by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Let’s look at the Walther 1250 Dominator accuracy at 25 yards. In deference to the 8-shot clip, I’m shooting 8-shot groups rather than 10. The way this rifle loads, with the clip almost disappearing in the receiver, it’s too difficult to keep track of those 2 extra shots.
I’ll be honest — I stalled testing this gun in the house because of the noise. It’s one of the loudest airguns I’ve ever shot indoors.
I said last time that I would give you a shot count once I filled the rifle to 4,350 psi (300 bar). Well, that didn’t happen. I filled it as far as my freshly filled carbon fiber tank would go, but that was only to 4,200 psi on the tank’s gauge, which seems pretty accurate. The rifle’s gauge showed a lower fill pressure, but I chalk that up to small pressure gauges never agreeing.
I didn’t get a complete shot count. I did, however, fire about 40 shots in the test and still had air remaining for at least another 15. If you can get the gun completely filled, there have to be at least 55 full-power shots available. Probably more, but at least 55.
I mounted an AirForce Airguns 4-16X50 scope on the rifle in a BKL 1-piece cantilever mount. The scope was low over the receiver, even though the BKL mount is a high one; but because the circular clip is entirely contained within the receiver, there was no interference.
I shot from a sandbag rest at 25 yards off an MTM Case-Gard Predator shooting table. In a moment that will become important to know.
I sighted the rifle in and started shooting with the H&N Baracuda Match pellet. It was accurate enough, but I felt the rifle could do better. Eight shots went into a group measuring 0.597 inches between centers.
The Baracuda Match pellets didn’t give me what I wanted, so I switched to 10.34-grain JSB Exact Heavy domes. They started out doing better than the Baracudas and produced a 0.522-inch 8-shot group. But two pellets strayed from the main group. I called the one that went to the left, but not the other one that went high. So, as good as this pellet is, it isn’t the best pellet in this rifle.
Then, I tried RWS Superdomes — a pellet that many of you favor over just about all others in .177 caliber. And this is where I had an epiphany with this rifle. The first 8-shot group measured 0.461 inches, but it was full of wild shots that went off when I wasn’t on target. That was both the fault of the trigger and the rifle’s light weight. I’ll address it in a moment. But this target told me that this rifle could shoot much better if I really tried.
The Walther 1250 Dominator is a very light rifle, and the trigger isn’t that light. As a result, the gun moves more than a little as the trigger is squeezed. This can be overcome by paying extreme attention to detail on each shot, but it’s something I normally don’t need to do when shooting an accurate PCP.
That’s why I mentioned the shooting table and sandbag rest. Normally, such things are an absolute lock for the guns, but this time the rifle is so light that it still moves around too much. You’re only going to solve that with technique.
The next group was shot with as much concentration as if I were using the artillery hold. And the payoff is a 0.404-inch 8-shot group. That represents the best I can do with this rifle and pellet at 25 yards.
The bolt is hard to cock and sticks when pushing it forward to load the pellet. It isn’t much of a hinderance, but you do notice it. I did discover that if the bolt is worked fast and with authority, it does become smooth. So, the rifle likes to be treated like an SMLE.
Opinions thus far
I found things to criticize on the Walther Dominator 1250. No. 1 is the need to fill it to 300 bar. That’s just too much pressure, and it uses all the air I can get. The rifle is very loud, and I’m no longer used to pneumatic air rifles being so loud. The trigger is too heavy and long, and the rifle needs to weigh at least 2.50-3.00 more lbs. to be stable. However, all that pales when we look at the accuracy.
This is an accurate air rifle — make no mistake. Today’s test was at 25 yards, so it’ll be very interesting to see what happens when we move to 50 yards.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Before I begin today’s report, I have sad news. Our friend Earl “Mac” McDonald passed away on Sunday, May 5, at 4:30 a.m. He was surrounded by his family.
Mac was diagnosed with a prion disease in April of this year. I don’t want to discuss it here, but if you want to know more, here is a link. This disease affects one person in a million. It is not only very rare, but the cause wasn’t even discovered until the 1980s. Scientists are still unsure of all the details.
I was aware of the probable diagnosis when I went to visit Mac last month but was asked not to disclose the details. Fortunately, when I arrived, he was able to recognize me. I sat with him and talked about old times whenever he was awake. My wife, Edith, and our friend Otho Skyped with Mac. Via the computer, Edith showed Mac the SHOT Show report in Shotgun News, which was the last thing he photographed for me.
