Reviewed by NZ Rod&Rifle Magazine's Technical Editor,
Length 45 inches/114 cm
Mechanism Break Barrel
Spring Nitro Piston
Barrel Rifled Steel
Optics 4 x 32 scope
1200fps alloy pellets,
1000fps lead pellets
The Benjamin 1200fps Bunny Buster
What I like about airguns is they make you learn to hunt: with a range of 30 - 60 yards the air-rifle hunter needs to really understand the terms ‘stealth’ and ‘patience’ to be successful. When these two qualities are understood however, hunting can be very rewarding - and a good grounding in the skills required to hunt bigger game.
The Benjamin brand is not as well-known in New Zealand, but is part of the Crosman Company who have been in the air rifle business for a very long time now. The Benjamin Prowler is a little different from most break barrel air rifles in that it uses Crosman’s Nitro Piston system: it uses a nitrogen-charged gas ram, rather than the traditional spring, to drive the pellet out of the barrel. The Nitro Piston has some advantages over a traditional spring; it is easier to cock, it has less vibration and recoil, and it’s quieter. In theory a gas piston should also last longer as the springs in traditional air guns fatigue with use and as a result velocity reduces over time; this can be especially apparent in cheap models. In other respects the Benjamin is a traditional break barrel air rifle.
The Benjamin Prowler is fitted with a black synthetic stock that has a high cheek comb for use with an optical sight. The barrel and receiver are blued steel and the end of the barrel has a synthetic muzzle device that also provides a comfortable place to grip the barrel for cocking. The receiver is grooved for tip-off .22-style rings and there is a hole in the receiver to take the set screw that air rifle rings often come with. This is a good feature because although the gas piston system recoils less there is still some recoil evident and it would be enough to move the rings if it weren’t for the hole.
The rifle is fitted with an adjustable trigger - a real bonus for a rifle at this price point. The stock has a fairly vertical pistol grip which, along with the high comb, makes it very easy to get comfortable behind. The big selling point however is the Nitro Piston and the 1200fps velocity. This velocity is with lighter alloy pellets; using standard pellets the velocity will be closer to 1000fps. With a small pellet like a .177, speed is your friend when it comes to hunting and the Benjamin is rated at 18 foot pounds of energy, enough to take down small game with head shots. The higher velocity also keeps the trajectory flat, and this makes it easier to get kills at longer distances.
I set the Prowler up on the bench rest and shot groups with Crosman Accupell and Crosman Pointed pellets; I also tried some Gamo Red Fire non-lead pellets. The target was set up at 40 yards to mimic distances likely to be shot at in the field.
To get the most out of the rifle I took off the 4 x 32 scope and fitted my Weaver 6-20 Grand Slam - I wanted to use this scope as it had an adjustable objective lens that allowed me to eliminate parallax and have a focussed sight picture at 40 yards. Most centre fire scopes have the parallax set at 100 - 150 yards, and when used at close distances on higher magnification the scope can appear out of focus. The adjustable parallax setting fixed this and I would recommend anyone buying an air rifle scope of more than 4 power to look at getting a scope with parallax adjustment. Little .177 pellets are quite wind-affected so I had to shoot between gusts to get the best groups.
I have to say that initially I was quite disappointed with the accuracy but as I suspected the wind was opening the groups up to around 2 inches or more. I also suspected that the rifle needed to break in a bit - and this proved to be the case; after I’d fired a hundred or so pellets, the groups tightened up noticeably. It was interesting to note that the Gamo pellets shot quite a bit higher on the target; this I am sure is due to their lighter weight and therefore higher velocity. Both types of Crosman pellets shot similar groups with the Accupells shooting into 0.8 of an inch and the pointed pellets 1.1 inches. The Gamo Red Fire pellets shot groups in the 1.5 inch range.
When shooting groups with an air rifle it is worth noting that where you rest the fore end will have an effect on your group size. I found the Prowler preferred to be rested in the centre of the fore end and not at the end.
While shooting it was noticeable that even though this was a 1200fps airgun, it was quiet.
In the field
I have a fifteen-year-old nephew who just loves to go out and shoot rabbits, so when I said “I have a new gun for you to try,” he was pretty excited. Winter shooting on skitterish bunnies that had been shot at mercilessly over summer made hunting hard work, however. We had to cover nearly 50 acres for just two kills, but Harry would not be deterred. He snuck up a ridge before slowly bringing the rifle over and planting the cross hairs on a rabbit at just over 50 yards; before I could offer any advice he’d let the shot off and we saw our quarry jump in the air. We walked down the hill and found he had head-shot it; bloody good effort! He had obviously been listening to my ramblings on trajectory, as he held just on top of the head to allow for a little bit of drop.
The Prowler retails for $349 including a 4 x 32 scope and rings. For this money you get a modern high velocity air rifle that can bring down small game. It has a good standard of finish and was accurate enough to allow head shots at the ranges it is designed for. Being a gas piston rifle it’s easier to cock than a similar spring-operated model, and it’s commendably quiet.
The Prowler is distributed in New Zealand by Outdoor Brands who also distribute Crossman and Remington.
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