Mike Morton heads to the range with the Benjamin Cayden, a PCP that’s longer than usual, but comes with a long list of features to match.
It’s wrong to pick a rifle on looks alone, but I think most of us have been guilty of that at some time or another. And so it was with the Benjamin Cayden, a hunting rifle that at first glance looks like a traditional sporter, but on closer inspection actually offers quite a bit more, and in any case is extremely pleasing to the eye.
The Cayden is part of Benjamin’s Craftsman Collection, which at the moment consists of three multi-shot PCPs, the other two being the Akela bullpup and the buddy bottle-equipped Kratos, all three rifles wearing quite luxurious looking Turkish walnut stocks.
The Cayden is a sidelever-operated pre-charged pneumatic that at the moment is only available in .22, but we may see a .177 version later. It’s a long rifle, with an overall length of 106cm (41.7”), but luckily it’s not a particularly heavy rifle, coming in at 3.58kg (7.9lb) unscoped.
“Cayden” is thought to be an old Gaelic word meaning “fighter”, and I did wonder whether this particular rifle would end up fighting me due to its dimensions, but in reality the Cayden proved to be docile and an absolute pleasure to shoot.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, so let’s take a closer look at what the Cayden has to offer, and that includes two magazines, sling swivel studs fore and aft, no fewer than six hex keys, plus a selection of spare O-rings and an optional Picatinny rail which can be attached under the forend.
Benjamin Cayden – tech specification
UK distributor: Range Right (www.range-right.co.uk)
Type: Multi-shot PCP
Calibre: .22 only at the moment
Magazine: Two 12-shot drum magazines
Overall length: 106cm (41.7”)
Barrel length: 53cm (20.9”)
Weight: 3.58kg (7.9lb)
Stock: Ambidextrous walnut
Length of pull: 35.5cm (13.98”)
Trigger: Two-stage, adjustable
Trigger-pull: 2lb 13oz
Safety: Manual, resettable
Muzzle energy: 10.64 ft-lb
The ambidextrous stock is arguably the most important part of any rifle, because you need to point it in the right direction to stand a chance of hitting your target. One feature this stock has, and I really wish all air rifle stocks were equipped with this, is an adjustable cheekpiece, as getting the correct head and eye alignment with your scope is vital.
It would have been nice if the butt pad was similarly adjustable for height, but it’s fixed, although the pad does have a grippy pattern that holds it super-stable in the shoulder. Another thing that impressed me was how well the rubber butt pad had been mated to the woodwork, as the two don’t always match up on some guns, creating a pronounced lip.
The woodwork has been finished beautifully. Some walnut stocks coming out of Turkey don’t arrive oiled, but the Cayden’s had obviously been treated to several coats of oil and gave off a glorious odour. The gun comes with a perfectly matt finish, which I do like as it assists grip.
Panels of stippling are present on the forend and pistol grip. The stippling looks well executed, but doesn’t really provide as much grip as it could, however this is less of an issue than it might be thanks to that matt finish and the fact that the rifle is fairly well balanced.
The forend is slim, which will appeal to shooters who like to use sticks, and the belly of the forend immediately in front of the trigger guard is flat, making it easy to use more target-orientated types of hold. But where this rifle truly excels in the field is off a bipod.
The bottom of the stock meets the butt pad in a mild hook shape, letting the shooter load the bipod and pull the rifle firmly into their shoulder. The gun comes with an optional section of Picatinny rail that can be screwed into the forend using the supplied hardware in place of the front sling swivel stud, so bipods that have a Picatinny fixture are catered for as well. The butt is flat at the bottom, making it ride well over a bench bag, so you can have plenty of fun shooting it off the bench too.
Fit, finish and function
The Cayden looks as if it should be nose-heavy, but its centre of balance is only a couple of centimetres forward of the trigger guard, at least with the fairly small scope that I fitted. The pistol grip has quite a steep rake to it, which I find more comfortable than the shallower rake found on a pure sporter stock. I’m a big fan of shooting with a thumb-up grip, and although there’s no dedicated thumb shelf I found myself naturally adopting this hold.
Because the rifle has been built with the American market in mind, the pressure gauge in the belly of the forend is graduated in pounds per square inch rather than bar. The Cayden’s standard working pressure is 3,000 psi, which works out to 206.8 bar. I fill my PCPs in 10-bar increments, so rounded this figure down to 200 bar for my testing.
Filling is carried out via a female Foster connector, which is supplied. The male connector on the gun itself is protected by a dust cap that snaps on and off. One thing I really liked was the use of finger-friendly cut-outs which let you attach and detach your fill line with ease.
The safety catch is located within the trigger guard, just forward of the blade. I’m never keen to see a catch in this location, but it’s nevertheless one that has proved popular with plenty of manufacturers.
