Sunday, February 28, 2010

Review - Benjamin Trail NP XL-1100 - Part 4

Part 3

As I stated at the end of Part 3 of my review, I met with a little bad luck with my new XL-1100. Earlier today while working on dialing in the scope and assessing accuracy my riffle suffered what appears to be a catastrophic failure. For details about the events leading up to the failure see Part 3 of my review.

I wanted to point out a few other observations about the XL-1100 that are not necessarily related to its performance. These should have more properly been addressed in Part 1 but I was quite eager to get out and shoot and skip ahead to the tangible measures of the gun's capabilities. So in this part I will talk about things that I have noticed as it relates to general design and manufacturing fundamentals (not necessarily related to air guns). I have worked in the aerospace industry for 20 years as an engineer in various roles from product engineering to manufacturing engineering, test engineering and development engineering (R&D). I consider myself somewhat of a trained skeptic so when I look at a product of most any type there are just certain things that catch my eye and I would like to share a few of these here.

Before getting into some of my observations regarding physical details I think its worth considering the rifle as a whole and in particular how well it fits the form of its intended user. As I have already stated in previous posts, in my opinion, this is a really comfortable gun to hold and shoot. Its proportions are nice and the smooth "thump" from the shot is satisfying. It should be noted that though the spring "twang" vibration and torque moments are gone and the forward recoil greatly dimensioned, the gun still jumps quite a bit when fired. In the video you can see that it jumps quite a bit when fired by my 17 year old son.

The Weaver scope rail is welded to the compression tube and then machined to remove the weld bead. It could be some type of braze or solder process but my guess is its some form of electric arc weld. Either may the rail is rigidly attached to the tube which seems to make a solid base for mounting the scope. My scope needed less than a full turn of adjustment in both windage and elevation to get on target. Another thing I noted about the Weaver rail is that its slightly higher in the back than the front, compensating for barrel droop I presume. I placed a metal yard stick on edge along the top of the rail and found that it sloped at an angle that allowed an intercept with the barrel center line.

While I am talking about the scope mounting rail, I wanted to drop in a comment about the scope. I do not have a lot of experience working with scopes but this one strikes me as being well made with several nice features. I have already mentioned the eye piece focus adjustment and the AO and adjustable 3-9 power. I really like the windage and elevation turrets. They feature a setting indication system that provides a unique value for any position from stop to stop. Every revolution of the turret exposes a unique tick mark on the non-movable turret hub. If you are familiar with a micrometer, this is the same type of vernier system. You determine the current setting by reading the hub indication and then the turret knob angle indicator. I believe the knobs can also be remove to set true "0" indication when everything is dialed in. This may all be old hat to most readers but I was quite impressed.

Judging from exploded parts manuals I found online the cocking lever linkage appears to very much like what you would find on other Crosman products. The parts appear to be punched from cold rolled steel sheet with a bit of secondary machining for holes and slots and the like. The parts all looked robust and appear to be black oxide treated for corrosion protection. I really did not notice anything here that caught my attention accept the forward stock mount. A strip of steel is folded into a square "U" shape and seated in a saddle cut in the bottom of the compression tube. Two small arc weld tacks are made at each end (see photo at left). The ends of the legs of the "U" shaped bracket is drilled and tapped to accept the two forward stock mounting bolts. Crosman may have a lot of experience with this type of mounting arrangement but in my opinion, a solid block welded in this same location with a relief notch cut to give clearance to the cocking linkage would have offered two advantages. First, a full length weld bead could have been made on both sides at the interface with the compression tube. Truth is this could probably be made with the "U" bracket as well. Second, the block would have given greater thread engagement for the stock mounting screws. I am a little worried about how well these two weld tacks will hold up over a few thousand high g shock cycles that accompany each firing event.

The only other issues that I noticed was receiver had what appeared to be some post bluing grinding work performed on it and the perpendicular faces were left with burs. I took a small jewlers file and cleaned up these edges taking care to not allow the filings to contaminate the rifle. In the photo at left the area I am referring to is the surface just above the spring loaded locking pin. The burrs and unbroken edges were along the bottom and right edges of this surface. I suppose keeping the raw exposed area coated with a thin film of oil will prevent oxidation but I was a little disappointed in the cosmetic impact. The owner stares at this rough ground, uncoated patch of steel every time he opens the breach to load. I also noted a log burr line along one edge of the fork formed at the end of the compression tube, on the top side no less (also visible in the photo, LH fork, top edge). The burr height is small and since it was blued I did not what to break it with a file. These are the typical issues associated with production of any type of product in China. While I realize that its the Chinese production that allows a gun like this to sell for $300 instead of $500, these are workmanship issues that can and should be addressed. Over time I would anticipate that these kinds of details will be resolved.

