Posts Tagged ‘AirForce Escape Ultralight air rifle’
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• Summary of the AirForce Escape report up to this point.
• There are three different air rifles.
• EscapeSS is quieter.
• EscapeSS description.
• How does the EscapeSS differ from the TalonP pistol?
• What comes next?
It’s been a while since we last looked at the AirForce Escape air rifles. To date, we’ve seen the power, accuracy and general characteristics of the AirForce Escape and the EscapeUL, which is the ultra-light version. Today, we’ll start looking at the EscapeSS, which is the version of the rifle with some sound muting.
We’ve seen that the Escape rifles can generate tremendous power — up to 97.88 foot-pounds of muzzle energy from the Escape rifle when the heaviest .25-caliber pellets are used. We’ve also learned that the Escape rifles are at their most accurate when the fill pressure is lowered and the power is dialed back. That held true for both the Escape and the EscapeUL, so it seems to be a trend; and I’ll use that experience when testing the EscapeSS.
There are three rifles!
Before moving on, I want to emphasize there are three different air rifles. The Escape, EscapeUL and EscapeSS all have different specifications and deliver different performance. I’m telling you this because customers are starting to run the model names together and getting confused over which rifle does what.
Each of these air rifles is unique and different from the others. The Escape is the most powerful of the bunch. The EscapeUL is the smallest and lightest, and the EscapeSS that we’re looking at today is the quietest of the three.
If you forget how the first two rifles performed, I urge you to go back to the reports linked above and catch up. I intend reporting on just one rifle in this report — the EscapeSS.
To achieve this quieter report, the EscapeSS has three baffles ahead of its muzzle. They’re held tight in the frame by a Belleville washer ahead of the last baffle and behind the end cap.
I’ve already been to the range and can report that the EscapeSS really is quieter than either the Escape or the EscapeUL. It has the same recoil of the other two, which is greater than the recoil of a medium-weight .22 rimfire rifle, but the sound is greatly reduced.
However — just because the muzzle report is greatly reduced from the Escape does not mean the EscapeSS is a quiet rifle. While it’s much quieter outdoors than a .22 rimfire, it’s also louder than a Benjamin 392 pumped 8 times. The EscapeSS is not for suburban backyards! It’s more of a quieter hunting air rifle for public lands. I doubt it would be noticed beyond a half-mile away.
The EscapeSS description
The EscapeSS is a precharged pneumatic air rifle that comes in both .22 and .25 calibers. It has a 12-inch Lothar Walther barrel; but like all AirForce sporting rifles, it can accept barrels of any length. It can also accept other calibers, but I don’t believe I’d try one in .177 caliber because this powerplant is so overwhelmingly powerful that it would be hamstrung by such a small bore size.
The rifle weighs 4.3 lbs., and its length varies from 27.75-inches to 32.25-inches — depending on how the shoulder stock is adjusted.
The rifle is made on an aircraft aluminum frame that houses all the parts, including the barrel. The 213cc air reservoir can be filled to 3,000 psi, nominally giving about 10 powerful shots. Like all AirForce sporting air rifles, the EscapeSS has adjustable power via an adjustment wheel located on the left side of the frame.
How does the EscapeSS differ from the TalonP pistol?
I have to address this issue before the questions start flooding in. Sharp observation will notice that both the EscapeSS and the TalonP have the same 12-inch barrel (that comes in both .22 and .25 calibers), and they share the identical powerplants. So, what makes them different?
First, the TalonP frame is shorter. This makes the gun smaller, but it also means there’s no room for the baffles. The TalonP is louder than the EscapeSS at the same power.
Next, the TalonP comes without the extendable shoulder stock. You can purchase one as an accessory if you like, but the basic pistol comes without it. The EscapeSS is a rifle that comes standard with the shoulder stock.
The EscapeSS and TalonP should both develop comparable power when they’re set up the same way. But the TalonP is more compact, and the EscapeSS is more of a carbine-length rifle. You have to decide which is best for you. You can always add the shoulder stock to a TalonP, but you cannot make it as quiet as an EscapeSS.
As I said, I’ve already been to the range with the EscapeSS. I used the experience obtained when testing both the Escape and EscapeUL rifles instead of testing every pellet in the rifle. And I knew beforehand that the fill pressure and power settings needed to be lowered, so I started low and worked around until I found the best combination.
