Benjamin 397 Air Rifle
Up to 800 feet per second (FPS)
Pump power source
The little brother to the Benjamin 392 Air Rifle, the 397 is a .177 caliber that aims to further the classic look of its bigger and more powerful brother. Shooting at 800 FPS, with the loss of power comes accuracy and speed in a similar package. Pest control, target shooting and general pest hunting is available to the demands of this air rifle without any problems. It surprisingly weighs slightly more than the .22 caliber version, and comes in at about 6.2 lbs.
Pneumatic air rifles are old technology that is well known within the industry, and well used. Most guns of this type usually are remakes of originals, and usually continue to live up to their namesake. Because back then the pressure wasn’t on inflating the highest FPS numbers, users get another solid well-made gun that serves its purpose and then some.
The Benjamin 397 is a very loud air rifle, with a recognizable pop when firing. Manufacturers are moving onto precharged pneumatic air rifles, so there is a good chance that in the future air rifles with built in pump mechanisms will be replaced by the newer air rifles that have a separate pump.
There is still the chance of remakes of old classics, but there is no guarantee that they will be of the standard and features of the Benjamin 397 and 392.
The classics last a long time, but when they go out they are really rare to come by. Some shooters have taken to buying the 392 and 397 as replacements for their old shooters, and have not been disappointed. Others have used this as a starter air rifle, even though the pumping can sometimes be out of the strength reach of some youngsters. It is within an acceptable range, but can get problematic upon extended use.
392 vs 397
The 392 is the .22 caliber version, while the 397 in this review is the .177 version. This is very important to remember when ordering as a mixup can completely change what the user is planning to use the air rifle for. And while the 392 has modification ability, the 397 minus the scope mods is sorely missing many of the power and general mods that the 392 is. The 392 has more available pellets at a broader price range, but isn’t recommended for general hunting but rather target practice and pest control.
Accuracy is a winner with the 397, mainly because .177 are generally more accurate than .22. Although the finish on both air rifles are excellent, the finish is a bit darker on the 397 in order to distinguish the two. Power is lacking in the 397, even with multiple pumps. The general power of the air rifle is low, but the accuracy is good, though not top notch when compared to other .177’s of the same type. There will be an adjustment period with figuring out the amount of pumps to use on different targets, but that is something that both air rifles have in common.
All things considered, the 392 is a superior air rifle to the 397- if using for hunting. For target practice and general plinking the 397 does the job just fine, even if the 392 can pull that off without much fuss. It’s easy to tought the accuracy of the 397 over the 392, but the best all-around air rifle is easy to point out, and it is the 392 hands down. The effectiveness will vary on types of targets used, pellets, scope, and other factors such as wind resistance which will bother a .22 caliber at long distances greater than a .177.
Both models of the air rifle don’t include a scope rail or dovetail, so an additional purchase is needed. This may cause some confusion for users that are ready to use the air rifle right out of the box, as an additional piece is actually needed for it to be shooting ready. In essence this Benjamin is not ‘ready to shoot out of the box’ and can lead to some frustration as additional research and purchases, as well as time is needed to completely assemble the needed piece. Seasoned vets can shoot out of the box, but mileage will vary for other types of shooters.
Once again since this is the .177 version, power is lacking. This is important to repeat as there can be some misinformation floating about pneumatic air rifles and their ability to pump up to the desired power level. There is a maximum limit of pumps, and even with that a hard limit on the amount of power based on the caliber. The maximum pumps for this air rifle is 11, and even if the user hits that mark it does not make it more powerful than a .22 caliber with the same amount of pumps.
There is also the danger of damaging the air rifle due to not properly taking precaution with the special needs and storage of a pneumatic air rifle. And even though this is a remake of a classic and contains high quality materials, the classic is still considered more durable than its remake due to completely different materials. That last point was for collectors that were expecting a complete piece for piece remake from Crosman.
Some other minor complaints have been the Crosbolt safety, or rather the placement of it when compared to other types. This can affect the comfort level, and depending on the user, eventually the long term accuracy when out for long periods of time.
After installing an intermount for the air rifle and installing the scope, the accuracy will really shine, but is not that much better than other air rifles of the same type. It won’t blow the user away with laser perfect accuracy, but it also is no slouch either. The variable pump makes a difference in that the user can decide how much power to add into a shot, but it doesn’t change the accuracy, or the overall power limits of the air rifle itself.
Since most of the accuracy is based around the design of the gun itself, shooters will have varying experiences when shooting. As beautiful as the design it, it may be a small hindrance for others who are used to newer Crosman models. In the end it is not the most accurate Benjamin of the bunch, and it never set out to be
Maintaining the seal in a pneumatic air rifle is key to long lasting care. Putting one pump of air when putting any pneumatic air rifle away after shooting will guarantee longevity of the product. General maintenance is expected, so oiling the pump lever pivots and rivets regularly will also help in the long run.
And since the models have such similar designs, getting the right pellets for the 397 version is just as important as the actual cleaning of the air rifle. Trying to force .22 pellets into this 397 is not going to help this air rifles quality any. A couple of looks online show many self-care guides not only for the old models this was based off of, but also the new models. With step by step guides available all over the internet, self-care should be mandatory even before taking the air rifle out of the box.
In essence the 397 should last just as long as the originals, since it is based off of the same superior craftsmanship. Crosman has used quality parts in this air rifle, so it is definitely meant to be used for years if cared after properly and used correctly. Even if all else fails, the Crosman warranty is one of the best in the business, and does a great job of honoring their product.
A Good Buy
The biggest gripe with purchasing an air rifle is that they aren’t as good as they used to be. Crosman breaks that argument in half by reintroducing a new generation with the older classics, improved in many ways and diminished in others. Although the 392 is the preferred version of these remakes, the 397 stands well on its own for both collectors and target shooters. Because of the namesake, many of these will find their way into the hands of first time shooters being introduced to the world of air rifles.
Decades of craftsmanship has gone into this particular model, and many of the kinks have been ironed out that may have bothered models of the same type. Although the perfect version to mod is the more powerful version, the 397 takes a ‘of it isn’t broke don’t fix it’ angle, and for the most part it just works. After picking out the correct accessories, mainly the intermount and scope, the legend of the 397 can grow even more. There are rumored ‘fixes’ for making pumping a little lighter, although not on the Nitro level, but light enough to where it’s worth looking into. So the 397 isn’t completely without mods, after all.
Benjamin 397 Air Rifle
Up to 800 feet per second (FPS)
Pump power source