Benjamin Airbow and Bulldog

Deadly for the Undead?
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The stock of the bullpup Bulldog contains both the barrel and a 3,000-psi air reservoir cylinder.

When the zombies finally come or there’s a global economic meltdown, we’re going to have to resort to drastic measures — like making iPhones out of rocks and pine sap. We’ll also have to rethink our firearms strategy. Sooner or later, all the factory ammo and reloading components we’ve been hoarding will run out so we’ll revert to manual methods of performing life-preserving tasks such as home defense, hunting for food and competing in post-apocalyptic 3-Gun matches.

Such scenes might be the time to consider big-bore air guns because once the centerfire ammo stockpiles are shot up, it’s going to be hard to make more primers and smokeless propellant from scratch. Such conditions are the scenario where weapons of near infinite reusability will shine. Re-melting and remolding lead isn’t hard, even over a tame campfire and a properly maintained hand pump will last forever and requires only your brawn to operate. It will take some work, but hey, think of all the money you’ll save on gym memberships.

We’ve been testing two options — the Benjamin Bulldog and Benjamin Airbow. Both have the oomph to deliver a steak dinner if you do your part.

The Bulldog’s rotary magazine holds five slugs in the buttstock.

Bulldog With Fangs

The Bulldog is a .357 caliber monster firing 145-gr. solid-lead slugs with plenty of attitude, but less noise. We borrowed the Crosman (Benjamin) Sportsman’s Pack, which includes everything you need — rifle, bipod, 4-16x scope, carrying case and even a box of Nosler Ballistic Tip eXtreme bullets. The only thing not included is the air source for refills.

The Bulldog looks like something out of Starship Troopers with its angular stock configuration. It’s a bullpup design so the 5-shot rotary magazine inserts into the comb about 4" forward of the butt pad. The rifle features a 26" rail, so you can mount scopes, iron sights or even a chainsaw if you feel so compelled.

Under the muzzle is a 5-1/2" rail segment for the bipod. Part of the reason for the unusual stock design is, aside from the shrouded and integrally suppressed barrel, the stock and fore-end contain a tubular 3,000-psi air reservoir. It’s all protected by the stock to facilitate use in the field by preventing damage and presenting fewer parts to catch on brush or shambling zombies. Oh, one more thing — to preserve your ninja stealthiness, the entire body of this particular version is coated in Realtree camo. You can also order one in basic black for night operations.

Operation is simple. Just load the magazine and place it into position. The “bolt handle” is a lever on the right side of the stock that pulls back to cock the air valve and push a fresh projectile into the breech. Push it forward and it returns to its flush position. If you’re a lefty, no worries because the bolt lever is reversible. The safety lever is inside the trigger guard — push it forward to fire and you’re done.

The Airbow delivered a 1½" group at 25 yards.

Airbow

Although similar in appearance to the Bulldog, the Airbow is a whole new animal. As the name implies, it has no barrel because it’s designed to shoot arrows. Instead of a bore, the Airbow features a thin tube over which specially designed arrows fit. This design results in the arrows being “pulled” by pressurized air rather than pushed from the rear. This virtually eliminates flex and provides better accuracy.

Like the Bulldog, the cocking lever is located on the stock although the Airbow’s handle is on the top and doubles as the comb. For those of you climbing trees, there are no worries because you can de-cock the Airbow without firing. The Airbow also includes a safety lever inside the trigger guard and a two-stage trigger system.

The Airbow has a 3,000-psi fill tank under the launching tube, mostly covered by the fore-end. There’s a pressure gauge on the front of the air reservoir to help you manage your air supply and with a complete fill, you’ll get 8 to 10 full-velocity shots before you’ll need to top off the tank.

Because packing efficiency will be necessary during the apocalypse, the Airbow has a built-in quiver. The rail-attached carrier securely holds three arrows on the right side of the Airbow and if you’re left-handed, you can mount it on the opposite side. Oh, and while we’re talking about arrows, the three included ones come with field tips but you can install whatever type of heads best fit your intended use.

The Airbow’s hollow arrows are “pulled” rather than “pushed” for less flex, improved accuracy.

Fill ’er up!

Both of these Armageddon appliances rely on a pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) engine to fling the lead and arrows of outrageous misfortune. In plain English, it means they have an onboard air tank you need to charge before use. Once full, the tank provides the juice for multiple shots before you have to recharge with either a hand pump, air cylinder such as a SCUBA or carbon fiber SCBA tank, or compressor.