We know that the EscapeSS has a 12-inch barrel. Knowing how barrel length affects velocity, we know that the velocities for this rifle are going to be lower than for either of the other 2 rifles. But when I tested the rifle, I discovered something I didn’t expect.
All these tests used the 43.3-grain Eun Jin pointed pellet. On high power with a 3,000 psi fill, the first 5 shots gave the following results.
This gives an average of 763 f.p.s for the first 5 shots. At the end of the shooting, the tank pressure still read 2,500 psi. At the top velocity (shot 1), this pellet produces 59.26 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. At the average velocity, this pellet produces 55.99 foot-pounds.
I then dialed the power setting to 8 and refilled the tank to 3,000 psi. That gave the following results.
That gives us an average velocity of 756 f.p.s. Not very different, is it? The tank pressure after these 5 shots read 2,400 psi. At the top velocity, the muzzle energy was 59.11 foot-pounds. At the average velocity, the energy was 54.97 foot-pounds.
Then, I dialed down the power to 4 and got a huge surprise. That gave the following results.
The average velocity for this string was 769 f.p.s. — the highest in the test! At the top velocity, this pellet produced 61.70 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. At the average velocity, it made 56.87 foot-pounds! So, the rifle was more powerful on power setting 4 than it was with the power wheel dialed up as high as it will go. The rifle’s ending tank pressure read 2,500 psi.
The 12-inch barrel is showing up in these results. Clearly the rifle is wasting air with this pellet when the power is set above a certain low number. I think the number is around 4, but it would take more testing to know for sure.
That’s as much velocity testing as I’m going to do now because it isn’t helpful. I’ll come back and do a more thorough velocity test when I know which pellets this gun likes. With this gun, it isn’t just about power. Accuracy is also very important. The best combination of both is what we’re looking for.
In my next report, I’ll show you the results of the first accuracy test, which are very encouraging.
The next step in testing the Escape rifles
After we complete testing the EscapeSS rifle for accuracy, we’ll start the next phase of testing for all 3 rifles. That will be testing their velocity at the most accurate setting with the most accurate pellet or pellets.
Following that, I’ll install a .22-caliber barrel in the Escape and test that. If I see enough difference between the Escape and the Condor, we may do more testing in that caliber, but I don’t know yet. It’s too far into the future to know for sure.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
I’m still in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, filming segments for this year’s American Airgunner TV show, so today’s report will be short. After I reported the 50-yard accuracy test for the EscapeUL, blog reader Gunfun1 asked me if I had remembered to coat the pellets with Slip 2000 oil that Ton Jones likes. I had to admit that I’d forgotten, so I promised him I would. Last Friday, I went to the range and shot the EscapeUL with just the 2 best pellets — the 43.2-grain Eun Jin pointed pellet that develops the maximum power in the rifle, and the Predator Polymag pellet that was the most accurate on lower power.
The first pellet I shot was the Predator Polymag. I did that because the rifle was still set on the same power setting I used in the last test. If you recall, I shot 2 groups of Polymags that time. One was 5 pellets in 0.622 inches at 50 yards. I thought that was phenomenal! The second group of 5 opened up to 1.298 inches, but I shot it in a continuous wind. I just waited for quieter moments, but the wind was always blowing for that group.
Oiling the pellets
I put several drops of the Slip 2000 lube on the foam that JSB packs in the tops of their tins. Predator Polymags are made by JSB, so they always have this foam. Then, I put some pellets on the foam and rolled them around until they were moist to the touch.
The first target I shot looked like it was going to beat my earlier best group; but after 3 shots, the rifle threw the next shot to another location, opening the group much larger. Okay, I thought, maybe I didn’t get the fill pressure just right. I continued shooting until there were 6 shots on this target. The entire group measures 1.545 inches between centers. That isn’t bad; but in light of what I did before with unoiled pellets, I wasn’t happy with it.
