Which is Best? Our Benjamin Trail NP, XL & NP2 Review

ScreenHunter_07 Aug. 03 20.34The Benjamin Trail NP (“Nitro Piston”) series by Crosman has enjoyed great popularity, and includes some of the most well-loved gas-piston air rifles available.

Nevertheless, each of the current three versions of the Benjamin Trail, the original NP, the NP XL, and brand new NP2, are quite different, and each has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages that anyone contemplating a “Trail” should consider.

To help you sort this out, we’ve provided our own review of each model, based on their respective pros and cons, so you can be better informed before dropping your hard-earned dollars. For the sake of discussion, we will compare each model in the .22 caliber.

At the conclusion of the article, we will give you our 2 cents as to our personal favorite Ben Trail.

1) The Original – the Benjamin Trail NP

The Good:

  • Good Hunting Power. As far as punch, the NP brings plenty, and by our estimates (based on manufacturer velocity ratings) is likely to deliver around 18-20 ft-lbs of energy (“FPE”) in the .22 caliber. This is really good by any measure, and makes the NP a very solid small game hunting rifle for those interested in pursuing anything from starlings to squirrels.
  • Easy Cocking/Modest Recoil. Moreover, despite hitting hard, this nitro piston mechanism is quite easy to cock. Likewise, this pellet rifle fires smoothly with modest recoil and a moderate level of “hold sensitivity.” This is good, because these are two of the quintessential “benefits” of the gas-piston compared to an equally-powered spring piston air rifle in the first place.
  • Benjamin Trail NP .22 Specifications

    Click for larger view!

    Quiet Report. Another thing that users will notice is that the NP is fairly quiet compared to a springer. Thus, for situations that require more “discrete” shooting, we think the NP will meet or exceed most users’ expectations, particularly in light of the very good muzzle energy delivered by this gas ram.

  • Decent Scope on Combo. As far as optics, the combo comes included with a CenterPoint 3-9×40 AO (parallax adjustable) scope, which in reality is pretty decent by all objective measures. Yes, you will hear some people wail on about how mediocre to poor it is, but for the most part, that is a typical gripes with just about any combo scope. In fact, all things considered, the scope is OK – what else can you ask for in an affordable combo?
  • Nice Fit & Finish. Finally, the NP is a nice looking air rifle with a clean fit and finish (many appreciate the keyhole stock); it’s also quite manageable, too with an overall length of just over 44″ and a weight of just a tad over 7 pounds.

The Bad:

  • Regrettable Trigger. By far the biggest weak spot of the NP is the trigger. It’s not just heavy, it has a very long second stage as well. Can you get by with it? Sure, but you will have to be a very patient person and really master the artillery hold to do so. The problem is that this trigger is not just annoying, it can and will pull you off your target if not careful. In fact, to the extent that people have trouble with accuracy at all, we suspect that it’s related to the trigger pull, rather than anything else about the rifle itself. Many who buy the NP knowing about the trigger issue either buy an aftermarket trigger (the GRT III “Charlie-da-Tuna” trigger is popular) or try one of various DIY fixes, for which you can no doubt several tutorials on the web. Just remember that tampering with the trigger will void the warranty, so tread carefully.
  • Long Break In Period. Another gripe that we hear too often to dismiss is the lengthy break in period often required. What are we talking about? In some cases, users report needing to push a few hundred rounds before the NP before settles down. The good news is that once it does break in, this thing is a tack driver!
  • Very Picky About Pellets. Besides the woefully stiff trigger and lengthy break in period, you may struggle initially to find the best pellet combination with your particular gun. Getting the right pellet is always a bit of trial and error, but unlike other rifles, there seems to be no default best brands for this gun, you are simply going to have to experiment to see what your rifle “likes.” To that end, we suggest you buy a good pellet sampler pack, get into a comfy bench rest position, and make an afternoon out of it!

The Verdict

The original Trail NP is well-balanced and combines impressive power, good accuracy (once you get past the trigger), a modest cocking effort and a manageable size and weight. This makes it a good entry-level gas ram for more inexperienced users, but one that requires some modification (especially the trigger) and lots of patience before more advanced shooters can really take advantage of the accuracy this rifle is capable of.

