Parker-Hale Dragon

by B.B. Pelletier

Okay, the field target course will have to be postponed until 2009. We didn’t get the students we need. But we’ll select some dates very soon and everyone will know when the first class is next year. I’m also looking into ways of reducing the length of the course to make it easier on the students.

Hey – what they ought to do…
How many times have you heard someone “invent” a gun he thinks ought to be made, only to discover that it actually was? I know this is a common occurrence for me.

One gun I hear about a lot is a powerful single-stroke pneumatic. After they discover the powerplant, some shooters become enamored with the fact that the single-stroke is pneumatic, so it shoots without vibration or movement and it takes only a single stroke of the lever to charge the gun. The only thing the makers forgot to do was make it powerful. So, these hopeful shooters do that in their mind and then wonder why the engineers overlooked such an important thing.

It’s the same as wondering why the car manufacturers won’t release that 100 mpg carburetor, now that we really need it.

Why don’t “they” make a powerful single-stroke pneumatic air rifle?
“I would buy one in a heartbeat if airgun manufacturers would just get off their collective butt and design what ‘we’ want. We want a single-stroke pneumatic air rifle with enough power for hunting.” That’s exactly what Parker-Hale did. Or rather they accepted the design of an independent airgun designer and put it into production. A single-stroke pneumatic rifle with enough power for hunting.

Well, I lucked into a chance to see and operate a Dragon at the 2008 Little Rock Airgun Expo, and I knew I’d be reporting it to you readers someday. When a reader recently saw one for sale on the American Airguns free classified ads page, he asked about it. I answered his question and asked if he’d like a report, which brings us to today. Since I’ve never tested the rifle the report will have to be thin, but I’ve added some detail photos that you won’t see anywhere.


The Parker-Hale Dragon is a large single-stroke pneumatic rifle that shoots like a PCP. The owner shoots his rifle at the 2008 Little Rock Airgun Expo.

Enter the Dragon
The Dragon is an 11-lb. single-stroke pneumatic air rifle that looks like a PCP with a pump added on. It shoots at just under the British legal limit of 12 foot-pounds, so those .22-caliber Crosman Premiers will probably be going out the muzzle between 575 and 590 f.p.s. Being middle-weight pellets, they have to be lower in energy so some super-heavyweight doesn’t push the rifle over the legal limit. The lever is attached to the right side of the action and pivots near the muzzle. It swings through about 105 degrees of arc to compress all the air it takes to generate 12 foot-pounds.

Make no mistake, the rifle has the firing characteristics of a PCP. There is zero recoil and vibration when the shot takes off. Because of the low muzzle energy, the report is relatively low, too. About like a Sheridan Blue Streak with five pumps of air. Thank the longer barrel for that. And thank the weight of 11 lbs. (before adding the scope) for the stability of a field target rifle. The weight seems to come from the extensive – nay, dare I say universal, use of steel components and parts. The Dragon is a lead-sled, compared to a normal PCP. Most of that weight is in the extra pumping mechanism, but the use of steel in the parts is a driver, too.

Make ready!
Ever watch the film Patriot and thank God you didn’t live at the time of the American revolution? Getting a flintlock ready to fire was no simple task. Well, if the rifles had been Parker-Hale Dragons instead of flintlocks, the revolution would probably have lasted a few more years. Compared to a flintlock, making the Dragon ready to fire is a chore.

I forget all of the steps to making the gun ready, but here are the ones I do remember. First, you simultaneously lift up on the safety button and push the trigger forward to set the valve. Then, you pop the pump handle away from the stock, but that requires you to pinch two sheet-steel cams together while simultaneously pulling them away from the stock. Once the lever joint has been properly freed, you swing the lever out and up to the top of its arc, just past the muzzle of the rifle. Next, you close the lever, compressing the air. Then, you cock the rifle, which retracts the bolt, allowing you to load a pellet. Close the bolt and you may be ready to fire. I forget if the safety comes on automatically at this point.


Before you push the trigger forward to close the firing valve, the safety button in front of the trigger is pushed straight up.


