Posts Tagged ‘lead ammo’

Getting things clean

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Today’s report is a guest blog from reader duskwight. It’s about how and why to clean airguns. It’s longer than our usual blog posts and filled with lots of info you’ll need.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me.

by duskwight

What we put into our airguns — and what it puts into their barrels
Everybody knows we shoot lead. So-called “ballistic alloys” are a poor substitute for it, so let’s all pretend that we shoot lead.

Lead is a soft, malleable metal — so malleable that a pellet’s skirt blows out when hit by compressed air and presses into rifling. It’s also so soft that during the Middle Ages it was used for pencils, as it leaves dark lines on paper or parchment or human hair! Yes, people made lead combs to dye their beards and hair while combing them — they didn’t live that long back then, anyway. Remember that, though, and wash your hands thoroughly, especially when you’re covered with a lead and oil cocktail, because it’s readily absorbed.

So, lead leaves traces of itself on things. Sometimes, it leaves even more than traces — as in whole deposits of lead. Just imagine a lead pencil drawing a line all along the inside of your barrel, and you’ll get the picture. Freshly exposed lead is so shiny and bright — it’s also quite sticky and shaves off your pellets to form thin (foil-like) deposits inside your barrel. It looks like tiny shavings or scales, pressed and stuck onto the metal.

Of course, that’s not all. Some pellet makers use graphite dust to prevent pellets from sticking to each other inside their tins. Some use different types of grease (e.g., tiny amount of petroleum jelly dissolved in a good amount of solvent to form a thin coat after a short wash) to prevent them from oxidizing while being stored. Some use both. There’s all sorts of lead dust and tiny shavings of lead coming off pellets. The better the quality of your pellets, the less dirt they bring with them. But they’re all dirty. And compressed air, especially in a magnum springer, carries tiny amounts of grease, fat and oil to combust — creating different sorts of tar and carbon for the barrel.

And there’s other bad stuff inside, but only for CO2 guys. Carbon dioxide cools as it expands rapidly in the barrel, and it condenses out some tiny amount of water from the air. It can also contain some water of its own. Carbon dioxide plus water is unstable carbonic acid H2CO3 (fizz water anyone?). It is a rather weak acid; however, it’s still an acid.

What it means for your rifle or pistol
The rule is simple. You shoot, and you foul your barrel. It’s inevitable, just like every breath you take brings some very strong oxidants into your lungs.

Then comes the next rule — dirty barrels tend to make you miss. This is simple, too. Compare it to driving on a highway or autobahn (in case you use German-made barrels) — that’s a clean barrel — versus country roads beaten up by tractors and ill repairs — that’s a dirty barrel. Deposits in your barrel make your pellet’s ride unstable. What’s worse is when the deposits collect near or on the crown. They force the pellet to leave your barrel with an unequal force on all sides, making it prone to tumbling, less stable and imprecise. They can also deform or mar the surface of your pellet, affecting aerodynamics and hurting accuracy.

Match-grade barrels with polished grooves collect less lead. Poorly manufactured barrels with “cheese-grater” surfaces scrape off more. Polygonal or segmental rifling tends to catch and hold less lead than classic Ballard rifling because of fewer cutting edges, lower lands and less spaces for lead to stick. The smoother your airgun shoots — the less brute force is applied to the pellet, the less fouling is left. Springer super magnums seem to be the champions of brute force (which makes them lose accuracy soonest). Choked barrels tend to catch more lead in the choke; barrels that are straight cylinders tend to get dirty more uniformly.

The main thing to learn from all this is that there’s no certain equation between the number of shots and aforementioned effects. Every barrel and every rifle has its own character and own number of shots to get dirty. For example, my Feinwerkbau C62 Luft needs 2,500 shots to get dirty, while my modified Gamo CFX with Lothar Walther barrel gets 500-520 shots before it needs to be cleaned. My Feinwerkbau 300S likes to be cleaned every 1200 shots (although I suspect that’s me being paranoid, not exactly the rifle’s barrel). An IZH 60 I have seems to have no limit at all. That’s what you get with segmental rifling and low power. However, the same modified Gamo CFX with the same Lothar Walther barrel (except for the wood) I made for my friend wants to be cleaned after every 550-600 shots. And another buddy’s FWB C62 wants cleaning after 2,000 shots.

Keep in mind that I use just 4 different types of pellets for my fleet – all of them are .177. Multiply that by the number of rifles — each of them can (and probably will) like its own sort — H&N, JSB, CP, Eun Jin, etc. — and calibers — .177, .20, .22, .25, .30. Don’t go crazy doing this. Learn your guns, get intimate with them and know their habits and likes.

Getting dirty
Oh, you’ll know when the barrel finally gets dirty! Your perfectly tightened, perfectly tuned and sighted airgun starts to spit like a mad camel! Pellets start to fly chaotically, hitting where you don’t want them.

If you’re lucky (which means you have a “predictable” barrel), the accuracy fall-off will start sharply — just 5 or 10 shots, and it’s shooting horribly. If you’re not so lucky, it will drag along for 50 or more shots, with some being better and others worse. Up and down you’ll go — getting tighter then trashier groups. Anyway, it will happen. That tells you things got dirty, and it’s time to clean.

Some shooters clean after every session. Some clean according to a regular preventive schedule — when the shot count comes to the predetermined number of shots. And others just wait until the inaccuracy gets obvious. I’m somewhere between the second and third type. I don’t like to disturb barrels too often.

What we clean
Airgun barrels are made of steel or brass. Steel is tougher, yet it’s not the same kind that’s used for powder-burners. It’s softer and of a simpler composition, not chromed and so on. Brass is even softer and less durable, but it has a lower friction coefficient with lead and tends to collect less lead than a steel barrel.

