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Benjamin 397 - classic American air gun

This is a discussion on Benjamin 397 - classic American air gun within the Gun Talk forums, part of the Gunner Forum category; When my brother and I were youngsters, our first "gun" was an old pump up Benjamin pellet gun in 22 cal. Don't remember the model, ...


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Old 03-31-2014, 04:22 PM   #1
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Benjamin 397 - classic American air gun

When my brother and I were youngsters, our first "gun" was an old pump up Benjamin pellet gun in 22 cal. Don't remember the model, but it was our companion when checking traps on our trapline and we spent many hours shooting it our basement. Quite a few years, later, I added another classic pump air gun in a Sheridan Blue Streak in 20 cal and loved it. That's why I've been trying to find an old one of that vintage to add to our collection. Every air gun lover should have at least one pump up air rifle, right?

No luck on the Sheridan, but I did find this very nice, relatively recent version of the Benjamin 397P in 177, hiding behind the counter at our local pawn shop. Near as I can tell, it's a 90s vintage gun and that's a good thing. It's still new enough to be in great shape, but just old enough to have a metal trigger guard and, most importantly, a walnut stock. The current models now have a plastic trigger guard and (yuck) a "hardwood" stock.



The trigger on these 397s from the factory is, well, let's just say the trigger is daunting. The good news is that a little swapping to lighter springs I had in the parts box fixed that and now my Benjy sports a fairly nice trigger.

My research indicates that 5 pumps is the sweet spot on the 397 in terms of getting consistent velocity, but since this will be a fun shooter for spinner targets, I've settled on the nearly as good 4 pumps. Good thing, too, since I almost forgot how much work it is in shooting these pumpers. I also forgot to use proper pumping form and, yup, I got the old pump pinch as a result. Ouch!

The factory iron sights are, uh, what you would expect on such a gun, which is to say, nothing fancy. Still, even with the very basic sights, this gun shows some good accuracy potential, enough so that I will probably add a red dot, which is a lot easier to use on spinner targets than iron sights. Here's a five shot group at 10 meters, this morning.



All in all, a fun little rifle and, hey, not at all ugly.
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Old 03-31-2014, 05:35 PM   #2
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I have got to come follow you around. You are the gun whisperer.
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Old 03-31-2014, 05:43 PM   #3
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Nice looking air rifle! Thanks for sharing.
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Old 03-31-2014, 07:14 PM   #4
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I have got to come follow you around. You are the gun whisperer.
You got that right.
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Old 04-01-2014, 06:08 AM   #5
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Don't know about following me around, but all you guys are certainly welcome to stop by for a visit if you're in the area.
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Old 10-21-2014, 11:03 PM   #6
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Good to hear that everything worked out for you. And you didn't get hurt.
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Old 10-22-2014, 01:48 AM   #7
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I love the old pump up Benjamin pellet rifle in 22 cal. I had one in the 60's like your a great shooter . I forgot how good they shoot .. Thank You for posting and bring back some old memories

This is my spring gun and I have a lot of trouble making spring guns shoot . I shot 1000's of pellets in this gun and these are the best targets . The rear peep is to far forward for me and the ft post sucks . I got this to herd cattle away from house on my farm in Tn . With flat nose pellets at 700 fps and shot over 25 yds it is like snapping a rubber band on your wrist . If you pop one steer in the butt 2 times he will leave and the rest will all follow and normally don't come back for a month or so .


Last edited by tx gun runner; 10-22-2014 at 01:50 AM.
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Old 10-22-2014, 06:27 AM   #8
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Nothing wrong with those targets, TGR and, yeah, spring guns or I should say, piston guns, can be fussy when it comes to getting them to shoot. Huge range of shootability from one model of piston gun to the next.

The worst gun I ever worked with was the first model of the Benjamin Nitro Trail, a magnum gas piston gun. No matter what I tried, the darn thing would never settle down and shoot consistently or predictably. Drove me nuts, so I sold it off. Good riddance! There is a new Benjamin NP2 out that supposedly corrects some of the problems of the original, but, no thanks, once was enough.

On the other hand, our English and German made spring guns are marvelous shooters, but, of course, they're not cheap.

By the way, I should update what that 397, above, can do. Added a peep sight and it now is a one hole shooter at 10 meter with Crosman Premier Hollow points. Stays right there with our fancy stuff. Other 397/392 owners report the same kind of accuracy using the Crosman Premiers.