In spite of the set back and the few workmanship issues that I noticed, I still believe this is a great air riffle. I my opinion Crosman got a lot of things right with this product and the issues I have identified are really little more than the normal teething pains associated with launching any new product, especially when its produced overseas. I am already looking forward to getting my rifle repaired or replaced. It might just be like getting the new gun all over again and that is definitely not a bad thing. Will keep you posted.


  1. Great, great review, Rick. I'm glad you went into all the manufacturing blemishes, because I was wondering if my gun had slipped past a QC officer or two. Here are some things I noticed...

    My receiver also had some rough grinding done on it, but it must have been pre-bluing because there was no exposed steel. Also, no burrs.

    Where the scope rail attaches to the compression tube could be finished a little better. At a glance, the bluing over the welds is dull, but in bright light, the scratches from grinding are evident.

    The cocking linkage is riveted together - disappointing. They should have used pins and c-rings and I would have paid the $3 difference.

    The spring loaded locking pin seems to hold the receiver in place, but not as firmly as I would expect for a magnum powered .22. It doesn't allow for wobble or anything, but I am surprised breaking the rifle open isn't a little more difficult. I expected to have to slap the barrel or strain a little, but I can break it open using just two hands and no additional leverage, with moderate effort (although, granted, a long barrel is leverage in itself). Is yours the same way, Rick? Since all my shot groups seem to be wandering vertically, I have to wonder if the lack of break-action tension could be impacting accuracy.

    I do have a small amount of wood filler in my stock, but it isn't overly noticeable. The wood has a nice tight grain and a very even color. It was actually higher quality than I was anticipating. However...

    The channel in the forestock that the compression tube sits in doesn't look like it was cut right. Maybe they cut it too far forward, or maybe the forward stock mount recesses were mortised in the wrong spot before they cut them a couple of inches further back. Either way, unless you tell me your gun looks the same way and I can be convinced it was designed that way, I will feel like my stock was a salvage job. I simply cannot fathom any functional purpose for the extra mortises, and they look bad because they provide a view into the unfinished interior. This is the most disappointing aspect of my purchase because it reflects shoddy workmanship and lack of quality control. I'm tempted to call Crosman and ask them to send me a replacement stock.

    There is a channel cut into the inner forestock that acts as a track for a roller guide on the cocking linkage. The roller is plastic and is riveted onto the linkage - slightly disappointing. The track was rough with overspray, so I lightly sanded it smooth and sprayed it (and the roller) with silicon lubricant. That made a noticeable difference in the fluidity of the cocking stroke.

    Well, those are my gripes, but I don't want to leave you or your readers with nothing but complaints. All told, I feel similarly to you in that this rifle is a good bargain at $300, and that it will hopefully become a great addition to my collection once properly seasoned. I don't have any buyer's remorse, other than that the power is not quite as high as I had anticipated (I was really hoping for velocities in the mid-900's using Crosman Premiers and mid-800's using heavier pellets). But in this day and age of overstated velocities, I can't say that I'm surprised. It's my first .22 gas shock "springer" and we're still getting to know one another.

    I hope to hear more from you once your gun is repaired. Thanks again for all the detailed info.

    - Orin

  2. Wow. Not sure where I went right, but my accuracy was 300% better today. My second 10-shot group with 15.8g JSB's was just over 1/4" CTC. I think barrel re-crowning played a big part, but more importantly, I'm developing a better hold technique (although that's definitely still a work in progress... my TX200 made me lazy).

    This gun still likes CP's and JSB Exact Jumbos, but the group size on everything I tried shrank way down. 18.1g JSB Exact Jumbo Heavies did almost as well as the 15.8's with the exception of three flyers, but those were probably me. Even Baracudas grouped around 1/2" at 10 yards, which I normally wouldn't be bragging about, but you should have seen them yesterday. I still am getting split groups though... not sure about that one yet.

    I chronied again today, and the first two groups were around 10 FPS higher (clean barrel?), but after 20 shots, averages settled back down to within 2 FPS of last time. At least I didn't break anything. :)

    - Orin

  3. Orin,

    Thanks for the feedback regarding your workmanship issues with the XL1000. Its actually nice to know I did not get one that was simply built on Monday. As I stated in my post this is very characteristic of Chinese manufacturing.

