The Best Hunting Air Rifle for $200 – $250?
HARD AIR MAGAZINE CONCLUSIONS
Yes, we understand. You can say that we’re not exactly comparing like for like in this test. Two of the airguns are in .177 caliber, the other in .22. Two have gas piston powerplants, the other is a traditional spring/piston air rifle. Two have silencers, the third not. But many customers make similar comparisons when selecting the best hunting air rifle…
Is the higher muzzle velocity of a .177 caliber pellet better than the higher knockdown power of .22 cal? Is a gas ram better than a springer?
What makes this a fair comparison is that we have three “out and out” hunting air rifles, all of which sell for somewhere between $200 and $250. All are big, heavy break barrel, single shot air rifles. All are bundled with a 3-9 scope. All require a lot of strength and skill to shoot accurately and consistently. They all scored very similar ratings in their individual HAM test reports. The Beenjamin Trail NP2 scored 68%, the Beeman Mach 12.5 and Umarex Octane tied at 73%.
So, all three are powerful, proven performers. All will do the job for hunting small game and varmints. But which one is just that little bit better?
SUMMARY – BEEMAN MACH 12.5. The Beeman Mach 12.5 is one of the ultimate examples of a spring/piston “muscle gun”. It shoots well and is good value, but it’s just edged out by the Octane’s combination of features and price.
SUMMARY – BENJAMIN TRAIL NP2. The Trail NP2 has some unique benefits. It’s the quietest and it has sling swivels for easy carrying (a huge benefit for a day hunting). And either of these two features may be enough for you to decide it’s the best hunting air rifle for you. If it just had a better scope and a smoother firing cycle, it could be the winner.
SUMMARY – UMAREX OCTANE. The Octane has a good scope with adjustable objective, a gas ram so that the gun can remain cocked for a long period without problems, acceptable cocking effort (at least in this company), good accuracy and the highest muzzle energy (knockdown power). It has a silencer. And finally, it’s also the cheapest airgun in this test, selling for $30 to $40 less than its two competitors.
HAM CONCLUSION: It’s a very close run thing! Each gun has its own particular strengths. Hmmm… Lowest price, most power, loads of features. Everything works OK. That sounds like a winning combination for the Umarex Octane in .22 caliber. This is the best hunting air rifle in this HAM comparison test. But if you feel the Mach 12.5 or Trail NP are disadvantaged by being tested in .177 caliber – they’re both available in .22 cal also.
Full HAM airgun test reviews for these guns can be found at:
BUY FROM PYRAMYD
Below (from top to bottom), the Beeman Mach 12.5 (with aftermarket camo job – an extra cost), The Benjamin Trail NP2 and the Umarex Octane.
|Beeman Mach 12.5||Benjamin Trail NP2||Umarex Octane|
|So much power!||Stock gives a good cheek weld.||Very powerful.|
|Very accurate.||Not too heavy.||Good accuracy with lead pellets.|
|Great for hunting small game and varmints.||Trigger breaks smoothly.||Balances nicely for shooting.|
WE DON’T LIKE
|Beeman Mach 12.5||Benjamin Trail NP2||Umarex Octane|
|So much power makes it hard to shoot!||Feels hard to cock.||Poor accuracy with alloy pellets.|
|Very hard to cock.||Harsh shot cycle.||If only the scope had mil dots!|
|Heavy trigger.||Bundled scope not a good match for the gun.||Counter-intuitive automatic safety.|
VALUE FOR MONEY
At a Street Price of $240 – at the time of testing – the Beeman Mach 12.5 air rifle offers – literally – a huge bang for the buck. The muzzle velocity is as high as any competitor in this price range, the bundled scope is good and has AO (Adjustable Objective). The accuracy as tested by HAM was excellent and the gun not pellet sensitive.
The Trail NP2 is the most expensive air rifle in this comparison test. At a Street Price of $250, the Benjamin Trail NP2 air rifle carries a premium of $30 above the equivalent “first generation” Trail NP models. Also users may find that they would prefer to buy an additional, better, scope to maximize the potential of this airgun. That would add significantly to the price of the Trail NP2 compared to the competition considered in this HAM test review.
At a Street Price in the $205 range, the Umarex Octane air rifle is a very strong contender in the value for money race. It has all the latest “must haves” of a gas ram piston, silencer, high muzzle velocity, Picatinny/Weaver rail scope mounting and the “black look”. These are combined with traditional values of decent finish and good accuracy with lead pellets.