This group suggested to me that the EscapeUL doesn’t like oiled pellets. It seemed like once the bore was oily, accuracy went south. Of course, I couldn’t let it ride without testing it once more. This time, the pellets were oiled in the same way, but the bore was already oily. I mention that because the next group of 5 wasn’t nearly as good as the first. Five Predator Polymags went into 2.634 inches! And that was what I expected would happen. When I saw the pellets in the previous group opening up, it was something I have seen before. Oiled pellets often do this, in my experience.
The wind was starting to pick up, so I switched from Polymags to Eun Jins. This time, I ran the power up as high as it would go and filled the reservoir to 3,000 psi. The last time, I shot 5 dry Eun Jin pellets into a group that measured 1.866 inches at 50 yards. That set the bar for the oiled pellets.
And the challenge was met! I got an almost-identical 1.862-inch, 5-shot group with the oiled Eun Jins. The measurement error is larger than the difference between these 2 groups!
Sometimes, you win…and other times not
I know this isn’t a huge test with lots of controls and numerous targets. But I didn’t think oiling the pellets was actually going to help. From what I see here, it didn’t. It’s just one extra step for little or no return. I certainly would not oil the Predators, again!
The one advantage I see with oiling is that it makes the pellets load easier. At least it does for the Predators. The Eun Jins load very hard no matter what you do. I had to use the flat side of the screwdriver blade on my pocket knife to get them into the breech — even after oiling!
I doubt I’ll oil pellets for this rifle again.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of the new .25-caliber AirForce EscapeUL. This is the ultra-lightweight version of the Escape rifle and has most of the Escape’s power but is more than a pound lighter. The Escape is already lightweight, but at just 4.25 lbs., the EscapeUL is a real featherweight.
The day I chose to test this rifle was very cold, with a threatening breeze that soon picked up to a 20 m.p.h. wind. I did all of my shooting between puffs and gusts.
Because this rifle is so potentially powerful, I decided to test it all-out with the first 2 pellets. The power adjuster was run up as high as it would go and the tank was filled to 3,000 psi. The first pellet I tested was the heavyweight 43.2-grain Eun Jin pointed pellet. As you’ll recall from my tests of the Escape, I’m shooting 5-shot groups instead of 10-shot groups because the velocity decreases with every shot. At 50 yards, I can keep 5 shots in a good group, but trying to do that for 10 in a row opens things up. There are still 10 good shots on a fill, but you have to change your aim point to use all of them.
The first group measured 1.866 inches between centers. That’s with a pellet that produces from 70 to 80 percent of the power of a .22 long rifle bullet, so it’s plenty potent. The Eun Jin pellets are not the most accurate in these rifles; but for power on target, they’re pretty hard to beat.
Next, I refilled the rifle and tried the same thing with the 35.8-grain Eun Jin dome. This time the group opened to 2.506 inches between centers. In light of the heavier pointed pellet’s accuracy, I don’t think I would use this pellet in this rifle.
Experience comes in handy
I’ve said many times that a shooter can adjust these AirForce rifles so much that you’ll never be able to test everything; but, fortunately, there’s a better way if you have some experience to go on. And I did have some experience because I’d already tested the Escape rifle. While it does have 6 inches less barrel and a thinner barrel to boot, the rest of the EscapeUL is pretty much the same as the Escape. I felt that if I went in the direction that gave some success with the Escape, it might work with this rifle, as well.
JSB Exact King
I knew that the Lothar Walther barrels in AirForce rifles like JSB pellets, and in .25 caliber the JSB Exact King pellet is a real performer. When I tested the TalonP pistol, the King was one of the best pellets, and you know the Escape rifles are all based on the TalonP platform.
I also knew that I should reduce both the starting air pressure in the tank and the power setting to do well with the King. But I wanted to see if it could handle the full 3,000 psi; so, the tank was filled to the max, but the power setting was dialed back to setting 8. I started shooting and was so successful that I kept right on after the fifth shot. Eight shots went into 1.61 inches at 50 yards. I would have shot another 2 shots but this time the air pressure had dropped to 2,000 psi on the built-in gauge, and I thought the next shot might go somewhere else.
Next, I tried the Kings with the same power setting (8) and a starting air pressure of 2,600 psi. I shot just 5 pellets that went into 1.209 inches at 50 yards. That was definitely the best the rifle had done to this point, but I’d seen even better accuracy from the Escape, so I decided to shoot these pellets again.
