Posts Tagged ‘Big bore airguns’
Every airgun show is unique. I’ve said that many times before, but it’s always true — and this one was no different. What I look for when I try to describe an airgun show is how it stood out from all the others. That’s what I’ll do today.
An airgun show is small, in comparison to0 a regular gun show, but there are more airguns on a single table then you’ll see at most big gun shows. And the guns range from inexpensive Daisys and Crosmans to then most exotic airguns imaginable. So go to gun shows for and crowded aisles, but to airgun shows to find airguns.
I didn’t get away from my table for the first half of the first day. When I finally did, the show immediately began to reveal itself. It was jam-packed with big bore air rifles! I mean jammed! Dennis Quackenbush and Eric Henderson are always the mainstays of the show; but this time I met Robert Vogel, whose business is Mr. Hollowpoint. Robert casts each bullet by hand from lead as pure as he can make it. His bullets mushroom on game perfectly and rip huge holes in living flesh, making the most humane kills possible. I bought a bag of 68-grain .308-caliber hollowpoints for the Quackenbush .308 test I’m conducting, and he threw in a second bag of .22 pellets for free. These will have a special debut in a smallbore test in the near future.
Robert Vogel (standing) is Mr. Hollowpoint. He has thousands of different bullets for big bore shooters to try.
But Mr. Hollowpoint wasn’t the only bullet maker at the show. Seth Rowland, the show’s host and promoter, also supplies the big bore airgunning community with cast bullets in numerous sizes and shapes. And their customers can hardly appreciate the untold hours they spend at the lead pot, casting and sizing these silver slugs one by one.
Need bullets? Seth Rowland has them in different sizes, shapes and weights.
Another theme that’s common to all airgun shows is 10-meter target guns. This year’s Arkansas show had plenty of them, both from dealers like Scott Pilkington of Pilkington Competition Equipment in Tennessee, as well as numerous private individuals. I mentioned several weeks ago that Mac was bringing some recently overhauled FWB rifles to this show, and on day one an interested buyer sought him out. This man was serious about buying a target rifle, and he had done his research on the internet. But this was the first time he’d seen, felt and shot these rifles.
Mac took him out to the shooting range to try out an FWB 150 and a 300; and from his testing, he decided the 300 was the gun he wanted. Because it lacks the barrel jacket, it’s lighter than a standard 300S. He was buying the rifle for his wife to shoot in competition. They made a deal, and he went home with the exact target rifle he wanted — an overhauled ex-club rifle at a price that was several hundred dollars below what he would have paid for a gamble on the internet. For this man, driving all the way to Arkansas made good sense.
I’m sure that same scenario was played out numerous times at this show, because that’s what happens at an airgun show that also has a shooting range. You get to try out the guns before you buy — something that’s impossible at a regular gun show.
The odd and wonderful
You never know what you’re going to see at one of these shows, but there are a few people who always seem to have interesting things. Larry Hannusch, the top airgun writer for the past 30 years, is one person who can always surprise you. This year, our tables were together, giving me the opportunity to look at his guns more closely than normal. He had a Crosman 113 bulk-fill CO2 rifle, which isn’t unusual, except the owner of this one had inlet a pellet box into the right side of the stock — much like the patchbox found on certain muzzleloading rifles.
Some owner made this patchbox in the stock of his Crosman 113 bulk-fill rifle.
He built the “patchbox” with a built-in spring. There were pellets inside.
When was the last time you saw one of these? A French ball-flask pistol from the 1700s.
The big find
Often there will be a big find of some certain airgun that shows up at a particular show. I remember one year someone was selling piles of brand-new-in-the-box S&W 78G and 79G pistols. There were at least 50, but as my memory serves there might have been as many as 100 brand-new guns that were at least 20 years old at the time. Another year, it was Scott Pilkington who brought almost 300 club target guns for sale. You could buy an FWB 300 for $150-$200! Of course, it would have been a beater and would have needed to be resealed, but it certainly was the budget way into a 10-meter gun.
Then there was the year that someone had over 20 Johnson Target Guns, the submachinegun-looking plastic catapult BB gun from the late 1940s. They were all new in the box, and the cloth backstop that was in the box to stop the BBs inside the box lid that also served as a backstop had turned to dust. But they were complete. To collectors, they were a wonderful find. I actually saw two of these at this year’s Arkansas show; so even after more than 10 years, they’re still slowly dissolving into the collector population.
Two brand-new Johnson Target Guns in the box with all the literature and accessories.
When I walked into the second large room in this show and turned the corner, I ran into Randy Mitchell’s booth, where he was selling a pile of recently discovered TS45 sidelever air rifles for $20 each! I blogged this rifle several years ago, and Vince also wrote a guest blog about the same rifle. Until now, there were no new guns you could buy. You had to find one by chance and would always be one somebody had owned and possibly modified. Now, Randy Mitchell, who runs his Adventures in Airguns store, has a huge pile of these rifles to sell. They aren’t very safe and are the very guns that chopped off thumbs when their anti-beartraps failed; but if you cock them safely and load while restraining the sidelever, they’re fun to shoot and are often accurate.