Once the safety is up and out of the way, the trigger is pushed forward to close the firing valve.


The next step is to pump the gun, but before that, the pump lever link is simultaneously squeezed together and pulled away from the stock to free the joint.


Now the pump lever is swung forward past the muzzle and then returned to the resting point alongside the stock. After that, all that remains is to cock and load the gun.

It may sound as if I am criticizing the Dragon’s design as I describe the process to make it ready, but that’s not my intention. I was given a rare opportunity to examine this strange and almost handmade air rifle mechanism, and I vowed to report the process to my readers, if and when I wrote about the rifle. Where else are you going to get this kind of information? I know for a fact it wasn’t reported in the airgun magazines when the gun was new, because I was interested in this rifle for myself.

The trigger is light and crisp – just what you’d expect from a top-grade PCP. In its day, the Parker-Hale Dragon was on the pricier side of the cost spectrum, but it didn’t last very long. As I recall the gun was available for only a year to 18 months before it was pulled from the market in 1997. Parker-Hale stopped making firearms and airguns of any kind in the year 2000. The Dragon is not a common model. That’s why I told the reader who inquired that the $600 asking price for a non-functional gun was a no-brainer. It’s no doubt worth twice that and more.

The bottom line
At this point a few thousand of you readers know a little something about an exotic airgun that had a very short life. That will not prevent someone from saying, “You don’t understand. When I said I wanted more power I meant 30-40 foot-pounds. When is someone going to make a single-stroke rifle like that? And I’d like the weight to be 8 lbs. with a scope. Yeah, that sounds about right!”

47 thoughts on “Parker-Hale Dragon

  1. OK, I’ll bite – and if you mentioned this and I missed it, my apologies – but what about cocking effort?

    We’re all aware how pump-pneumatics don’t seem to be very efficient when it comes to human energy in vs. pellet energy out. Wouldn’t this make a high-powered single-stroker something of an impractical proposition?


  2. I’m sure it’s a fine rifle, but I myself don’t see any advantages over other current models. Smooth operation and firing is a plus, but I’m still leaning toward the Walther Falcon in .25 cal. By the way, were you planning any more reports on the Falcon? Curious really: I’m already sold as soon as I can divvy up the dough. JP


  3. I once wanted a very powerful single stroke pneumatic. Something that operated like and was comparable to a CFX. Then I realized that an SSP rifle, as powerful as I wanted, would be very large, heavy, and require a considerable cocking effort.


  4. Morning B.B.,
    Great Report, on a Great Looking Gun! Wonder if they will ever sell them again. You know, i bet if Daisy teamed up with one of Parker’s engineers, they could make a heck of a Rifle. Seein as daisy has a whole line of single stroke pnuematics. Oh yeah i almost forgot. Do you know when Pyramyd is going to get those
    HW50s’? Im looking forward to it.
    Thanks,
    Brody


  5. Brody,

    No offense meant here at all to you buddy, but if Daisy teamed up with one of Parker Hale, there would be bloodshed.

    Derrick


  6. Vince,

    I didn’t shoot the gun much, and I didn’t have any test equipment. My impression was the effort was 25-30 pounds at the end of the stroke, but due to the long lever and the size of the rifle, the effort came at the point where there was a lot of mechanical advantage.

    B.B.


  7. JP,

    Pyramyd Air is sending me a gas spring converted Falcon as soon as it’s ready. I will test it against the rifle I’ve already tested. I will also shoot some more groups with this rifle, since I ran out of ammo on the last test.

    B.B.


  8. BB,

    here’s a Falcon PCP being sold locally that looks almost identical to the Parker-Hale Dragon. So close it’s almost eerie.

    Brody,

    You’ll LOVE the HW50. If you’ve never shot one before, you’re going to be blown away by the accuracy and quality.

    On the cheaper end of the spectrum, you might look into a Crosman 2260 rifle and upgrade it with the steel breech and a scope. You won’t believe how accurate this relatively inexpensive gun can be.