A good clean airgun barrel looks like mirror — shiny and amplifying light. Dirty barrels look dusty, and their insides look smoky and blackened. Some even drop lead dust when shaken.

What to use for cleaning — and what not to
The rule in this case sounds like that – nothing can enter the barrel that’s harder or as hard as the barrel metal. The worst thing that can happen to your barrel is a damaged crown. That’s a death sentence for your barrel’s accuracy.

So, steel rods and steel brushes go directly to trash for both steel and brass barrels. [Note from B.B.: Some gunsmiths recommend a one-piece polished steel cleaning rod for cleaning steel barrels. They claim it doesn't harm the barrel because it's smooth.]

Steel rods coated with plastic are good. Brass rods are good for steel, but not for brass. Wooden rods — if you can find one in .177 caliber — are ok. Plastic rods are ok too. Different kinds of cloth “snakes” are also ok.

Brushes are usually made of one of three materials — brass, plastic or cotton (they call the cotton ones mops). Brass on brass doesn’t play; save it for your steel barrels. The rest are OK.

Patch-holding tip — get a brass one for steel barrels and aluminum alloy for brass barrels.

Felt patches — I use them for quick cleaning or refreshing the barrel on the range. I load 2 dry with 1 wet between them, and a pellet behind all of it to give a springer something to push against and save the optics — or nothing in case of a PCP. But that’s not proper cleaning, no matter what the ads say.

Thin cotton cloth — clean old t-shirt is quite ok; special wads are too posh for true tough guys (any dry cotton is OK).

As for oil — I prefer Ballistol. Nothing too special, and it does the job right. I also use WD-40 for CO2 guns — as a preventive to get rid of water.

A word of caution about oils. Make sure they don’t get into any place where there’s compression, especially when it comes to sprays. In the case of springers, they can cause intense dieseling — or even detonation — and broken seals and springs. In the case of single-strokes or multi-pumps, you can get yourself a very nice tiny working diesel engine — and some purple-black blood-blistered fingers for your troubles.

Do not use silicone oils. Just don’t — they’re simply not for cleaning metal. [Note from B.B.: Silicone oil is used to seal pistons. It doesn't lubricate, it seals.]

Ah, and one more thing. You need a tiny and very bright single, white LED flashlight to check the barrel’s condition. This is a useful amateur gunsmith tool.

Getting things done
Brass barrels are exotic these days. If you have one — use a plastic brush.

Steady your rifle, preferably in the horizontal mode. The less bend you’ll give to your rod, the better.

Close all the glass optics with covers. Should I remind you that your rifle must be uncocked, unloaded, de-pressurized and checked twice for maximum safety?

It’s best to clean the barrel from breech to muzzle. Well, I think that’s a bit of a superstition. With good equipment and steady hands you can clean it in the reverse direction — and you often have to. Especially, since some guns do not give you easy access to the rifle’s breech.

Let’s say we have a VERY dirty steel barrel on our hands. Don’t laugh — it happens! Put a brass brush on your rod. For brass barrels (they’re hard to get this dirty), use only plastic brushes. Spray it with Ballistol to wet the brush.

Drag your brass brush along the barrel 5-10 times. Not fast, not slow — just calm and steady. The brass brush will scratch all the big lead deposits off barrel walls and won’t hurt your steel barrel.

WATCH OUT FOR RUBBER RINGS AND OTHER DAMAGEABLE STUFF INSIDE THE BARREL AND PAST THE BREECH.

Now, wait for a couple minutes. Then, screw your patch-holding tip onto the rod. Get some cotton onto it or use a patch of cotton cloth. It must sit tight inside the barrel. Spray some Ballistol to make it wet. Run it 5-10 times through the barrel in both directions. Take it out and say, “Eek!” It should be black with some tiny, shiny flakes of lead.

Change the cloth or cotton and repeat 5-10 times. Aaah…now it comes out dark grey. Change patches again. This one comes out light grey. Change and clean until it comes out white. This alone works fine for regular cleaning if your barrel doesn’t tend to get extremely dirty.

Congratulations, you just got yourself a nice, clean barrel. However, you must finish the job.

Use a loosely woven dry cloth or cotton on your patch-holding tip or use a cotton brush to dry the barrel. Don’t be afraid. One run will not leave the barrel dry, it will leave just the right amount of oil that you need in metal pores and on its surface. You’ve heard the expression, “A light coat of oil?” That doesn’t refer to a wardrobe choice.

Then, if you like — shoot 3-5 pellets into a pellet trap to season the barrel. This will give you a thin film of lead that gives the barrel its standard accuracy and voila! Your barrel is ready to punch hundreds more precise and clean holes in paper.

For polished match barrels that are not very dirty, I use the method of some Olympic airgun shooters. It puts minimal (well, they are prone to overplaying safe) influence on the barrel and makes things extremely right and tender.

Get a fishing line – very good stuff to clean match barrels. I prefer 0.40mm Japanese line. Get 5-6 feet, fold in two, knot, pass through the barrel, loop outside the breech, knot outside the muzzle. Put a narrow strip of cloth into the loop (in my case — 6″ long, 1/5″ wide, 2 loops for .177), soak it with Ballistol, put the rest of the cloth over your fingers (as fishing line DOES cut!) and just pull steadily and slow. This will drag the cloth through the barrel and clean it. Repeat with wet cloths until it comes out white. Finish with one dry patch. Perfectly clean!

There’s another kind of problem with CO2 guns that I mentioned before — water and carbon acid. To maximize your CO2 gun’s service life (don’t consider it to be just a plinker — FWB and Walther made some Olympic CO2 match rifles, and the Hämmerli 850 AirMagnum is a serious piece even by today’s standards), depressurize it and apply some WD-40 into the barrel with a cotton brush or patch-holding tip and cotton cloth after every session. This will get the water out of the pores and preserve it from rust. The same goes for shooting PCPs and springers in misty or high-humidity outdoor conditions.

