Saturday, March 31, 2012



Even if you ask someone who is not a gun person, the name Crosman is a household name. For me, my love affair with Crosman started with a .22 caliber Pumpmaster and provided near rimfire rifle power without the parental oversight and I wielded that power to unmercifully slaughter junk birds for hours each night after school.  My parents rewarded my pump up marauding with more pellets and more time each night to assure the house and deck were free from mulberry tree stained poop.  Imagine your cars, house, and everything in your yard covered with blueberry stained bird crap and you understand why whittling down the blackbird and starling populationthis became a parental assigned job.  Pump, pump, pump....still pumping....  argh 10+ pumps later, I was finally ready to shoot. 

Though rusted and abused, that Pumpmaster still works after being rebuilt only once but I would have given away my bike for a single cocking Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100.

As we fly through time, Crosman has a storied past starting in 1923 manufacturing cutting edge airguns.  They were the manufacturer of airguns and accessories for Montgomery Wards, Sears and Western Auto until finally in 1966 they introduced their first Crosman branded products. 
From 1971 to 1990, Coleman actually owned Crosman until the company was sold to Pexco which again spurred growth with the acquisition of Visual Impact Targets and Benjamin Sheridan in 1992 including Sheridan’s high growth paintball manufacturing.  From then until now, the family of Crosman brands has continued to grow and innovate.

Sure the pre-charged pneumatics are getting all the attention these days with multi-shot capability, however I for one am a believer that the better common sense preparedness airgun purchase are the break barrel rifles simply because they do not require you to carry around an air tank or separate external pumping accessories.  

Although the blistering velocities of .177 airguns theoretically come close to the foot pounds of muzzle energy, down range the .22 caliber airguns still pack more punch all while typically pushing the pellet down the barrel sub-sonically without the loud supersonic crack.

Crosman has maintained the Benjamin line as their premium airgun line marketed to select retailers.  I picked up their top of the line Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100 in .22 caliber as an all purpose critter getter for hunting and pest extermination. Unlike my old multi-pump Crosman Pumpmaster, the Trail NP XL 1100 requires only one break open cocking maneuver to achieve up to a blistering 1100 fps with up to 28 ft/lbs of energy to put down substantial sized critters.

“Wow” would be the word I would use to describe the fit and finish of the Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100.  The hardwood checkered thumbhole Monte Carlo style stock is beautiful.  The barrel finish is good and consistent on my sample and the laser engraved Benjamin logo’ed stock is all first rate.  The CenterPointscope is of high clear quality and the sling is as nice or nicer than most standard rifle slings I have used. 

Everything on the Crosman Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100 (.22) seems to be a cut above other rifles in this premium break barrel class. The XL 1100 cocks smoothly, the scope and parallax adjustment work well, however initially I had the same complaint which I find on most airguns... the trigger. 

The initial factory trigger setting is two stage, but the first stage is extraordinarily long and mushy with an undefined second stage which is still too long. Once it does break, it breaks crisply, however I found myself searching each time for the second stage and a definable trigger break.

The hidden feature noted lightly in the documentation, is that the trigger is singularly adjustable for a harder or softer first stage. I wanted a very light first stage and screwed the adjustment in as far as it would go which netted a lighter first stage and more defined second. For most this would be enough, but being a tuner I then went too far with an extra turn and stripped the nylon adjustment screw block. The slightly wider and 1/8" longer 3mm machine screw I substituted, resecured a tight fit in the nylon block and further reduced the first stage effort and allowed me to remove some of the second stage take up.  Certainly a warrantee voider, but sometimes you get lucky. My groups shrank instantly with the Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100.

The 8.8lb Trail NP XL 1100 is not particularly light and in fact it is in the heavier range compared to most airguns but the weight does provide good off hand stability, helps counteract the piston recoil, and also contributes to the outstanding accuracy.

The Crosman Benjamin Trail NP XL1100 is the company’s top of the line hunting break barrel airgun. Some of those features are the hardwood checkered stock, sling, 3-9X power CenterPoint scope with adjustable objective, and scope covers.  

The trigger and safety is a design favorable to me on airguns which I have seen frequently.  The safety lever covers the trigger for safe and kicks forward for the fire position to provide unhindered finger access to the trigger. The little details are thought through including a rubber O-ring around the chamber to maximize compression and a real 1913 Picatinny rail for the scope mount which will make things easier should you want to select another optic.