Randy Mitchell found these old/new TS45 sidelevers and brought them to the show. It’s stuff like this that keeps me going to every airgun show I can make!
Of course, there are too many modern guns to name here, but know that at any show you’ll find almost every modern classic airgun for sale. If you’re looking for good TX200s or old R7s, they’re usually available — and they were at this show, too. But what you also see are airguns that are so rare and hard to find that some of them won’t even be seen in airgun books. This yearm Ingvar Alm had both a Winsel CO2 pistol in the box and a Giffard CO2 pistol from the 1870s on his table. Giffard invented the application of CO2 for gun use, and Winsel made only 50 guns in the early 1950s. Neither gun is represented well in any airgun book I know.
The Winsel pistol was a bulk-filled CO2 pistol that required the owner to mail his tank back to the company to be filled. Yeah, that’s going to work! They made 50 and quit. Today, they’re a prized collectible.
Giffard pioneered the use of CO2 in guns in the 1870s. His pistols are many times rarer than his rifles. The empty pop bottle is for contrast — like Cindy Crawford’s mole.
There were more big bores at this show than I see at other shows. Perhaps, that’s because the focus of big bore airgunning seems to center around Texas, where the LASSO match is held. Dennis Quackenbush delivered his guns to eager buyers, but the only rifle he had to show was his own .308, which he doesn’t want to sell. Eric Henderson and Big Bore Bob Dean were both there with some guns to sell, as well as Robert Vogel. But the one maker with a lot of guns on display was Jack Haley, whose table was a rainbow of laminated stocks.
Jack Haley’s table was a colorful display of big bore rifles.
Then there was the big bore that has been a joke in the airgun community for many years. The gun itself is fine. It was made back in the 1980s by Ben Patron, whose name is clearly on the side of the receiver. Somewhere along the line, some person got ahold of it and displayed it at the Springfield, Missouri, gun show as a “U.S. military .50-caliber sniper air rifle.” The label for that display was still inside the guitar box that held the gun, and Dennis Quackenbush remembers seeing it at the Springfield show. After that, it somehow ended up in an Arkansas pawn shop where Big Bore Bob found it and bought it.
Some previous owner had concocted a colorful background story for the Patron big bore of the 1980s.
Many shows have a drawing, but airgun shows are so lightly attended that you actually have a chance of winning! This year, they gave away several very nice prizes at the close of the show, including a scoped TalonP pistol from AirForce! Then came the drawing for the frame-extended silencer for the Talon SS. I knew before the little girl picked my ticket that I would win it. How ironic is that? I’m testing a Talon SS with a bloop tube right now, so of course I’m going to win another one! But the supreme irony came when Randy Mitchell, a big bore hunter, won the .50-caliber Dragon Claw donated by Pyramyd Air.
Randy Mitchell (right) won the Dragon Claw. Show host, Seth Rowland, standing, ran the drawing. The young lady added a lot of sparkle and enthusiasm to the show. I see an airgunner in the making!
On the trip home, Mac and I relived the show many times. That’s another benefit. I can remember snippets from most past shows, and this one will now be filed away in the library.
by B.B. Pelletier
The Longrange Airgun Silhouette Shooters Organization (LASSO) 2012 meet last Saturday was a lot like the blind men examining the elephant. What it looked like depended on where you were. It was a renaissance fair of airgun gatherings, and I don’t say that lightly. I have been to all but one of the five events they’ve held, and this one was the best by far. Promoter Eric Henderson has delegated many of the organizational functions to the right people, and each took their responsibilities seriously.
The shoot was held on Terry Tate’s ranch, several miles south of Sulphur Springs, Texas. The land is flat, open and perfect for this kind of event; and Terry and his wife went out of their way to be gracious hosts. Weather is the one variable you cannot control, but this day was nearly perfect. It was a little breezy, but that just sharpens the competition. And it also keeps the bugs at a minimum and the hot Texas sun at bay.
The event exists to give big bore enthusiasts the opportunity to shoot their rifles (and a couple pistols) against one anotherand to see what’s happening in the world of big bore airguns. So, it’s not surprising that shooters drove in from Chicago, Kentucky and other regions equally far away. Driving over a thousand miles for a one-day event like this separates the serious from the tire-kickers, and these boys and girls were serious.
This telephoto shot of the big bore range shows targets out to 300 yards. The pond begins about 40-50 yards from the firing point. The first ram is at 100 yards.
The shooters were ready for a big day!
Chase, Clint and Chris are big bore shooters who drove all the way from Chicago to the LASSO shoot. The guy in the black hat is also a big bore!
