AirForce Escape: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Tarzan! This weekend, a number of readers conducted a discussion of the fictional character Tarzan and the author who created him, Edgar Rice Burroughs. I thought you should all know an interesting connection of Tarzan to airguns. His grandson, J.R. Burroughs, was a big-time airgun importer in the 1990s. In fact, he imported many of the Korean brands that are still coming in today.

When I started writing about airguns in 1994, I got to know J.R. through my writing, and I eventually met him at one of the SHOT Shows. We continued to communicate about airguns and many other things well into the 21st century. I haven’t heard from him since I got sick back in 2010, so he may no longer be involved with airguns like he once was, but he was certainly a mover and shaker in the U.S. airgun scene during the time he was active.

A couple points of interest with J.R. He was the man who modified the Shinsung Career 707 adjustment wheel from 3 settings to 17 settings — giving us much greater control over the velocity of our rifles. The factory eventually made the same modification. It was possible to keep a Career shooting at the same velocity for a long time simply by adjusting the power wheel as you shot. I remember testing it over a chronograph and getting 90 shots that were all within 30 f.p.s.

J.R. also created the first adjustable trigger for the Career, and I believe he also created one of the first pellet feed mechanisms that was user-adjustable. Before that, you could only shoot a few types of pellets in the gun; but with his modification, many more types of pellets would work through the magazine.

His brother, Danton manages, the licensing of the Burroughs family literary property. Part of that is a collection of original Tarzan novels that were never sold. There was a fire in the storeroom many years ago and some of these books have smoke damage, but they’re all like-new hardcover books from the 1930s. I was gifted with one — Tarzan and the Forbidden City — from this collection, and J.R inscribed it, saying that his father had done the cover art.

Of course, many of you know that the southern California community of Tarzana was created from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzana Ranch in the San Fernando Valley. But how many know that Tarzana was also the name of small hamlet located on the ranch before Burroughs purchased it? And his Tarzan character appeared in print for the first time two years after he bought the ranch.

So, Tarzan does have ties to modern airgunning. I thought you would like to know that. One final thing. Burroughs didn’t just write adventure novels. He is also quite famous for his science fiction that bears a remarkable resemblance to his other works, but are set on Mars. Edith and I both enjoy the movie John Carter, in which Burroughs appears as a minor character who turns out to be the author who documents the “real-life” exploits of his uncle, John Carter. I think we enjoy it most because of our fond memories of J.R.

Now, let’s take our first serious look at the new AirForce Escape survival rifle. Before I start, I need to make a couple corrections to Part 1. I said the Escape SS (officially named the EscapeSS) has an 18-inch barrel and several readers figured out that wasn’t the case. It actually comes with a 12-inch barrel in either .22 or .25 caliber.

I also said the Escape valve is a modified TalonP pistol valve, which isn’t true. The TalonP valve is used exactly as it is in the pistol, so pistol owners who add a 24-inch barrel and end cap to their pistols can essentially have the Escape. The pistol’s frame is shorter than the Escape frame, but it is just right for the Escape Ultra Light (officially named the EscapeUL) that we’ll look at in a later report.

AirForce Escape rifle
The AirForce Airguns Escape precharged pneumatic air rifle is a powerful new survival rifle in both .22 and .25 calibers.

AirForce Talon P pistol
The TalonP pistol is the base gun used to create the new Escape-series rifles.

The Escape rifle looks like the other AirForce sporting rifles and has many of the same features. The new trigger is there, along with the new safety that can be taken off safe by the trigger finger, alone. The 2-stage trigger on my rifle breaks at a relatively clean 28 oz. While it’s not adjustable, I think most serious shooters will find it more than adequate.

The rifle weighs 5.3 lbs. unscoped and measures from 34.5 to 39 inches long, depending on where the extendible buttstock is set. That means the length of pull can also be varied from 9.75 to 14.25 inches.

Like all other AirForce rifles, the Esacpe has long 11mm rails on top and below the receiver. Since this is a survival gun, a bipod and sling swivels might be almost as important as a scope.

I tested this rifle differently than normal. Instead of getting the chronograph figures right away, I decided to shoot it at the range, so 2 days were spent on the range with the rifle in its .25-caliber incarnation. Once I have a good baseline of performance downrange, I’ll come back and chrono the best pellets, pressures and power settings. Because these rifles are so infinitely adjustable, it makes sense to figure out what works before you worry about the numbers.