Like everyone who knew him, I’m saddened by his passing — but that is more than offset by the pleasure of knowing him as long as I did. The fact that he was able to attend this year’s SHOT Show was especially rewarding.
As this blog moves forward, I will occasionally refer to Mac and some of the things he did. The best memorial I can give him is to never forget the time he was here.
I left you with a cliffhanger last Friday — more than I imagined, as it turned out, because I thought I was writing Thursday’s report and would publish the second part on Friday, rather than today. I know you all want to know what happened when I seated the H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets deep in the bore with the cocking aid attached and rested the pistol directly on the sandbag.
If you were expecting a Cinderella story, it didn’t quite happen. The group got measurably better — in fact, it was the second-best group of the test to this point. Ten shots made a group measuring 1.105 inches between centers. Compared to the previous group, which was larger than 2 inches, it seemed clear that this was the best way to shoot this pellet — deep-seated, gun rested on the bag and the cocking adapter attached.
Ten shots with H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets seated deep with the cocking aid attached and the gun rested directly on the bag made this 1.105-inch group. So, deep-seating these pellets reduced the group size by half.
Did you possibly think that it put all 10 into the same dime-sized hole that the 5 good ones went into on the previous test? I hoped that would happen, too, but it didn’t.
Not H.P.White Labs
Before you start looking back at all the testing done on this pistol to-date to recommend different things for me to test, let me say I am not H.P. White Laboratory, and the goal of this test is not to see how accurate the Benjamin Trail NP pistol can possibly be. My purpose is to evaluate the pistol as it comes from the box, so those thinking of making a purchase will have something to go on. I think I’ve done that already, and the gun is definitely worth the money. But the test is far from finished.
Air Venturi Pellet Seater
Blog reader Nomobux asked me how deep I seated the pellets with the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Pellet Seater. Well, that varies, based on how thin the pellet skirts are. But I measured the seater with the pin protruding by 0.163 inches, which seated the pellets about 0.125 inches deep.
A blog reader asked me to test Crosman Destroyers — a new hollowpoint that has a large open cavity in the nose. Since I was playing, I decided to shoot 5 shots and see if it was worth finishing the group. With the pellets seated deep, the cocking aid attached and the gun rested directly on the bag, 5 shots made a group measuring 2.546 inches, so I stopped there. Since that was already very large and 5 more shots would not make it any smaller I decided to save my time and effort.
Five shots with Crosman Destroyer pellets seated deep with the cocking aid attached and the gun rested directly on the bag made this 2.546-inch group. I stopped after 5 shots because the group was already too large.
But I also figured some of you wouldn’t let me rest if I didn’t test at least one more variable with this pellet, so I shot it seated flush, as well. Surprise! It turned out better. Ten shots went into 2.086 inches. That’s not a world-beater group, I know, but it is better than the 5 shots with deep-seated pellets. It points out that deep seating has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Ten shots with Crosman Destroyer pellets seated flush with the cocking aid attached and the gun rested directly on the bag made this 2.086-inch group. Though it’s not a great group, it is better than the 5-shot group with deep-seated pellets.
Michael, Michael, Michael!
Blog reader Michael saw that I hadn’t yet tested the best-shooting RWS Hobby pellets from the rested position with the cocking aid attached, but he was standing on my shoulder as I played with the pistol. I knew you would want me to go back and test it this way, so I did. This time, the magic didn’t work, however, and the 10-shot group size was 1.536 inches, so no improvement.
Isn’t it interesting how changing one variable will change the entire performance of the gun? I think so.
The bottom line is that the Benjamin Trail NP is still a whole lot of value for the price tag. And I’m not finished, yet. There’s still another accuracy test to go with those lead-free pellets; and then I want to recheck the velocity of the gun, now that several hundred shots have been fired. There’s more to come, so sit back and enjoy.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today we’ll make blog history. This is the first half of a 2-part report on the Benjamin Trail NP pistol. I was shooting it yesterday and found myself going in so many directions that I collected too much data for a single report. So the second half of today’s report will come on Monday.
I told you in the last report that I decided to “play” with the pistol rather than subject it to a rigidly structured test. Well, that must be catching because I did it again today. Something about this air pistol seems to invite experimentation.