Girls? Yes, this year we had our first female shooter on the line. Regina Williams asked for no special consideration and was just as competitive as the rest of the shooters.
Regina Williams was the first woman to compete in the LASSO match. She placed astonishingly high!
The big deal of the day
As Rosanne Roseannadanna said, “It’s always something!” This year, it was our most fundamental rule. What is a big bore airgun, you ask? Well, there are four smallbore calibers — .177, .20, .22 and .25. Anything larger than .25 caliber is considered a big bore. But this year, someone showed up with a .257 rifle made by Jack Haley that launches 75-grain bullets at 1,100 f.p.s. They develop over 200 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.
For those who are unfamiliar with caliber designations, .25 caliber measures .257 inches in diameter. So, here was a gun in a caliber we have always called a smallbore but shooting much heavier bullets and developing big-bore energies. What to do? There was much hand-wringing the evening before the match, but in the end promoter Eric left the decision up to the shooters, who agreed to allow the rifle to compete to win. If they hadn’t, it might have been like ignoring the guns of another Roy Weatherby.
John Bowman shook everyone up with his Haley .257 rifle. We’ll see his picture again. I’ll bet he’s going to have the same impact as Weatherby when everything settles down.
I talked with John Bowman, owner of this scandalous rifle, and was informed that he lapped the bore himself after talking to Dan Lilja, no less. He claims the rifle will group inside two inches at 300 yards. We will hear more about this rifle in a bit.
Chase used a shooting stick for his Quackenbush.
Not everyone used a support for their rifles. This is the classic military seated position.
The rifles that competed were by Quackenbush, Benjamin, Haley and AirForce. There might have been one or two other makes that I missed. The AirForce gun was a Condor converted to .308.
The smallbore range
Not everyone owns a big bore airgun, so blog reader David Enoch organized a smallbore component at this event for many years. This time, he had a beautiful 100-yard range set up with metal reactive targets from 20 yards all the way out to 100. And Jerry, who’s a new reader of ours, brought his faithful CZ 634 out to the range so everyone could see why he loves it so much. I had a chance to shoot it, and I see that this tuned Slavia springer is much better-behaved than my untuned 631. Jerry also brought out his new TX200 and started what I think will become a lifelong love affair with the rifle. The trigger was not adjusted and did have some creep, but the action and accuracy were pure TX200 — which is to say the best there can be.
David set out some quadrant sight-in targets at 35 yards, so people didn’t have to shoot at paper to get sighted in. They were a one-inch bull, a three-quarter-inch bull and a half-inch bull. You started on the one inch and worked your way over to the half-inch bull. By the time you were spinning the half-inch bull, your rifle was a good as it was going to be at that distance. David bought his targets online from Steelplinkers.
The giddy guy
I noticed a young man at the AirForce booth asking questions about the Condor, so as usual I butted in. Greg is from just north of Austin, Texas, and he drove out because he was hoping to see and handle some smallbore PCPs. I glommed onto him and took him over to the smallbore range, where he proceeded to have the time of his life! I started him with my Talon SS and learned that he had never looked through a scope sight before this day.
He was startled to see the crosshairs move, despite all he did to control the rifle. But after all of us assured him that it happens to everyone, he settled down and started shooting well. Reader new2this complained about a Talon SS in yesterday’s blog comments. Well this new guy, Greg, was hitting half-inch spinners at 35 yards in a strong breeze. Not just now and then — every time. He almost got bored from his success, once he figured out the gun. He was torn between a Condor and a BSA Hornet, which another shooter happened to have on the line, so he got to try that one, as well.
I know he shot a lot because I was refilling his air cyinders all day long. Greg was so caught up in the day that he reminded the rest of us what it was like, and we intentionally made certain that he got to try everything. He even hit a 75-yard spinner in the wind with a .177 Marauder! Now, that’s some real shooting!
Greg came to LASSO just to see a couple airguns he had read about. He wound up shooting his two top picks — this BSA and an AirForce Condor (as well as my Talon SS) and was completely satisfied. After an hour of shooting on the smallbore range, he was hitting half-inch spinners at 35 yards and full-sized spinners at 75 yards in the wind!
I mentioned Greg was a young man. Well, to me he is. But as youthful as he appears, he’s 50 years old. He’s a boxing instructor and boxes 72 two-minute rounds each week.
The smallbore range was just as active as the big bore range. David Enoch, left, ran it.
Lunch was a bar-b-qued pig shot on Terry’s ranch the day before. Everyone loved the spread and it was part of the $10 entry fee for the match. For the same money, you also got a door prize ticket for valuable drawings. Among the prizes donated were a Sam Yang Dragon Claw big bore rifle from Pyramyd Air, a scoped Condor from AirForce Airguns, a Benjamin Marauder from Crosman and a Shoebox air compressor from Shoebox.