But I’ll give you some velocity figures because Ton Jones tested the heck out of the rifle late last year, and AirForce provided me with the data. With .25-caliber JSB Exact King pellets and the rifle set to max power, Ton’s first shot was 1145 f.p.s. The first 10 shots on a 3,000 psi fill looked like this:

1–1145
2–1125
3–1106
4–1090
5–1078
6–1061
7–1044
8–1028
9–1017
10–1003

On power setting 8, the same pellet did this on the first 10 shots after a 3,000 psi fill:

1–1100
2–1112
3–1133
4–1106
5–1107
6–1088
7–1075
8–1060
9–1041
10–1022

On power setting 4, the same pellet did this on the first 10 shots after a 3,000 psi fill:

1–1041
2–1036
3–1077
4–1095
5–1080
6–1077
7–1100
8–1077
9–1091
10–1080

At max power and the highest velocity, this JSB pellet generated 73.96 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle.

With the 43.2-grain Eun Jin pointed pellet, the rifle did this on the first 10 shots at max power after a 3,000 psi fill:

1–1010
2–980
3–974
4–955
5–940
6–924
7–907
8–894
9–876
10–860

On 8 power with a 3,000 psi fill, the rifle did this with the Eun Jin:

1–996
2–984
3–964
4–944
5–932
6–906
7–888
8–872
9–856
10–840

On 4 power with a 3,000 psi fill, the rifle did this with the Eun Jin:

1–986
2–975
3–959
4–950
5–937
6–922
7–902
8–889
9–870
10–849

At the max power setting and highest velocity, this pellet generated 97.88 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle.

I have the data on the Escape’s .22-caliber performance, but that will make today’s report too large, so let me continue with just the .25-caliber rifle, which is how AirForce set it up for me. I took it to the rifle range on 2 different days. Both were cold but the first one was also very windy, so I’m going to show you the results of day 2 testing, only. The day was 16 degrees F (-9 C) but dead calm. I shot several types of pellets this day and based on those velocity figures you have just seen, I decided to shoot 5-shot groups instead of 10-shot groups.

Ton Jones maintains that a survival situation calls for a single well-placed shot, rather than a number of shots fired rapidly. I agree with him, so I’m not testing the Escape as I normally would. I fired 5 shots and then topped off the air tank. When you’re making single shots, that makes sense.

On max power the best groups I shot were with JSB Exact King pellets and Predator Polymag pellets. At 50 yards, 5 JSB Kings went into a group that measured 1.846 inches between centers. That’s a large group, but remember that you’re shooting at large targets, and 50 yards may be farther than you choose to shoot.

AirForce Escape rifle JSB King max 50 yards
Five JSB Exact Kings went into 1.846 inches at 50 yards on maximum power.

Predator Polymags put five into 1.819 inches at the same 50 yards on max. power. Notice that both pellets spread their shots horizontally.

AirForce Escape rifle Predator Polymag max 50 yards
Five Predator Polymag pellets went into 1.819 inches at 50 yards on maximum power.

Experience takes over
I’m not going to bore you with each and every experiment I did on this day, but I want you to know that I also tried Benjamin domed pellets and Beeman Kodiak pellets. Both gave similar results, with the Kodiaks doing slightly better than the Benjamins.

But I knew that this rifle was more accurate than this. From my experience with other powerful precharged rifles, plus the testing I did with the TalonP pistol, I reckoned the fill pressure had to be lowered and the power adjusted. It soon became obvious this was correct and the JSB Exact King pellet was the one to go with. After several more groups, I settled on a fill of just under 2,000 psi and a power setting of 6. The groups became amazing with this combination, plus they were remarkably uniform from group to group.

AirForce Escape rifle JSB King power 6 group 1
First good group of JSB Kings on power setting 6 with a 1950 psi fill gave me this 0.751-inch, 5-shot group at 50 yards.

AirForce Escape rifle JSB King power 6 group 2
After adjusting the scope, I put 5 JSB Kings into 0.694 inches at 50 yards. This was the best group of the day.

AirForce Escape rifle JSB King power 6 group 3
Another 5 JSB Kings went into 0.841 inches at 50 yards. This was the worst group of 6 that were fired with this combination of pellet, pressure and power setting.

Now that I know where at least one sweet spot is located, that will be what I’ll test through a chronograph. I’ll guess that this pellet is producing something in the 30 foot-pound range with the settings I used. Hitting the target with that kind of energy is much more meaningful than missing with three times more.

