Gas pistons are all the rage now, overtaking even springers. Enthusiastic gunners have witnessed the fast paced evolution that has riddled the airgun industry.
Airgunmaniac hereby introduces you to this unequaled air rifle technology.
So, what is a nitro piston air rifle? Let us approach it from the springer air rifle perspective. Springers, which you can also call break barrel air rifles, use a compressed spring as the powerplant. Cocking the gun basically makes you compress the main spring.
This spring is housed in a cylindrical chamber with a piston to the front end. When the spring is released from its compressed position (i.e. by pulling the trigger), it drives the piston forward in a quick jerky motion. The piston explosively drives the air in front of it through a transfer chamber and into the barrel. Having nowhere else to escape, the air forces the ammo down the barrel and out into the air.
Now replace the main spring with gas and you’ll get how the nitro piston works. Cocking the airgun essentially drives a shaft into a cylinder filled with nitrogen. An airtight piston is fitted at the bottom of the shaft such that the nitrogen in the cylinder cannot escape. Once the nitrogen is compressed in that manner, your nitro piston air rifle is ready for use.
Pulling the trigger makes the nitrogen inside the cylinder expand. In a bid to escape, it forces the piston and shaft forward. The shaft drives the air in front of it to meet the ammo. The ammo has no choice but to fly away from the pressure behind it. Thus the air gun is fired!
And so you ask – why Nitrogen? Why not breathable air? Or even CO2 like in other air rifles?
First, nitrogen is a readily available gas and harnessing it is not complicated. The cylinder containing the gas is metallic. Any form of oxygen in there is likely to cause rust. Nitrogen is therefore a wise replacement of oxygen. Further, nitrogen is non-flammable – absolutely no possibility of exploding into flames due to overheating. Nitrogen is also not affected by changes in temperature like CO2. Lastly, nitrogen is an inert gas and won’t react with lubricants, seals or the metallic parts of the cylinder.
Given the nitro piston is an advancement of the springers, let me discuss the advantages of the nitro piston air rifles over spring powered air rifles.
Most importantly, the nitrogen gas vibrates vigorously like the spring after the trigger is pulled. The forceful reaction of the spring is what causes the large recoil in springers. This is known to reduce accuracy and even damage accessories like the scope. Nitro piston air rifles have considerably reduced recoil. For this reason, the learning curve for the nitro pistons is not as steep as that for the springers.
Second, noise levels are reduced for the mere reason that the metallic spring is replaced with gas. You can’t compare a spring rubbing against a metallic cylinder and gas rubbing the same cylinder.
Springers have to be greased regularly to maintain the action of the spring for long. This is not a concern with Nitro Piston air rifles.
Leaving the break barrel air rifle cocked for a long time reduces the elasticity of the spring. A less elastic spring means less power. On the contrary, nitro piston air rifles can remain cocked as long as you wish without any worry on elasticity.
Nitro Piston air rifles are generally lighter in weight than springers. A metallic spring is definitely heavier than gas. Shooters who carry their airguns for long can therefore opt for nitro piston models to reduce muscle fatigue.
Considering the above arguments, Nitro pistons generally last longer than springers.
There’s so much good in the Nitro Piston – but we certainly don’t intend to tarnish the springer. Each air rifle type has its good and bad side.
Not all Nitro pistons are similar in build and power. You need to be careful while choosing so that you gain proper satisfaction with your choice.
Power remains the most important consideration in choosing an air rifle. Power is almost synonymous with the target use. If your wish is to pass time during the weekends aiming at metallic birds hung in the backyard, a low budget nitro piston air rifle is enough for you. Think on the lines of Crosman Vantage NP, Gamo Wildcat Whisper, and Gamo Hornet Maxxim. All these will cost you less than $200.
If you are into small game hunting and can dig a little deeper into your pocket, think of acquiring the Weihrauch HW90, the SIG Sauer ASP20 Whiskey3 Combo, or the Benjamin Trail NP XL Magnum.
The Benjamin Trail NP is a particularly popular model. With ammo speeds of up to 1100 fps, and muzzle energy averaging 30 FPE, for the .22 caliber, you can successfully use it to hunt all manner of small game. The .177 caliber drives ammo up to 1500 fps with an impact of 24 FPE on the target.
Never overlook the machining quality of the air rifle. You do not want to keep replacing your air rifle every summer. That tells you to stick to reputable brands with a track record of high quality. Crosman, Gamo, and Hatsan are a good place to start.
Last but not least, consider the design and build. We can no longer deny the fact that some of us cannot simply do without a monte carlo. At the same time, there are those who are solely into bullpups or pistols. Choose what makes you feel proud.
One Italian manufacturer – Special Springs – claims their nitro piston gas cylinders can give you a million shots before you call it quits. Some talk of 400,000, others as low as 10,000 shots. Now, all these are way too many. It will take you four full years to make 10,000 shots if you religiously do 50 shots every week. What about a million shots?
Despite the durability promises, make sure you take good care of your nitro piston air rifle. Some power-hungry shooters have been reported to attempt to pump air into the cylinders to increase pressure so that their shots can be more powerful. This is simply ridiculous. You are damaging the air rifle in broad daylight. Shun this practice.
You do not need any refill of the cylinder like it happens with PCPs and CO2 air rifles. General airgun maintenance routines will help you keep your rifle for many years. Best wishes from the Airgunmaniac team.