The biggest feature is the Nitro Piston technology which powers the XL 1100 not with a spring but with a Nitrogen piston.  Advantages of the Nitro Piston are that it will maintain power maintenance-free exponentially longer than a mechanical spring, will not develop a memory or loose compression if left charged, and is unaffected by temperature or altitude changes.  
So instead of compressing a spring for the piston power as with a typical break action, the XL 1100 cocking stroke compresses the sealed nitrogen cartridge for the piston compression. Press the trigger, nitrogen cartridge decompresses and pushes the piston forward which compresses air and powers the pellet on down the barrel.

As with any break open piston rifle, you need to learn the Artillery Hold. If you grip the stock and lock the buttstock into your shoulder tightly you will never have consistent accuracy from a piston gun. If you think of a big army artillery gun where the barrel recoils freely and the base stays stationary, this free recoil hold is what you need to achieve.

The generally accepted method is to hold the rifle with two or three open fingers with your support hand at or just behind the balance point of the rifle; usually just in front of the trigger guard. Gently hold the trigger hand just enough to pull the trigger with the buttstock lightly or not touching your shoulder for stability and watch your groups shrink dramatically.  The reason for this diversion from typical rifle shooting hold is that there is a whole bunch of stuff moving around violently with the piston slamming forward even before the pellet starts to move.  The more you try to manage that recoil the more variables you add which change how the gun reacts during the firing process and ultimately your accuracy.

As we live out of city limits we have loads of unwanted wildlife in the area and I was provided with ample opportunities to test out the hunting functions of the Crosman Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100.  The Benjamin reliably and humanely removed critters from small ground squirrels to raccoon sized varmints and pests with just one pellet. For me this is key.  I never want to see an animal suffer, even one which is considered a pest.  I have been with people who hunt with lower power .177 airguns and it always pains me to see them occasionally need to place a second finishing shot. The wallop of the Trail NP XL 1100 with .22 pellets delivers some serious impact downrange.

I found the Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100 very accurate with a broad range of ammo. I set up a set of targets at 20 yards and found most quality flat head or doomed ammo delivered accuracy within 1” groups. The reality though is that specialty pellets are tough to find.

One of the things I like about Crosman and their Benjamin category is that they have really paid a lot of attention to providing an expansive line of Premier and Discovery pellets I tested.  Along with the NP XL 1100 I picked up tins of the lead 14.3gr Benjamin Discovery Hollow points, Crosman Premier Doomed, hollow points, pointed pellets and 9.5grs of the SSP lead-free pellets. The Crosman Premier are very high quality pellets and readily available the Benjamin Discovery line are an even higher quality finished version of the Premier Hollowpoints. 

The SSP 9.5gr lead free pellets seemed really fast but not as precise as any of the lead pellets and required a substantial change in zero.  What I liked about all the 14.3gr lead pellets was that they all grouped pretty much to the same 20 yard zero so if you have to run down to pick up another tin or want to swap between pellets, you should not have to worry too much about re-zeroing between the hollow points, doomed or pointed pellets which provides a lot of pellet versatility.

So how good did the Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100 shoot? With the artillery hold and the Discovery pellets, I managed more than a few ⅝” groups and at least one ½” group and with the Premier Doomed pellets and hollow points plenty of ¾” groups.  The Pointed pellets managed a few ¾” groups as well. I credit many of these groups to the trigger tweaks and the overall quality of the Trail NP XL 1100. The net of my shooting experience is that this airgun is a tack driver.

In a survival situation an airgun is handy for a variety of reasons.  First is that the .22 caliber packs a heck of a punch and can provide more humane kills than the .177 caliber little brother.  Comparatively the .22 airgun delivers around 25% of the knockdown power of the .22LR which at 28 ft/lbs is more than substantial enough to take game up to 10lbs with accurate shot placement.  From my experience even a lower power .22 caliber pellet rifle is a perfect squirrel and rabbit hunter, however the Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100 will fill your hunting limits quickly and easily even on larger game.

Another survival plus is that ammo/pellets are super cheap at around $10 for 500 premium pellets can be had at about ½ the price of quality .22LR ammo. This means for a paltry $100 you have have 5000 rounds of premium pellets tucked away should the need arise. For preparedness this means you can remove pests and hunt all manner of critter quietly even at 50 yard ranges without the noise of a .22LR and without burning any higher power primer fired ammo.