I also haven’t tested the heavy Eun Jin pellet for accuracy. And Ton told me that he lubricated his pellets with Slip 2000, which I’ve obtained, so I’ll be able to replicate what he did.

Summary
How do I summarize anything when I’ve only just started to test the rifle? There’s enough variability here that I could spend the rest of my life just testing the Escape in .25 caliber! What I can tell you is that the rifle performs as advertised, and, yes, you do have to work with it to get these kinds of results. AirForce has always made air rifles for the thinking man, and the new Escape continues that tradition proudly.

39 thoughts on “AirForce Escape: Part 2

  1. BB,
    I have a somewhat off subject question. I am preparing to rebuild my high flow valve. Right now it has an operating pressure of 1800 PSI. If possible, I would like to get back to that when I put it back together. Am I correct in my assumption that adjusting the valve stem return spring will adjust the operating pressure? By increasing the compression on the spring, does that lower the operating pressure?


    • RR,

      Yes, changing the spring rate does change how the valve works. Increasing the tension increases the operating pressure. The valve works faster, so it can handle a higher-pressure against it, because it closes faster.

      As I recall, we used to set the tension on those springs for .22 caliber Hi Flo valves at around 17 lbs.

      B.B.


      • I would have thought that increasing the tension would lower the operating pressure as it would require more force to open the valve fully an closes the valve faster. When I say my operating pressure is 1800 PSI, I mean that I do not fully overcome valve lock until the pressure drops to 1800 PSI.


  2. Hey BB, you weren’t fooling when you said you had a surprise for me and the blog back on Friday when I brough up E.R. Burroughs’ name and his Tarzan character. What a nice suprise and I’m especially envious that you managed to obtain one of his works and autographed to boot! A very nice and thoughtful gift from J.R. Burroughs.

    Fred DPRoNJ


    • Yes, that is quite a train of connections. I had always wondered about Tarzana, CA. It makes an appearance in my favorite movie of all time, The Graduate, when Benjamin’s parents say, “The so and so’s are here all the way from Tarzana. Now, let’s get cracking.” I enjoyed the John Carter Mars books although they are extremely violent. And they say that the recent John Carter movie that did so poorly at the box office was actually pretty good. It foundered on some poor marketing. I didn’t get to see it, but I did like the one scene where John Carter is imprisoned by Union officers and he tells one something like, “I’d like to stand next to you and kick your blue behind all day lonnn—oof.”

      JTinAL, great you’ve inspired me to watch that 1918 Tarzan film that I’ve seen on YouTube. Some of the old silent films had pretty amazing material. Lacking special effects, they had their actors do extreme stunts. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. apparently worked out six hours a day, like a gymnast, and in one of his Zorro films, he jumps right over a horse. In Lon Chaney’s, Hunchback of Notre Dame, he is apparently wearing an 80 pound wooden hump while he swings around the cathedral.

      Michael, your grandfather-in-law moved in some pretty amazing circles. Hope he had the stories to show for it.

      GunFun1, did you know that Thai boxing has been proven to be one of the most effective martial arts of all? Someone had the bright idea of matching up various styles in Asia, long before the modern MMA phenomenon, and the Thai boxers annihilated everyone, including the kung fu team from Hong Kong. Kind of surprising since Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles; the people are extraordinarily polite and friendly. And that country is so hot, you can barely stand up, let alone get into fighting shape. Thai boxing and not Bartitsu is probably the immediate inspiration for the kickboxing of the 70s and MMA today, but it does demonstrate the principle of Martial Arts Convergence which is that all styles tend to do pretty similar things beyond a certain point.

      Matt61


      • Matt61
        I have always found the martial arts interesting.

        I watched a proram on TV a little while back about a older Asian man that could generate unbelievable amounts of heat by using his hands and his mind.

        Did you see that by chance?


  3. B.B.,

    Since you started writing articles about airguns that were published in 1994 this is your 20th anniversary as a professional airgun writer.

    Happy Anniversary!

    kevin



    • Then these Escape versions may be just the ticket for you. You can then do as I suggested to John McCaslin and replace the 13CI tank with the longer 22CI tank and increase your shot count. The 22CI tank is the same diameter.




  4. Well BB Happy airgun writing anniversary.

    And I will be waiting to see how you use the Slip 2000 and what difference it makes.