Best of all is the quality of the bundled scope. which is only matched by the Beeman Mach 12.5 bundle in this test and means that you don’t need to allow extra money to buy a better quality scope. And UmarexUSA is adding cream to this particular cake with an outstanding 3-year warranty coverage.
HAM CONCLUSION: The Umarex Octane air rifle is clearly the best value in this hunting air rifle group. It’s the cheapest, has equal best scope, Weaver/Picatinny rails, a gas ram and a silencer.
SPEED AND ACCURACY
Interestingly, two of the three air rifles in this HAM comparison test showed their best accuracy in HAM tests with Crosman Premier Hollow Point pellets. This is extremely important as, in reality, most airgunners choose their pellets by walking into Walmart – or another big box sporting goods retailer – and buying whatever pellets they find there.
Crosman Premier Hollow point pellets are available everywhere.
So, the combination of best performing pellets and these pellets being most readily found by “the average Joe” is a very important benefit in selecting the winner of this hunting air rifle comparison test.
Accuracy of these three guns when shooting their best pellets was very similar, as you can see from the HAM test targets. The Benjamin Trail NP just edged ahead with the best accuracy.
For the Beeman Mach 12.5 air rifle in .177 caliber, the most accurate pellet was the JSB Exact.
The Benjamin Trail NP in .177 caliber gave best accuracy with – unsurprisingly – Crosman Premier Hollow Point pellets.
The Umarex Octane in .22 cal also preferred a diet of Crosman Premier Hollow Point pellets.
For knowledgeable hunters, the major interest is knock down power – rather than pure muzzle velocity. This means that, although .177 caliber air rifles will have the highest muzzle velocities, the greater muzzle energy of a .22 caliber pellet is more important in achieving a humane one shot kill.
As you can see from the table below, the .22 caliber Umarex Octane air rifle gives the highest muzzle energy of the three guns tested. But note that the Beeman Mach 12.5 is fairly close behind, in spite of being in the smaller caliber.
|Pellet||Average Muzzle Energy,|
Mach 12.5 .177 Cal
|Average Muzzle Energy,|
Trail NP2 .177 Cal
|Average Muzzle Energy,
Octane .22 Cal
|Gamo Raptor Platinum||19.51 Ft/Lbs||17.33 Ft/Lbs||26.03 Ft/Lbs|
|H&N Field Target Trophy Green||20.88 Ft/Lbs||19.14 Ft/Lbs||24.88 Ft/Lbs|
|RWS Hobby||21.17 Ft/Lbs||19.47Ft/Lbs||24.32 Ft/Lbs|
|Crosman Premier HP||22.25 Ft/Lbs||19.39 Ft/Lbs||24.64 Ft/Lbs|
|JSB Exact Diabalo/Jumbo Exact||21.19 Ft/Lbs||19.50 Ft/Lbs||21.48 Ft/Lbs|
|H&N Field Target Trophy||21.04 Ft/Lbs||18.09 Ft/Lbs||22.43 Ft/Lbs|
|H&N Baracuda Match||25.99 Ft/Lbs||17.89 Ft/Lbs||23.61 Ft/Lbs|
|AVERAGE OF ALL MUZZLE ENERGIES||21.72 Ft/Lbs||18.69 Ft/Lbs||23.91 Ft/Lbs|
HAM CONCLUSION: The Trail NP is the most accurate with Crosman Premier HP pellets. The Beeman Mach 12.5 showed the best accuracy over a wide range of pellets. The Umarex Octane is most powerful. We’ll take power over muzzle velocity for a hunting air rifle, but you may disagree!
TRIGGER AND COCKING EFFORT
There’s no escaping it. The triggers on all these air rifles are very heavy. This is because the sears are holding back some serious pressure when these guns are cocked – it’s inevitable with a high power break barrel air rifle of any type.
The Beeman Mach 12.5 records the lowest trigger pull weight with an average of 6 lb 2 oz. The Benjamin NP Trail comes in just a little heavier at 6 lb 5 oz, while the Umarex Octane trails the pack at 7lb 3 oz. Ouch! None of these are “target grade” triggers, but HAM testers found them all acceptable for use in a magnum hunting air rifle.
Cocking effort changes the picture somewhat.