    Derrick




  9. B.B.,

    I have shot some groups today using the two bag technique and JSB pellets. The groups showed that the rifle CAN shoot.

    http://i46.photobucket.com/albums/f146/fingerace/IMG_0095.jpg

    It tends to like lower pressures and it performs best under 1,700 PSI.

    I know now that it’s up to me to create good groups like these. Unfortunately the trigger is really bothering me and it is throwing me off.

    Thanks for your patience with my discovery problem! I am very happy to know that my rifle does perform as it should. I will be happier when I am able to shoot these groups easier and more frequently!


  10. BB and all,

    I found the answer to optically centering or re-centering a scope if you need to do this. It was on the Leupold website.

    http://www2.leupold.com/resources/MyInfo81/Answerbook/findanswers.aspx

    I guess I should have done this first rather than post an off-topic question. By the way, I’m very excited about the leapers Picatinny rail for RWS’. I removed the 1 piece mount from my 350 after reading the appropriate blog and found the pin was destroying the rail mount.




  11. BB,

    I need a some advice.

    I took the stock off my Genesis to do A lube job. I had A tube of Pellgun Oil and A tube of Crosman Silicone Chamber Oil. I used the Pellgun Oil on the joints AND the main spring. Messed up. Now the gun is detonating like crazy. Almost all Gamo Tomahawks are going super sonic, with A loud crack.

    I guess the Pellgun Oil is migrating past the seal and into the chamber. I tool the stock back off and reoiled the spring with the silicone chamber oil and I also put four drops into the chamber via the air port. Still detonating.

    How long will take to shoot out all the oil? How can I clean the oil out? I have to shoot outdoors, but the gun is much to loud. I feel like An idiot for not realizing that the Pellgun Oil would migrate into the chamber!(:-(

    Also, any idea when Crosman will be coming out with the new baffled barrel Discovery?

    BobC NJ


  12. B.B. and All,

    I am sorry the class did not come together this year………Will we still get a course on “club and field target setup” on the blog?

    As far as designing the “perfect air gun”, for the price, I THINK B.B. HAS ALREADY DONE IT!!…

    THE DISCOVERY…..

    I don’t want something that weighs in at 11 lbs without a scope, just because you only have to pump it once.. the “Dragon” sounds like a great investment, but I don’t think they should try to make them again..
    After the discovery is full all you do is cock the barrel bolt, load and fire….what could be better…in a 6 lb gun, too…20 to 25 very accurate shots with no kick, no special hold, at under $400 totally setup with pump and all…

    Sure, it has a few small issues, but all easy to resolve…if they bother you….to me, for the money…the Discovery is the perfect all around “starter air rifle”

    Wayne,
    Ashland Air Rifle Range


  13. Bob C.,

    Disassemble the gun and dry out the spring tube with a paper towel wrapped around a long rod like a cleaning rod or dowel. Wipe all oil off the metal parts.

    When you assemble the gun you should use a good moly-based grease on the mainspring and piston/seal. If you use any silicone oil, use just a single drop on the top of the piston seal.

    B.B.


  14. OK, so what gives? This post obviously refers in a backhanded way to the upcoming FX MULTI-stroke pneumatic – the Royale Independence… That gun will achieve 6 shots at 30 ft lbs with 12 strokes. Isn’t THAT what hunters really want? Plus it’s lighter than the PH Dragon, and each stroke is easier. Follow up shots are already charged… It seems like your post is trying to turn people away from the fact that the gun they may have dreamed of is actually coming to fruition.


  15. Wayne,

    Yes I will continue the field target tutorial in the blog.

    Glad you like the Discovery. What you said was exactly the reason I helped design it with those attributes and features.

    B.B.


  16. Todd,

    The FX multi-pump wasn’t even considered when I wrote this report. I didn’t even know about it.

    Daystate had a powerful multi-pump out a decade ago, and Titan had one before that before that. Powerfil well-built multi-pumps are certainly not new.

    This report is about a SINGLE-STROKE pneumatic, and what can and can’t be doe with one.

    Period.

    If the FX multi-pump really performs as you say, it will be a wonderful airgun. Of course it needs to be tested by an unbiased tester before anyone will believe it.