Airguns are also a whole lot of fun, are a great option to teach gun handling and safety, and hone you skills off season. On an everyday basis a fine quality pellet gun can be a handy item with hunting permits to remove the moronic woodpecker drilling away on your downspouts and the errant rabbit, squirrel, or raccoon which decides to overstay their welcome.  The Benjamin Trail NP XL 1100 is a very fine airgun which delivers big power which can also pay for itself quickly from a practice perspective.  All around this is a top shelf airgun for any need.

  • Model Number   BT1122WNP
  • Alloy Pellet Velocity   Up to 1100 fps
  • Weight 8.8 lbs
  • Length 48.25 in
  • Mechanism Break Barrel
  • Power Source Nitro Piston
  • Caliber .22
  • Approx Energy 25-26 ft-lb
  • Capacity Single Shot
  • Barrel Rifled
  • Front Sight none
  • Rear Sight none
  • Optics Rail Weaver-style
  • Optics 3-9x40mm AO
  • Safety Lever
  • Material Hardwood

Crosman Benjamin Airguns

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Kelly Kettle Large Stainless Steel Complete Kit Review

Kelly Kettle Large Stainless Steel Complete Kit Review

Recently I tested an imported English design similar to the Kelly Kettle, however I wanted a bigger kettle for a group (or a hot shower) and I wanted one made from Stainless Steel. Kelly Kettle is a manufacturer of the same time tested internal hollow cone-ed fast water boiling design as I tested in the previous design.  
One of the reasons I was excited about Kelly Kettle was that they have operations here in the US which make their kettles considerably easier to find and purchase and they have a very long history.  Kelly Kettle is a fourth generation company founded in Ireland which now offers updated versions of the famous design developed and used for hundreds of years by Irishman who simply wanted a hot cup of tea during wet, windy and rainy weather.
Kelly Kettle offers small, medium, and large sizes in either aluminum or stainless steel.  The finish and fit of the kettle, base, and cooking kit I picked up was excellent.

The capacity is a big 50.7oz/ 6 cups on their large stainless model I reviewed and generates plenty of hot water for a camp group.  I found that two Large Kelly Kettles of boiling water poured into a clean and unused bug sprayer with a little cool water makes for a really nice hot outback off grid spray shower.  

The major feature of the Kelly Kettle is that the hollow cone shaped interior design both exposes the water to the most heat possible, but also drastically increases the draft and heat when combined with the fire cup base.  The whole setup works basically like a charcoal chimney starter and burns any wood or other natural fuel hot and fast all while shielding the fire from wind and rain.
The standard Kelly Kettles includes carrying/handling bail, attached/chained rubber stopper, and the fire cup base which can be inverted and stored compactly inside the Kettle.  The Complete Kit adds a grilling grate, pot support which breaks down flat, pan handle, fry pan which can be used as a lid, and sauce pan.  Surprisingly the entire kit nests very compactly in a space only slightly larger than just the base Kelly Kettle.  Comparatively this complete stove kit is lighter and smaller than all but the most pricey titanium kits.
The main reasons I like these type kettles is the fuel efficiency, versatility and size.  As you would avoid with any cookware, running the kettle dry will eventually burn out the lining of the kettle. Assuming you always use the Kelly Kettle with water in the chamber the stainless or aluminum versions will last almost indefinitely with little or no maintenance. 

There are no fuel costs or fuel to carry, zero operating costs, a simple design which does not rely on fuel lines, igniters or burners. It works every single time regardless of altitude as long as you can make fire, can be transported without restriction on all public transportation, and it does this all and still boils a full tank of water in about 4-5 minutes with very little fuel.  If you are one of those treehugger types it also reduces landfill impact with no canisters to dispose of.

Operation is simple, Drop some wadded up newspaper in the fire cup, place a filled Kelly Kettle on the fire cup with the cork installed (so you don’t drop fuel in the water, but you MUST remove this before there is any sign of simmering) and load a handful of whatever relatively dry fuel you have into the top of the chimney such as twigs, light the paper through one of the holes in the fire cup base, and then pull the cork.  In around four minutes from match strike, you will have boiling water, in 5 minutes you will have volcanically explosive boiling water if you keep feeding it fuel.  In that same time you can also use the chimney heat to cook up or reheat your dinner.
The benefit to this design once a fire is started is that the intense heat burns nearly any potential tinder even if it is a little damp. In my experience the kettle burns everything from pin cones, sticks and twigs, to bark and grass quickly and completely to an ash state with very little odor.  If you have or make a little charcoal, that makes a great long lasting fire.