And a finishing touch — gently rub your rifles steel parts with a soft cloth, slightly wet with oil. Congratulations — you’re done!

Benjamin Rogue ePCP: Part 5

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Benjamin Rogue epcp big bore air rifle
The new Rogue is simpler, more tractable.

Think of this report as a bonus. I thought I was finished with the Rogue after Part 4, but then Seth Rowland — the man who organizes the Malvern, AR, airgun show and also provides big bore airgunners with swaged and cast lead bullets — contacted me, saying that he had been following the series. He told me he had a couple different bullet designs, some that he swages and can control the weight and length of the bullet. He wondered if I wanted to test the rifle with some more bullets — this time from a source other than Crosman/Benjamin. He had no idea whether any of the bullets would work in the rifle, but he did know they were large enough to fit the bore well.

I thought, what the heck — let’s give them a try. I contacted Crosman to get an extension to the loan of the new Rogue. Since this gives me one more day at the range with the rifle, who am I to complain?

Seth sent me 5 bullets in all. They range from 89 grains to 137 grain, so the spectrum is covered pretty well. You may remember that I found the Rogue to shoot best with lighter-weight bullets, which is why Seth sent me these particular ones.

Benjamin Rogue ePCP big bore precharged pneumatic air rifle bullets
From the left, we have an 89-grain swaged bullet, 119-grain swaged bullet, 128-grain cast bullet, 130-grain cast bullet and a 137-grain swaged bullet.

At the range
The day was perfect. The wind was a light breeze that caused no problems at the 50-yard range. I took each bullet in succession, starting with the lightest weight and progressing to the heaviest. Each bullet shot a 5-shot group at 50 yards. The electronic valve setting was on Light for the bullet and Medium for the power. I figured that if any bullets showed promise, I could return and test them on High power later.

The 89-grain bullet had only fair accuracy and strung its shots vertically in a group measuring just under 4 inches. It was too early in the test to know very much, so I moved on to the 119-grain swaged bullet. It opened up to just over 5 inches, telling me this also was not a bullet for the Rogue. Since it was also swaged, I wondered if that was causing some kind of problem.

The next bullet was the 128-grain cast bullet. Five of those landed in 1.483 inches, looking very nice, indeed. That’s certainly minute-of-coyote or fox at 50 yards…and on out to, perhaps, 75 yards. The cast bullet looks like a design for either a black powder cartridge or a pistol. It was the best group I got so far.

Benjamin Rogue epcp big bore air rifle 128 grain cast bullet Medium power
Five shots with the 128-grain cast bullet on Medium power produced this group, which is under 1.5 inches.

Next came the 130-grain cast lead bullet, and it didn’t even land on the target paper. Since I back my targets with a 2-foot by 4-foot target paper to catch strays like this, and since I failed to catch this bullet anywhere, I stopped trying after three shots. Let’s call the 130-grain bullet a non-starter for the Rogue.

The last bullet was a 137-grain swaged design that also failed to make a hole on the large backer paper after 3 shots. It was out, as well.

So far
To this point, it looks like the 128-grain cast lead bullet is the one to spend time with. I chronographed it and found it averaged 699 f.p.s. on Medium power (138.91 foot-pounds) and 731 f.p.s. on High power (151.91 foot-pounds). On Medium power with a fresh 3,000 psi fill, the gun’s status panel tells me there are 11 shots at the beginning. But the status panel number of shots that remain decreases faster than the actual number of shots. Although it says there are 11 shots, there are really 6 or 7 shots before it’s time to fill again.

On High power, the gun starts out with 3 shots on the panel — but I found that I got only 2 shots before the gun wanted to be refilled. A third shot was possible, and I took one just to see where the bullet went. It stayed within the group, though on High power the group is larger than on Medium.

Benjamin Rugue epcp big bore air rifle 128 grain cast bullet High power
Five 128-grain bullets on High power opened up to 2.847 inches. The shot at the right is after a refill of air.

What do we know?
First, we know that cast bullets with grease grooves seem to shoot better in our Rogue than swaged bullets. At least, there’s an inclination in that direction.

Next, we know that the 128-grain bullet did best in this rifle. If further testing was to be done, that’s the bullet I would concentrate on. I went back and reviewed the performance with all the other bullets that were tested in the past, and this one looks quite similar to the Benjamin Pursuit 127-grain flat-nosed bullet. What that means is that it’s possible to cast your own bullets or to buy them from a source that casts them, as they’re going to perform similarly to the best bullets in this rifle. Both these bullets out-shot the 145-grain Nosler Ballistic Tips that are also good in the Rogue.

We also know that shooting on Medium power conserves air longer than High power, and the slight loss of velocity is inconsequential. Of course, I’d like to play with this bullet even more, shooting it with the control panel set to Heavy weight and shooting it on Discharge, as well as directly controlling the valve dwell time. From just what we have seen in today’s test, I would say this is a bullet to beat.

Remember — this was a test of unknown bullets to see if any were worth testing further. If I owned a Rogue, I would stock up on this 128-grain bullet and play with it more because I think this may be the best overall design for the rifle.

Thanks to Seth Rowland (sethrowland@att.net) for providing these bullets to test. He makes other calibers and will work with you to find the best bullet for your rifle.

Bottom line for the Rogue
The Rogue has its detractors — those who feel that it’s to advanced and expensive to be practical in the field. But those people disregard the fact that this rifle shoots as well as almost all other big bores of quality.

All I’ve done in this 5-part test is show you how it performs. The rest is up to you.

Benjamin Rogue ePCP: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Benjamin Rogue epcp big bore air rifle
The new Rogue is simpler, more tractable.