    The Daystate required 77 pounds of effort on the last two of five pump strokes, so something that’s lighter would be welcome.

    B.B.


  17. B.B.

    Would the cocking effort for an SSP be the same as for a springer of comparable power? If it were, I guess there would be a payoff in lack of recoil and vibration.

    Have you ever heard of a centerfire rifle caliber called a .318? It appears in one of my favorite books of all-time which is Gilligan’s Last Elephant by Gerald Hanley. It’s sort of a Hemingwayesque novel about an elephant hunt in Africa set after WWII. One of the characters uses the .318 to hit running game at 400 yards! The other caliber is called a .500 which is for a double-rifle.

    Matt61


  18. Andreas,

    Thanks for your report on the Discovery, and good luck in the army. As they say in Stephen Hunter’s books, “God bless you for your service.”

    Matt61


  19. BB,did the BSF that put a hole in your ceiling have the anti-beartrap safety?if not I suspect weihrauch built one into the MARKSMAN MOD 70 to adress product liability.mine truly seems effective.sometimes I go to take the shot W/ the safety still engaged.trigger feels welded in!I would still never trust it or point in an unsafe manner,just curious…I plan to be in Arkansas next year for sure!!!!!!I wish I knew more airgunners in New Orleans,my basement is 33 yds long.thanks for everything,Frankb


  20. Matt61,

    I have heard of .318 ammo, it was what Brits and Americans refereed to 8x57mm Mauser as during the WWII era. 8x57mm is very similar to 30-06, which has an effective range of about 1100 yards or 1 kilometer, on human sized creatures.

    Other cartridges similar in performance to .318(8×57): 30-06(7.62×63), .308(7.62×51), 7.62x54R, 303 British(7.9×54).

    These are all military cartridges designed for full power battle rifles, but now are very popular on the hunting market, and have been largely phased out of military service in favor of the weaker varmint loads used in assault rifles.




  21. Matt61,

    The 318 you refer to must be either a Rigby or Holland & Holland. It might be called a 318 Nitro Express. I sorta doubt you can hit anything running at 400 yards without walking tracers in on it.

    B.B.


  22. BB -
    I read with interest.. FINALLY.. regarding your diana scope mount solution. It didn’t seem like it’s adjustable.. is that right? If so, I’m assuming dianas have a fixed droop angle?

    Anyways – I finally busted my accushot one piece mount. I had used the stop pin in the front hole, where it worked fine for 2-3000 shots. But… I didn’t notice that the clamping screws became loose and then the stop pin snapped and then the large headed screw in the back bent. Is that a problem besides looks?

    Just a reminder folks – check those scope screws! BB – Will loctite work on those screws and handle the recoil?

    Geoff


  23. Geoff,

    No, the new base is not adjustable. It gets you into a RANGE that permits plenty of scope adjustment left over after zeroing. There are two bases to choose from, so you can match the gun’s droop. They don’t build the guns to any specific droop – it just happens that way.

    The 34 model has the most droop and is good for most breakbarrels. The 460 base has less droop and is good for most fixed barrels. But either base will work on any gun.Locktite isn’t the problem . The scope cannot stop slipping unless there is a positive mechanical stop – like the pin you sheared off.

    B.B.


  24. Loctite on the screws wouldn’t help because the scope base dovetails are held entirely by friction.

    I think that the anodizing of the surfaces of the dovetail scope mount and the scope base is a terrible idea. Anodized aluminum against anodized aluminum has a low coefficient of friction. Better aluminum against aluminum, so sanding (carefully) off the anodizing might improve the hold a tiny bit. But still its best to have a mechanical stop.


  25. When I say “entirely by friction” I mean with the force of the screws against the sliding members…but they are still able to slide when the recoil force overcomes the pressure of the screws.
    (I am not an engineer…so forgive the poor word useage)


  26. B.B. and mechredd,

    Thanks for the references. Both of these genealogies sound plausible. One of the main characters who orders the rifles is a British white hunter, but he and the American client are also WWII vets, so the military origins are plausible too.