Often we get caught up with how something should look and work and we miss a great design.  This is a truly great design for the camper, hiker, preparedness or survival folks which looks a lot different that we are used to here in the US. At 2.1lbs the large model it is also very light considering you don’t need to carry any fuel and the complete kit can nest compactly and still leave room to stuff food and utensils in the inner hollow part of the kettle. The grate also provides use to grill and heat food directly off the fire cup. The Kelly Kettle allows you to carry more food and a no fuel... definitely a handy survival feature in a cookset and stove.
Kelly Kettle Large Stainless Steel Complete Kit
Stock Item 50045

Material Stainless Steel
Kettle Height 15 inches
Kettle Diameter 7.4 inches (widest point at rim of fire base)
Kettle Capacity 50.7 fl. oz., 1.5L, 6 cups
Pot Capacity 32 oz. / 4 cups
Included in Kit 50.7 oz/1.7L Kettle, Base, Grate, Cook Set and Pot Support
MSRP KIT $104.99 as tested

Kelly Kettle USA

Friday, March 23, 2012



When you ask anyone about the original leaders in the AR industry, the legendary name of Yankee Hill Machine comes up over and over and over.  Yankee Hill Machine was founded way...way back in 1951 as a cutting edge machining facility focused on the four key values of  quality, engineering, performance, and value.

Yankee Hill evolved and grew with the AR platform offering a growing array of AR accessories around their values. Yankee Hill is heavily integrated into other custom AR manufactures as options to customize your rifle during the build phase. In fact it is nearly impossible to purchase a customizable rifle without being presented with at least one YHM AR upgrade accessory in the process.  

Today, Yankee Hill Machine not only offers one of the most expansive high quality AR accessory lines of any manufacturer, but also offers that same breadth and quality in standard and fully custom AR rifles, uppers, and lowers and renowned sound suppressors.

Generally I have gravitated to 16”-18” barreled rifles, however I had been wanting to find a lighter weight 20” upper with a full rifle length gas system and landed on Yankee Hill’s site.  It has been a while since I visited the YHM site and was reminded how expansive and unique their AR product line has become.  Yankee Hill had just what I was looking for in their fully customized Lightweight 20” Upper in 5.56 Nato and then I added a front and rear set of their Q.D.S. Same Plane Sights for a great off hand shooting AR.
Yankee Hill Machine has been noted extensively for their quality and this upper was no exception.  The build is solid with quality Yankee Hill components used throughout.  This is a lightweight 20” upper and when mounted with the YHM sights to the pictured Tactical Machining complete lower only weighed in at 7.75lbs which is a nice weight considering the rifle length billet forend and 20” barrel.  
As I recommend when shooting any picatinny railed forend, adding rail covers will greatly increase comfort and handling with un-gloved hands. My preference has been for the Lo Profile Blackhawk Picatinny Ladder covers which provide just enough coverage without any extra bulk of the standard covers I used initially.
Shooting this upper is a lot of fun and more enjoyable to shoot than your standard carbine. Part of that is that the rifle length gas system reduces the recoil noticeably more than a carbine and mid-length system.  The plain barrel’s report also appears quieter to the shooter and the rest of the folks on the line than ARs with flash hiders or muzzle brakes.  Add these traits together you have a really pleasant shooting rifle.

What I liked most about this YHM-7700-L is that it is already fully customized with some very trick YHM parts.  Yankee Hill starts with their “T” Marked Upper Receiver with forward assist, charging handle, and Mil-Spec Bolt Carrier Group that is spec’ed on all their rifles and uppers.
The 20” barrel is fully chrome lined and available in either 1 in 9" or 1 in 7" Twist and I choose the 1:9 twist to stablize the 40Gr-55Gr rounds I plan on using with this rifle.   The barrel is non-threaded which drops a little weight and reduces overall length if a flash hider had been added. The result is a rifle that does not feel much longer than your standard AR 16" barrel + flash hider.
Most hunters and target shooters will opt for a un-threaded muzzle due to less boom back on the shooter and potentially higher accuracy and honestly this would actually be a better home defense gun becuase of the apparent concussion reduction to the shooter. YHM has added a ton of functional style to the barrel with deep flutes before the gas block and the YHM Diamond Fluting up front to aid in barrel cooling and reduce weight.  Probably one of the cooler looking barrels on the market and definitely a nice custom feature.
The black stainless gas tube it matted to a YHM-9385A single rail gas block which accepts tall front sights or standard Same Plane sights with a YHM riser adapter.  Covering the barrel is a YHM Rifle Length Lightweight Railed Handguard which provide about four feet of picatinny rail space for your accessories, but can be covered with any of the standard rail covers to increase comfort. With large holes throughout the handguard, it gives the opportunity to enjoy peeks at the awesome barrel fluting under the handguard and greatly reduces the weight of the long forend.  
The Yankee Hill Machine upper ran perfectly. Fitting and functioning this upper to a wide variety of lowers diverse as a New Frontier Armory Polymer Lower, Black Rain Ordnance Billet Lower, and standard profile forged Tactical Machining lower were all problem free.  Let's see any other writer test out a upper with this array of lowers.
Although I have not hit the 1000 round count yet, hundreds of various rounds netted no functioning, firing or feeding issues regardless of standard or heavy buffer lower receiver configurations.

