Break barrel rifles are great for their ability to be self-contained powerhouses. They come in various shapes, sizes, calibers, and power output. In the past, most were powered by coiled metal springs. If all the engineering is top shelf, i.e., take a look at the Beeman R9 if you ever get the chance, then metal springs are a great option. However, lower-cost break barrels usually suffer from harsh recoil, poor shooting characteristics, bad harmonics, and buzzing, and that’s just the beginning.
A quick and easy way to remove 90% of those negative effects is to replace the coiled metal spring with a “gas spring,” often called a gas ram or nitro piston. (Quick note, gas rams were called “nitro pistons” because they were filled with nitrogen. Not all gas rams or “air springs” are filled with nitrogen, but for the sake of this article, we’ll bunch all ram-driven airguns as “nitro piston” airguns.) Rather than a coiled piece of metal that creates rotational recoil and vibration, a nitro piston moves very quickly in just one direction without any rotation or vibration.
At this point in airgunning, most manufacturers have moved over to gas ram-driven break barrel airguns. Not only did the industry mandate the change, but it’s made shooting break barrels that much easier. This article will look at the top “nitro piston” airguns for power, hunting, budget, and popularity.
Most Powerful Nitro Piston Airgun
The most powerful gas piston air rifle on the market is not a true “nitro piston” airgun. It’s the Hatsan Model 135 .30 caliber. Hatsan’s patented Vortex Ram is pressurized with air and can be rebuilt, refilled, and tuned to the shooter’s preferences. It’s an awesome application of the technology.
The Model 135 .30 caliber is a big bore break barrel air rifle, the only one of its kind in the current market, producing over 30 foot-pounds. As break barrels go, that’s a ton of knockdown power for those that want the top of the food chain for their airgun collection.
Best Hunting Nitro Piston Air Rifle
Having more than one shot on tap is a great advantage when it comes to hunting. Most break barrels require shooters to load a pellet each time they cock the barrel, slowing down the process and wasting precious hunting opportunities. The Gamo Swarm airguns are different. The Gamo Swarm Magnum 10X Gen 2 tops our list for hunting nitro piston airguns. Gamo’s gas ram technology is called Inert Gas Technology (IGT). It’s filled with inert gasses like Nitrogen, but the exact mixture is not public knowledge.
Not only is the Gamo Swarm Magnum 10X Gen 2 almost as powerful as the Hatsan Mod 135, but it’s also equipped with Gamo’s 10 shot auto-loading SWARM system. The magazine rotates into place as you cock the barrel, and a pellet pusher loads the next pellet into the breach. Additionally, the new Gen 2 mags only advance the pellet once you take a shot, helping to prevent double feeding. Ten shots on tap, tons of power, and very accurate; it’s no secret why we pick it as our top hunting nitro piston airgun.
Best Budget Nitro Piston Airgun
If budget is a major consideration, there are several decent nitro piston airguns to consider. One of the most affordable is the Crosman Shockwave NP Quiet Fire. Here we can use the “nitro piston” terminology with 100% accuracy as Crosman coined the phrase and may have a patent on the technology, along with a trademark on the phrase “nitro piston.”
The Shockwave comes in at under $100 (.177 w/o scope) and is available in both .177 and .22 calibers and sports open sights. The .22 comes with a scope and costs a little more at $149.00. It’s a great option for those wanting to get started with an affordable, powerful, and fun little airgun.
Our Most Popular Nitro Piston Air Rifle
Our most popular nitro piston airgun is the Benjamin Trail NP XL. With 174 (as of this article) customer reviews averaging 4.2 stars, the Trail NP XL has proven itself. Available in .177, .22, and .25 calibers, the Trail NP XL includes a decent CenterPoint mil-dot optic with an adjustable objective and sling mounts.
It’s not a new airgun by any means. On the contrary, it’s been on the market for over a decade and has secured a place as a great shooting airgun for power, accuracy, and usability.
Got Nitro Piston Questions?
There are many nitro piston airguns available to shooters today, and we’ve only barely scratched the surface. If you have questions about nitro piston airguns or any type of spring-powered airgun, just give us a call, and we’ll be happy to help.