The Benjamin Bulldog big bore: Part 4
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Tin Starr Bullets
- Tin Starr 101-grain SWC
- Air management
- Tin Starr 108-grain truncated cone
- Air Venturi round ball
- Eun Jin 9mm domed pellets
- Tin Starr 128-grain round nose
- Back to the Tin Starr 101-grain SWC
- More to come
Thanks for being so patient on this report. I last looked at the Benjamin Bulldog .357 big bore air rifle on April 2. April was a very busy month for me and I had to put all trips to the range on hold. But I’m back in the saddle now, and there will be more tests of this Bulldog, as well as a couple accuracy tests of the Hatsan BT-65, which was also left hanging.
Tin Starr Bullets
The good news is that, while I was busy, Johnny Hill of Tin Starr Bullets made me a bunch of new bullets. I like his bullets because they’re pure lead and very soft. That seems to make a difference when it comes to accuracy. Last time, I tried his bullets that were sized 0.356, but today I’ll show you what they do at 0.357 inches. The difference is dramatic!
I also ordered and received some Air Venturi bullets, as well as some 9mm diabolo pellets. Today, I’ll test some of these for you.
If you read part 3, you’ll see that the 145-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet does well in the Bulldog. But I thought the rifle could do better than just well, and I was hoping that the lighter Tin Starr pure lead bullets would do the trick.
The day was perfect with no wind, though wind doesn’t play much with accuracy in big bores at 50 yards. The Bulldog had been emptied of air from the last test when I checked the air release system to measure the trigger-pull. And the rifle woke up immediately with a fresh 3,000 psi fill.
Tin Starr 101-grain SWC
The first bullet I tested was the 101-grain semi-wadcutter from Tin Starr. I figured the Bulldog would do best with a lighter bullet, and this was the second-lightest and the shortest bullet I had. The first group was okay, but not outstanding. Five bullets went into 3.081 inches at 50 yards, which isn’t stellar, but 4 of those bullets are in 1.659 inches, and they’re centered in the bull. That caught my attention. I figured if there was time remaining at the end of the session, I would return to this bullet.
If you recall, I tested the Bulldog for velocity back in part 2, when I shot my chronograph. I learned at that time that the first 5 shots are probably the best, so I divided today’s test into a first magazine/second magazine test. I kept track of which magazine was in the fill for each bullet and noted it on the target.
I also tested velocity today. At the end of this test, I’ll show you the chronograph numbers for 10 shots with a selected bullet.
Tin Starr 108-grain truncated cone
After the 101-grain semi-wadcutter came the 108-grain Tin Starr truncated cone bullet. This was the second magazine after a fill. Five bullets went into 3.267 inches at 50 yards. This group is more open than the first one, so I didn’t pursue it any farther on this day.
Air Venturi round ball
After 2 magazines (10 shots), I refilled the rifle to 3,000 psi and moved on to the next bullet. Next up was the 67-grain Air Venturi round ball. This is a cast bullet — not swaged, so it does have a flat from the sprue cutoff. Because the Bulldog feeds from a magazine, it’s impossible to keep the sprue aligned the same way for every shot, unless you load each ball singly.
I was surprised to see 5 of these balls go into 3.789 inches at 50 yards. That’s not too far off what I can do with my Nelson Lewis combination gun. And round balls are cheap — especially if you cast them yourself. This is a result I wasn’t expecting — finding a plinking bullet for the Bulldog. So, I decided to shoot a second magazine.
The second magazine of Air Venturi round balls went into 3.597 inches. What’s better, they went to the same point of impact as the first magazine. So, the Air Venturi round ball is a good plinking round for the Bulldog. It has enough power, accuracy and penetration (especially penetration!) to be good on game up to coyote size out to 50 yards.
Now we know there are 10 good shots in the Bulldog — as long as the distance is limited to 50 yards. But airgun hunters consider 50 yards to be the distance at which long shots begin, so this is good news.
Eun Jin 9mm domed pellets
Next up were some Eun Jin 9mm pellets. These are small for the Bulldog’s bore, and we learned in part 3 that this rifle does not like bullets that measure 0.356 inches or less. Five pellets went into a large group that measured 5-7/8 inches between centers, and I stopped right there. No use wasting ammunition or air.
I do have other 9mm pellets to try, so this isn’t the last time you’ll see them. It’s always possible that one of them may be accurate.
Air Venturi 95-grain hollowpoint
Next, I tried some Air Venturi 95-grain hollowpoint bullets. These are listed as 0.356 inches, which means 9mm, so I didn’t know how well they might do. These were shot on the first magazine after the fill. They all landed high on the target at 50 yards, and 5 grouped in 3.597 inches between centers. I decided to move on.
Tin Starr 128-grain round nose
Next, I tried a Tin Starr 127-grain round nosed flat point bullet; but when it took me 3 shots to get one hole on the target, I stopped. I think this bullet is too long and heavy for the Bulldog.
Back to the Tin Starr 101-grain SWC
Finally, I decided to give the Tin Starr 101 SWC bullets one more try. Boy, am I glad I did! This time, the first 5 bullets went into 1.852 inches at 50 yards. This group got me excited, because I finally found a good bullet for the Bulldog. This was the first magazine after a fresh fill.
I reloaded the magazine and shot a second group. This time five 101 SWC bullets made a 2.138-inch group, and the point of impact was almost the same. This is a good bullet for larger game like small whitetails that don’t go over 90 lbs. on the hoof. While .357 is a small caliber to use on game of that size, the fact that this is a semi-wadcutter means the hole will be large. I would certainly limit the distance of engagement to 50 yards and under, but that’s easy to manage in the field.
This 101-grain bullet performed the best on this day, so I also chronographed it. I now own a Shooting Chrony Alpha Master that allows me to place the chrony out on the range and operate it safely from the firing line. Here’s what I recorded with the 101-grain SWC with a fresh fill to 3,000 psi:
The average velocity for the first magazine is 821 f.p.s. At that speed, this bullet develops 151.2 foot-pounds at the muzzle. While this is only a little more powerful than a 40-grain bullet from a high speed .22 long rifle cartridge, that big bullet with the sharp leading edges cuts a nice hole in game. So, this bullet is effective beyond what the energy suggests.
More to come
There are many more bullets to test in the Bulldog. Also, I think I’ll try the 101-grain SWC at 100 yards and see what happens. You haven’t seen the last of the Bulldog.