Benjamin Bulldog big bore air rifle: Part 1
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• Bolt action with sidelever
• Detailed specifications
• Sling swivel studs
• The trigger
• Barrel cleaning
• Rotary magazine
Today’s report should start some discussions! I’m starting the review of the Benjamin Bulldog big bore air rifle. Big bores are very popular these days, and we have a number of them to review this year.
If you read Part 1 of the Ft. Worth airgun show last September or Part 1 of the 2015 SHOT Show report in January of this year, you’re aware that the Benjamin Bulldog is a .357-caliber big bore from Crosman, and it’s built in the bullpup style.
A bullpup rifle is one where the receiver has been moved to the back of the butt by certain clever tricks with the receiver and trigger. That shortens the overall length by a large amount, making the resulting gun more compact and easy to carry afield. The Bulldog is a bolt-action repeater that holds 5 bullets in a spring-loaded rotary magazine. The spring advances the magazine every time a bullet is shot — it does not assist in the feeding of the bullet into the breech.
One key feature that a lot of you are interested in is the shrouded barrel. The Bulldog is a quiet big bore! When I was at Media Day, I was always wearing hearing protection because there were hundreds of shots being fired each minute, so I couldn’t really evaluate how loud the gun is. Now I can!
Bolt-action with sidelever
The bolt is operated by a lever located on the right side of the gun. It’s back by your cheek when the rifle is shouldered, but the rifle cocks easily and doesn’t have to be taken off the shoulder to cock and reload. This is a common complaint of the Bullpup design, so it’s important to note that the Bulldog is different.
I will say that Crosman put a lot more specifications into this rifle’s owner’s manual than I usually find. I know, for example, that the Bulldog’s air reservoir has an internal volume of 340 cc. I also know the gun will produce velocities up to 900 f.p.s. when 95-grain bullets are used. And, it’ll produce up to 200 foot-pounds when a 170-grain bullet is fired. I think a 170-grain bullet is too long for good accuracy with this airgun, but I’ll test it with some shorter 158-grain bullets I have, just to see. I would guess the rifle will like lighter bullets better, but only testing will show us.
The specs also say I can expect 10 shots with 145-grain bullets that produce an average 170 foot-pounds. Crosman sent me 100 145-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets to test in the gun, so I’ll try this exact test. This was the bullet I tried on Media Day at the SHOT Show, and I was hitting 4-inch spinners at 65 yards with every shot. I know they do work well in the rifle.
Johnny Hill of Tin Starr Bullets cast several .357 bullets in pure lead for this test. I’m quite excited to try his 105-grain semi-wadcutter, because I think it might prove to be very accurate. I learned while testing the .458 AirForce Texan that Johnny’s pure lead bullets are more accurate than similar harder bullets that have antimony in them, so this will be an interesting test!
Sling swivel studs
The Bulldog is for hunting and comes with a pair of sling swivel studs (anchors for quick-disconnect sling swivels) attached permanently at the bottom of the tip of the forearm and beneath the butt. The rifle weighs 7.7 lbs without a scope, so add another pound for the scope. That’s enough weight that you’re going to want a sling if you stay in the field for any amount of time.
Crosman included a set of 2-piece Weaver rings in the shipment, and the manual says that 37mm tall “Absolute Co-Witness rings” are strongly suggested for this airgun for optimum use (the manual says they’re mandatory, but I checked with Crosman and they said it they were best for optimum use). I don’t see these rings listed on the Pyramyd Air website, so I assume some will be forthcoming. I verified that the rings I have are the ones they recommend.
Also included in the shipment was a CenterPoint 4-16X56 scope that has parallax adjustment down to 10 yards. This is a powerful scope that I am looking forward to evaluating along with the Bulldog.
The gun has a fill pressure of 3,000 psi (207 bar), so no surprises there. The standard Foster male fill nipple is located on the bottom of the gun, in front of the butt and just below the air gauge. It’s protected from dirt by a plastic cover. The manual tells you that to fill the rifle from empty you first must cock the gun (and apply the safety) to keep the air from flowing out of the valve at low pressure. But once the gun’s in use, you always leave pressure inside, and the reservoir will then accept a fill without cocking the gun. This is common to many powerful air rifles.
The safety is manual, which I appreciate because it means the second shot is ready as soon as the gun’s cocked. Pull back on the safety lever to make the gun safe and push forward to take it off.
The trigger is 2-stage and non-adjustable. I’ll have to wait until I get this rifle to the range, because I’m certainly not going to fire this one in the house! But I do remember on Media Day, thinking that the trigger is very nice. Bullpups have a reputation for a heavy creepy pull, so we want to know how nice this one is.
There are no sights on the Bulldog. You are expected to mount an optical sight and most will want to mount a scope. The top of the airgun has a Picatinny rail that’s 26-1/4 inches long, so scope placement shouldn’t be a problem. There is a concern about the height of the scope, as there is on any bullpup, but the rings Crosman sent are high rings and, as I recall, the Bulldog I shot at Media Day was easy enough to sight through.
Another rail runs under the forearm at the front of the gun. This one is shaped differently, but Weaver accessories will still attach to it.
The rifled steel barrel is 28 inches long. Long-time blog readers know that barrel length is important to the power potential of any pneumatic airgun. Because the air pressure is so low compared to gunpowder and even to black powder (50,000 psi and 15,000 psi, respectively), the barrel needs to be as long as possible for the air to push on the base of the bullet. That’s where the velocity comes from. Of course, barrel length flies in the face of the bullpup design that favors compactness, but I think Crosman has done a pretty good job of balancing those two factors.
The instructions include a separate half-sheet that deals extensively with barrel cleaning. Crosman included Swab-It bore tips for cleaning and lubricating the barrel when they sent my gun. They also included a small bottle of Pellgunoil, which they recommend using to oil the bore after it’s clean. Of course, you never want to get this oil into the air reservoir. Just use it for the barrel. They also included a solid synthetic cleaning rod to hold the Swab-It tips.
The gun comes with one 5-shot rotary magazine, but extra mags are available. The mag is easy to load and rotate; and when the last shot has been fired, the mag blocks the bolt from going forward, alerting the shooter that it’s time to reload.
That’s as far as I’m going today. Next, I’ll test velocity, but I need to get to the range for that. I’ll also give you an appraisal of the sound made by the Bulldog.