The Benjamin NP2 has by far the lowest cocking effort of “just” 35 lbs in the HAM tests. But that only sounds low compared to the 43 lbs required by the Umarex Octane and the heroic 52 lbs cocking effort demanded by the Beeman Mach 12.5. You need to be strong to cock any of these air rifles.
HAM CONCLUSION: The Benjamin Trail NP2 air rifle has the best combination of trigger pull weight and cocking effort.
COMPARISON TO MAKERS CLAIMS
For the Beeman Mach 12.5, it’s simple. This air rifle matches or exceeds the claims made for it.
For example, the Beeman Mach 12.5 tested by HAM achieved a maximum muzzle velocity of 1367.69 FPS with Gamo Platinum PBA pellets, exceeding the 1,250 FPS claim by over 9%.
Overall the Benjamin Trail NP2 air rifle matches some of the manufacturer’s claims. It’s clearly a powerful air rifle, but not quite as powerful as Crosman claims for the example tested by HAM. Crosman claims a maximum muzzle velocity of 1400 fps with alloy pellets for the Benjamin Trail NP2 air rifle. In our HAM tests, the maximum muzzle velocity achieved was 1289 fps with Gamo Raptor Platinum pellets. That’s about 8% below the claim.
Crosman also claims a maximum muzzle energy of 21 ft/lbs for the Trail NP2. The maximum achieved by the gun HAM tested was 19.5 ft/lbs. That’s around 7% below the claim.
As with the Trail NP, the claims made for the Umarex Octane tested by HAM were not completely met. Yes, the Octane is a strong airgun, but it didn’t meet the manufacturer’s claims for muzzle velocity. UmarexUSA claims a maximum of 1,250 FPS with alloy pellets – yes, even in .22 caliber – but the best recorded in HAM testing was an average of 1,099.62 FPS with the lightest Gamo Platinum PBA pellets. That’s 12% slower than the claim.
For lead pellets, the manufacturer’s claim for the Umarex Octane is 1,050 FPS. The best achieved in HAM testing was 959.52 FPS with RWS Hobby wadcutters (the lightest lead pellets, of course). That’s 8.5% below the claim.
HAM CONCLUSION: The Beeman Mach 12.5 best meets – and exceeds – it’s makers claims.
All these three air rifles gave very similar levels of consistency. All shot well with the standard HAM test pellets – particularly the lead pellets – and so had the great benefit of not being pellet picky. That’s a HUGE benefit as the shooter is not tied to one specific pellet for accurate hunting.
HAM CONCLUSION: All these air rifles show very similar consistency.
Although the Beeman Mach 12.5 air rifle is not fitted with a silencer (that’s a muzzle weight on the end of the barrel), it didn’t seem unduly loud to the HAM testers. We’d say it is average for an air rifle of this power level. But it’s still louder than its competitors that are fitted with silencers.
Very light lead free pellets traveling at over 1100 fps have the potential to produce a sonic boom that will make the Mach 12.5 VERY loud – almost to .22 LR firearms level – in spite of the silencer. This would be the case with any other air rifle also, of course, and is caused by the pellets themselves, NOT the gun.
The Trail NP2 is quiet. Well, at least so long as you’re not shooting pellets that break the sound barrier. The built-in silencer does a good job of keeping noise levels low the shooting sound is just “a very solid thunk” from the shooter’s perspective.
Overall, HAM testers considered the Umarex Octane to be fairly quiet, but less so than the Trail NP2.
HAM CONCLUSION: The Benjamin Trail NP2 is the quietest air rifle in this comparison. If noise level is your most important buying criterion, this may overcome any other factor and lead you to choose the Trail NP2 for airgun hunting.
SIGHTS AND SCOPE
The Beeman Mach 12.5 air rifle is fitted with no iron sights, but it is bundled with a surprisingly good scope. The 3-9 x 40 AO scope included with this gun has decent image quality for the price and that all-important Adjustable Objective (AO) capability for sharp focusing at close ranges. It would be better with a mil dot reticle, however.
Good strong rings are included in this package to hold the scope in place under the heavy recoil generated by this gun, in spite of the standard airgun rails fitted to this gun which are generally not preferred to the Weaver/Picatinny rails fitted to the other guns in this test.
The scope bundled with the Benjamin Trail NP2 does have mil dots – but they’re very small and indistinct in use. And there’s only 3 dots on each side of the reticle. Given the widespread use by airgunners of mil dots for “aiming off”, 3 dots is really not enough to allow for wide changes of range or side wind.