Someone had to win this match, and I told you we would be seeing John Bowman, again. That little Haley .257 of his won the day. So now all us silverbacks have to give up room on the branch to this upstart who dared to buck the system. But I’m warning you, folks, this will be the absolute last time we bend the rules for anyone!
Eric Henderson, LASSO’s promoter is on the right. Next to him from right to left are John Bowman — 1st Place, Joey Tidwell — 3rd place and John Crumpley — 2nd place. The .257 Haley big bore took first and third place. A Quackenbush .308 took second.
This was a wonderful event for all who came and participated. It was a drive of over one-thousand miles for some, but they were glad to be there and will be returning next year.
by B.B. Pelletier
Quackenbush .308 is handsome even in this lowest-grade version.
Today’s report will be quite different from the norm. This is Part 2, which is normally where I test velocity. I did that, and you’ll see it in today’s report — but you’ll also see some targets, because I tested accuracy, too.
When I test a smallbore pellet gun, I know at the start how the gun should perform, more or less. Yes, there are some surprises; and yes, I do make some mistakes — but a lot of what happens can be predicted pretty accurately. But not a big bore!
With a big bore airgun, I’m almost starting from scratch. Sometimes, I will have tested something similar and can use that experience as a starting point, and there’s some of that in today’s report; but this .308 rifle is unlike any other big bore air rifle I’ve ever tested. There are more .308 lead bullet designs and bullet molds available than there are .177 pellet types on the market. Out of all that, I have to select some designs that make sense.
This is where my firearms experience comes in handy, and this is the reason I often run reports on firearms in this blog: learning the intricacies of this Quackenbush rifle is exactly like figuring out how a new black powder rifle operates. And I don’t mean some ultra-modern, bolt-action black powder rifle that uses replica powders in pellet form, either. I mean a real black powder rifle made by hand and has to be figured out as you go.
So, how do you start testing a gun when you don’t know much about it? Well, you start with what you do know and go from there.
I know that other Quackenbush Long Action Outlaw guns operate at pressures above 3,000 psi, so I’ll start with a higher fill pressure. I know that this rifle will be in the 200-250 foot-pound range with bullets it can stabilize, so I’ll select them first. I know that by reading what others have written about their .308 rifles.
I also know that Quackenbush rifles have to break in. They do get faster with use. So, I’ll look for that.
Furthermore, since this is a big bore air rifle operating at a very high level of performance, it’s going to use a lot of air. I know how much air the Korean guns like the .50-caliber Dragon Claw use, and I know that this rifle is going to use even more. So, even an 88 cubic-foot carbon fiber air tank is going to get drained in a hurry.
I cast bullets for many of my firearms, and I also happen to own a bullet mold for a nice spitzer (pointed) lead bullet that was designed for the M1 Carbine. It casts at around 130 grains, which is an ideal weight for this rifle, because the expected velocity (derived from the known power that has been published by other .308 owners) will be 850-950 f.p.s. on the first shot. I calculate this velocity range by taking the expected power (say 225 foot-pounds) and running it through the Pyramyd Air velocity calculator (use the second formula on the page to do this).
The issue here is bullet stability. These bullets are stabilized primarily by the spin imparted by the rifling in the gun. The longer a bullet becomes, the faster it must spin in order to stabilize. Since you cannot change the twist rate of the barrel, you have to drive the bullet faster to stabilize it. Sometimes, though, you’ll get away with shooting targets that aren’t too far away with a longer bullet. The bullet will be semi-stable for the first 40-50 yards or so. It all depends on the bullet’s length.
The bullets I shot are like the one at the center of this photo. At the right is that same bullet with the lubricant wiped off. At the left is a 170-grain lead bullet that’s normally too heavy for this rifle. However, for close work, it might work okay. That bullet normally takes a copper gas check, but it can be shot without one.
That velocity will give a fairly flat trajectory and stability to the 130-grain bullet as far as the rifle can be accurately shot — which is about 200 yards. But consider this: this bullet is just one of over 200 different lead bullets that are appropriate for this rifle! If you really want to experiment and push the envelope, that number grows to over 500! Nothing guarantees that this will be the one right bullet. It’s just the first one I tested.
Before I went to the range, I mounted a scope on the rifle. I encountered problems right away because of how far the Weaver bases are set apart on the rifle’s action. They are so far apart that I cannot mount the leapers long eye relief scope I had planned to use, because the ring separation exceeds the scope’s tube length. This is where it gets dicey because of the scopes that were available; and the Weaver rings I had that were not committed to other tests and guns. I ended up with a set of high rings and an Osprey 2.5-10×40 scope that I don’t care for. More on that, later.
So, I get to the range and the day is pretty good. The wind is fairly calm, with just a few breezes I can wait out. Besides, I’m shooting a .308 130-grain bullet at 50 yards. The wind doesn’t affect it nearly as much as it would a pellet!