2) The Beast – the Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100/725

The Good:

  • Huge Power! The NP XL is a real monster that generates true “Magnum” type power. What are we talking about? This rifle in the .22  – the “XL 1100” – is reported to generate just under 30 ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle! Although user reports put the actual FPE closer to 25 FPE. The .25 caliber version (the XL 725) will hit even harder but will have a more challenging shot trajectory as velocity will drop in the larger bore. Users consistently report amazement at just how hard this rifle hits. For example, one user reported that his XL actually punctured a 2-foot tall fire extinguisher…and this was from a distance of 25 yards! Needless to say, if you are a small game hunter that likes to take game at the larger end of that spectrum (e.g., woodchuck, raccoon, large opossum, etc.), the NP XL will put your quarry down –  and do so in convincing fashion.
  • Passable Scope & Trigger. While you won’t be blown away by it, the included CenterPoint 3-9×40 AO (parallax adjustable) scope is definitely passable with fairly clear, bright optics. Likewise, the trigger on the XL is not really good (and some will probably hate it), but it is comparatively much better than that on the NP, so from that point of view, it’s a plus. At the very least, we don’t think you can legitimately blame your wandering groups on either. Now, the reliability of the scope after a bit of use is another story we’ll discuss later….
  • Trail NP XL 1100 .22 Specifications

    Click for larger view!

    Fairly Quiet Shooting. While not as quiet as the NP, the NP XL is actually pretty darn stealthy relative to a typical spring-piston air rifle that is capable of generating this much power. In addition, the gun will quiet down considerably after break in. Oh, please don’t be one of those people that complain that this is a “loud” rifle when you are firing lightweight alloy pellets that break the sound barrier! Keep your velocities (especially if opting for the .177 caliber) under 1000 FPS and your accuracy will improve – and we won’t have to hear you complain that your Trail is “as loud as a rimfire”!

  • Great Accuracy. Users consistently note very good accuracy with the NP XL, with reports of 1″ groups at considerable distances, up to 50 yards, being common. Indeed, you can expect even more laser-like shooting with upgraded optics and perhaps an aftermarket trigger. In addition, the XL seems to have a faster break in period than the NP, so you can start enjoying tack-driving accuracy much sooner.
  • Quality Fit & Finish. The construction of the XL is very robust and solid, albeit perhaps a little too robust for some users. The detailing on the wood stock models is also quite nice, and the rifle is all around very handsome and masculine looking.

The Bad:

  • Big and Heavy. Did we mention this was a beast? With an overall length of 49″ and a total weight approaching 10 pounds when scoped (it’s 8.5 lbs alone), this rifle looks and feels more like a rimfire than an air rifle. The added weight does have some stabilizing effect as far as mitigating recoil, but the XL can be a bit of a bear to lug around or maintain a hold on when not bench shooting. Definitely not a rifle for young or female shooters.
  • Difficult to Cock. Consistent with its massive power is the considerable effort needed to cock the XL, which is somewhere between 45 and 50 lbs. This is nothing to be trivialized either. Even if you are in shape, you may begin to lament having to crack the barrel on this critter. The longer barrel does offset this to some degree (by giving you a better lever), but if you are young, slightly built and/or female, you might want to try another rifle. Respect your limitations.
  • A Scope-Eater. While the CenterPoint scope on the combo is decent, it may not hold out for too long on the back of this honking gas-ram. Despite being a gas-piston rifle, the XL generates impressive “double” recoil typical of high-powered spring-piston rifles. In case, you don’t know, this dual-recoil is very hard on scopes, and many report that it renders the CenterPoint useless after a few dozen to several hundred shots. Your mileage is likely to vary, and you may enjoy lots of use from yours, but we suggest you get a bottle of loctite and tighten all of the screws/adjustments to get the most out of it.

The Verdict

The Trail NP XL is a real handful, and is not the kind of air rifle that suits new, young or inexperienced users. It also has a lackluster trigger and can really dish out a beating on your optics.

Nevertheless, it offers the kind of big-time power reserved for PCP and much more expensive Magnum rifles, and can deliver the kind of accuracy and take down power (that is, if you can cock this bad boy!) downrange that more seasoned air rifle hunters will appreciate.

