The Benjamin Bulldog big bore air rifle: Part 2
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- The bullets
- At the range
- Velocity with Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets
- Tin Starr 103-grain semi-wadcutter
- A funny thing happened
- 158-grain .358 semi-wadcutter
- How loud is it?
- New bullets to try
- Thanks to Pyramyd Air
- Evaluation so far
- One last thing
Time to let the Bulldog bark! Today, I’m testing the Benjamin Bulldog velocity with a couple different rounds. And some interesting things happen!
As I said in Part 1, the Benjamin Bulldog is not a rifle you can test indoors. Even with its shroud, it has to be loud, so I waited to test it at my outdoor rifle range. Also, I would never test an airgun this powerful in my house.
The Bulldog is listed as a .357-caliber rifle, so I took several different bullets for this test. Crosman sent me several boxes of their 145-grain Benjamin Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets, which are lead bullets with a red polymer tip that forms a pointed nose. I knew they were great big bore bullets from when I tested the Rogue.
I also took a 103-grain pure-lead semi-wadcutter bullet made by Tin Starr bullets. This bullet is shot as-cast, without sizing, and measures 0.358-0.359 inches in diameter. Because it’s pure lead, it’ll fairly easily size itself in the rifle’s bore. I shoot all my soft lead bullets in my Quackenbush rifles as-cast in exactly the same way — slightly oversized for the bore.
The other bullet I tested was a 158-grain cast semi-wadcutter that’s cast from lead hardened with antimony. These are sized to 0.3585 inches. I used them to see what the upper power limits are for the rifle. This bullet was one I didn’t know about, because it’s a hard-cast bullet. But since I had them on hand, I decided to give them a try.
At the range
I’m normally the only shooter at the rifle range, because I go very early in the morning. But on this day, another shooter arrived and set up on the same range where I was shooting. The range has a roof over the firing positions that overhangs the benches by about 6 feet, which means the chronograph has to be set out in front of this overhang to let the skyscreens see the clear sky. I normally step out ahead of the firing line and stand on the range to chronograph when I’m alone. Because of the second shooter on this day, I couldn’t do that. So, the Shooting Chrony was put out into the sunshine, and I stayed back behind the firing line. I was about 10 feet from the chrony for each shot, which should not affect the velocity that much. If I had been using my Oehler chronograph, there is a 15-foot wire between the chrono and the skyscreens, but on this day I had only the Shooting Chrony.
Velocity with the Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets
I filled the rifle to 3,000 psi and loaded 5 Benjamin Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets into the magazine. They just fit the mag for length, but everything worked exactly as it’s supposed to.
One comment on loading is the magazine has to be held in place to load each bullet. The rotary cylinder is under spring tension and wants to snap back to the last loaded bullet unless you hold it with your fingers. I’ve filmed this to show you what I’m talking about.
This string works out to an average 705 f.p.s. for the 10 shots. If I stop at just 5 shots, which is one magazine, the average is 736 f.p.s. At that speed (736 f.p.s.), the average energy for this bullet is 174.45 foot-pounds. Using the 10-shot average of 705 f.p.s., the energy is 160.07 foot-pounds. I think this is very close to Crosman’s energy predictions. They say to expect an average 170 foot pounds for 10 shots with this bullet in the manual. At the end of 10 shots, the air reservoir held 2,200 psi.
I’m betting this bullet is also going to be accurate. Just for the record, I measured its diameter at exactly 0.357 inches.
The Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet measures exactly 0.357 inches.
Tin Starr 103-grain semi-wadcutter
Next up was a semi-wadcutter from Tin Starr bullets. This one is cast in pure lead, so it’s very soft. I found in the test of the AirForce Texan that big bores like pure-lead bullets a lot.
Once more, the rifle was filled to 3,000 psi. I left the plastic cover off the fill nipple to speed up the fills; but if I were hunting, I’d cover it every time, because you don’t want dirt in the nipple. Knowing Crosman, I bet they’ve installed an inline filter to trap the dirt, but there’s no need to get that filter dirty if you don’t have to.