    And I would like to know what your new feet per second is with the JSB at your lower fill pressure and the power wheel set at 6?

    And are you going to retest your accuracy like you did above to see if there is a new sweet spot for the Eun Jin pellets or will you settle for the 2000psi?


    • GF1,

      I will test the velocity of the JSB King pellet with these settings/pressures. I wanted to find out what worked first, before I tried to test the world and then find out nothing matched reality on the range. Now that I know what works, I know what to test.

      With the Eun Jins, all testing will begin again at the 3,000 psi pressure and top power mark. I won’t test both lubed and dry pellets, because I haven’t got that much time, so I will just lube the pellets and test them that way.

      B.B.


  5. The Screw is out!

    I can hobble around a bit when wearing my monster fracture boot, and so made a stop at my tool shelf in the bitterly cold garage. I found my Bahco Swedish screwdriver set (metric sizes), and grabbed the one that looked appropriate. Then up on the top shelf was an old bottle of Liquid Wrench (and a can of WD-40).

    I brought them into the house, and when the Liquid Wrench had warmed to room temperature I put a couple of drops on the screw, one on the threads and one on the head. In a real exercise of patience I let it set for half an hour so the oil could do its job.

    Then I put the screwdriver into the screw slot: perfect fit! And twisted left. I felt the slightest hint of movement, so I put just a little more penetrating oil on it, and let it set for a few more minutes. When I tried again the screw yielded and began to turn smoothly. Came out cleanly and easily! Yes, it is a standard right-hand thread. No need for extreme measures (drilling, etc.)

    It’s tricky to fit the new trigger assembly. It has to slide on to the trigger lever from the front, and there’s just no space the way my gun was set up, particularly since my fingers aren’t tiny. So I screwed in the first stage pull adjusting screw a couple of turns (counting the turns!) [screw (c) in Figure 3 of http://cdn.pyramydair.com/site/manuals/izh-46m-air-pistol-manual.pdf to provide a little clearance. The new trigger slipped right on. All that was left was to reset the first stage length screw and tighten the nut holding the trigger assembly.

    All… but I had thought that the nut for the trigger screw was captive. It isn’t. It’s on the floor somewhere, and I can’t find it. But PA, in their usual brilliant customer service had an email awaiting me this morning: they will mail out a spare nut today.

    So the screw saga comes to its end.

    -pete



    • On reading your first paragraph, initially I thought this to be a tale of the legendary “WD40 Martini” but no. Alas, maybe next time.
      But really, just as a small tip for your gentle mechanical ministrations, try applying some warming heat from a your hair-dryer to the joining point and you may find the metal expansion not only helps the WD40 penetration but greatly eases the general unscrewage.
      (“Unscrewage” is a highly technical engineering term, a non-word that anyone on the planet who’s so much as tried to change a tire in a sub-zero environment has no trouble understanding.)


    • WELL DONE, PETE. I had every expectation that you would be able to extract the screw. As we shade tree/back yard mechanics have found out the hard way, the proper tool makes every job easy. Have your wife sweep the area around you and then take a magnet to the dirt pile. You’ll find the nut. I have every confidence in you but warning, do not tell your wife to sweep her kitchen to collect dirt. She will not want to hear that. I speak from experience.

      Fred DPRoNJ



  6. I’m really liking this rifle but I’d want it in .22 for the simple reason that I use .22 in other rifles so it makes sense to me to keep it interchangeable with all other guns I have. It eliminates some of the “oops, I brought the wrong ammo along, so this gun is useless to me.” situations. I’ve done that before where I accidentally brought .177 cal and a .22 cal gun to the range and ended up looking stupid. But, yes, I like this concept. I’ve been meaning to get a talon so I’d buy this instead. Then I’d accessorize.


  7. BB
    Congratulations on your 20th year as an airgun writer. I hope to be congratulating you here again on your 40th!!

    I don’t know if I am missing something. I am always observing the Air Force with interest. It seems that some people hate them and others just love em. Me, I am just more confused the more I read reviews. Precisely what makes the Escape different than the other Air Force models?
    You said that to get the desired accracy you had to reduce fill pressure to below 2000 psi. This has now made the rifle 30 fpe! The same as a Talon!



    • Ton,

      The Escape rifles have smaller air tanks, so they are easier to fill to pressure with a hand pump. The Escape can generate up to 98 foot-pounds of energy, a Condor makes 65 foot-pounds.