We strongly recommend sticking with the .22 or .25 calibers. This rifle in the .177 is like putting bicycle wheels onto a Lamborghini.

3) The Next Generation – The Trail NP2

The Good:

  • Great Power. The Trail NP2 uses Crosman’s revamped gas-piston power plant, which, according to Crosman, makes the NP2 shoot 15% faster and “double the effective shooting range of the original Trail series.” Based on the reported velocities in the .22, this doesn’t seem far off. Benjamin reports that NP2 delivers around 25 ft-lbs. at the muzzle; although again astute readers have indicated this is probably inflated and put it closer to 20-22 FPE. Either way, a very hard-hitting gas ram rivals the power of the XL 1100. Consequently, whatever you can hunt with the XL, you should be able to tackle with the NP2.
  • More Compact. Despite coming close to the power of the XL, the NP2 is a more compact and slightly lighter rifle, measuring 46″ in total length and weighing 8.3 pounds without the scope.
Benjamin Trail NP2 .22 Specifications

Click for larger view!

  • Reduced Cocking Effort. One of the benefits of the next-gen nitro piston is supposedly easier cocking. Crosman reports a 10-pound reduction in fact. This may be a bit exaggerated based on what we’re hearing; however, the cocking effort does not seem near as bad as that required for the XL, which is at least an improvement.
  • Quieter/Smoother. Again, if you compare this gas ram with other models that bring comparable power, the new Trail NP2 is likely to sound fairly quiet and produce a bit less vibration than one would otherwise expect. Although, this may be minimal in an absolute sense – this gun will still kick.
  • Contemporary Look. There’s no denying that the NP2 is a sharp-looking air rifle, with an interesting stock configuration and all-around sleek aspect to it.

The Bad:

  • Inconsistent Ratings. Although it’s normal to have a fraction of users reporting seemingly contradictory experiences regarding things like performance and build quality, the NP2 has had particularly mixed reviews, especially around its debut. For example, one user hates the trigger, calling it the worst ever; another says it’s pure joy – the best ever. Some praise its accuracy; and just as many claim they can’t keep their groups together no matter what they do. However, the NP2’s reviews have grown consistently more positive over time and most sources now give this model a 4 out of 5 star rating. We are not sure if there were a lot of production or QC bugs that have been since ironed out or what; in any event, we are happy to see this positive trend.
  • Shoddy Construction? While most acknowledge the superficial appeal of this rifle, there have been some complaints about its build quality. For instance, one reviewer likened the finish of the wood stock to the veneer you’d find on Walmart furniture – something the user didn’t want to scratch for fear of finding what lay beneath it! Others simply had things break off prematurely, or received rifles that failed or came with defects, such as barrel cracks or loose-fitting, poorly manufactured components.
  • Spotty Accuracy/Questionable Trigger. Even though some found the NP2 very accurate and liked the “new” trigger, many users just couldn’t get the NP2 to settle down, and lots of the reviews blame the trigger for not being much different than that used on the original Trail NP.
  • Over-Hyped? As mentioned, when the NP2 debuted there were many users who were more than disappointed – they actually appeared downright hostile to what they viewed as an over-hyped model that did not live up to its marketing material, and the myriad of so-called “expert” reviews on the web. This user in particular seemed to sum up much of this frustration quite eloquently:

“This gun, as the other reviewer stated, is the most over hyped…product I’ve seen in a great while. It’s kickback is ridiculous, the trigger, much worse, un shootable, the mount fell off in the first few shots (supposed to be welded to the barrell). The accuracy was horrific, could be the trigger which is like pulling a loaded semi a few inches closer to you on a rough gravel road via the bumper. The cocking effort was the same as all other nitro’s, the noise, comparable at least, and the stock is crude and poorly designed, unless you like hard sharp lines everywhere and have extremely small hands. The finish is like they used wood glue, smooth but murky, so you can’t even see the grain of the cheap fruitwood.”

Again, now that things have calmed down and the NP2 has been in production for some time, such criticism in our experience is fairly uncommon and the NP2 has since proven itself to be a pretty solid offering, at least relative to the other Ben Trails.