    Nice to see the shot groups coming together. Keep me posted on your progress.

  4. Thought I would provide an update on my defective XL-1100. The good folks at Airgun Depot sent me a UPS return shipment tag free of charge the day after I submitted my RMA request. The gun arrived at their facility on Wednesday of this week and I expect a replacement will be shipped within the next week or so. They claimed the return would be processed in the order in which it was received. Apart from the inconvenience it appears things might work out ok. Will provide updates as soon as I receive a replacement.

  5. Hi Rick.

    Just wanted to give you some updates. I installed a Maccari apex piston seal in my XL. According to the newsgroups and blogs, many people have had issues with their factory seals (gouges, torn edges, etc.), so I ordered one before I even looked at mine. It wasn't in bad shape other than some rough edges, but for $9, I installed the new one anyway.

    I also put in a GRT-III trigger, but I think I actually like the operation of the factory trigger better, post-tune. It is smoother and lighter, although the GRT is prettier, feels/looks better quality, and provides for two true stages. I had to remove the anti-beartrap mechanism in order to get full 2nd stage adjustability from the GRT, and that kind of bothers me. But it's a trade-off, because the post-tune factory trigger had such minimal sear contact that it could have tripped just as easily, even without the trigger blade moving. For now, I'm leaving in the GRT, being very careful while loading, trying to remember to always use the safety, and enjoying the ability to de-cock (which comes in really handy when adjusting and testing the trigger in your living room).

    Some final things I did:
    1) Cleaned out all the factory oil and lubed with moly (except the trigger assy, which I left with the white lithium grease from last time). Operational smoothness is about the same, but I know the grease will last longer and is a better lubricant. I haven't rechecked the cocking weight, but it feels about the same.
    2) Sanded down all the stamped/sharp edges on the piston and compression chamber, and polished up the body of the piston a bit.
    3) Bored out the transfer port to 9/64" from 1/8". There were some pretty deep tool marks/gouges inside it, and I really only wanted to polish it up, but I ended up having to drill it larger to get rid of them. From what I've read, a fair number of .22's can be ported up to 5/32" without compromising velocity, so I erred on the side of caution. I'd be happy with no change, but even happier if I could pump a few more FPS out of it. :)
    4) Polished up and moly’d some other miscellaneous parts, like the receiver detent lock, spring, and swivel screw.

    Since all this, I've only fired it maybe 10 times... and haven't broken out the chrony yet. I figure there’s no point until I’ve put a hundred shots or so through it. The first two shots dieseled because of the new lube, and I was almost hoping I was slinging those CP’s supersonic. Then I shot one more and came to my senses. Accuracy is going to be compromised for a while until I break everything back in, but at least now I can (hopefully) focus on shooting it and less on my OCD-like compulsion to tune. I'm really looking forward to seeing what this gun can do, now that spring is upon us and the pigeons and grackles are back to taunting me. :)

    - Orin

  6. Rick (and Orin),

    How is it going with your Trail XL? Rick - how has your replacement gun been for you? Are either of your guys on GTA forum?

  7. Anon,

    I occasionally frequent the GTA and Network54 forums, but I'm not a daily follower. I posted some responses on GTA today.

    I actually haven't picked up the XL in a couple of weeks. Just had a baby, so free time has been a little hard to come by. The last time I tried to shoot the XL, my groups were horrible. I think this is one of those guns you have to keep a very close relationship with or you will lose the edge.

    - Orin

  8. Rick,

    I think I had a piston failure today too. What has happened since you requested a replacement?

  9. Rick,

    My Trail XL Nitro piston failed too. I was around the 300 pellet mark. I have to send it back and wait on a replacement. Are you still waiting for yours? Was your replacement OK?

  10. Well,,,, no news???

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  12. Rick,
    Did you ever get this resolved. Looks like you dropped off the map or gave up on the rifle..

  13. Hi I just ordered a Benjamin Trail NP XL and now that you guys are saying all of this bad stuff about it because I'm only 14 years old and spent a lot off money on it and I don't have a lot of money to buy a new one

  14. where do I find a breach seal for an NP XL 1100 part number

  15. Replace the pivot washers with brass ones. Crossman uses cheap hard plastic ones that wear out unevenly due to cranking on the barrel to cock it. My XL shots where walking from left to right until I changed the washers and now I get consistent tight groups.