It doesn’t have to shoot low!
I said that it shot too low in the last report. It did, but I was using the sights in a way the manufacturer did not intend by using the tip of the front sight for a 6 o’clock hold. That caused the gun to shoot a little low by itself. But, today, I replaced the rear sight with a red dot sight and found that the gun can shoot to the point of aim with ease. In fact, I had to adjust the sights down, but I will talk about that later.
I mounted a Tasco Pro Point dot sight on the 11mm dovetails that are on the rear of the spring tube. You could use anything that has a decent amount of adjustability.
It’s so much easier using a dot sight because there’s just the dot and target to watch, instead of the sight alignment. Shooting the pistol was much easier.
The first pellet: RWS Hobby
In the last test, RWS Hobby pellets were the most accurate, so those were the first pellets I tested this time. That made it simpler to test the gun because I knew I was starting with a reasonably accurate pellet.
And because this will become important in a while, let me tell you that these first groups were shot without the cocking aid on the gun. It’s a little harder to cock without the aid, but installing and removing it for every shot takes too much time.
The first group surprised me, because it wasn’t as good as it was the last time I tested this pistol. The first shot was a low flier caused by my unfamiliarity with the dot sight; but after that, all the rest of the shots were the best I could do. I think the measurement for 9 shots is more representative in this case, and let’s exclude that one low shot.
Nine shots went into a group that measures 2.04 inches between centers. That’s still larger than the group I got with open sights, which is 10 in 1.155 inches. I wondered if some of the stock screws might have loosened in all the shooting. I checked, and they certainly had. I tightened all stock screws; but instead of running the same test again, I proceeded to the next test. How would the pistol respond to pellets seated deeply with the Air Venturi Pellet Pen and Pellet Seater?
Not only did the group improve measurably, the point of impact rose by two inches when I seated the pellets deep into the breech with the pellet seater. This pellet seater is really proving to be a valuable piece of equipment when used on certain guns — like this one. And this rise in the point of impact is why I say there’s no problem with the Trail NP shooting low. You simply need to seat the pellets deeply.
This time, 10 RWS Hobbys went into 1.025 inches between centers. That’s remarkably close to what I did last time with open sights, but just a trifle better.
Since deep-seating seemed to produce such good results, I decided to seat all pellets from this point, on. For my next test, blog reader Victor suggested that I try some good competition pellets. He recommended some H&N pellets, so I selected H&N Finale Match Pistol pellets. I seated them deep and proceeded with the test. But, oh, my, they didn’t do well at all! At least not when taken as a whole.
Five of those pellets managed to make a very tight little group. They gave me hope that this pellet wasn’t as bad as the numbers said. Perhaps something more was required?
The dot showed that I was shaking a lot more than I was comfortable with, despite using a two-hand rested hold. My forearms were resting on a sandbag, and the pistol was held in my hands, just in front of the bag. It sounds like a solid rest, but the dot said otherwise.
Since I was playing with the gun anyway, I stopped shooting for score and started experimenting with different holds that were firmer. I tried using my off hand as a modified artillery hold, but that was just as shaky. Then, I laid the gun directly on the sandbag and had a go. That proved to be the best way to hold it, as all shaking stopped and the pellets landed together again.
I also thought that if I was going to rest the gun on the bag, I might as well use the cocking aid again, too. I had now fired the gun about 50 times in all and wanted to relieve some of the strain on my hands. So the cocking aid went back on the gun.
And that’s all I’m going to tell you today. Tune in Monday to see if this new position paid off.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
The most refreshing thing about this blog is that we keep getting new readers, while retaining a large percentage of our long-time readers. That allows me the occasional opportunity to share an inside story with several hundred of my closest friends. Today is such an occasion.
We got this comment yesterday morning from reader Jp:
BB, got another question: You ever heard of using a solid pellet in an airgun. A bullet, I guess would be the correct term. Considering an airgun tends to shoot like lower velocity black powder (usually subsonic, I assume), maybe use something like a Minnie-ball shot. Know anything about this, how it works, how it doesn’t work, is it worthwhile or even a good idea? Jp
From his remarks, it sounds like Jp may have been a blog reader for some time. And he asks a question that I’ve heard before — not always from the consumer side of the sales counter. Many manufacturers have ventured into the realm of solid pellets without knowing what they’re doing or the ramifications of using such technology in an airgun. I would like to address this issue in some depth today.