A second group of Kings with the same fill pressure and power settings produced a 1.526-inch group. That was still good, but I felt the rifle could do even better. It was time to switch pellets.
Ton Jones has done more testing than I with these rifles, and he likes the Predator Polymag pellet the best. Even when he knows the Eun Jin pointed pellet produces more energy, he trusts the Predator Polymag to go where he shoots. That was the next pellet for me. I filled the tank to just 2,500 psi and set the power at 6.
I expected a good group, but I wasn’t prepared for how good! Five Polymags went into 0.622 inches at 50 yards. Despite the cold (20 degrees F) and the winds that were gusting to 20 m.p.h., this hollowpoint pellet was drilling them in!
Predator calls their Polymag a pointed pellet, but I call it a hollowpoint. The point is just a plastic tip that’s glued in place. The pellet acts like a hollowpoint on game, so I call it one regardless of the plastic tip. Just a little quirk of mine, I guess.
That first group was stunning. By now, the wind was blowing all the time, and my day with air rifles had ended. I did shoot a final group of Polymags in the wind, waiting out the gusts and shooting when the wind was down to about 5-10 m.p.h. The same setting and fill pressure was used. This time, 5 pellets landed in 1.298 inches at 50 yards, and I can truthfully say it was the wind’s fault. However, this group is still the third best of the day, which says a lot for the Predators in a reasonable wind. I think Ton is right — this is the best pellet for the Escape rifles, but you have to lower the power and fill pressure.
More to do
As with the Escape rifle, I’m not done with the test just yet. I need to get the velocity figures for the best pellets, power settings and fill pressures so we have some idea what this rifle can reasonably do in the field. Before I do that, I want to try the EscapeSS first.
Summary so far
Most shooters will look at the Escape’s raw power and choose it over the EscapeUL on that basis, alone. But I look at the light weight, compact size and the stunning accuracy of the EscapeUL and think it would be my pick, so far. From the standpoint of muzzle report and recoil, there’s very little difference in these 2 rifles. Both are loud and both kick like a rimfire rifle — perhaps even more. But there’s still one more rifle to test.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
I’m testing 3 AirForce guns together — the Escape, the EscapeUL and the EscapeSS. All 3 are based on the same powerplant that is derived from the TalonP pistol. That’s why I am grouping them together like this. But each rifle has its own unique characteristics, too. And this is our look at the EscapeUL, which is the ultralight version of the rifle. It’s the lightest of the 3 air rifles and comes in either .22 or .25 caliber. I’m testing a .25.
As you will remember, the Escape is a collaboration between AirForce Airguns and Ton Jones, the star of television’s Auction Hunters. Ton had the requirement for a survival airgun and came up with the idea of putting a longer barrel on the TalonP pistol action, and AirForce did the engineering and development that turned it into a production rifle.
What does survival mean?
Survival is a word that’s charged with emotion, so the definition depends on the person who is using it. For many people, the term connotes a human wave attack with bullets and missiles flying everywhere — a last stand at the Alamo. But is that what survival really means? If you’re in the Alamo at that moment, I guess you would agree with that definition, but most of us will thankfully never be in that situation. But every year, millions of people are thrust into real survival situations.
Hurricane Sandy, a force 5 tornado, a blizzard that won’t stop or just having your truck break down 20 miles off Old Lincoln Highway outside Ely, Nevada, in the late summertime can all qualify as survival situations. Maybe all you have to do is hold out for 2 days before someone comes looking for you. You were exploring an old ghost town, and now they want to add you to the town rolls!
You don’t need a track-mounted machine gun or a Patriot missile launcher, but it sure would be nice to know you could defend yourself if a wild dog showed up! Or, if you had some way of popping one of those elusive prairie chickens that run along the ground and seem to stay just outside throwing distance. So, in your truck, along with the extra water, gasoline, MREs and sleeping bag (with cot, for this is the desert) you have a small canvas bag. Inside is a scoped EscapeUL, a hand pump and a tin of pellets. The rifle has been sighted-in, but you check it with one shot at an MRE wrapper stuck on a creosote bush 40 yards away — just to be sure. Then lay the rifle on top of the bag on the ground and put 10 pump strokes back in — 7 to get the air line up to pressure and 3 for the shot you just fired — and everything is good to go. The bag weighs 12 lbs., total, and has straps for shoulder carry. That’s what we mean by a survival airgun.
