Yesterday was a good day of shooting with the Benjamin Trail XL-1100. As I discussed in Parts 1 and 2 of this review I was able to work through the obligatory break in cycle and pushed around 120 rounds through the gun. By the end of the day I managed to pull off two 5-shot groupings of 1/2-inch or less at 10 meters with JSB Exact Jumbo's. Not bad for a day's work and the gun seemed to meet my expectations as far as accuracy, noise level and low vibration.
My plan for today was to attempt to repeat the shot grouping evaluation at 10 meters and then push the range out to 20 meters and see how things looked there. I also wanted to make a rough assessment of shot energy at the point of impact. I set up my make shift bench, placed the pellet trap at 10 meters and warmed up the gun with 10 rounds of Superdomes. I hung a fresh 10m target sheet and opened the JSB's. I was able to achieve two back-to-back 5-shot groupings that could easily be covered by a dime. I have included a photo of the target taken after the second volley. The large tear on the target on the right-hand edge is from the impact force check I preformed, but we will get to that a little later.
I am convinced, the guys at Crosman have put together a gun that is handsome, quiet, comfortable to shoot and most importantly its accurate. As I stated in the first part of this review I am by no means a marksman. When a hack like me can get groups like this shooting outdoors in a light breeze (you can hear the wind chimes in the video) the team back at Crosman has something to smile about.
I tried to group the RWS Superdomes again but to no avail. They are 2 gr lighter and it may be that the power this gun has requires the heavier weight to achieve good stability in flight. I am tempted to try the Premiers but they are actually lighter than the Superdomes so my guess is they would not shoot much better. I am sure at some point in the near future I will give them a try. They are far and away the best pellets for the .177 calibers I have shot.
To try and assess the energy level at impact I decided to defer to the phone book penetration test. I had a Yellow Pages addendum book that is 1/2-inch thick and decided it would make a good target for the test. I fired a JSB Exact and a Superdome at the book from the 10 meter distance. To my surprise, the JSB completely penetrated book! The hole in the upper right hand corner of the target sheet shown in the photo above was made by the exit of the JSB. The RWS Superdome did not fair as well, only making it about halfway through the book. While material hardness (determined by metallurgical properties of the pellets and they processing method) will certainly affect penetration depth, I believe there was another factor contributing to the poorer penetration performance of the Superdomes; I will get to that in a moment.
I moved the trap out to 20 yards and sat down at the bench to cock the rifle and take my first shot at the extended range. To my surprise, the barrel lock released and my pull on the muzzle was met with zero resistance. I thought to myself, "I dont remember cocking and loading this before taking the photos." I checked the breach and there was no pellet. I suddenly had a sinking feeling in my stomach. I placed a pellet in the breach, snapped it closed, took aim at the ground and squeezed the trigger... nothing. After not even making it to 150 rounds the Nitro cylinder seems to have expired.
B.B. Pelletier's review was abruptly halted by a weak cylinder and now I have been struck by that condition's ugly step-sister, no cylinder pressure at all. For a gun that seems to have a lot of things going for it, an unreliable power plant is most unfortunate. When a company rolls out new technology, like the Nitro cylinder, they not only have to make certain the design is robust but they must also ensure that the manufacturing and quality control systems that will be used to produce the product are equally robust. As these guns are made in China, and speaking as one who has a lot of experience with outsourcing manufacturing to China, I believe Crosman is going to find that this is their slip between the lip and the cup.
I will follow on with another post to provide an update on who well Crosman takes care of their customers in situations like the one I am now in, and I suspect that I am not alone. If you have not ordered your XL-1100 yet I would suggest you hold the phone for another month or two until it can be determined if this is simply a fluke or a legitimate wide spread problem.