      Regarding the accuracy, I have only tested the gun and found one sweet shot thus far. There are probably many of them — some in the power range near the maximum. It’s a matter of testing with the right pellets.

      I have tested only a few percent of this rifle’s capability so far. Give it a chance.

      B.B.


  8. You don’t need an expensive scope, a 2 1/2 x 32 or a 4 x 32 shotgun scope works very well. The scope is already set for short range parallex and it can certainly take the recoil of an air rifle. With the 2 1/2 power scope, you can shoot with both eyes open, using the scope as an optical sight. I bought one of these scopes from a retailer for under $30.


  9. BB,
    You might not have guessed that I am a huge ERB fan, but it’s true. I have (as far as I can tell) every book he published, including the one-offs (i.e. non-serial); most are paper backs, so we’re not talking about big money collection, but I’ve enjoyed reading every one of them. The Tarzan books are OK, but the “sci-fi” works, esp. the Barsoom (Mars), Venus, and Moon series, are even better in my opinion. The Barsoom novels, in particular, are often clever social commentary as well and I’ve read the series several times. I became so immersed in ERB’s work at one time (when I had access to a really large university library which had numerous studies of him) as to write several chapters of a further installment to the Barsoom series, which was left rather open ended with a real threat to John Carter and his Barsoomians. I justified it on the basis of such things as the “13th Book of the Aeneid” which was a popular exercise in the Middle Ages. I have always meant to finish it up (leaving room for more), but it was always more of a mental exercise than a project that I intended to finish, plus the world of Barsoom is so vast and (in some aspects) detailed that keeping the story straight was always a challenge :). Alas, I never made my pilgrimage to Tarzana, either, although (as John Carter would say), “we still live”, so I might yet.

    If you like ERB’s sci-fi, you might also enjoy E.E. “Doc” Smith’s work as well, esp. the Skylark series. Smith uses a little more modern-sounding science (and wrote over decades), but the sense of scale and adventure are often similar to ERB. I’ve always thought these “fantastical” works of science fiction ultimately hold up better than “ultra-hard” science fiction which becomes dated rather quickly.


  10. Happy 20th year of learning and writing about your passion sir. You did it. You tricked people into letting you “work” at what you love. Live the dream sir.


  11. B.B.

    Happy anniversary Sir! 20 years WOW! Hope you will do another 20. I could not check in yesterday so I just saw your article.Just love this gun. With this power I’m sure it could take down a Grizzley. I’m also wondering how accuracy improves on a lower power setting. Maybe the pellet is stable at those settings. Anyway, I’m going to own this somehow, even if I have to smuggle it in!!. Prefer .22 though.

    Errol


  12. Lets think outside the box for a min. For hunting purposes, With a scope. CLOSE to the bore -id hit WAY high at 30 yrs to have a 60 yr zero. Or, say I want a 1in zero kill zone, 1/2 in high and 1/2 in low = dead game! And my zero kill is from 10 yds to25 yrs. BUT! With a scope 2+” over the bore, i’ve now moved my zero kill zone further out to where the game more often is. 25 to 40 yds! OR EVEN FURTHER! SAME PRINCIPAL – gives me a dead rabbit head shot from 75yds to ready for this? 200+ yds with no hold correction. THATS my 17 rem @ 4230 fps. But I do it with my AF CONDOR too. Dropped a big black bird @120 yds. Only had to hold 2 dots high! THAT! WAS EPIC! But whatever fills your need. So, the question is : how big is your kill zone, and at what range do you want it at? Scope hight WILL dictate where you are allowed to put it and how far out you can go. As simple as i can put it, same speed, same weight pellet, the actual arc of the pellet is the same. Just where do you want it to cross the line of sight 2 times. Further, or nearer.



  13. B.B.

    I would sure appreciate the results of a test with CO2. I had a question as to whether or not the CO2 adapter would fit a Spin Loc system. I have a Talon SS and it is a fine rifle, but the escape looks even better, being it is lighter and more power for hunting. A Escape SS would be quieter than those with a longer barrel and still have good power. I would like to know how many shots it would be cpable of with CO2 for plinking though as I would like a good all around versatile rifle. 10-15 good shots with the small bottle is good for its power level but I sure like the looks of more shots at lower power with CO2 for those days stuck in the house with just a short range in the basement.

    Thanks,

    Twith70


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