It’s just more important than ever to know how to locate and operate the safety when it’s close to the blade. There is one big advantage of this location though, and that’s the minimal movement required to set the catch from “safe” to “fire” when a quarry animal presents itself.
The Cayden uses a sliding catch that can be applied whether or not the rifle’s been cocked. The catch needs to be nudged forwards for “fire”. It doesn’t make much noise in normal use and can be made almost completely silent if you guide it forwards slowly.
The two-stage trigger isn’t bad by any means, but there is some creep present. The relatively short and light first stage is followed by more resistance on the second before the shot is eventually released. The height and angle of the target-style blade can be adjusted, which is a welcome feature. The trigger broke at 2lb 13oz, which is fine for hunting and certainly didn’t do the rifle any disservice when I was shooting it off the bench for accuracy testing.
The 12-round magazine sits quite high in the action, so take this into account when fitting your scope to the Picatinny rail. You don’t necessarily need a high scope – I fitted a relatively small Hawke Airmax 30 SF Compact 3-12×40 and mounted it quite low – but you will need to be certain that the objective bell and saddle don’t foul the magazine. The mag itself is quite easy to load, with all pellets being inserted nose-first.
It looks as if the magazine should be inserted from the left, but in fact must be pushed through from the right-hand side, taking care to align the ridge on the back of the mag with the corresponding groove that’s been machined into the action. You’ll know you’re doing this right as it will slide in easily if the ridge has been correctly engaged.
I did find removing an empty magazine to be a little tricky at first as it felt very stiff, but soon got into the habit of pushing it out from the left rather than pulling it from the right. All guns have little quirks like this and it’s up to us as shooters to adapt to them.
Because the faceplate on the magazine is clear you can see the pellets when they’ve been inserted into the mag, although you can’t really use this method as an ammo counter once the magazine has been loaded into the gun as the action block naturally gets in the way.
But there’s no excuse for losing count of your shots as the Cayden’s magazine has a small cut-out showing the number of pellets remaining. You’ll never hear Dead Man’s Click either, because you can’t close the lever on an empty magazine as the inner rotor blocks the pellet probe once the last shot has been fired.
The long 53cm barrel has been threaded the standard ½” UNF and capped with a nice black-anodised metal muzzle brake-cum-thread protector. The Cayden is quite loud when it’s shot in this configuration, and I suspect that most shooters will want to fit a moderator despite the fact that this will add to the overall length.
I did a lot of shooting with this gun and needed to hush things down, so fitted a SAK moderator. This is really meant for rimfires rather than airguns, but while it’s perhaps not as quiet as some dedicated airgun silencers, it’s relatively compact.
In use, it worked an absolute treat and the only noise the Cayden was now producing was coming from the internal components, not the muzzle.
Benjamin Cayden magazine
The 12-shot .22 magazine on the Benjamin Cayden is pretty easy to load once you have the right technique, and the first step is to rotate the faceplate clockwise as far as it will go, holding it in place under spring tension.
Ready for the range
Power can be adjusted on the Cayden using a small wheel on the side of the action block. As always, this will prove far more useful to shooters running the Cayden at FAC levels – in the US it has a muzzle energy in excess of 30 foot pounds – although some UK shooters may want to dial it down for garden use. Nevertheless, I kept the power at the maximum output for my numerous testing sessions.
I seem to have been lucky in picking pellets I think will be a good match for the gun, then testing to see what it does downrange. And so it was with Rangemaster Sovereign and Hades pellets. With the bore perfectly clean, the gun was roughly zeroed after one magazine’s worth of pellets and was on song after three.
The results over the chronograph were amazing, with the Cayden churning out an average muzzle velocity of 550.6 feet per second, a muzzle energy of 10.64 foot pounds, and best of all, a variation in velocity over a 10-shot string of just 3.4 feet per second.
Coming in at £549, this rifle isn’t exactly an entry-level PCP, but it’s not that expensive either, and a low velocity variation like this is quite superb. Some people looking at these figures will wonder why muzzle energy isn’t higher, but it’s far better to have an accurate and consistent rifle running at 10.64 foot pounds than an inconsistent one running at 11.64.
Talking of accuracy, the Cayden delivers plenty of this too, with group sizes measuring around 7mm centre-to-centre being the norm when shot rested at 30 yards, and 19mm with the rifle shot at 40. Shot count was a fairly respectable six magazines’ worth – 72 shots – from my 200 bar fill before accuracy started to suffer, but for an unregulated rifle there wasn’t much of a power curve.
Where to place the Cayden? It’s clearly been designed as a hunting rifle, but there’s no getting away from the fact that it is rather long, potentially limiting its use in confined spaces.
But despite its overall dimensions, it’s a very pleasing rifle to shoot from a number of stances, and the sidelever action was perfectly smooth and worked without a hitch.
The Cayden was also good to shoot both off a bipod and the bench, making it a great contender for plenty of hunters and precision plinkers alike.
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