Many years ago, spring airguns were all powered by coiled metal springs. They were effective in generating good energy for minimal effort on the part of the shooter. But they also had certain drawbacks. When not implemented properly, i.e., worse on lower-end springers, metal spring airguns tend to buzz and recoil in 3 directions. The buzz and recoil can make things difficult, especially for new shooters, to achieve repeatable accuracy. Enter the gas ram power plant!
A gas ram, commonly called a “Nitro Piston” (Nitro Piston is actually a trademarked name used by Crosman and Benjamin), replaces the metal spring with a gas “spring.” It’s essentially a ram, like what holds up your hatchback or car hood, that uses compressed air, nitrogen, or another combination of inert gasses to generate energy driving the airgun’s piston forward, launching the pellet downrange. It performs the same function but lacks the inherent buzz and vibration found with most metal springs. Additionally, where a metal spring can rotate or “twist” when fired, causing rotational “recoil” or torque, a gas ram drives straight forward and is thereby easier to control.
With all the benefits “nitro piston” powerplants bring to the table, it’s no wonder why nearly all manufacturers have converted their breakbarrel airgun lineups over to gas pistons. Let’s take a look at some of the options we’ve found to deliver the best performance.
Hatsan Mod 135 .30 Cal BIG BORE Breakbarrel
Let’s start with something for those who want the most power they can get in a gas-ram-powered airgun. Hatsan uses their “vortex” gas ram that uses everyday pressurized air. A key feature of their gas ram is that it can be rebuilt and refilled when needed. That’s a feature that’s solely unique to Hatsan Airguns, and we think it’s pretty cool.
The Mod 135 comes in .22, .25, and .30 calibers, with the .30 delivering the most power. Normally, we reserve the phrase “big bore” for PCP airguns, but this is the one exception. The Mod 135 .30 cal fires a 44.75-grain pellet, generating over 30-foot pounds of energy with ease.
Multi-Shot Gas Piston Break Barrel
Most break barrel airguns are single shot. This means that the shooter must load a pellet each time they cock the gun. If you are in a fast-paced shooting or hunting situation, this can cost you a kill. But Gamo USA has a solution. They created their “swarm” mechanism that utilizes a 10-round magazine. So, with each cock of the barrel, the SWARM loads in the next pellet automatically. Now let’s add in their IGT Gas Piston, and you have one serious break barrel hunting machine.
A good example is Gamo’s new Viper 10x Gen3i. It features a brand-new stock design and 3rd generation magazine that only advances when fired. This helps prevent accidental double feeding. Easy to shoot and handle, the Viper 10x Gen3i is available in both .177 and .22 and includes all of Gamo’s advanced features, making the Viper a great option for target shooting and small game hunting.
Everyday Nitro Piston Airgun
Since Crosman owns the rights to the term Nitro Piston, it’s only fair that we feature one of the airguns that brought gas rams to the mass market. The Crosman Vantage NP Scope Combo in .177 is an excellent entry point for new airgunners. It’s affordable and features traditional wood and metal construction. It also includes open sights for those who would rather run without an optic. The Vantage features Crosman’s Nitro Piston, which promises smoother cocking, smoother shooting, no spring torque, and no spring fatigue. It’s hard to beat the Vantage for an entry-level Nitro Piston airgun.
Top-end Gas Ram Airgunning
For those who want the best gas piston airgun money can buy, there’s the Weihrauch HW90. This German-manufactured airgun features impeccable build quality and performance. It has a Monte Carlo beech stock with a right-handed raised cheekpiece, a 2-stage adjustable trigger, a fully adjustable rear sight with a front globe sight, and a rifled steel barrel. The HW90 is available in .22 and .25 calibers and is ideal for small game hunting as well as precision target shooting. It has an 11mm dovetail for mounting optics.
So Many Nitro Pistons, So Little Time
We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of Nitro Piston/gas piston airguns. Be sure to take a look at our site for all the options we have on hand. And if you have questions about which gas ram airgun would be best for you, just give us a call. We are always happy to help.