by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today is Day 1 of the 2014 SHOT Show, and it’s also the day AirForce Airguns announces 3 new air rifles — the Escape, Escape SS and the Ultra Light. These air rifles, which come in either .22 or .25 caliber, are aimed at the serious survivalist — not just airgunners; so AirForce is envisioning a much larger market. That’s serious!
The Escape was the rifle that started the ball rolling, and it’s the brainchild of AirForce owner, John McCaslin, and Ton Jones, the star of television’s popular series Auction Hunters. John and Ton were on a road trip while hunting in Texas last year when Ton started talking about a survival air rifle. He wanted power, accuracy and light weight. But most of all, he wanted a pneumatic rifle that could exist off the grid — when the dive shops aren’t filling scuba tanks any longer.
As they talked, the idea of the TalonP pistol came up. Ton liked the fact that its air reservoir is small. That makes it easier to fill with a good hand pump. But he wanted more power than the 55+ foot-pounds of the TalonP. He wondered what would happen if a 24-inch barrel was installed in place of the 12-inch barrel that comes standard on the pistol.
He said John didn’t talk for 10 minutes after hearing his suggestion. He was obviously deep in thought. Then, he smiled and said, “You know — that might work!” Ton said the smile made it all worthwhile.
You know how these things can snowball! By the end of their trip, John was fired up to see what would happen by doubling the barrel length. Obviously, the gun would go from being a large air pistol to a light air rifle, but that was okay with Ton. He just wanted something light and portable. By starting with a TalonP, it looked like he could have it.
Our veteran blog readers already know what doubling the barrel length will do for a powerful PCP because we’ve already done it here. I took the Talon SS, which generated 25 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, and boosted it to almost 42 foot-pounds just by installing the optional .22-caliber barrel in place of the factory 12-inch barrel. So, guess what you get on a 55 foot-pound TalonP? That’s right, sports fans, we are closing in on 100 foot-pounds from a pellet rifle!
You might already own one!
A couple weeks ago, I hinted that something big was coming and that some of you might already own one. This is what I was referring to. Those who own TalonP pistols can just add a 24-inch optional barrel in either .22 or .25 caliber and get most of the Escape rifle. It’s true, some redesign of the valve was done to make the new rifles even more efficient, but most of the raw power will be there.
In a day when most airgun manufacturers seem to go out of their way to make their new guns incompatible with what has gone before, AirForce turned it around. That’s the biggest story in my opinion! They want you to have the flexibility to experience the Escape if you already own a TalonP. All it takes is installing a 24-inch barrel to make the change. And many of you dedicated AirForce owners will own one of those already. Your gun won’t have the new Escape valve, but it will be very close.
How does the Escape differ from the Condor?
Here’s a good question that’s bound to come up. The AirForce Condor is already one powerful precharged pneumatic. Right? We know that it develops 65 foot-pounds easily in .22 caliber, and gets up to 20 full-power shots on a single fill. How is the Escape different?
Well, during development testing, Ton got a .25-caliber Escape up to 97.88 foot-pounds on the first shot! The fifth shot on the same fill produced 84.78 foot-pounds; and on shot 10, it was still putting out 70.96 foot-pounds. All 10 shots produced greater power than a .22 Condor at its highest. [I have to quote the .22 Condor because I don't have the test data for the .25, but you can assume it will be more powerful than the .22.]
The air reservoir on the Escape is small. It’s the same size as the TalonP tank. It doesn’t hold air for many shots. While that may sound like a drawback, it was exactly what Ton was after because a small air reservoir is much easier to fill with a hand pump than a large one. This is an air reservoir that you can actually fill in the field and not spend all day doing it. During testing, Ton filled a tank from 2,000 psi (the ending pressure after firing 10 shots) to 3,000 psi (the starting operating pressure) in less than 3 minutes.
What does survival really mean?
You’ve watched the movies and TV shows, so you know what survival means. The comet strikes and bombs civilization back to the Stone Age, or everybody turns into a zombie and it’s you against the world. Well, that hasn’t happened yet, but every year there are earthquakes, floods, tornados, blizzards and hurricanes that thrust millions of people into real-life survival situations. Survival means you have the ability to hold out (eat, drink, and stay warm and safe) for at least 3 days until the emergency services can get organized. And you know that it can really be longer than 3 days.
In a real survival situation, you aren’t going up against lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!), unless you live in a zoo or in places like the Pacific Northwest. But you may have a chance to hunt deer, feral hogs (especially in the south!) and other animals. Hunting licenses won’t matter when the bomb drops, and you’ll extend the abilities of your weapons to their maximum. In other words, you’ll make them do things they aren’t normally considered capable of doing. If you’re armed with an air rifle, you aren’t going to need a repeater, either, because survival is a one-shot, one-kill situation. You need power, accuracy and reliability to get the job done.
A .22 rimfire rifle is ideal in such situations. Given the current ammunition shortages, can you always count on having what you need? You can with this air rifle! The Escape produces about 82 percent of the power of a standard speed .22 long rifle cartridge, and 500 pellets are both affordable and available. Once you have them, they’ll last for a good half-century. Air is free and a reliable hand pump gives you all the shots you will need.
There are 3 different models of the Escape. The Escape itself is Ton’s gun that has his logo on the side. It has a 24-inch barrel in either .22 or .25 caliber; and, of course, the other caliber is always an optional replacement in 5 short minutes. Because of the high volume of air flowing through the valve, no consideration was given to .20 or .177 caliber. For a pure survival rifle, what would be the point?
Ton has lived in the southern California desert all his life. He was brought up with an appreciation of wildlife that no college can provide. He teaches survival preparation around the U.S., and air rifles are an essential part of his curriculum. He wants a rifle that a small person can handle all day, yet one that has plenty of power. It can’t require super-strength to cock, and it has to be accurate. He found a willing ear with AirForce, and these 3 rifles are the result. Until these were created, there was nothing that met all his needs. Let’s look at the other 2 rifles for a moment.
The Escape Ultralight is a super-light variation of the rifle that sports an 18-inch barrel with a thinner diameter. Every possible ounce has been shaved from this gun, which weighs less than 5 lbs. unscoped.
The Escape SS also has an 18-inch barrel and has the active sound-reducing technology AirForce is famous for. It gives the shooter a quieter option. The Escape Ultralight and SS give up some sheer power when compared to the Escape, but both are powerful PCPs in their own right. I’ll test each of them fully for you, so you know what to expect.
Today’s report isn’t a test of the Escape. I’m just announcing it today. I’ll return and give you all the details you’ve come to expect from my tests for each of these 3 rifles.
But you can see the scope mounted on the Escape in the photo, so you know I’ve already begun. I’ve had this rifle out to the range one time so far, so I know how it shoots. This air rifle is so powerful that you now have some recoil with each shot — just like a big bore! But for that slight inconvenience, I’ll show you what you get in return.
I’m calling this Part 1 of the Escape report, but I’ll give a more detailed description of the gun as the report advances.