A solid pellet is exactly what Jp says — it’s a bullet. It does not have the stabilizing feature of high aerodynamic drag, so all its stabilization must rely on the rifling-induced spin. From tests we did with a smoothbore pellet gun, we know that aerodynamic drag does cause a pellet to fly true for at least the first part of its flight. See the results I got at 10 meters with the Diana model 25 smoothbore.
But that’s not a deal-killer because we also know that a solid bullet (and that’s what a solid pellet really is) can be accurate from spin, alone. I’ve gotten sub-one-inch 10-shot groups from my Winder musket shooting standard-speed .22 shorts at 50 yards, and that rifle has a twist rate of 1:22 inches. Even when the 29-grain lead bullet exits the bore at 1,000 f.p.s. (or less because the Winder has a 28″ barrel that cuts velocity), it can still be accurate from just the spin. We know that an air rifle twist rate is really 1:16 inches, which is faster than the 1:22 inches that’s the standard twist rate for the .22 short cartridge (actually, the rate varies by manufacturer, from 1:20 to 1:22 inches).
The Winchester Winder musket shoots a .22 short bullet of 29 grains weight at less than 1,000 f.p.s., yet it’s very accurate at 50 yards.
If a powerful air rifle can fire a solid “pellet” weighing about 30 grains at 1,000 f.p.s., it should be accurate. Right? I mean, wouldn’t that be what we’ve all been looking for: An air rifle that fires with the force of a .22 rimfire. This is the thinking that certain pellet manufacturers have undertaken in recent years when they got their great ideas to make solid pellets. Yet, I’ll bet a dollar that NONE of those pellet designers have ever shot a muzzleloading rifle.
But you readers have watched me shoot plenty of muzzleloaders. I guess the Nelson Lewis combination gun is the one you remember the best. Know what you have to do with a muzzleloader? You have to pound the bullet into the rifling to get it into the barrel — that’s what. For that, you use a tool called a short-starter. Every muzzleloading guy knows what that is.
This is me pushing a bullet into the muzzle of the Nelson Lewis combination gun’s rifle barrel with a short starter. They make it with a wide ball end so you can put some force behind it! And this is a patched bullet — not a naked lead bullet that needs to be engraved by the rifling.
If you try to load a solid pellet into a rifled barrel, YOU become the short starter. Or at least your thumb does! Back when a certain solid pellet called a Piledriver first came out, they sent a sample batch to AirForce Airguns, and yours truly had to test them in a Condor to see if they had any merit.
Test them? Heck, I couldn’t even load them! I finally resorted to using a penny on the end of my thumb to push the pellet into the rifling, and even that didn’t work very well. You can sit on the sofa and talk about the benefits of solid pellets all day long, but let’s see how your mind changes when you actually try to load one into a gun!
At this point, the engineers will tell you that the diameter of the pellet’s body is critical. If you can just get it right, these pellets will load. Well, I’ve been testing solid pellets for at least 15 years in dozens of different airguns, and to-date I haven’t seen one that was right. While I was at AirForce, I worked for over a year with the Pelletman (a maker of many kinds of solid pellets), trying to get the dimensions correct…and we never succeeded.
But wait…there’s more
Jp asked a question that I know many other folks have been wondering about. I say that because this subject comes up a lot at the airgun shows. So, I’m not going to leave it here.
I will actually load some of these pellets into a Condor, which is one of the only air rifles powerful enough to shoot them anywhere near the same velocity as a .22 short bullet, and we’ll see just how accurate they are. That’s why today is Part 1.
If you have thoughts, stories or questions, now is the time to speak up.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Accuracy day has arrived. And this is going to be a report that’s different than the ones I normally write because I decided to do things differently with the Benjamin Trail NP pistol. First of all, there’s some interest in the gun. Readers have said they’re watching the reports because this gun seems to deliver a lot of performance for a very reasonable price.
Next, I’ve read some owner reviews that talk about the gun hitting low. I wanted to test that for you. Owners also say the pistol shoots to two different impact points, depending on whether or not the cocking aid is attached.
Finally, I received a call from Crosman’s head engineer, Ed Schultz, who noticed I was testing the pistol now. Ed confirmed that the pistol does indeed shoot to two different points of impact, depending on whether or not the cocking aid is attached. He was also intrigued by how much I seem to like the air pistol, so we chatted about that for awhile.