The gun’s first fill is a guess. I know my .458 Outlaw likes a 3,500 psi fill, so I go with 3,600 psi for this one. I’m looking for a couple things. First, how fast does the first shot go? Second, how fast do shots two through whatever go? That’s right — I don’t even know how many powerful shots I’m going to get from this rifle. If it were a 9mm Korean gun, that number would be 5-7. But a Quackenbush .308 is more powerful and uses a lot more air. My .458 gets two good shots per fill, so there’s a very good chance this one will, too.
Before I left the house, I oiled the striker (hammer) with high-tech gun oil. I oiled it again at the range. I know that all big bore guns need to break in to shoot their best. Then, I filled the rifle to 3,600 psi and started shooting:
The first few shots were over the chronograph. Then, I commenced shooting for accuracy at 50 yards. You can see how high the scope sits above the receiver.
Okay, those are the first four shots. If I’m looking for good groups at 50 yards with this bullet, only the first two shots look good. If I’m demonstrating the rifle to a bunch of Boy Scouts, I can probably continue shooting for another couple shots. Do you see what I’m doing? I’m calculating things based on what kind of shooting I expect to do.
And shot one generates 212.06 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. Shot two makes 192.26 foot-pounds.
I also noted that when I went to fill the reservoir again, the gun still had about 1,900 psi inside. Four shots used up 1,700 psi, or about 425 psi per shot. The Korean big bores use around 200 psi per shot, so that gives you a good idea of how they compare to a Quackenbush Long Action.
Next, I sighted-in the rifle. Because the Quackenbush Long Action does not allow the bolt to be removed easily at the range, I used a target paper that’s two feet by four feet. The point of aim is close to the center of the paper. That gives me a good chance of striking somewhere on the paper at 50 yards. If this were a smallbore airgun, I would have started at 10 feet, as I explain in my article about sighting in a scope; but you can’t do that with a gun this powerful unless you own a lot of private land. I’m on a club-run rifle range, and I have to obey their regulations. I’m hoping to get on paper without boresighting. I do own a boresight device, but it has only bore spuds that go up to .22 caliber, so it wouldn’t work in a .308.
I’m in luck, because the first shot hits the paper…about two feet below my aim point. Well, that isn’t as lucky as you might think. Remember the Osprey scope I mentioned earlier? Well, it has 1/8 MOA (minute of angle) adjustments. At 50 yards, every click will move the strike of the round about one-sixteenth of an inch! For two feet, I’ll have to move the elevation knob up 16 x 12 x two, which is 384 clicks! There probably aren’t that many clicks in this scope, plus I don’t know how far up it already is. I have a droop problem!
I’ll replace this scope and mounts for the next test, which means I’ll have to sight-in and do this all over again. But today is not lost. I can still continue to test the gun. I adjust the scope up so the round lands about 14 inches below the aim point, and that’s how I will test the gun today. It’s simple enough to staple two targets to the backer in line with one another, so I can aim at the top one and hit the lower one. Now, we can see how this rifle shoots with this bullet.
The only problem is — all I have are bullets that have been sized and lubricated. I know that Quackenbush big bores seem to do best with dry lead bullets, or at least that’s been my experience up until now, but I’ll use the bullets I have on hand. I will have to cast some more bullets and not lubricate them for the next test.
Shot one went about 14 inches below the point of aim, as mentioned already. Shot two dropped another several inches, but I compensated for it by using the tip of the bottom fat vertical duplex reticle line as a different aim point. So, I’m able to get a fair grouping of bullets, though it’s nothing I am satisfied with, yet. I’m able to shoot six bullets into a group measuring 1.6 inches by shooting just two shots per fill and using the two aim points. After shot two, the gun’s remaining pressure is about 2,700 psi, so the first two shots use about 900 psi — which works out to 450 psi per shot. Do you see how this stuff works?
Two bullets in the hole on the left, and you can see the rest. Three of them were first shots after a fill, and three were second shots. This group measures 1.6 inches between centers.
I then moved over to another set of targets and tried something different. I tried refilling after the first shot — so every shot would be going the same speed and I could use the same aim point. This time, four of the five shots grouped into 0.982 inches, but the fifth shot opened it to 1.767 inches. It looked like it was going to be better, but once again, no cigar.
There are three bullets in the large hole on the left. Shot four (top) opened the group to just under one inch, but the fifth shot opened the group to almost 1.75 inches.
After shooting at two different targets, I lubricated the striker again and chronographed the gun. This time, I tried to fill the reservoir higher than 3,600 psi, but my carbon fiber tank had already dropped to 3,600 psi. I had to stick with that as the highest fill pressure.
As you can see by comparing this second string to the first one, my rifle seems to be performing at the same level, more or less. That does not tell me whether 3,600 psi is the highest operating pressure or not, but it’s a good indication that the rifle either needs a lot more shots through it or it’s already broken in. I’ll have to get my carbon fiber tank refilled before I can conduct another test at a higher fill pressure.