After the last report, I spoke to Dennis Quackenbush about how the new Rogue I was testing. I explained that while it shot well with Benjamin bullets, it didn’t seem to group with cast bullets obtained from other sources. He first suggested that I try the old .38-caliber 200-grain lead bullet that we know as a police round here in the U.S.; but in the UK it was their substitute for the old .455 round. When they downsized their WWI service revolver to reduce the recoil, they substituted the 200-grain .38-cal. bullet for the much larger .455-caliber man-stopper they had in WWI. Unfortunately, they also knocked about 9 oz. off the weight of the revolver at the same time, with the result that the new cartridge and revolver kicked just about the same as the one it replaced. It was easier to carry, of course, and that’s always a consideration, but it wasn’t the man-stopper the older bullet had been.

I told Dennis that the heavier I went, the more the Rogue didn’t like the bullet, so he then came up with a different idea. He suggested I try a bullet with a different balance. He asked me if I had tried the rifle with a 148-grain .357-caliber wadcutter, which of course I hadn’t. Some wadcutter bullets have a hollow base that obturates when the cartridge explodes, thus filling the bore and sealing all gasses behind.

Benjamin Rogue epcp big bore air rifle wadcutter bullets
The .357 wadcutter bullet weighs 148 grains and has a hollow base similar to a diabolo pellet. That pushes the weight forward and helps stabilize the bullet in flight. This lead isn’t oxidizing. That white powder is the dry lubricant that has been applied to the bullet after casting or swaging. Notice the lack of conventional grease grooves.

The wadcutters were the first non-Benjamin bullets to perform well in the Rogue. They fed well, and they also shot to the same point of aim as both of the Benjamin bullets. This proves that a Rogue owner can cast his own bullets for the rifle and save a lot of money. In fact, with a Shoebox Compressor and casting your own bullets, the Rogue would be cheaper to shoot than a smallbore pellet rifle!

Low on air: What can I do?
When I shot the wadcutter bullets for accuracy, I knew my carbon fiber tank was running low. I still had to chronograph all the bullets at both power settings and wanted to save some air for that, so I decided to try something different during this group. Five bullets were fired with the rifle set to heavy bullets and medium power. That ran the gun out of a charge of air. The display panel said there were no shots remaining at that setting. I changed the power setting to discharge, which holds the valve open twice as long as normal. I then fired two more shots on the discharge setting just to see what would happen. I labeled each hole on the target, so you can see where every shot went.

Benjamin Rogue epcp big bore air rifle wadcutter bullet target
The five bullets fired on medium power grouped in about 2-3/4 inches at 50 yards. Each shot is numbered. Then the two discharge shots hit lower and to the left. Interesting that you can actually get more shots on a fill than the status panel indicates!

Velocity
Now, it was time to test the velocity of all the bullets that were accurate in the Rogue. This exercise used up the remaining air in my tank, thus ending the day at the range.

Nosler 145-grain Ballistic Tip
The first bullet we’ll test is the 145-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet that’s the best general bullet for the Rogue. On high power, the bullet averaged 774 f.p.s., with a range from 766 to 781 f.p.s. At the average velocity, the rifle generated 192.92 foot-pounds of muzzle energy.

On medium power, this bullet averaged 751 f.p.s. and ranged from 741 to 760 f.p.s. At the average velocity, the bullet generates 181.64 foot-pounds of energy. That’s pretty remarkable, because that’s also a good place to keep the power for the extra shots it provides.

Benjamin Pursuit 158-grain bullet
The Benjamin Pursuit 158-grain round nose bullet was tested next. It was tested in the last accuracy test and proved to be acceptable at 50 yards. On high power, this bullet averaged 741 f.p.s., with a velocity spread that ranged from 735 to 752 f.p.s. At the average velocity, it generates 192.69 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. The Nosler Ballistic Tip reigns supreme for power in the Rogue by a razor-thin margin.

On medium power, this bullet averaged 711 f.p.s. and ranged from 704 to 714 f.p.s. At the average velocity, it’s pumping out 177.4 foot-pounds of ebergy.

Benjamin Pursuit 127-grain flat-nosed bullet
The Benjamin Pursuit 127-grain flat nose bullet was the speed champ in the Rogue. On high power, it launched that accurate little bullet at an average 796 f.p.s., with a spread from 786 to 809 f.p.s. At the average velocity, this little pill produces 178.73 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

It’s the medium power setting that I’m interested in for this bullet, however, because I believe I would have a bullet mold made to cast this bullet if I owned a Rogue. At this setting, the bullet averaged 747 f.p.s., with a spread from 740 to 751 f.p.s. That’s 157.4 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, on average. That’s more muzzle energy than you get from a 40-grain high-speed .22 long rifle cartridge; and, of course, the larger .357-caliber bullet does far more damage. At that power level, the Rogue would be a good fox and coyote gun out to about 100 yards.

148-grain wadcutter
Finally, I did test the 148-grain wadcutters that Dennis Quackenbush sent me. I had only a total of 10 on hand, so I tested just one shot at each setting. On high power, the bullet went 757 f.p.s., which translates to 188.37 foot-pounds. On medium power, it went 732 f.p.s., which is 176.13 foot-pounds. It might interest you to know that the Rogue is propelling this bullet at very close to the same velocity that a .38 Special midrange wadcutter cartridge produces. If you turn the bullet around when you load it — so the hollow base faces forward — you’ve created a monster hollowpoint bullet. At close range, such a bullet has few equals for destructive capability.

General observations on the new Benjamin Rogue
In case you aren’t aware, I played a small part in the Rogue’s developement, so some will think I’m biased in favor of the gun. I assure you I’m not. But this test surprised me in a number of ways. The first was the velocity stablity the Crosman engineers have been able to build into the gun. No other big bore airgun comes anywhere close to what the Rogue can do, as far as maintaining velocity with a specific bullet.