In the interest of science, I wanted to see exactly how much work it takes to fill these two air guns by hand in case manual air generation is necessary. Both the Bulldog and Airbow came from the factory near empty, not with zero pressure, but not enough to shoot.

In practice, you’ll never run the gun reservoirs down this low. Instead, you’ll top them off when pressure drops to the point where projectile velocity isn’t what you need.

The two guns are similar in air capacity: the Bulldog has a 340cc reservoir while the Airbow packs 350, so the number of required pumps should be about the same for each. To avoid unnecessary manual labor (I’m not that dedicated!), I only filled the Bulldog with a hand pump.

Here’s what each 50 strokes got me: 50 (zero to 100 psi), 100 (1,400 psi), 150 (1,800 psi), 200 (2,100 psi), 250 (2,500 psi), 300 (3,000 psi). In field use, you might recharge when pressure drops to around 2,000 psi so you can count on about 100 pumps to bring it up to full capacity. I should note from 2,000 psi and up, it takes some not-so-trivial work to operate the pump so use your body weight and go slow. If you pump too fast, heat builds up and the pressure will settle to a lower level as things cool down.

Big slug, little group: The Bulldog printed nice clusters on a windy day of testing.

Let’s Shoot!

I shot the Bulldog with the included Nosler eXtreme Ballistic Tip 145-gr. slugs. The first order of business was to chronograph these bad boys. I took an average of the first five shots from a full reservoir of air and came up with 755.2 fps. This translates to 183.7 ft. lbs. of energy — more than delivered by a .380 ACP handgun firing a 90-gr. bullet at 950 fps. Watching my pressure gauge, I was able to get about 10 good shots before the onboard reservoir dipped to 2,000 psi. At this point velocity starts dropping off and accuracy will suffer a bit.

Speaking of accuracy, I started at 20 yards and got a 0.63" group of five, so I immediately moved out to 50 yards. There I measured 1.52" for a five-shot cluster and at 100 yards, I observed a 4" group, which was largely horizontal. It was a windy day, so I suspect my air bullets were drifting sideways. The vertical stringing was less than an inch — this I found impressive.

As for the Airbow? Wow! Imagine a cross between a longbow and a .50 BMG rifle and you have it. First off, I decided to see what kind of velocity this beast delivered with its 375-gr. arrows. I shot a few arrows over my trusty Shooting Chrony Beta Master Chronograph and into a dirt berm.

It turned out to be a mistake — not the chronographing part, but the berm. The arrows buried themselves to the feathers in the packed dirt and one embedded itself so deep I never did find it. I did get some good readings even though we left a man behind in the process. Over multiple shots, the Airbow launched its arrows at a blistering average of 465.8 fps. Such speed is smokin’, especially when you consider powerful compound bows fling pointy sticks between 350 and 375 fps. Even powerful crossbows barely break 400.

Having learned my lesson about arrow abuse from the dirt pile experiment, I did some quick accuracy testing using an archery target block and I ran into more troubles. You see, the arrows were all jacked up on velocity and went right through the block! On just about every shot, about two-thirds of each arrow shaft was sticking out the back of the block, and the back of the arrow was embedded somewhere in the middle. This made measuring my group size a bit challenging, so I improvised by stapling a piece of paper on the front edge of the block. This worked like a champ. From 25 yards, the Airbow landed hits inside of a 1½" group. (I should note the result was obtained using somewhat damaged arrows as the previous zeroing and practice shots had pretty well wiped out those shiny new plastic feathers from all the total penetrations of targets). I suspect new arrows would have performed even better but I was impressed nonetheless.

Speaking of zeroing, here’s how it works. The Airbow includes a 20 MOA ramp mount (to help account for arrow trajectory) and a Centerpoint 6x40mm purpose-built scope. You’ll have to initially set the elevation adjustment knob all the way “up” and then reverse it a turn and a half to get on paper at the recommended zero distance of 30 yards. The maneuver did put us within a couple of inches of the aim point. A few quick tweaks of windage and elevation dials made things golden. Once you zero with the turrets, the rest is up to the scope reticle. This one has hash marks to give you precise hold points from 24 to 73 yards with the primary crosshair intersection representing 30 yards.

End Times?

As I’ve been using these two “Benjamin Bazookas,” I’ve become more and more convinced of their utility for last-ditch scenarios. Arrows are re-usable, at least until the point where you either break or (ahem ...) lose them. As for pellets to feed the .357 Bulldog, you can melt down all sorts of things. Get yourself a mold and a half-decent campfire and you’re good to go forever.

www.crosman.com

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