How this test will be different
I decided to “play” with this pistol today instead of plowing through a formatted test with X number of pellet types. What that means is that I decided to let the pistol lead me through the test, and to look at those things that were interesting — even if they didn’t conform to my normal test format. I think the test went well, but it lead me in directions I might never have taken otherwise.
It shoots low
The first pellet up was the RWS Hobby. The first shot wasn’t even on the paper, so I elevated the rear sight as high as it would go, then I held up the front post above the rear notch in a style that was popularized by Elmer Keith. That got me on paper, and I put 10 shots through the gun. They landed in a group that measured 1.155 inches between centers. This turned out to be the best group of the test, and I think it shows the accuracy potential of the pistol quite well. You see, I was estimating how much front post to hold up above the rear notch while I shot this group, so my aim point was only an estimate.
When Elmer Keith wanted to shoot handguns farther than their sights would allow, he used this holdover sight picture. Keith inlaid gold lines on his front sights, but I am simply estimating the height from shot to shot.
Even when I held over a lot, the pellets landed below the aim point. So, I used another trick by drawing a secondary aim point above the main bull and using the holdover sight picture on it (at 6 o’clock). My sight picture now looked like the drawing above.
Next, I tried the lead-free Crosman Powershot Penetrators. Using the higher aim point, I put 10 of them into a group that measured 2.527 inches between centers. Obviously, they’re not right for this pistol.
Different impact point?
I told you I was playing with the pistol, so next I tried an experiment to see the difference in point of impact when the cocking aid was left on the gun or removed during firing. And there was a difference! For this test, I used JSB Exact RS domes.
I used the same high aim point, and the pellets landed about 2 inches lower when the cocking aid was left on the barrel during firing. I’ll show both groups on the same target, so you can see what that looks like.
The group fired with the cocking aid installed was slightly tighter than the one with it removed. The one with the cocking aid measures 1.369 inches between centers, while the other group measures 1.636 inches.
I reported that the cocking effort is low for this pistol. Well, that’s fortunate; because when I shot it without the cocking aid, I also cocked it that way. The effort required with the aid installed still measures 25 lbs., and with the aid removed it increases to 35 lbs.
This time, I shot the pistol indoors, and I still must say that it’s very quiet for the power. I think some new owners may have had a few detonations when their guns were new and thought their pistol was going to always be that loud, but I doubt that many will fault it for the sound after it calms down.
The trigger-pull isn’t so much heavy as it is long. It does take some concentration and even discipline to shoot the pistol at its best. But there’s no creep in the second stage.
Crosman Premier heavies and JSB Exact 10.34-grain heavies
I had thought that heavier pellets might do best, so I tried both Crosman Premier heavies and JSB Exact heavies. Since I was just playing with the gun instead of conducting a formatted test, I decided that if either pellet didn’t show any promise by 5 shots, I wouldn’t complete the group. Well, neither one did, so I ended each group at just 5 shots. Both would have been over 2 inches for 10 shots.
Crosman Premier lites
The last pellet I tested was the 7.9-grain Crosman Premier lite, figuring that if the heavy didn’t group, the lite might. And that was correct. The lites gave me a 1.775-inch group, which doesn’t sound good. But 9 of those pellets are in 1.314 inches, which is a lot better.
What’s the verdict?
The verdict is — it’s too soon to tell. I still have some things to test with this pistol. For starters, the sights that are on the gun are so problematic that I want to try it with a good quality dot sight and see what I can do. If I can adjust the sight so I’m able to aim at what I’m hitting, and if I use the 3 pellets that worked well in this test — RWS Hobbys, JSB Exact RS and Crosman Premier lites — then we might just see a more accurate gun.
I also want to test pellets that are seated deep in the breech to see if there’s any difference. There are the two lead-free pellets that Crosman sent, but I didn’t get around to testing this time. I’d also like to run a velocity test after all of that because, by then, I think the gun should be broken in.
More than ever, I think Crosman should build this gun as a carbine, using exactly what they have here but with an extended barrel shroud and a rifle stock. As easy as it is to cock as a pistol, I can see it losing another 10 lbs. of effort as a carbine. What a wonderful little plinker it would make!