors store but alas I could find none.

The literature that came with the gun stated at least 100 rounds might be required for break in. Between 10:30 pm and noon I pumped at least 120 rounds through the gun. That's quite an arm work out! I had to alternate left arm to right arm to get it done. I am 6' and 195 lbs and would consider myself above average strength for my size. I my opinion its a pretty stiff gun to cock, quite a bit harder than other 1000 fps + air riffles that I have shot.

The GRT III trigger definitely feels better than the original. While I do not have a force gauge to measure I would estimate its close to half the draw weight and about half the second stage pull length. I think its a big improvement.

Despite its weight, the gun feels good to hold. I found it to be well proportioned. The noise level it much lower than other springers that I have shot. Sort of a quiet thump sound with a slight whistle imposed on top. The "jerk" is also markedly lower than other the lightweight magnums I have shot although the recoil remains high. By recoil I mean the aft motion of the gun alone excluding movements forward or torque moments. I was watching my 17 year old son shoot and noticed that the gun displaces aft by what appears to be maybe as much as 1 inch. It has a pleasant "feel" when you squeeze the trigger. There is no buzz sound or sensation in the stock; its a smooth, powerful, satisfying "thump".

I ordered the Superdomes with the gun and since I did not specify the quantity the distributor was kind enough to assume I would want the 500 count package so that's what he sent. As I had more of these than the JSB's I decided to use the Superdomes for the break-in work. Though I was shooting rather indescribably the Superdomes did not seem to group well. While I would not consider myself a marksman I can consistently shoot 5 shot 1-inch groups at 33 feet with a Gamo Shadow Sport. Lunch time was drawing near and my arms were getting sore so I decided to take a break and pick it up later in the afternoon. I was hoping that the heavier JSB Exact Jumbo's would settle it down a bit and let a descent group materialize. I also realized that it could be my hold and grip.

Returning to the shooting bench I started to work on scope adjustment and switched over to the JSB's. The gun sounds different when shooting them as opposed to the Superdomes; deeper thud without the higher pitched metallic whistle sound. As I shot the next 50 rounds or so I began to get a little bit frustrated. The gun would group three shots adjacent to each other (overlapping edges on the target) and then the pattern would suddenly shift an inch or more in one direction or another and I was getting quite a few fliers. The more I shot the gun, however, the better it performed. As I approached shot 200 I started to see things settle down a bit.

I worked with several different hold techniques beginning with the artillery hold as taught by Tom Gaylord. While this hold has worked well for me on pretty much every air gun I have ever shot when I used it on the XL-1100 I would get a flier about every 3rd or 4th shot. I moved my forearm grip out about 6-8 inches forward of the front face of the trigger guard. This put my palm pretty much centered on the forearm checkering. This seems to be the balance point for the gun, which might explain the position of the checkering. This position seemed to make a noticeable improvement. I then realized that this gun does not like to be held loosely. I began to hold the forearm firmly and used the thumb-hole grip to pull the butt snugly against my shoulder. I was rewarded with consistently tight groups thereafter.

I was able to finish up the afternoon with two 5 shot groups of less than 1/2-inch at the 10 meter range. The 5-shot group on the right edge was the best of the day, though the shot at the center 1-inch circle was not bad for a hack like me either. I was shooting outdoors, ambient temperature was around 55 F with a lite breeze. I put a little over 200 rounds through the gun so far and from what I can gather an air rifle is not really broken in until you approach the 2,000 round mark. It is my hope that the performance will continue to improve with time and use. I have every reason to believe this will be the case. Tomorrow I plan to extend the range out to 20 meters and see what the gun will do. With another hundred rounds its my guess that I should be able to keep the same grouping at the longer range. I am beginning to believe that the XL-1100 will turn out to be an impressive riffle that is note for being accurate, quiet and powerful.