    Yes, I thought the head shooting of running game at 400 yards was a bit much, but that’s only one of the things these guys do. Between endurance hikes, arm-wrestling and whiskey drinking this is kind of the ultimate safari. It’s a great read though and can be bought from Amazon for only a couple bucks.

    http://www.amazon.com/Gilligans-Last-Elephant-Gerald-Hanley/dp/9997545788/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1214952319&sr=8-4

    Matt61


  27. Hi there B.B.!

    I need your advice. Again.
    I finally narrowed my choices to 2 airguns. 2 very different airguns, which you said are good: the Diana RWS 350 Mag (i like this one because of the metal sights and the long range potential everybody sais it has, if shot properly and because it is a springer i.e always ready to shoot)and the Benjamin Discovery (this one, I just like :) ).
    If you could have just ONE gun, what would you choose, mostly based on cost of ownership (failures on anykind) and then performance and the rest?

    Thank you for your patience.


  28. Anonymous, rws350 vs Discovery

    The thing I just learned about mag. springers, is that you have to learn how to shoot them…adjusting for the kick…having to hold or “follow thru” on the shot…for accuracy for me..

    After you find the “sweet spot” (pressure range, start at 1,800)..my guess is the Discovery is as accurate at 30 or 50yrds. as the 350mag….I say that 50 yrds is a stretch for any air rifle, (that is why 55yrds is the most at field target, only the best can do it)…but B.B. should tell you about that..

    So like I said above, the DISCOVERY is the best “starter” air gun a person could have….it is easy for me to shoot very accurate up to 30 yrds.. without a rest

    Consider also the weight to carry and hold steady without a rest while hunting…
    And getting 20 to 25 shots off in the time you could 8 or 10 shots with the a springer mag…

    food for thought…

    Gee it sounds like I own stock in their company…maybe I should buy some….
    I am sure going to buy a lot more of the Discovery’s for the range…

    Wayne,
    Ashland Air Rifle Range


  29. Picking an airgun for someone is a little like telling him or her what foods they will like best. It is possible, but I think it requires a good deal of information. New shooters often get hung up on having the most power, which they often don’t need.

    A quality mid power Springer is hard to beat, due to the simplicity of use and maintenance. In .22 cal at about 12 ft lbs you can also get modest weight which is good for an all around rifle.


  30. Anonymous, rws350 vs Discovery

    To be fair I must also point out that after the 25 accurate, easy to shoot shots, you have to pump up the Discovery, or go back the scuba tank in the car….I get almost 3,000 shots from a $5.00 scuba fill…just don’t fill to more than 1,800lbs for accurate shooting….

    We just did a test on this, if you fill to 2,200, about your first 15 shots will be low so aim high…(what you said? “LOW”.. yes B.B. told me about “valve lock”…later on that in a guest blog I am working on)…
    then you get the 25 very accurate shots….then aim high for another 6 to 10 shots..

    That is right, we got 53 not too bad shots on that fill…if you know your gun, you can do pretty well for all 50 shots…

    I don’t know if 2,200lbs is safe, (B.B. help).. we did it by accident….it is easy to over fill with a scuba tank..try to get a regulator with it that only lets out about 1,800 or what ever your “sweet spot” is….then a fill takes about 15 seconds between shots, if your in a hurry….

    Here at the rifle range I want people to shoot lots of pellets, right? (I’m going to sell pellets)

    So only you know if a scuba tank is better for you…maybe the pump or a 350mag. is best to carry on a long hunting trip…

    Wayne,
    Ashland Air Rifle Range


  31. Anonymous, rws350 vs Discovery

    Right on, it is hard to know what someone really needs or wants….
    My second favorite to shoot is the Beeman hw30 if you only need 650fps in a 7 gr .177…..do you really need mag. power?….get closer maybe….

    Wayne,


  32. 33 yard basement – I build homes for a living – wish I could of built yours.

    99 feet to shoot in, I’m jealous


  33. 350 vs. Discovery,

    You can always consider the words of one of the writers of the Gunblast site. He says: “People are always asking me what rifle I would choose if I could only have one. The very thought is repulsive to me”….