The Verdict

While the NP2 may fall short of the hype surrounding its release, the NP2 does meet the basic claim of providing more power in a relatively smaller gas ram.  Moreover, many of the harsh criticisms levied against the NP2 when it first came on the scene – such as poor build quality and wildly inconsistent accuracy – seem to have largely dissipated. And although we are not sure why this is, we are glad to see it because the NP2 is clear step in the right direction, notwithstanding possible bugs and/or production issues that may have plagued it initially.

So Which is Our Favorite Benjamin Trail?

The NP2 has come out of the gates a little wobbly; however, it has since demonstrated that it does deliver reliable performance and a fairly solid construction.  As such, if you are looking for a powerful and relatively more compact gas-ram, the NP2 is the obvious choice since it packs considerably more FPE than the original NP, without the weight and bulk of the XL.  Nevertheless, the NP2 comes with a significantly stiffer price tag than the NP too, and many still consider the NP2 to be somewhat cheaply made.

If you are looking for maximum value with a preference for power, we’d have to say we are most fond of the NP XL (specifically, the .22 and .25 caliber versions, the XL 1100 and XL 725). If you are strong and able-bodied, and are interested in first-rate air rifle hunting, you just can’t beat its massive power, solid build, and relatively modest break in period.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a more user-friendly, entry-level gas-ram, i.e., one that is easier to cock and handle, the original Benjamin Trail NP is likely the better choice – just remember that you will need to put a lot of rounds through it at first, and will have to tame (or modify/replace) the stiff trigger to really take advantage of the tack-driving accuracy that the NP is inherently capable of.

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21 Comments

  1. Rod Bailey says:

    This is the best review I have come across and the first to have a honest accurate comparison of this line of air rifles. This from a person that sold his NP prematurely on the NP2 marketing hype

  2. greg stacy says:

    i like the np2 it’s very accurate hits hard synthetic stock is very comfortable the trigger is how it should be for a steady accurate shot in the field, im very satisfied with this squirrel slayer, .22

  3. Frank Clem says:

    Thanks for this comparison, especially for your frankness concerning the mixed results on the NP2. I’m still excited about the new technology and look forward to seeing the bugs worked out.

    I’m highly interested in a big-bore break-barrel for hunting purposes. The Trail NP is always in the mix, but I’d like to see a comparison of the XL 725 with the Gamo Hunter Extreme .25, and the Hatsan 125.

    Additionally, Alabama has legalized air rifle deer hunting with .30 caliber or larger. Any possibility of a .30 break-barrel in the foreseeable future?

  4. shaun says:

    Yes very true about accuracy on the NP2 first shot straight out of the box I hit a quarter pounder gray dove at around 35 to 40 yards after that I couldn’t hit anything within 10 yards then I tried a target shot around 7 yards placed 3 shots at the bull got 1 hit direct and the other two was an inch apart from the first like you guys mentioned it’s all over the place but I love the power it went right through a 1 inch plywood. I’ll see what happens after I put about 500 pellets through it and see if accuracy gets better thanks for this article it was really helpful dam I wish I got the XL .22 caliber

  5. Mark says:

    Mmm, I was in my local Airgun shop the other day, a guy was tossing up between a lightly used RWS 52 with Hawke scope, and a new NP 2. After a long chat and advising him the RWS would be the better bet for $50 less than the NP2..he bought the NP..being a seasoned airgunner I felt disappointed for him. Still, just hope it works out for him. The Diana was beautiful ..you can lead a horse to water….

  6. Wesley says:

    I just bought np2 whoever u getting bad reviews on this gun just doesn’t know how to shoot I was grouping shots at 25 yards within 10 min of first shooting this gun. Use to own a gamo and np2 is much quieter and smoother shooting