Another nice touch is that YHM includes two ½” picatinny risers on the upper which can be used for scope mounting or optics mounting.  

I used one of those risers and YHM’s front sight same plane riser to mount my Bushnell TRS-25 with a perfect co-witness to the flip up YHM Q.D.S. Same Plane Sights.  Generally the TRS-25 is painful to find the right rise setup, however this worked perfectly with a 100% USA made product.
When you start out zeroing on 25 Meter AR targets and nest a nice clover leaf with iron sights and $5.99 a box steel cased ammo, you know accuracy at 100 yards with a higher power optic and great ammo is going to be good.  
For accuracy testing I bolted up my trusty Simmons Predator Quest 6-24X scope and my Atlas bipod I use for all accuracy testing and hit the bench to see how the YHM-7700-L liked a diet of Hornady 5.56 NATO 55 GR GMX Superformance rounds.  Beyond the break in and a lot of general plinking and shooting drills which put around 300 rounds through the upper, one afternoon of group shooting delivered six conscientiously shot groups of all under 1”.  In fact three of the 5 shot groups were under .75” with the Hornady ammo which I consider excellent in my hands.  My single best group of the day was a .65” five round group which is plenty accurate for my purposes.  
Slipping a Millet DMS 1-4x scope on in place of the high powered Simmons still delivered consistent sub 1” groups.  It is most likely this upper will ride with a 1-4 optic or with just light with the iron sights however this is one of those versatile iron sight or optic uppers where a quick release 10X scope that you could pop on and off would be the best option to take advantage of the accuracy for varmit hunting at a distance.
It is the little things that make a good rifle great and those refinements take time to tune.  Yankee Hill Machine has definitely learned a thing or two since 1951 about what makes great products and AR accessories both through listening to their customers and extensive in house testing. One of those details is continuing to deliver 100% USA made products.

If I were YHM, I would do exactly what is executed in the YHM-7700-L Lightweight 20” Upper. They took all the best accessories and developed a feature rich set of products offerings.  I was excited to write this review as this is something different than “here is another tactical AR”.  
Given the custom level of components, accuracy and features, Yankee Hill Machine has done a great job offering an affordable and unique lightweight upper to the market that is easy and fun to shoot all following their original founding values of quality, engineering, performance, and value.  If you haven’t visited YHM’s site lately, I would suggest you pay them a visit.  What you will find Yankee Hill’s site is a whole lot more than just AR accessories.
Yankee Hill Machine YHM-7700-L Fully Customized AR-15 Top End Assembly

  • Mil. Spec. Forged 7075-T6 Aluminum YHM Flat Top Upper Receiver
  • "T" Marked Upper Receiver
  • Forward Assist
  • Mil. Spec. Bolt Carrier Assembly
  • 20" 4140 Steel Barrel, Heat Treated to RC 25-32
  • Chambered in 5.56 N.A.T.O., Chrome-Lined with either a 1 in 9" or 1 in 7" Twist
  • YHM Diamond Fluting Improves Rigidity and Aids in Barrel Cooling While Reducing Weight
  • YHM Rifle Length Lightweight Railed Handguard (YHM-9636)
  • YHM Forearm Endcap (YHM-9484-B)
  • YHM Single Rail Gas Block (YHM-9385A)
  • Two YHM Mini Risers (YHM-226)
  • RETAIL COST: $834.00
  • Additional Upper Accessories: YHM Q.D.S. Same Plane Sight System - YHM-5040 $218.50


Shop the complete selection of YHM products at 

Yankee Hill Machine, Co. Inc.