And just for continuity, the first shot generated 217.04 foot-pounds. Shot two generated 193.67 foot-pounds.
Where to next?
If you’re as curious as I am, these results open up a lot of possibilities. For starters I want to test the gun at a higher fill pressure. I also want to shoot dry bullets, but I think I need to clean and dry the bore before I do. I can’t clean the lubricated bullets well enough to consider them dry, so I have to cast another batch.
I definitely have to mount a different scope in lower rings, and I have to be prepared to elevate the rear mount if the rifle turns out to be a drooper. All I know at this point is that I had the scope adjusted very high, which very well could have lead to the groups being as large as they were.
I have a feeling that this rifle will shoot groups smaller than one inch once I learn its secrets.
by B.B. Pelletier
Rich says that this is Ben, who’s 11 years old. He’s getting ready to shoot the reset paddle on his Gamo trap. He’s using the Air Venturi Bronco.
Today I’ll begin a look at a big bore precharged air rifle that most of you will never see. The Quackenbush .308 is a classic from the central Missouri airgun maker.
This air rifle may not be mainstream; but just mention it to airgun hunters, and you might as well have pulled the starter rope on a hotrod snowmobile! The noise starts immediately as people break up into discussion groups, some to explore the potential accuracy or the best bullet and others to recount the dozens of game animals that have fallen to their rifles.
I’ve personally seen 150-lb. goats dropped at 140+ yards with single shots from this rifle, though I wouldn’t recommend it for that distance or for that size animal. But it did work, and I saw it do that twice in one day. But hunting is the purview of others. I’m going to do my usual review of the rifle and let you readers decide how best to use it.
Dennis Quackenbush is both a shooter and a hunter. Besides making several hundred airguns each year, this man “gets it.” He knows that if an air rifle is a .45 caliber it either has to be a .451 that can use common pistol bullets or a .458 that uses common rifle bullets. He would never think of foisting a .454-caliber rifle on his customers, because Dennis knows that the .454 pistol caliber died before World War II. As a shooter, he understands the importance of making rifles in calibers for which there are a wide variety of lead bullets, because not everyone casts their own.
He chose the .308 caliber for the obvious reason that it’s the most popular-sized .30-caliber bullet here in the U.S. There are .310 and .311 lead bullets available for the SKS, AKM and the Mosin Nagant — but they’re not that popular. You have to search to find them. But .308 is money in the bank here in the U.S. You’ll find dozens of different styles and weights to try in your rifle.
I once asked him why he didn’t go with 9mm when he brought out this rifle and he responded, “Ballistics. You know there are very few 9mm lead pistol bullets available on the market; and of those, the heaviest is about 125 grains. That gives you a short, fat bullet with low sectional density and poor long-range performance. But in .308, a 130-grain rifle bullet is reasonably long and has a much higher sectional density than the short 9mm pistol bullet. And my rifle can drive a 130-grain .308 bullet up to respectable velocity, making that caliber well-suited for hunters.”
Quackenbush .308 rifle is handsome even in this lowest-grade version.
My .308 is made on a Long Action Outlaw receiver. I tested a .308 Exile back in 2005, but the rifle I tested was made on the old action with a shorter striker spring and striker travel. The long action allows the striker spring to be longer and the striker to travel a longer distance. Both increase the airflow through the valve, which equates to power.
My article reviewing the Exile is up on the Quackenbush website, so I’m able to compare the performance of this current long action gun to what was done in the past. That old rifle shot a 128.6-grain bullet at 860 f.p.s. on the first shot — generating 211.25 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. It did take some shooting to get the rifle up to that velocity, as the moving parts do need to wear in a bit, but I’ll also lubricate them before the velocity test starts with the new rifle, which will put me on better footing than I was in the old test.
The rifle is blued steel housed in a figured walnut stock. I selected the lowest-grade gun Dennis makes, but you can see from the photo that it’s still something to be proud of. It weighs 8 lbs. exactly without a scope, and the rifle comes without sights, so a scope is required. It comes with Weaver bases installed, so you need Weaver rings to match.
I’ve used the Leapers Bug Buster scope and other compact scopes in the past on these rifles, but the long action of this particular rifle needs a scope with a longer tube. The plan is to install a long eye-relief scope and see how it works. After my success with the Evanix Conquest at 4x, I’m suddenly interested in lower-power scopes — especially for workman rifles like this.
The rifle is just shy of 44 inches long, and has a 26-inch barrel. The pull is 13-1/2 inches. The action is different from what you may be used to, though it’s not unusual. Dennis uses a separate cocking bolt to retract the striker against the heavy spring, leaving the loading bolt for just the single function of inserting a bullet. This design was popular back in the 1980s with several vintage British precharged rifles but is seen less often today. In powerful big bores, however, it offers the advantage of providing good purchase on the cocking handle, while leaving the loading bolt normal-sized.