Speaking of pump guns, we also picked up another vintage Sheridan Blue Streak to go with our mint condition 70s version. It's a slightly newer vintage in need of some TLC, but it still shoots great. Will do some refinishing on the stock over the winter and make a report. Those old Sheridans don't have the velocity of the 397, but they are easier definitely to pump. If you ever find one of the older versions with a metal trigger guard, grab it.

You know, to this day when I think of pellet rifles, I still think of pump up guns. After all, that's what we started with as kids. Yeah, we have a lot of high tech air guns, now, but those pump ups are still my favorite.

Last edited by north country gal; 10-22-2014 at 06:37 AM.
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Old 10-22-2014, 07:05 AM   #9
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How about a picture of it with the new peep? The only way for me to shoot one hole is to only shoot one time.
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Old 10-22-2014, 07:36 AM   #10
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How about a picture of it with the new peep? The only way for me to shoot one hole is to only shoot one time.
I know you have a Daisy 853 with target peeps that was designed to shoot 1 hole groups at 10 meter . You need to shoot it . If I sell my RWS that will be my next pellet rifle .
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Old 10-22-2014, 07:36 AM   #11
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It's a Williams 64 that I got from pyramidair. Says for Benjamin/Sheridan pumps made in the last 5 years, blah, blah, blah. As long as your Benjamin or Sheridan is drilled and tapped with two holes on the right side of the receiver, though, you're good to go. If not, wouldn't be hard to drill and tap. It isn't a full blown target peep by any means, but it is a huge improvement over those crude open sights.

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Old 10-22-2014, 10:10 AM   #12
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I know you have a Daisy 853 with target peeps that was designed to shoot 1 hole groups at 10 meter . You need to shoot it . If I sell my RWS that will be my next pellet rifle .
I left the Daisy in Ephrata because I thought that was where I would be for the summer. Things just didn't work out that way. I should bring it back the next time as I can't get to the range and I can shoot the Daisy in the back yard.
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Old 10-22-2014, 10:12 AM   #13
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Thanks for a picture of the peep. Sure looks like it would do the job. Nice looking too.
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Old 10-22-2014, 11:22 PM   #14
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My brother had a pump up .22 caliber Benjamin rifle in the 1960s. Being a handgun fan even then, when I was 12 I bought a .22 pump up pistol, a Crossman I think. The sights were crude but the sight radius was long and it was powerful and accurate. I made a backstop for the garage or backyard and shot almost every day. Pellets were cheap and having to pump it up taught me not to waste shots. I learned a lot with that pellet gun.
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Old 10-23-2014, 06:07 AM   #15
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I do have Olympic class air pistols, but as with our rifles, I still have a soft spot for the pump up pistols, like this old Benjamin H9A of ours. It's really a 177 version of the old Sheridan pump, made after Benjamin bought out Sheridan. It won't win any competitions, but it is plenty accurate enough for practice work.

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Old 10-23-2014, 07:05 AM   #16
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I sold 3 of my air pistols to members of this forum . 1 to NCG , another to Machinist and another to 303Lithgow . This is the only one l have left and it out shoots my air rifle at 10 meters that I post earlier . Plastic sights suck but great gun for the money . I love shooting a air gun it is the best way to practice and cheap . And it will show you all your bad habits .

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Old 10-23-2014, 08:27 AM   #17
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I'll vouch for the 747. We picked one up at a gun show for cheap. It is accurate enough to compete and it won't cost you a lot.

By the way, TGR, that Izzy just keeps shooting great targets, over and over, again. One of the best air guns I've ever bought. Thanks.
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Old 10-23-2014, 12:55 PM   #18
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I'll vouch for the 747. We picked one up at a gun show for cheap. It is accurate enough to compete and it won't cost you a lot.

By the way, TGR, that Izzy just keeps shooting great targets, over and over, again. One of the best air guns I've ever bought. Thanks.
The 777 has the metal sights . I've never seen one .
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Old 10-23-2014, 05:52 PM   #19
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Either have I. Those plastic sights on the 747 are a real pain. The rear sight on mine is already broke.
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Old 10-23-2014, 07:17 PM   #20
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Either have I. Those plastic sights on the 747 are a real pain. The rear sight on mine is already broke.
If I had my machine shop I would make us some real good sights like on the Izzy . My sights are not broke but they don't repeat . If I need a fine adj I turn the sight I turn it a 1/2 turn past the setting and then back to the setting I need . I hope that makes sense
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