Benjamin 392: Timeless Americana
Air guns are the traditional tools used to teach firearm handling to youngsters but have the potential to be the gun one shoots most, particularly something of quality like the 392. The Benji is distinguished from other pump air rifles by its quality, durability, reliability, accuracy, power and ease of use. The hard hitting 5.5 lb carbine is as much a piece of Americana as apple pie, Winchester lever actions or Bowie knives.
Walter Benjamin founded his air rifle company in St. Louis in 1902 and though it has followed the natural course of mergers, takeovers and relocation. The brand has always stood for quality and manufacture continues in the United States under Crosman. The 392's lineage travels back to the 1940's when production of the 312 commenced. The fact that examples of 312 are still in use today is a testament to the quality of the original design. Current models retain metal and wood construction with the exception of the plastic butt cap. The core features are still present but offered in a modular package to aid assembly, maintenance and repair.
Some experimentation with different pellets may be required to find maximum performance, lighter pellets being more accurate and heavier projectiles delivering more energy. Most of Crosman's pellet selection work well. Accuracy is derived from the pneumatic power plant, which is immune to the hold sensitivity experienced with spring piston rifles. It delivers consistent velocities in any temperature and enables power adjustment to suit the task. Use 3 to 5 pumps for plinking and 6 to 8 pumps for target practice and hunting small game to a maximum range of 30 yards. Stalking rabbits at this range requires good fieldcraft.
The stock 392 is configured as a hunting and pest control carbine. It also finds favor with survivalists due to its rust resistance, ability to break take down into a 24" package, self contained power-plant and non perishable ammunition. However, the 392 has the mechanical accuracy required for target shooting, being capable of clover leaves at 10 yards and 1" groups at 50 yards. This is where air rifles can be of great value; the ability to shoot in the home or back yard can be a boon when free time is scarce. Dedicated target guns are available but none equals the quality or versatility of the Benjamin 392. Three popular modifications make the 392's accuracy more accessible. They optimize the rear sight, trigger and pump valve with drop in components.
Sanding the finish from the tip of the front sight provides better contrast in low light conditions. The Williams 5D-SH locking Peep Sight is superior to the stock notched blade, offering fine adjustment and the ability to focus on one less aiming reference. It bolts straight on to the brass receiver without any modification but be careful not to strip or cross the threads of the softer brass.
The Williams sight arm may need to be filed down, if shooting pellets at high velocity and
close range. The peep sight comes with a .093" aperture disk for fast acquisition under hunting lighting conditions but it is
not optimal for target shooting. The replacement Merit #4 SS adjustable aperture disk, ranges from .022" to .156". Secure
it in the Williams with Loctite.
Mounting optics on the 392 is challenging and only recommended for those that cannot use iron sights. Scout scope mounts put stress on the soldered barrel connections. The Air Venturi is the only successful 392 optic mount on the market. It consists of two clamps and a Picatinny rail. Application of loctite to the clamps helps retain zero.
A competent gunsmith can cut 11 mm dovetails into the breech, eliminating the need for a mount.
An Accushot cantilever scope ring will compensate for the minimal real estate of a dovetailed breech. Either way, one is forced
into mounting the optic high enough to facilitate loading through the breech. I recommend using a red dot sight in
preference to a riflescope. The dot sight is effectively parallax free and doesn't require a cheek weld. Its shorter
overall length supports a conventional pumping grip. I prefer a 4 MOA dot, maximizing precision by zeroing
point of impact at the dot's six o'clock rather than its center. Many air rifle shooters use adjustable objective scopes to
minimize parallax and cheek weld issues.
The stock trigger's 5 lb pull weight is adequate for fieldwork but too gritty for target shooting. Airguns of Arizona offer their Benjamin Supersear, which minimizes friction with the trigger, delivering a true two stage take up with a crisp, predictable let off at 3.5 lbs. A two stage trigger pull becomes heavier just before it breaks. We can take up the slack, hold it and break the trigger the instant our sight picture is right. This is a semi-drop in mod; grinding the trigger pack's center post accommodates the extended sear. This may look daunting to the novice but it's pretty straightforward. The 392 is very easy to work on; release the buttstock with one screw and the trigger pack with another two either side of the air tube.
The final 392 mod is to the pump valve. This is where air pressure is stored from the pump. In stock
configuration, a large heavy spring exerts pressure on both the intake valve (left) and exhaust valve (right). Pumping
effort must overcome the force of this spring before air can enter. Use the shoulder in the valve body
to isolate the intake valve. Place a light spring and 7/16" OD washer between the intake valve and main
spring. This significantly reduces effort for the first five pump strokes, until air pressure comes into effect.
To access the valve, strip the buttstock and trigger pack, remove the hammer spring and hammer. Give the pump lever one stroke and the valve body will move back, available for extraction. The cartridge design unscrews into two pieces. The picture above was based on the sketch by Steve Woodward. The 7/16" washer is highlighted in green.
The bone stock 392 is the highest quality multi pump gun on market; these modifications just finesse the air rifle
for maximum appeal. Ultimately, that's what the .22 Benjamin
is about; the pleasure of owning and shooting a piece of American craftsmanship. Whether plinking a few rounds to wind
down after the daily grind, holding family competitions in the back yard or putting meat in the pot, the 392
does it with a classic style that is hard to find.
Questions & Feedback.
Well, that's about it guys. I hope you found this guide useful. If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to contact me through the welcome page.
Ian ST John.
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