The black handle cocks the striker. The knobbed bolt is just for loading.
Dennis makes all his own barrels and the rifling buttons that cut them. At one time when he was experimenting with twist rates, he was hand-cutting the rifling; but now that he has the data he needs, button-rifled barrels are easier and faster to make, as well as smoother after production.
I’ve made several references to using lead bullets — now let me explain why. In big bore air rifles, you want to eliminate as much friction as possible. Jacketed bullets have too much friction and will slow the velocity way down, plus they wear the soft steel of the barrel much faster. This holds true for vintage firearms, as well, which is why I would never shoot a jacketed bullet in a Trapdoor Springfield or in my old Ballard. People do shoot them in vintage guns, but they’re wearing out barrels much faster than they should.
These older guns have much softer steel in their barrels. While they’ll reasonably give 50,000-100,000 shots with lead bullets if properly cared for, shooting jacketed bullets will wear them out in as few as 5,000 rounds. I’m speaking about firearms now — the airgun barrels do not wear out at the same rate, and nobody knows how many shots they could conceivably get.
Dennis builds airguns for thinking owners. You don’t just pull one of his rifles from a box and fill it to 3,000 psi. You experiment, which means you need to have access to a chronograph. I’ve found his Outlaw actions can tolerate 3,200 psi up to 3,500 psi very well and give optimum performance. Others have claimed fill pressures up to 3,850 psi in their guns. The point is that you experiment until you find the fill pressure that gives the greatest number of high-power shots with the bullet you’ve selected to use. I’m hoping to get four or possibly five good shots on one fill of this rifle.
Quackenbush rifles all fill from a standard Foster male fittings. He provides a stainless steel fitting to prevent the ball bearings of the female fitting from impressing themselves into the metal of the male fitting at high fill pressures.
The rifle is filled through a common Foster male fitting. It’s very standard around the world.
Dennis has very definite thoughts on what makes a good airgun. Though he also builds parts for aerospace companies and test fixtures for other manufacturers, he keeps his airgun technology firmly planted in the 1950s. By that I mean he’s going to use steel for the metal parts and walnut for the wood.
He buys his stock blanks in large lots, so there will always be enough for his production needs. And he shapes the stocks on a pantograph to save time and keep the shape consistent.
Quackenbush always has several hundred walnut stock blanks on hand.
We’re in this together
I have owned this rifle for about four years and have never fired it. My .458 Quackenbush always takes precedence, so this adventure will be just as new to me as it is to you. I’m inviting you to watch over my shoulder as I get to know this classic big bore.
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, we’ll begin our look at the Sam Yang Recluse big bore air rifle. The rifle I’m testing is serial number 3922. This is a single-shot 9mm/.357-caliber air rifle that’s suitable for hunting larger small game such as coyotes, javelina, and any of the larger animals such as raccoons and woodchucks that we take with powerful .22-caliber and .25-caliber hunting rifles.
While this isn’t the same 9mm single-shot rifle I knew years ago (the Career Fire 201), it has many similar attributes. I mention that because, of all the Asian big bores, I’ve liked the 9mm single-shots the best because of their versatility.
Is it 9mm or is it .357 caliber?
Let’s clear this up right now. Nine millimeter is not exactly the same caliber as .357. A 9mm bullet measures either 0.355 or 0.356 inches in diameter, while a .357-caliber bullet measures either 0.357 or 0.358 inches. The difference sometimes matters and other times not. I have a Ruger Blackhawk revolver (a firearm) that has one cylinder for .38 Special/.357 Magnum and another for 9mm ammunition. Before testing it, I would’ve sworn that one caliber would prevail over the other; after extensively shooting both calibers, I can say they’re equally accurate.
I’ve been assured by Pyramyd Air that the bore of the Recluse measures over 0.357 inches in diameter. Normally, I would run a lead slug through the barrel and measure it after it came out; but when the caliber is as close as this, shooting is often the better method for determining what works and what doesn’t. I have a wide range of .357 lead bullets to use for this test, plus Pyramyd Air has also provided me with ample 9mm swaged lead bullets in both 70- and 90-grain weights.
Because this is an airgun, the bullets you use do not have to be lubricated. In fact, all the tests I’ve done with lubricated bullets versus unlubricated bullets show the lubricated bullets to be less accurate. If you’re buying bullets, buy them unlubricated if you can.
Because this is an airgun, it will not obturate the bullets when they’re shot. In fact, smokeless powder doesn’t obturate lead bullets, either. Obturation means the squashing of the base of the bullet out into the rifling so the bullet fits the bore better. Only black powder will obturate bullets properly. All other propellants need to shoot bullets that fit from the start.