We took a good look at the Escape rifle for both power and accuracy and found that it can be plenty accurate when you use the right combination of pellets and pressures. Ton has pronounced it good to go, and his logo is on every Escape made.
The EscapeUL, however, is an AirForce idea. Ton knows about it and did test it, but it doesn’t bear his logo. It has slightly different features for a person with slightly different needs.
The EscapeUL is designed to remove all unnecessary weight from the rifle, while retaining as much of the power as possible. It has an 18-inch barrel instead of the Escape’s 24-inch barrel, so some velocity is lost. We’ll see how much in a moment.
The barrel isn’t just shorter, it is also thinner. Instead of a nominal 16mm diameter for the Escape barrel, the UL barrel is just 12mm. That diameter is only nominal. Some comes off when the barrel is ground before bluing. The barrel on my test rifle measures 0.477 inches across, which translates to 12.1158mm.
The net weight of the EscapeUL is 4.25 lbs., making it several pounds less than most precharged rifles and even less than some of the lightest ones.
Of course, we all want to know what a thinner barrel means as far as accuracy goes. That test will be next. But now, let’s take a look at power.
The EscapeUL shares the same 213cc Spin-Loc air reservoir as the Escape and TalonP pistol, so the number of shots per fill is going to be about the same. Physics being what they are, we already know what to expect. The powerplant is also the same. The same valve in the tank and same striker weight and spring tension will give similar performance. It’s the 18-inch barrel that makes the difference.
With the heaviest .25-caliber pellet, which is the Eun Jin pointed pellet that weighs 43.2 grains, the maximum velocity in the 18-inch barrel is about 910 f.p.s. The 24-inch Escape barrel gave a maximum of 1010 f.p.s. with the same pellet, so the UL barrel loses about 100 f.p.s. In term of muzzle energy, that’s 79.46 foot-pounds on the first shot, compared to the 97.88 foot-pounds for the Escape.
As with the Escape, the velocity drops with each succeeding shot. By shot 5, the velocity will be down to 855 f.p.s. That carries an energy of 70.14 foot-pounds.
In .22 caliber, the energies are all lower because the pellets are lighter. With a 28.4-grain Eun Jin dome the maximum velocity is 980 f.p.s. on the first shot. That’s 60.58 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. By shot 5, the pellet leaves the muzzle at 900 f.p.s. and generates 51.09 foot-pounds.
You can discuss their performance in several different ways; but to my way of thinking, the Escape rifles are best in .25 caliber. I’m glad that’s the way I will be testing this one.
The trigger, adjustable stock, automatic safety and scope mounts are identical to those found on the Escape. It’s plenty for a scope, scope level, tactical flashlight and laser. There’s even enough for a coffee grinder, if you can find one that will fit!
I’ve already been asked if the Escape rifles will run on CO2. They should, but it will need to be tested to say for sure. Since they were not designed to operate on CO2, I’ll have to find a way of filling the reservoir. No CO2 coupling I know of will mate with an air coupling, so it may take me some time to work it out.
I’ve also been asked on the back channel how quiet these airguns can be. Quite frankly, I don’t know. Given all the technology in the world, they can probably be made quieter than a Marauder; but once I answer that, the next question will be if all that technology can be reduced in size to fit in a pocket! We criticize the U.S. Air Force for asking that everything be made from unobtainium (strongest metal known whose forms weigh nothing and add lift to airframes), yet we do the same thing when it comes to powerful airguns. “Great,” we say, “but can they also be quiet and get lots of shots, too?”
There’s survival and then there’s daydreaming. We’re talking survival here.
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Last time we looked at the accuracy of the AirForce Escape at 50 yards. I shot the rifle on low pressure and a low power setting on that day to see what it could do. You may remember that at 50 yards, I got a best 5-shot group with JSB Exact King pellets that measured 0.594 inches between centers. That’s great for a .25-caliber PCP, but I know it left some of you wondering what the rifle can do at its maximum power. Today, we’ll look at that.
