by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Thank you for being so patient with me on this report! I was testing the Benjamin Rogue .357-caliber big bore rifle all month long, but I had nothing to report until now.
I go to the rifle range almost every week these days. I often have at least one airgun to test, and I also find that shooting firearms keeps my mind fresh so I can address airgun questions better. Plus, I just like to shoot and since this is my job — why not?
The first time I took the Rogue to the range I was trying three different styles of cast lead bullets that had been supplied to me when I reviewed it for you earlier. Crosman had sent two of them, and Mac gave me the third when he heard what I was testing. I never lubricate lead bullets that I shoot in big bore air rifles, so I took all three of these bullets to the range as they were cast. You need to know that, when a bullet is cast, it comes from the mold not perfectly cylindrical. In black powder arms, where I also shoot lead bullets as-cast but lubricated, the bore will make them round; and in so doing, they seal the bore better. The guns I shoot are all vintage arms with bores much larger than today’s guns of the same caliber — so it’s become a habit of mine to shoot bullets as-cast.
I first tried these three cast bullets in the Rogue. On the left is a 150-grain flat-point. The middle is a 156-grain semi-wadcutter. The dark bullet on the right is Remington’s 158-grain swaged bullet that’s been tumble-lubed in graphite. None of these worked well in the Rogue.
But I couldn’t get any of these bullets to feed into the Rogue at the range! They were all too big. So, that day was a bust. I did shoot a few Nosler Ballistic Tips, but we already know how accurate they are, so I didn’t bother reporting on that trip to the range.
When I returned home, I called Crosman and spoke to Ed Schultz — their head engineer. I told him that I thought they needed to cut a leade (a tapered entrance) into the breech so these larger bullets would fit. Ed told me that, in fact, they had cut a leade in the rifling — and they’re cutting what amounts to a bullet-sized chamber in the breech. The bullets I was feeding the rifle must have been larger than 0.359 inches in diameter. Well, of course they are, because cast lead bullets are never perfectly cylindrical until you size them. I hadn’t sized these bullets, so of course they were causing feeding problems. Problem solved!
The next time I went to the range, I took the same three bullets, and all were sized to 0.359 inches. That made all the difference! Now, they fed perfectly through the magazine and into the breech. But none of them were accurate. The best I was able to do was one 5-shot group of about 7 inches. But the average group was closer to 12 inches. And that’s at 50 yards off a rest. There was still nothing good to report.
I returned home and called Ed Schultz, again, to ask if the Rogue could handle any bullet other than the Nosler. The first time I tested the gun, I had success with a light bullet of less than 100 grains, but I was out of those and didn’t know where to get more. I hoped Ed would have an answer, and he did. He said they’d been having success with their Benjamin Pursuit 158-grain round-nosed bullet and their Benjamin Pursuit 127-grain flat-nosed bullet, and he said he would send me samples of each to test.
Last week I went to the range with both new bullets and tested the Rogue with each. The results were very encouraging, and that’s what we’ll look at today! Let’s look at the 158-grain bullet first. This is a blunt-nosed lead bullet that mimics the old .38 Special 200-grain police revolver round, but is shorter. It comes unlubricated in a box of 50 and is a cast bullet with a beveled base for easier reloading. So somewhere there is a mold for this, or one can be made, if you cast your own as I do.
The bullet fed without a fault through the magazine, and I was surprised that it shot to the same general point of aim as the Nosler. Only a few clicks of elevation were required to get it printing where I wanted it. I selected the heavy bullet weight and the medium power level on the gun’s control panel to conserve air more than anything. The readout said that with 3,000 psi I had 7 good shots in the gun; but when I fired, that number dropped to 4…and then to 2. Instead of 7 shots, I got just 3 — but at least I knew exactly where the reservoir was at all times.
I decided to shoot 10-shot groups this time, so I shot 3 and refilled, and so on. For the final 4 shots, I shot past the low-air warning because I’d been told by Crosman that the gun was now keeping even the first couple of those shots within 30 f.p.s. of the average. The new software doesn’t allow as much variety of choices for bullet weight and power, but it controls the shot-to-shot consistency much closer. You give up some shots per fill, but you gain accuracy, as you will see.
Next, I tried the 127-grain flat-nosed bullet. For this one, I set the control at light for the bullet weight and medium for the power. The panel told me there were 11 shots at 3,000 psi, and I actually got 9. This time, the bullets all seemed to got to the same place on the target. What a wonderful little bullet this is for the Rogue!
Ten 127-grain Benjamin Pursuit flat-pointsd went into this 1.835-inch group. This is the bullet for this rifle! There are four bullets in what looks like a string of three at the top right of the group and two in the X-ring.
The readout on the last two shots with the 127-grain bullet. Notice the air pressure remaining. The readout disagreed with the gauge on my tank by 300 psi, but it was very accurate for controlling the gun.
I noticed while shooting the lighter bullet that the gun readout didn’t agree with the gauge on my air tank. It was off by 300 psi, yet it worked perfectly for the gun. So, I just paid attention to the gun readout, but filled using the gauge on my tank.
I’d forgotten just how nice the new trigger is, but I have to say — Crosman got it right. It’s light, crisp and releases with no undue movement to the rifle. It feels like a mechanical trigger though I know it’s electronic. I do hope Crosman will put this trigger on other air rifles in the future, as I know you would all enjoy it.
Where we are
This test turned out to be a very pleasant surprise for me. After those times at the range when nothing went right, it was a surprise to learn that the new Rogue is a better shooter than it was in the first iteration. True, it doesn’t get as many shots per fill, but those shots it does get are all so stable that I don’t see how you could complain.
I still need to chrongraph the rifle with the two new bullets, plus I would like to see how it performs at high power. The reason I didn’t do that on this trip is because I know there isn’t that great a velocity difference between the two settings. But I still want to test it. So, we’re not done with the Rogue just yet.