The magazine feeding problem is now gone. As long as the bullet is sized to enter the bore, it will feed fluidly through the redesigned magazine.

Accuracy has been improved. The 145-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip is still the best bullet overall, but the 127-grain Benjamin Pursuit is more accurate and more fun to shoot. If you own a Rogue, you might think about having a bullet mold made up to cast this bullet in soft lead. I hear that Mr. Hollowpoint also has some bullets that do well in the Rogue. After testing some in my .308 Quackenbush, I believe it.

The trigger is greatly improved. That was the part that Lloyd Sykes and I were worried about with the original Rogue. Well, Crosman has done it right, and I know hunters will like this one.

As far as worrying about whether a new Rogue you buy is a real new one or just one that’s left over I will say this. Crosman went to extreme lengths to remove all unsold Rogues from their dealers long before they released this new model. I’m sure those guns were reworked to the new standard. So, unless you’re buying from a hobby dealer (someone who isn’t really doing it as a business) or out the back of a car trunk, I would say you’re going to get the newer design.

I would like to thank the Crosman Corporation for providing the new Rogue for this extensive test.

Benjamin Rogue ePCP: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2

Benjamin Rogue epcp big bore air rifle
The new Rogue is simpler, more tractable.

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.

Benjamin Rogue epcp big bore air rifle three cast lead bullets
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.

Benjamin Rogue epcp big bore air rifle two lead Benjamin Pursuit bullets
Two Benjamin Pursuit lead bullets for the Rogue. On the left is the 127-grain flat point, and on the right is the 158-grain round-nose.

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.

benjamin Rogue epcp big bore air rifle Benjamin Pursuit 158 grain bullet target
Ten 158-grain Benjamin Pursuit round-nosed bullets made this 2.587-inch group at 50 yards. That’s minute of coyote out at 80 yards.

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!

Benjamin Rogue epcp big bore air rifle Benjamin Pursuit 127 grain bullet target
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.

Benjamin Rugue epcp big bore air rifle control panel during firing
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.

The trigger
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.

Benjamin Rogue ePCP: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1


The new Rogue is simpler, more tractable.

Today is my first report on taking the Benjamin Rogue .357-caliber big bore rifle to the range. Instead of just running it over the chronograph, I thought I would first get used to how it shoots. I’d talked to Ed Schultz of Crosman about the main changes, and he told me they had simplified the programs. Instead of 9 possible choices (low, medium and high power…plus light, medium and heavy bullets), they abbreviated it to just medium and high power and light and heavy bullet weights.

Ed said the gun would give more shots on these settings because the valving had been trying to do too much before. So that was what I was looking for at the range — a gun with tractable power and simpler options.

Crosman sent some Nosler Ballistic Tips with the rifle, and I knew they were designed specifically for it and that’s where I began.


Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets are made for the Rogue.

Ed told me to consider the 145-grain Noslers to be the starting point for the heavy bullets — and bullets weighing 135-grains and less as light — so I programmed the rifle for heavy bullets and medium power. Of course, you can program the gun any way you like, but these are the guidelines. Because there was such a furor from the field about the magazine feeding, I decided to use it, exclusively. It holds 6 bullets, and I wanted to see if there were 6 good shots with this medium power setting and heavy bullet weight setting. The distance was 50 yards, and I took three shots to zero the scope, which is a new CenterPoint 4-16×40 that I’ll mention later.

The trigger is quite a bit lighter and crisper than the trigger I tested last time. I have to say that this one is a positive winner, as it releases the same every time. The first shot went before I was ready, but the crosshairs were on target and the bullet went where I intended.


After sight-in, I rapped off two quick magazines of Nosler Ballistic Tips.


Six Nosler Ballistic Tips made this 2.5-inch group at 50 yards. That was as many as the gun wanted to shoot at this power level, and notice how well-centered they are.

The readout said the pressure had dropped from 3,000 psi to 2,150 psi, so I refilled the gun to shoot again. The next time, I programmed the rifle to shoot the same 145-grain bullet on high power. As before, I loaded 6 bullets into the magazine.


The first 5 bullets went into 2.378 inches at 50 yards. The sixth shot was lower, as you can see. So 5 shots is the magic number on high power with heavy bullets. After 6 shots on high power, the pressure remaining was 1,350 psi, so the gun uses a lot more air at this setting.

Ed told me that Crosman rated the gun on high power to get 3 good shots, with very close velocity. Shots 4 and 5 will also be close, but not as close as the first 3. I discovered that when I shot this target.

Magazine feed
The Nosler bullets feds through the magazine easily and without hesitation. They’re perfect for the rifle.

Next, I tried some 158-grain semi-wadcutter cast bullets. These were the bullets shooters had difficulty with in the old magazine. The new magazine fed them flawlessly, however, they stopped when the front driving band encountered the rifling in the breech. At that point, they were not fully seated in the barrel. So I had to force the bolt forward to get it closed, and you probably recall that the bolt controls the electronic firing system; so until it’s closed and in the right position, the gun will not fire.


These semi-wadcutters had a body that was too long for the Rogue’s breech. They were difficult to load, though they functioned in the magazine flawlessly.

I shot the one bullet that was so difficult to feed and decided not to try any more of them. In consultation with Crosman, I discovered that they actually cut a chamber in the back portion of the barrel, and these semi-wadcutters now feed perfectly. We believe that I was shooting as-cast bullets that are just slightly out of round and jammed up in the chamber. I’ll size all future bullets to 0.358 inches before I go to the range. No more as-cast bullets for me.

