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.