The average for the first 5 shots was 808 f.p.s., which computes a muzzle energy of 149.35 foot pounds. The average for 10 shots was 779 f.p.s., for an energy of 138.83 foot pounds. That’s still enough power for coyotes and similar-sized game animals.
A funny thing happened
On the 7th shot in this string, I noticed that the chronograph spun to the right on its stand. I figured it was just the powerful air blast from the gun that caused it to spin; because every time the gun fired, the chronograph was shaking a little from the blast. I was able to complete that string where the chronograph ended up, but afterwards I called a cold range and went out to straighten it. That’s when I discovered that my bullet had blasted through the second skyscreen and ripped open the aluminum chronograph case.
I call that a funny thing, and yet it didn’t seem so at the time. It isn’t the rifle’s fault because I was shooting without sights and trying to keep the bullets as close to the skyscreens as possible. This one just got too close!
But the tough Shooting Chrony kept right on recording the shots. Although I’d damaged the black plastic walls around skyscreen two and also peeled open the aluminum case, the skyscreen was left intact. It won’t filter out stray light beams anymore, but this day was overcast, so things could continue.
158-grain .358 semi-wadcutter
Next up was a 158-grain semi-wadcutter bullet that I used in the test of the Benjamin Rogue.This bullet loaded very hard, which made me think it was too hard for the Bulldog. I knew it wasn’t too large because it’s only 0.358 inches in diameter, and I’d just fired the 103-grain bullet — which was even larger. That bullet fed and fired just fine.
This bullet is a hard-lead bullet meant for pistol ammunition like a .357 Magnum cartridge. I think it’s too hard to be used in the Bulldog, because it would not fire from the rifle. Big bore airguns don’t like hard-cast bullets because they’re too diffuclt for the rifling to engrave. I tried to shoot it twice and nothing happened, so it had to be removed from the bore with a rod. I didn’t have a rod strong enough to do the job at the range. Fortunately, it was the last bullet I was going to try, so this test was over.
How loud is it?
The question of how loud the Bulldog is was finally resolved on this day. I removed my electronic hearing protectors and listened to a shot. I would rate it as a 4.5 on the Pyramyd Air noise scale. This is an airgun you are going to hear every time it fires. You probably don’t need hearing protection unless you’re going to shoot the rifle lots of times, but it definitely isn’t an airgun for a small suburban backyard. And, given the power it develops, we really don’t want to shoot it there, anyhow.
I forgot to take my trigger-pull gauge to the range for this test, so that will have to wait until Part 3. I’m definitely not going to shoot this inside my house. I will say that the trigger seems crisp and light enough for a hunting rifle, but I promise to measure it for you next time.
New bullets to try
Several days after the range test, I acquired 4 new bullets from Tin Starr to try in the Bulldog. They’re all cast in pure lead, so I know they’ll function fine in the rifle. I plan to shoot them for accuracy; and if any are accurate, I’ll chronograph them for you.
Evaluation so far
The Bulldog is performing exactly as Crosman said it would. Sticking that one bullet in the barrel was my fault, and I won’t try to shoot hard lead bullets in it again.
One last thing
I said last time that I would show where the Bulldog sidelever goes on the left side of the receiver. Here’s a picture of the slot with a rubber cover.
Crosman sent me the latest copy of the changeover instructions. They’re not finalized, so I won’t show them here, but they appear to be straightforward — but quite involved. Crosman does want the sidelever to be changed at a service station or by their technical people, so ask for that service when you order the gun from Pyramyd Air.
Thanks to Pyramyd Air
Edith ordered a new chronograph; but when Pyramyd Air learned what had happened, they waived payment and just replaced the instrument for free. Of course, I was told that I’d be getting some tips on how to use a chronograph. When you mess up, you know some kind of ribbing is coming.
Accuracy testing is next, and I’ll begin at 50 yards. I can’t wait!