My only other bullet was a second semi-wadcutter whose body was so similar to the first bullet that I didn’t try them in the rifle. I had brought some round-nosed bullets in my range box, but when I broke into the package I discovered they were .308 and not .357.

Well, I got what I had come for, which was a good first look at the new Rogue in action. It has a much better trigger than the one I tested earlier, and it seems to be very stable for a magazine full of shots, so that’s how I will gauge my shooting in future sessions. I’ll bring some properly sized .357 bullets next time, and I’ll break out the chronograph to see how things stack up.

CenterPoint scope
Just one final word about the scope on the test rifle. Crosman sent a new 4-16×40 AO CenterPoint Optics scope with the Rogue, and this was the first chance I had to try it out. It zeroed quickly and was bright enough, though it was sunny at the range and relative brightness was difficult to estimate. The scope was very clear and has an illuminated reticle and adjustable objective for parallax correction. I did look at the reticle in my office and see that it reflects well off the wire crosshairs, but it was unnecessary on this bright day.

One final word about the adjustable stock. This one REALLY adjusts — as in — I can make the pull too long for me, and I like a long pull. So, I think the Rogue will fit almost any adult, regardless of their reach.

Benjamin Rogue ePCP update: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier


This is the new Rogue. It came Crosman, so a bipod was included. I’ll show it to you when I shoot the rifle.

It’s been two years since the release of the Benjamin Rogue .357-caliber ePCP big bore rifle. Back then, the rifle was so revolutionary that, when I reviewed it for you, I had to spend a lot of time explaining its operation.

I’m going to review that operation for you, again, because there have been a few significant changes…plus some that won’t be visible to the user but which should make the operation even better. I won’t dive into the guts of the gun like I did in the last report, because things there haven’t changed enough to be noticeable; but when it comes to something that affects the gun’s performance, I’ll address it.

What is the Rogue?
The Benjamin Rogue is a big bore precharged air rifle that can be fired either single-shot or with a 6-shot rotating magazine. The 6-shot magazine is unusual because most big bores do not have sufficient air capacity to fire 6 shots without refilling the gun. Those that do will often taper off too much, with lower velocities after their initial 2-3 shots.

The Rogue is unique because it has a computer-controlled valve that opens and closes by electronic command. That’s what the lowercase “e” in ePCP stands for. A pressure sensor inside the air reservoir reads the pressure at all times. The computer contains software that tells the air valve how long it needs to stay open to maintain velocity at the settings the user has programmed into the gun. This is something that airgunners have long talked about; but one of them, namely Lloyd Sykes, wrote the programs and built the hardware that actually allowed it to work for the first time. He then demonstrated his idea to Crosman who bought it and developed both the hardware and the software into the Rogue that we see today.

The Rogue has a shrouded barrel that reduces the report significantly. It doesn’t turn it into a suburban backyard air rifle, but you don’t want that in a rifle this powerful anyway. The hunter in the field will thank the designers for a powerful gun that’s easier on their eardrums.

The gun is .357 caliber, and that requires some explanation. There are a number of air rifles on the market that are 9mm, and .357 is very close to 9mm. However, and this is very significant, 9mm is a European pistol caliber that uses bullets ranging from 90 grains to 125 grains in weight. That’s perfect for pocket pistols, but not for a hunting handgun unless the quarry is smaller game like rabbits and raccoons. Coyotes would be at the top of this list, and your marksmanship would have to be precise. Most significantly, 9mm bullets are either 0.355 or 0.356 inches in diameter.

On the other hand .357-caliber bullets have been developed for both the .38 Special and the powerful .357 Magnum handguns and have been used for medium-sized game like whitetail deer. The bullets for .357 guns do go as light as 90 grains, but they more commonly start out at around 110 grains and go all the way up to 200 grains. This weight is important for a big bore airgun that’s not going to drive these bullets as fast as a firearm handgun. We want weight because it equals penetration, which — to a big bore airgunner — gets the job done.

These bullets have a diameter of 0.357 to 0.359 inches. While that doesn’t sound like too much larger than 0.355 to 0.356 inches, the difference allows the soft lead bullet to fill the bore, take the rifling well and seal all the high-pressure air behind it. People who shoot black powder arms understand this very well, and all big bore airgunners need to take it to heart.

Load lead!
The other important reason to focus on .357 over 9mm is because the majority of 9mm bullets are jacketed, and big bore airguns do not shoot jacketed slugs. There are just a pitiful few lead bullets available in 9mm, while there are hundreds of different styles and weights in .357. And you don’t have to cast your own bullets, either. There are numerous bullet makers making all sorts of lead bullets to order these days. You can get everything from hard-cast bullets, which I don’t recommend, to dead-soft lead-tin alloys that are perfect in big bores, to cowboy action bullets that don’t hurt your budget too much. You can buy these bullets either sized and lubricated or as-cast, which is unsized and unlubricated. I recommend the latter for a big bore airgun.

Big bore airguns do not shoot jacketed slugs

A bullet that’s been cast but not sized is not perfectly concentric. Sizing fixes this. But so does passing through a barrel that’s either the same size as the bullet or a thousandth smaller. Your barrel sizes the bullets as they’re fired, so sizing is not necessary. And because there’s no heat of combustion, the bullets don’t need to be lubricated with grease, either. The natural lubricity of soft lead is sufficient to allow the bullet to go through the bore without undue leading (lead loss by scraping off on the inside of the bore).

Nosler bullet
Crosman teamed with Nosler to create the perfect bullet for the Rogue. This is a 145-grain round-nosed bullet with a Ballistic Tip called the eXTREME Air Rifle Bullet. They come packed 25 to a box and are definitely premium ammunition. Yes, they’re costly, but if you take advantage of Pyramyd Air’s “Get the 4th tin free” offer, 100 bullets will cost about $60, plus shipping. That’s 60 cents apiece, which isn’t too bad for hunting ammunition. I would plink with something cheaper and save these for serious work, as I discovered in my first test that this bullet outshot all the others.