I did notice something peculiar today while adjusting the scope. I observed what I would describe as hysteresis in the adjustments. It seemed that when I turned the adjustments CCW the impact point would creep in that direction over the next several shots and then stabilize. However, when I turned the adjustments CW I could "walk" the pellet in the direction of adjustment about a pellet diameter at a time in a very consistent manner; click for click. While I am not familiar with scope construction I suspect a spring is employed in the design and set in opposition to each of the adjusting screws. When the screw is backed out (CCW) the alignment system depends upon the spring to keep the optic mount in contact with the end of the adjustment screw. I am not sure if this is normal for an air rifle scope or if it is an indicator that there is a problem with the scope. I would appreciate any feedback on this matter.

Part 3


  1. Hi Rick.

    I found your blog through Tom's blog on the Pyramyd Air website. So far your review is very informative. I can't wait to keep reading, but I wanted to make a few comments before I forgot...

    I have had the exact same experience as you with shot groups. I usually shoot 10-shot groups when testing, so it was frustrating to see 3 or 4 hit one spot, then another few group an inch away, and have flyers on top of that. I can shoot a 10-round benched .15" shot group at 10 yards with my TX200, so I know it's not a skill thing. I tried various holds, both artillary and firm, back of the hand, etc. and still couldn't get anything to remain consistant. Like you, I had some success with a firm grip right around the forearm checkering, but it didn't last. I have fewer than 200 rounds through it so far, so I'm hoping things will settle down for me like they did for you. Oh - I did notice at the end of my last major shooting session that my front stock screws had loosened up. That couldn't have helped the accuracy. I loaded on the Loctite and snugged them down, but I haven't been able to get back out for more accuracy testing yet to see how much that was contributing to the problem.

    My gun is shooting 14.3g Crosman Premiers (avg. 860 FPS) and 15.8g JSB Exact Jumbos (avg. 791 FPS) most accurately out of 8 different pellets tested. Extreme spread on a 10-shot group from the JSBs was 9.29 FPS. I was sad to see H&N Baracudas behaving so badly - the worst, actually - because they group better than anything else in my .177 TX200. But, different caliber...

    I haven't had similar experiences with the included scope as you have, but I optically centered it before I even mounted it and I haven't zeroed it yet. I've had CenterPoint scopes in the past, and I've always just thought they were ok.

    You were spot on with the trigger. I didn't have a GRT-III, so I opted for tuning. I had to replace the adjustment screw with a longer one because the factory screw wasn't long enough to actually adjust the second stage on my gun. I also worked on the springs to lighten both stages. It now breaks crisp at just over 1 lb.

    Like you, I noticed different sounds/recoil as a result of different ammo. This is something I hadn't experienced before, and can only assume it's because things are quieter and I can hear more. For some reason, Beeman Field Target Specials make the gun kick worse than anything else by a large margin. Incidentally, they also had the lowest extreme spread at 9.16 FPS, but only grouped average.

    Anyway, I'd type more, but I gotta keep reading... :)

    - Orin

  2. I re-crowned my barrel and polished up the breech port tonight because it was raining and I couldn't shoot. I probably shouldn't have messed with anything until after I had run some tests following the stock screws snug-down, but I couldn't help it. Now if accuracy improves, I won't know what the largest contributor was.

    Surprisingly, the barrel shroud comes off quite easily using a 1/4" allen wrench. The baffled plug is standard threading, so turn it counter-clockwise. I took the shroud off initially to inspect the crown, and was pleasantly surprised by how even it was, but there was still some slight burring and room for improvement. Now it is polished to a gleaming silver (which I will have to keep well oiled, having buffed through the bluing), and I did a similar job on the breech. Two other quick details I attended to were cleaning and lubing the breech seal and giving the barrel a thorough scrubbing - no paste, just oil, nylon brush, and patches. Hopefully tomorrow I can observe the total impact on accuracy. It's probably minimal, but still, there's nothing prettier than a mirror polished barrel crown.

    I think I will also perform some tests with the barrel shroud removed to see how much report volume increases.

    - Orin

  3. Oops, I meant for that last post to be at the end of Part 4. Sorry if I threw anyone.

    - Orin