    Matt61


  34. To Matt61.

    I cannot afford to have thoughts like that. The guy from Gunblast probably has a huge collection of airguns himself, a truckload of experience and so on. O, on the other hand, have 400$ and still need smth for a scope. That,s why I need all the info and input I can get.

    Take care.


  35. RWS Diana 350 and Discopvery,

    You haven;t asked all the right questions. You say you want long-range potential and metal sights, but what about your ability to HIT things at long range. The Benjamin Discovery will shoot rings around the RWS Diana at long range (that means it will shoot better). A PCP is so much easier to shoot than a springer, and a breakbarrel is the most difficult of all to shoot accurately.

    My choice would be the Discovery. Prepare yourself mentally to lean about pre-charged pneumatics, and buy the best pellets.

    B.B.


  36. Wayne,

    An overfill to 2250 psi is not dangerous in the Discovery, but it wastes air. That degassing tool was invented because I knew some new shooters would overfill to 3,000 psi and completely lock their valves. So what does that tell you about the reservoir?

    B.B.


  37. B.B.
    I thought so but, wanted you to say it…..
    That is great news, for those who want to hunt with the Discovery for 50 shots without a fill….
    Because if one learns the pattern created by the pressure change for the first 15 to 18 shots…they can then can count on the next 25 to be right on…and finish by adjusting for another 6 to 10 shots low.

    Sort of a poor mans power adjuster…almost, by getting more shots per fill.

    Oh, BTW, when talking with the man who has the hw55 that was tunned by David Slade, he mentioned that at the last field target meet he was at, ( he is somewhere in Florida) that he saw someone shooting a Discovery that had a power adjuster and mussel to make it less loud..and other mods, like the trigger..

    He got to shoot it and said it was a dream…popping off the targets…..
    He said Crossman was planning to introduce one like that…have you heard about such a “field target Discovery?”….

    Don’t keep secrets, now….

    Wayne,
    Ashland Air Rifle Range


  38. Wayne,

    I really don’t have any inroads into Crosman that other people don’t have. I was in on the Discovery development, of course and I know what I advised them to do next, but they sure don’t tell me their plans.

    However, a field target version of the Discovery was one of the things we talked about. They were so hot to get PCP number two out, however, that I think their effort will go towards that, instead. Gun number two should:

    1. Have an adjustable trigger.

    2. be quiet

    3. Maybe have a choked barrel.

    4. Be a repeater.

    B.B.


  39. B.B.

    A Discovery repeater…..YEAH!!!!!

    I just bought the Air Arms s410, because it’s a repeater…..way out of the price range in general for the range…especially after hearing your story about the kid who though down your TX200 because it kicked him with the scope hitting his eye. Sure the pain is all he is thinking of, he has no concept that the gun is worth more than his dads’ car….

    So a more affordable “Discovery Repeater”….hopefully at $425 without a pump or scope….I bet they can add that stuff and still hit that price point….especially because they know the big numbers are there from the first model…

    Another perfect market niche bullseye…pun intended..

    At the range, I still think the kids will only get the $100 and less guns, unless the guns are strapped down…maybe the kids too…(just kidding)

    OH, for liability, and the above issue, what if people buy the gun they want to try, and I credit it back after they use it for the day, less a rental fee that most of collects so they own it someday. They could also transfer the credit to another gun, they try next time…What do you think folks…

    I also remember now, I think he said the guy was a testing tech for Crossman or something……OH BOY…things to come made in America…YEAH!!!

    Wayne,
    Ashland Air Rifle Range



  40. I own a Dragon FTin .177 and it is a remarkably accurate rifle despite being 11ft lbs. Just one thing though, the button in front of the trigger on the FT version is the firing valve. In the owners manual it says to open the breech bolt first then open the swing arm fully before pushing the valve button. This enables the action to breath from both ends and makes the outswing a lot easier.
    The downside to the Dragon is cocking effort, after a fifty target FT course your arm definitely needs a break.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


2 + 1 =

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>