The Nosler eXTREME bullets with Ballistic Tips are made especially for the Rogue.

The magazine
One of the issues with the Rogue when it first came out was it didn’t like to feed many different bullets from the magazine. I didn’t catch this in my testing, because I never used the magazine. I tend to shoot any big bore as a single-shot because that’s what most of them are and also because I’m invariably testing something when I’m shooting, and a magazine just gets in the way.

I did test the original mag with the 145-grain Nosler bullets that were made especially for it, and of course it worked fine; but when shooters tried feeding 158-grain Keith-type bullets through it, they ran into problems. The magazine has been extensively redesigned to be more flexible in this respect, and that will be an important part of this test.


The holes for each bullet are more oval than round, allowing the bullets to move around more as they are being moved into the breech by the bolt.

The new magazine has an oval hole for the bullets, which is apparently necessary for improved feeding with various bullet shapes. I’ll put it to the test.

The electronic programs
I had a long discussion with Ed Schultz of Crosman prior to writing this report. I wanted to know what was different about the Rogue, and why was I testing it, again, after only two years. He told me about the magazine and also about the programming options. That’s what I want to discuss now, so I don’t have to explain it again when I test the rifle.


Programming the Rogue is simplicity, itself. This three-button keypad does everything. And the status screen tells you things…like when it’s time for more air.

The original Rogue allowed the shooter to select one of three bullet-weight ranges (light, medium and heavy), which corresponded to a given range of actual bullet weights. The shooter also programmed the rifle for one of three power ranges — low, medium and high. The two options, each with three choices, allowed a matrix of nine possible programming possibilities. When I tested the rifle for Shotgun News, I said that I didn’t think a lot of shooters would use the light bullet/low power option for anything beyond plinking to conserve air.

Crosman watched the forums discuss these settings and listened to feedback from their customers, and they finally came to the conclusion that the initial choices were too many — to the point of confusion. Also, it’s technically very difficult to control high pressure air when it’s compressed to its limit and then to try to meter it to only allow a very small amount to escape with each shot — such as the light bullet/low power selection. In plain terms, while the electronic controls did work, there were conditions in which they didn’t work at the optimum.

In the time since the first Rogues were sold, Crosman has been refining the software and even some of the hardware to get a smoother power curve from the gun. Their goal was more shots at the same velocity, but perhaps giving up a few shots on the lower end to get there. This new Rogue has the new software that allows just two bullet ranges — MEDIUM, which goes up to the 145-grain weight of the Nosler bullet made for the gun, and HEAVY, which starts at 145 grains and goes up.

There are also just two power settings — MEDIUM and HIGH. Combining the bullet weight settings and the power settings, the user now has just four selections to make instead of nine. But tinkerers don’t have to despair. They have wisely retained both the DISCHARGE setting, which allows the gun to dump a huge amount of air with one shot, as well as the full manual control over the computer that allows you to control the discharge time to within 5 microseconds. If you absolutely need all the air the gun can give, put it on DISCHARGE and the valve will remain open twice as long as for the highest power setting.

Can an existing gun be upgraded?
If you already own a Rogue and want these new features, your gun can use the new magazine, so the feeding situation should get better. But the new electronics are unfortunately linked to new hardware and no upgrade is offered. However, you can operate your older Rogue like the new one by using the upper two bullet weights and power levels, only. You’ll get much of what the new gun offers, but not the same level of stability, which I’ll explore for you at the range.

Not only will I shoot for accuracy and test the feeding of the new magazine, I’ll also be looking at the kind of strings we get from this rifle. I’ll test accuracy with both the Noslers as well as several lead bullets of different shapes.

The first thing I’m going to do is read all four of my previous reports to refresh myself on how the gun operates. Then, I’ll be ready to put it through the wringer for you.

Safe backstops and bullet traps

by B.B. Pelletier

Many of us shoot our airguns inside the house, garage or barn and need to stop our projectiles from damaging what’s behind the target. Today, I want to talk about what works, what doesn’t and why. My sermon today is in the form of a repentant sinner, because I’ve made most of the mistakes I’m telling you to avoid.

The difference between a trap and a backstop
A bullet trap is designed to stop whatever is shot into it. Targets are hung in front of the trap, and it’s expected to stop all bullets/pellets/BBs that enter.

A backstop is often set behind the trap to stop the bullets that miss the trap. If there’s a trap, the backstop is only called upon occasionally; but sometimes there’s no trap — just the backstop, in which case the backstop, alone, has to stop everything.

Starting with BB guns
When I was a boy, the most popular trap for BB guns was a trash can or wastepaper basket filled with crushed newspapers. It worked, but not for very long, so let’s talk about that. Crushed newspapers are great padding for packages. The newspapers have enough resiliency to keep the contents of the package firmly in place — unless those contents are very heavy. And the same crushed newspapers will stop BBs from low-powered BB guns — like Red Ryders — for a short time.

But — and this is important — even a Red Ryder will eventually shoot through the crushed newspapers when one BB after another impacts in the same spot. And, if the BB gun is more powerful, it doesn’t take as long to tear through. Red Ryders shoot at around 300-350 f.p.s. But some powerful BB guns like the Remington AirMaster 77 top 700 f.p.s. They’ll rip through crushed newspapers in one-tenth the time it takes a Red Ryder to get through. When you’re making a BB trap, consider both the length of time you’ll be shooting at the trap as well as the potential velocity of the gun doing the shooting.