  7. Bob St. Jean says:

    I have had a few 177 pellet rifles and wanted to step up to a22calliber air rifle. I did a lot of research on the latest and greatest out there within my budget of 200.oo to300. oo. I ended up getting the Benjamin trail np2. My rifle looked great right out of the box. Pretty heavy. I started shooting wrs match grade flat tip pellets. The gun shoots great right out ofthe box. Took about 20 rounds to get the scope dialed in. I really like this rifle. I am shooting groop shots till there is no paper left at25 yards in a 2 inch circle. I also have shot the super domes and the benjamin hollow points. These rounds are between 14g and14.3g. The rifle cocks pretty easyy. I had shoulder 2 months prior to buying this gun. I have gone thru 250 rounds . I am still dialing in the scope. I am sure this guN will be the tack driver that some claim. The more I shoot the tighter the groups are getting. One of the drawbacks that I feel should be addressed by not having iron sites. It is great to use a scope, but more fun and challenging having the iron sights. On closing thoughts I really am very satisfied with this rifle am other than not having the iron sites and the weight of the gun I love it an would easily give the gun a rating of 4.5. On another note I am trying to adjust the trigger pull and it is also getting better. (LESS TRIGGER WEIGHT).

  8. Jeremiah Babcock says:

    I’m about 250 rods into my trail np2 .22. I started out by cleaning out the gunk from the barrel right out of the box and let me tell you, there was a LOT of gunk down there. Sighted in rather quickly with Benjamin Doscovery pointed 14.3 gr. held descent groups (1″@15yds) with the occasional flyer through 100 of these, then I moved in to the destroyers, these pellets wouldn’t group worth a darn, the hollow points are not far ahead of the destroyer in the consistency department. I’m hoping by the time I get through the first 300 (pointed, destroyer, then hollow point) I can group the domed. Also let me note that I have cleaned the barrel after every 100 rds. I wouldn’t call it a tack driver but it will certainly kill squirrels. My np xl 725 arrives in two days so I’ll have a comparison shortly. I bought the np2 for my fiancé and it is a bit too much gun for her. She’s 5’5″, 115lbs, athletic but not stout by any means. She would rather shoot her compound bow than this rifle but I’m not giving up on her yet. I wouldn’t call it (the np2) a disaster but it certainly isn’t a dream yet. I’m hoping I just haven’t found the right ammo for this one yet and that once I do it will drive nails as they say. Thanks for the honest and straight forward feedback.
    J. Babcock

  9. Edson says:

    I just bought an NP XL .22 caliber and I really really want to make up my mind once and for all what the ideal scope to equip it. This air rifle has a hard kick and I don’t want to spend with new scopes. I’ve read and reread dozens of reviews on scopes on internet and I found that the “UTG 3-9×32 Compact CQB Bug Buster AO RGB” is the best choice. Please someone disagree? Sorry about my english, I’m brazilian. Thanks in advance.

  10. Ed Simms says:

    I am a proud owner of the .22 cal NP XL. This gun is a dream gun. You are right, blew out the Center Point within 300 shots. Ripped it all apart, used locktite back together and good as new. Although mine did no have the adjustable objective lens so I purchased a Stoeger 3-9×40 AO. and it blew it out in less than 50 shots, or it was never any good one or the other. It went back.
    I don’t have a hugh budget for a scope but any recommendations would be welcome.

    Ed

  11. Ed S says:

    Really like my NP2 Trail. The combination of appearance, quality of bluing, workmanship, ease of cocking, mild recoil, power and accuracy come to mind immediately. Mine came with CenterPoint 4-16X40 scope, illumined IRs and sling. After approximately 500 rds., my 5 shot groups at 20yds. have come down from 1.5″ to all <1". I think this improvement in accuracy is more a result in my learning to manage the "non-match" grade trigger rather than having to break in the gun. Best $300 I have spent in a long time.

  12. Russ says:

    Apparently that Wesley guy doesn’t understand what inconsistent means, just because you got one that shoots good doesn’t mean all of them are made well and shoot well. To just say “oh they don’t know how to shoot” is pure stupidity. I bought a Ruger Impact and Benjamin Trail NP2 so I could see the difference in the spring and nitro piston, I shoot at the same targets with both guns. I can hit everything I shoot at easily with the Ruger Impact with multiple types of pellets and it holds TIGHT patterns, I shoot 3 shots and can cover them with a nickel. The NP2 however I can hit one shot dead center and the next shot doesn’t even hit the target so you have no idea where it hit. If it was me I wouldn’t be able to shoot with any gun but the fact that I can shoot great with other guns but the NP2 is EXTREMELY inconsistent with it’s shots says it’s the gun for sure. Hoping to get my money back

