Air shotguns, part 1: the Farco
by B.B. Pelletier
Air shotguns are too big a subject for a single posting, so I'll do it in steps. Today I'd like to talk about the model that put the air shotgun on the American map.
Farco air shotgun was a huge 28-gauge CO2 monster that renewed American interest in big bore airguns.
In 1972, the Philippine government cracked down on private ownership of firearms and seized all the guns! The lesson to be learned from that is join the National Rifle Association and be glad to pay your dues! The United States may be the last free country on this planet, and liberals all over the world don't want that to last much longer.
When they seized all the firearms, the government grudgingly allowed airguns to remain, because much of their rural population (and parts of the Philippines are VERY rural) survives by subsistence hunting. So, airguns suddenly became important, not unlike the UK, but for much more essential reasons. One gun that immediately sprang to the forefront was the Farco 28-gauge (.51-caliber) CO2-powered air shotgun.
How much power?
The Farco is a crudely made brass gun with a simple bent bolt that's sealed by O-rings and a huge slow-operating valve that passes LOTS of gas when the gun fires. The combination of a long barrel and the hot Philippine climate encourage the most from CO2. CO2 only generates pressure in the 1,000 psi region, but, when the barrel is as long as the Farco's, that's enough to accelerate a 120-grain .433 Hornady lead ball to about 500 f.p.s when the temperature hovers around 80 degrees F. In the Philippines, it gets even hotter so the velocity will be higher.
Since the gun is 28 gauge, you can use the same plastic wads as a shotshell uses. That seals the bore very well for maximum efficiency. That velocity nets you just over 65 foot-pounds at the muzzle, or about what you get from a .22-caliber AirForce Condor.
What about shot?
The same plastic wad holds around 245 grains (about 1/2 oz.) of #8 lead shot and spits it out the bore at about 450 f.p.s. under the same conditions. That amounts to a whopping 105 foot-pounds! I tried shooting hand-thrown clay pigeons with a Farco, but the shot just bounced off. I believe that if I had used a larger shot size such as #2, perhaps, I might have had some success.
America's wake-up call for big bores
What put the Farco on the map was Air Rifle Specialists owner Davis Schwesinger taking a much-publicized wild boar in Florida. Now, the truth of how he did it was that he charged his gun with air to 1,200 psi. Air, being thinner than CO2, flowed through the valve much faster, so the gun dumped more of it behind the ball and Schwesinger got nearly 200 foot-pounds from his modified gun. But that wasn't necessarily a good thing!
Other less-thoughtful tinkerers began charging their Farcos clear up to 3,000 psi! Their guns made a thunderous crack when fired until one of them failed in the receiver and blew the right thumb off the shooter! Then all the other hobby airgunsmiths got very quiet on the subject of hopping up a large brass airgun. Eventually, sales fell off - not because of the accident but because of newer big bores from Korea that the Farco couldn't compete with.
Farcos are still available
A few hundred Farco shotguns were sold in this country. With today's crop of powerful big bores, they still don't command a premium. You can pick one up in new condition in the box for $300 to $450 at the larger airgun shows. In a few years, they'll come into their own as collectables and prices should rise, so now is the time to buy if you want one. They are covered in detail in the Blue Book of Airguns, Fifth Edition.
There, Turtle! I have begun to fulfill my promise to tell you about air shotguns. We still have many different guns to look at, so stick around.