A better way to stop BBs is to provide a backstop that has some give — like a piece of wall-to-wall carpet. When the backstop moves, it robs the projectile of a lot of velocity, which prevents bounceback — the bane of the BB gun. And wall-to-wall carpet has a very tough base that seems impervious to steel BBs at Red Ryder velocities. I know of clubs that have made BB gun ranges with large sections of wall-to-wall carpet that not only stop the BBs but which hang to the floor and are folded into a trough at the bottom to funnel all the BBs into a container, simplifying cleanup. A backstop like that and a large powerful magnet makes cleanup an easy chore.

Of course, you can buy a commercial BB trap that will do all I’ve described. Crosman’s model 850/852 trap is perfect for low-velocity BB guns and works for low-velocity pellets, as well. The only problem is that Crosman has them made in China, and sometimes they’re out of stock for a very long time. The UTG pellet & BB trap is very similar and will do the same things. It costs a few dollars more, but the supply is more regular. Both of these traps have “ballistic curtains” that absorb the energy of BBs at low velocity. A thin steel backplate ultimately stops the projectile. Of course, you’ll want to put a larger backstop behind this trap for those few projectiles that miss the trap altogether.


This Crosman 850 BB trap has stopped thousands of BBs and pellets. Notice how the ballistic curtains have been torn up from all the shots.

For the more powerful BB guns — those with muzzle velocities over 400 f.p.s. — I don’t like carpet. Like crushed newspaper, it’s possible to shoot through it if you keep hitting in the same spot. For those guns, I prefer an actual trap filled with duct seal and use the carpet as a backstop behind the trap. The few BBs that hit the carpet won’t hit in the same place, and it should work fine. If the range is to be more permanent, however, put some plywood behind the carpet and keep an eye on the carpet and replace it as needed.

On to pellets
Pellets are made of lead, mostly, though there’s a movement to use other metals that are less toxic. Lead absorbs energy when it deforms against a hard target. Up to 600 f.p.s., lead continues to flatten out until a spent pellet has become a flat round disk with just a trace of the skirt still visible. At velocities above 600 f.p.s., lead starts to break apart upon impact. First, it breaks off in large chunks traveling at low velocity. As the impact velocity continues to rise, the lead fragments get smaller and travel faster. Above 700 f.p.s., they’re traveling fast enough to break lights up to 15 feet away from the trap.


This pellet was flattened at 600 f.p.s. or less, You can still see the pellet’s skirt, including the rifling that’s engraved into both it and the head that is flattened.


This pellet was moving faster than 600 f.p.s. when it hit and has started to break apart. It’s a smaller caliber than the first pellet, but the breakup happens in the same way regardless of size.

You don’t want to use a lightweight pellet trap for pellets that move at higher velocities! They’ll even punch through steel plates if they’re thin enough. For pellet guns, some thought must be given to what kind of trap you use.

I use three traps in my work. One is the BB trap already mentioned. Regular readers of this blog know that I shoot several hundred rounds each week. Often one test involves from 100 to 200 shots. So, my traps (I’m not talking about backstops yet) have to be up to the task.

Heavy Duty Bullet trap
For all my most powerful airguns, I use a Heavy Duty bullet trap designed to stop a .22 long rifle bullet. I bought mine about 20 years ago and I thought $45 was a lot to pay. Today, you’ll pay over $75 for the same thing, but it’s the last bullet trap (of that type) you’ll ever buy. My trap has seen hundreds of thousands of pellets and bullets over the years — and except for the paint, it’s still as good as new today.

My workhorse heavy-duty pellet trap hides behind the cardboard facer. The white backer board behind is half an inch thick and will stop pellets with up to 50 foot-pounds of energy.

This is the trap I use when I shoot 25 yards inside the house, and over the years I’ve missed this trap a couple dozen times, so I learned long ago to back it with something strong. I use a board of white synthetic material that Edith gave me years ago. It’s supposed to be a special board she bought over 15 years ago for kneading bread dough, but it warped just enough that it twirls and moves freely on the countertop during use, so now it’s mine. Since I started using this backer board with the steel trap, nothing has slipped past.

The final trap I use is the one that blog reader Jim Contos gave me. I wrote a special blog describing how to build one for yourself. Jim gave me this trap after I reported shooting through my homemade silent pellet trap that I’d used for many years. After cleaning the trap and replacing all the duct seal, I was testing a Beeman HW100 S FSB, which is a 26 foot-pound PCP rifle. Within just a few shots I shot clean through the duct seal and the steel plate behind it! I’ve used this trap for a very long time and with some powerful airguns. What was different this time was the lack of a wadded mass of lead pellets to help slow the pellets that were shot. So they sailed right through the trap!


This is what happens when a 26 foot-pound pellet rifle hits two-inches of duct seal in the same place repeatedly. There’s a thin steel plate between that plywood back and the duct seal, and the pellets zipped through it!

I don’t back this trap with anything. because I use it only for chronograph testing, where the muzzle is a foot from the trap. I haven’t come close to missing the trap in over 25,000 shots!

How large should the backer be?
Make the backer large enough to positively stop all rounds that are shot in the direction of the target. If you’re the only shooter, maybe the backer can be smaller; but if your range will ever host other shooters of varying abilities, make it bigger. When we lived in Maryland, I often let others shoot on my basement range. I used a 3/4-inch plywood backer that was 4 feet square. Even then it was just enough to stop all the wild shots. Not everyone waits to sight the gun before their finger moves to the trigger!

Let’s review
So, you always want to stop your projectile positively. Sometimes that’s done with just a target backer, like a piece of wall-to-wall carpet. Other times, you use a trap to stop the projectile and put the backer behind it in case you miss the trap.

Shooting safe is imperative, because there’s no room for error here. How you stop your projectiles makes all the difference between a safe home range and a serious accident or injury. This is one area where you always want to err on the safe side!

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