More importantly, the scope bundled with the Trail NP2 is not fitted with AO (Adjustable Objective) capability. This means that it can’t be focused to different distances. Although sharpness is good at close ranges of 10 to 20 yards, HAM found that image quality became distinctly fuzzy at ranges beyond that. As Crosman claims that the Trail NP2 has the power for successful hunting at greater ranges than “simple” gas ram models, it’s disappointing that you’ll need to buy another scope to get a sharp image at longer ranges.
The Umarex Octane air rifle is fitted with the expected fiber optic “iron sights”, although few shooters are likely to use them given the bundled scope.
This 3-9 x 40AO scope bundled with the Umarex Octane is actually very good for a bundled scope in this price range. It has close focusing down to 10 yards, the most useful magnification range for most users and it’s fitted to the gun by means of a pair of solid Weaver/Picatinny rings that are attached to the rail mounted on the compression tube of the air rifle.
This Umarex-branded scope has good sharpness and contrast for the price and – if it just had a mil dot reticle – would be a perfect combination with the Umarex Octane. Even with a standard Duplex reticle, it’s still waaaay ahead of the scope bundled with the Benjamin Trail NP2. Just the addition of mil dots would have made it ideal. It’s a very close match to the scope fitted to the Beeman Mach 12.5.
HAM CONCLUSION: The Beeman Mach 12.5 and Umarex Octane are equal in scope capability. We’ll give the edge to the Octane as it also has iron sights and – while HAM doesn’t see the value in these – there are many air rifle buyers who insist on iron sights as a backup to the standard scope.
All these guns’ undoubted power is bought at the expense of shootability. Cocking is heavy, the triggers are heavy. These guns are all big, long and can be tough to hold correctly for accurate shooting. The recoil can be quite harsh. There’s a price to pay for all that power!
You need to be big, strong and experienced with air rifles to shoot these guns well. But if you’re making a small number of shots during a hunt and need the power to make a humane, one shot kill, shootability is always going to be low with a break barrel air rifle.
By the time you’ve spent the day lugging the Mach 12.5 or the Umarex Octane around the countryside, you’d wish it was fitted with sling swivels like the Benjamin Trail NP2 so that you could add a sling and so carry the gun over your shoulder.
HAM CONCLUSION: Shootability is not a strong suit for any of these magnum hunting air rifles. We’ll give the Trail NP2 the edge, with it’s sling capability outweighing the harsh recoil.
APPEARANCE AND FINISH
These are working guns. Appearance is a secondary consideration. While all three air rifles are well finished for the price, we’ll give the nod to the flawless finish of the Benjamin Trail NP2.
HAM CONCLUSION: Again, it’s close, with the Trail NP2 just ahead.
BUYING AND OWNING
The Beeman Mach 12.5 is not easy to find in “bricks and mortar” retail locations. But it’s readily available online from the usual suppliers. Warranty is the traditional 12 months from date of purchase. If there’s a problem with the gun, you’ll need to send it to the US importers in California. There’s no pre-payment required for return shipping, this is good. Parts availability is not widely advertised, but the US distributor does have parts available if you telephone them.
Thanks to Crosman’s wide distribution network, you can find the Trail NP2 almost everywhere that airguns are sold, both online and in physical stores. So, it’s easy to buy. You can also be happy buying a product that’s made in the USA. And for many of us that’s a big deal!
Crosman Customer Service and backup has a great reputation.There’s a 12-month warranty that does not require you to pay for return shipment in the event of a warranty issue. Crosman normally has spare parts available for most recent models, together with downloadable parts diagrams. These are not available at the time of writing for the Benjamin Trail NP2 air rifle. HAM expects that this will change with time.
The Umarex Octane is widely available in both physical and online stores, so finding one is unlikely to be a problem.
The 36 month warranty – for the original owner – is outstanding for an air rifle. UmarexUSA deserve credit for showing their confidence in the Octane. Also, Umarex USA does have spare parts available via their Service Department in Fort Smith AR and knowledgeable airgunners will be pleased to know this for the long term servicability of their Octane.
HAM CONCLUSION: Crosman has the best customer service in the industry and that’s a big benefit for the Trail NP2. The Umarex Octane has a 3 year warranty, that’s the best there is for a mass market airgun. You’ll have to choose which is better as we can’t!
BUY FROM PYRAMYD
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