To conserve air during testing, I may shoot for accuracy first and then chronograph those projectiles offering the best accuracy. As with any big bore, this rifle is going to consume a lot of high-pressure air, so it’s worthwhile to have a strategy that conserves as much as possible.
You may think that it’s possible to both chronograph and shoot for accuracy at the same time; but I’ve found that if I concentrate on one thing, the other will suffer. When I chronograph a special gun like a big bore, I do it at the firearms range and write notes that accompany the chrono ticket to help me remember all that happened for when I’m writing the report later on. When I shoot for accuracy, I don’t want any distractions because all my focus is on what I’m doing. Although it’s possible to both chronograph and shoot for accuracy simultaneously, I seldom do it anymore.
The Recluse (the name was taken from the spider) is a single-shot rifle that has a sliding breech cover, much like the one we saw on the .50-caliber Sam Yang Dragon Claw. The bullet is laid on the breech trough, then pushed forward into the rifling. From what I’ve learned while testing the Dragon Claw, I’m going to be especially careful to insert the bullets correctly into the rifling every time in this rifle.
The rifle has the profile of an over/under shotgun, with the top of the receiver rounded in the rear. It cocks via a bolt handle that sticks out of the receiver on the right side of the gun, so it’s not very ambidextrous. Like the Dragon Claw, there are two different power levels to engage; and where the bolt handle stops determines which one is engaged. The gun arrived with the bolt handle separated, so it had to be installed before anything else was done. Doing so is relatively easy — just cock the bolt to the low-power setting with a screwdriver blade through the side of the cocking slot and attach the bolt handle to the bolt with a single Phillips screw.
I note that, like the Dragon Claw, the Recluse bolt is very stiff when new. From experience, I know this loosens with use; and by the time I have about 20 shots on the gun, it should be functioning fine.
You also get a probe-type fill adapter that I’ll explain in a moment, a single extra o-ring for the adapter, an extra bolt attachment screw and two sling swivel studs…if you care to mount them. The front stud takes the place of the forearm screw and is easy to install, but the rear stud is a wood screw that must be attached to the stock by drilling a pilot hole then screwing in the stud.
Besides the bolt handle and screw, you get the adapter (bottom) one extra o-ring, an extra bolt handle screw, a front sling swivel stud that attaches in the forearm screw hole and a sling swivel stud with wood screw threads.
Stock and forearm
The woodwork on the rifle is first-class. I’m sure many of you know that Korea, where the Recluse is made, is one of the countries making many PCP stocks for the rest of the world these days. They do first-rate work and can get fine woods. The Recluse is stocked with a straight-grained walnut that’s relatively free of figure but very clear and strong. There are attractive panels of laser-cut checkering on each side of both the pistol grip and the forearm, and the diamonds are sharp enough to help you hold the rifle.
Both the pistol grip and the forearm are flat on the sides and on the thin side. I like the feeling because it makes the stock easier to grasp. The bottom of the forearm is also flat and makes the perfect rest for your palm when shooting offhand or from a rest.
The butt has a Monte Carlo comb and a raised cheekpiece on the left side, only. Clearly, this rifle is made for right-handed shooters.
The air reservoir and barrel are both polished and deeply blued. The receiver and sliding breech cover are plated with what appears to be chrome over an unpolished cast part. It’s attractive in a showy way.
This past weekend, I had to talk a new big bore owner though what I’m now going to show you. He’s new to airguns, so he isn’t aware of some things that old-timers take for granted.
The end of the adapter that fits into the air hose coupling is beveled on the inside. It looks funnel-shaped. That shape is intentional, because it mates to the hose coupling that has an external beveled shape of the exact reverse angle. Sometimes, these two surfaces mate with strictly metal-to metal contact and other times there’s a thick, black rubber seal inside the hose fitting. Either way, the adapter has to be screwed into the hose fitting with a wrench on both parts. Finger-tight is not enough. This isn’t a fitting that uses an o-ring, where the air pressure distorts the o-ring to make the seal. You have to make the seal by tightening the two parts together.
The inside of the hose end of the air-filling adapter is beveled to mate with the coupling on the end of the fill hose. These two parts must be screwed together with wrenches to seal the high-pressure air.
I told this new airgunner to do this, and he first assured me both parts were together very tight, yet air was still leaking at the connection. He had them finger-tight. Then, he tightened the connection a little more with the wrenches. The leak stopped and we gained one more veteran PCP user who will never have to be shown that step again. For all readers who are new to the world of precharged airguns, this is how many adapters fit on their air hoses.
This rifle is a lot like the Dragon Claw except for the smaller caliber. It’ll use comparatively less air and, if you cast your own bullets, less lead. The power is not too far behind the larger-caliber rifle because the velocity is really high on this one. In fact, it’s so high that I’ll be checking it very carefully. This could be a delightful way to acquaint yourself with the world of big-bore airgunning.