The heaviest .25-caliber pellet I have is the Eun Jin pointed pellet, which weighs 43.2 grains. So, it’s a little heavier than the standard bullet of a .22 Long Rifle cartridge. We know from testing that this pellet leaves the muzzle at up to 1010 f.p.s., generating 97.88 foot-pounds of energy.
I also had some Eun Jin domed pellets to test. At 35.8 grains, they’re lighter than the pointed pellet but might be accurate enough to make a difference. As long as I’m testing, I thought why not test them, too?
The wind had just started to pick up at the range. I had finished testing the Benjamin Marauder with synthetic stock and shifted to the Escape because I felt the power of the gun and weight of the pellet wouldn’t be affected by this wind nearly as much as a smaller pellet moving at lower speed.
The first thing I tried was the heavy Eun Jin pellet on max power and with a max power setting on the gun. The first 2 pellets went through the same holes at 50 yards, and I thought I was on to something. Then, shots 3 and 4 moved 2 inches to the right but also landed in a single hole. Shot 5 then landed an inch to the left of the first 2 shots, giving me a 5-shot group that measures 2.478 inches across the widest centers. While that is adequate accuracy for larger animals at 50 yards, it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be.
Five Eun Jin pointed pellets on maximum power with a 3,000 psi fill at 50 yards. The group measures 2.478 inches between centers, but look how they landed. The first two are left of the pellet, the next 2 are to the right of the dime (in the same hole) and pellet 5 is all the way over to the left.
I remembered that there are 10 good shots on a fill of the Escape’s small 213cc reservoir, so I shot the next 5 pellets at a different target. The scope wasn’t adjusted. The reservoir pressure at the start of this string was about 2,600 psi. This time ,all 5 went into 1.622 inches. That’s a significant improvement. According to the velocity test data, these shots ranged between about 71 and 82 foot-pounds.
I was satisfied with the results of this heaviest pellet, but I’ve never gotten the best accuracy with pointed pellets. I felt I might be at the limit of this pellet’s performance. Time was passing and the wind was building, so I moved on.
The lighter domed pellet remained to be tested. On max power with a 3,000 psi fill, I got several open 5-shot groups that all hovered around 2 inches. While that’s okay, it isn’t what I wanted. Then, I shot a couple groups with the power set to max and the starting air pressure set at 2,600 psi. The only reason I did it that way was because of the results of the heavier pointed pellet I’d just tested. And that’s where the magic happened!
The first 5-shot group on this setting (power set on max, starting fill pressure at 2,600 psi and shooting the 35.8-grain domed Eun Jin) measures 1.177 inches. Four of those shots are in 0.555 inches! That’s fantastic! I don’t have the velocity data for this pellet on that setting, but I’ll venture a guess it’s producing around 60-70 foot-pounds.
Like you, I wondered if this single group was just a fluke, so I filled the reservoir to 2,600 psi, again, and shot a second group. This time, I put 5 into 1.089 inches. Three of those pellets are in 0.214 inches. If you overlay those 3 pellets on top of the other group, they all go to the same place!
Here’s the miracle I was talking about. Same starting air pressure, and 5 pellets went into 1.089 inches. Three of them are in 0.214 inches and in the same place as the 4 pellets from the last group. This is significant!
What I’m saying is that somewhere around this power setting and fill pressure, there’s a super sweet spot the Escape loves with this domed pellet. By spending more time refining the fill pressure and by adjusting the sights for this combination, the Escape will become a tackdriver. It doesn’t get a lot of shots like this, but remember — this is a survival rifle. You want one shot — one kill. I think this gives that to you!
I could continue to refine my pressure settings with this pellet, but I don’t think I have to. I’ve now shown you 2 different ways the AirForce Escape can make very small groups at 50 yards. If you’re looking for a powerful air rifle to do some serious hunting, you should consider this one. I think Ton Jones and John McCaslin both have reason to be proud of their creation.
I was prepared to exchange barrels at this point and try the .22-caliber Escape, but I think I’ll let that slide for now. If I’m any judge, most buyers are going to get the .25-caliber Escape. Once they see these results, I expect they’ll do similar tests. Therefore, I plan to switch over to the EscapeUL next. That’s the ultralight rifle that has an 18-inch barrel. I’ll give you a combined introduction and velocity/power report, followed by a range test like this.