  13. william jenkins says:

    I’ve been shooting air rifles for thirty years or more and own a RWS Model 52 in .177, a Model 48 in .22, the old Benjamin Super Streak, and my newest is the NP2. As far as quality, accuracy, and power- RWS is excellent in both calibers that I have tried. The Crosmans have a way to go to be on their level. But the Benjamins have a little more pure power across the board which is admirable. They take much longer to learn to shoot accurately but the accuracy is there. The one thing holding the Benjamins back is the sorry trigger. I know what a good trigger feels like (RWS triggers are excellent!!), and the ones Benjamin uses are not good.The RWS’s are accurate and hard hitting out to approx. 60yrds. The Benjamins that I have used extend that range out to 70-80 yrds. which is why I bought them. My assessment is is that the RWS models are well above the Benjamins in precision and workmanship but once you get used to the NP2,s trigger, you have a very formidable contender in its price range and class and more than ample power and accuracy. FORGET THE “SUPER STREAK”, IT iS A HEAVY PIECE OF JUNK THAT MUST BE DISPOSED OF IF/WHEN YOUR SPRING BREAKS BECAUSE IT IS NOT WORTH THE COST OF REPLACING IF YOU CAN EVEN FIND ANYONE WHO WILL DO IT!!! I found this out the hard way. The spring broke after very few rounds and Crosman customer service recommended I throw it away and buy another! I recommend you check repair cost and customer service before you buy.

  14. jody says:

    I dont know what any of you are tslking about the np2 is great just got mine last weekend and out the box it took 4 shots to get sighted in the first bird i shot at droped and today after work shot a squarel im impressed so far it takes being commited to shat you love to do and knowing what your doing

  15. joe jack says:

    I’ve had a xl-1100 for 3 years now , no, its not the best air rifle, but I got no complaints, the trigger is not that great, but you get use to it after awhile, its got more than enough power for me, and it is picky on what you shoot out of it, mine likes the premier’s best, 14.3 , dome or hollow point, I can hit a starling at 40 yards, 9 out of 10 times , just my 2 cents… good shooting !!!

  16. John says:

    Remarkably accurate and candid review. Well researched and articulated. I shoot air rifles frequently to include all of the aforementioned. The NP2 is my personal favorite among those included in your article but white powder at the base of the scope mount had me scratching my head. It must be the glue or bond used to secure the mount to the receiver.

  17. Jim Broughman says:

    I just got my Benjamin trail np 2. It was accurate the first 20 shots. 1/2 ” group at 25 yards. Then it went to being very inconsistent won’t shoot a 5″ group. I’ve put maybe a 100 crosman pellets through it . How many before the break in does it need? Any suggestions are is it a lemon. I’m going to clean it good and maybe put a 100 Moore through it. If this doesn’t work I’m taking it back. Trigger isn’t great but it’s not bad enough to make it shoot so inconsistent.

  18. Mike Thalman says:

    First thing you do when your airguns groups start to open up, is to check and make sure all screws are tight. 9 out of 10 times that is the problem. Loctite and let sit a good 24hrs before use.

  19. Backroads says:

    My other gun is a 12 gauge, so for those worried about the recoil of the NP2, work on doing some push ups…it is almost non existent. I just got my NP2, and it is already one of my most coveted rifles. Very powerful as it totally penetrated my 5/8″ plywood, bolstered with cardboard and still almost punched through my steel garage door. This would be a great survival rifle, being able to carry many rounds and take small game along the way. I would compare the scope to a BSA or Bushnell, and call it a very descent scope.

  20. Mark says:

    My Trail NP .22 All Weather (np1) is so powerful and accurate I couldn’t imagine selling it to buy the np2. I tell you this gun is a hard act to follow..mine is devastating on pests with H&N Hornets and it is not pellet fussy. I lube the linkages with Ballistol and wipe it down with the same. It is very well made, the cocking is smooth and it is pretty quiet. My TX 200 .22 and Diana 48 pro .25 are both louder. It did break a Hawke 4×32 AO scope but now I have a Nikko Sterling 3-9×42 on it and it is great so far. A well balanced can do anything gun. I take my hat off to Crosman well done!

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