Posts Tagged ‘Gary Barnes’

Lock, stock and barrel

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

When I was a youngster, I thought the term “lock, stock and barrel” referred to an old country store. The term was used to convey completeness or entirety. If someone did all of something, they did it lock, stock and barrel. I never read any explanation of the term, so nothing challenged my views.

It was only when I was in my 30s and was reading about guns a lot that I started to become interested in the old-time gun makers. Many of them bought the barrels for their guns and even more bought the locks. Then they assembled these parts into the stock that they made. There were, however, a few gun makers who made everything. They made the lock, the stock and the barrel.

Each major assembly of the gun required a lot of specialized skill and craftsmanship, and it wasn’t embarrassing for a gun maker to specialize in just one of the three disciplines. A lifetime could be spent just learning how to make a good barrel, and entire 6-year apprenticeships were often spent gaining the skills required to hand-file all the parts of a gun lock from steel and then fit them together and harden each one to do its job. Indeed, in various areas like Birmingham, England, gunmaking was a cottage industry where the craftsmen worked in very small shops or even in their own homes, turning out parts that only came together at some major gunmaker’s factory. When you look at a Brown Bess musket, you’re looking at an item that’s had dozens of different hands involved in its creation.

But in every age, there are always some people who are so talented that they cannot remain with the herd. They’re capable of doing everything and more. These are the innovators who begin building the entire gun at an early age and then start changing things as they enter their journeyman years. The more they learn about their craft, the better their products become…until they’ve risen to the top of their respective field as masters of the art of gunmaking.

Their progression doesn’t always stop there, either. Sometimes, they realize that they have a special gift for one or more things, and they should concentrate on just what they do best, leaving the rest of the things to others who do an adequate job. Harry Pope was one such person. In the beginning, he learned the skills needed to build the lock, stock and barrel and did so for several years. But he knew his barrels were better than any other barrels that were available, so he stopped making the other things and concentrated on just the barrels for the rest of his life. Oh, he did modify locks, which were called actions because they handled cartridges, so he could get them to work their best with his barrels. He favored the Winchester 1885 single-shot action that we call the high wall action today; but he felt the triggers needed to be on larger pins, and the geometry needed to be changed a little to get them to work their best. When he made a rifle, he usually used a high wall and did his work to get the triggers to work their best.

W. Milton Farrow is another master who made locks or actions. He was a world champion marksman who won trophies all over the United States and Europe and finally decided he needed something better than the guns he’d been using. Farrow liked the Ballard action best; but like Pope, he saw some shortcomings. He improved the action to the extent that he was manufacturing an entirely new action that looked like a cross between a Ballard and a Winchester. He also made barrels that are still renowned for their accuracy. For almost the rest of his life, he built actions until a hurricane destroyed his Florida-based shop and forced him to retire in his late 80s.

Farrow was one who made the lock (action) stock and barrel, but he might have subcontracted the stocks to other workers. His actions are highly collectible today and bring even more money than Pope rifles due to their scarcity. One of the worst horror stories I’ve ever heard was a pristine Farrow barrel that was relined for a modern caliber because the owner didn’t want to fool with reloading for the obsolete caliber the barrel was chambered for. A great way to turn $5,000 into $50. Sort of like installing an electronic pickup on a Stradivarius!

What about airguns?
Are there any airgun makers who make the lock, stock and barrel? Yes there are a few, but not as many as you might think. John Whiscombe is well-known for his remarkable recoilless double-piston rifles, and he made the lock and the stock but not the barrel. John used barrels from Anschütz and BSA depending on the caliber. And perhaps he used other barrels, as well. That left him the time he needed to make his actions and stocks. John did contract out some of his work to others, though there’s no doubt that he could have done it all if he’d wanted to.

Gary Barnes makes everything in his airguns. His first barrels were mediocre; but after reading about Pope and refining his process, he turned out some of the finest airgun barrels ever made. His actions are quite novel, to say the least. They’re unconventional, and shooters either love them or hate them. There’s very little middle ground when it comes to a Barnes gun. He prides himself on his decorations, which are also unconventional in both finish and engraving. But each gun is an expression of his art, and he makes them all his way.

Dennis Quackenbush is making airgun locks, stocks and barrels in very large numbers for a one-man operation. Actually his wife, Karen, helps out with several of the processes to keep the production on schedule, and he still can’t turn out the guns fast enough to satisfy the demand. A Quackenbush big bore is the best investment anyone can make in an airgun; because the instant you buy it, you gain at least 50 percent additional value. There are several people who buy Quackenbush guns just for the money they can make on reselling them.

Dennis is just about the only maker I know who has made both big bores (over .25 caliber) and smallbore guns in their entirety. He’s used factory barrels in the past, but he also rifles his own .22 and .25 caliber barrels. I’ll be testing some of his special .22-caliber barrels for you very soon.

Dennis’ locks (actions) are his own design. They are made to appear very conventional — like a Remington 700 bolt-action, if you please. But he’s spent years refining what he does; and after 1,400 were produced, there’s been a definite advancement in the design. Other airgun makers are copying Dennis’ design to some extent, though there are subtleties they do not include because they’re not aware of them.

And Dennis’ stocks are objects of great interest everywhere. He uses fine walnut blanks that are shaped to his specified profile and finished to whatever grade of work the customer desires. People used to say that Harry Pope was crazy for selling a complete shooting outfit for $40, when it should have been worth $100 at least. Dennis Quackenbush is a lot like that. He is turning out pearls of great price and ignoring the constant advice to double his prices. So, it’s his customers that reap the benefits.

Yes, there are airgun makers who turn out everything these days — lock, stock and barrel. We’re living in a golden age of airguns that will be heralded by future historians. Our task is to see what surrounds us now and make wise choices. It wasn’t easy to do that a century ago, and it still isn’t today.

The stuff we do!

by B.B. Pelletier

Announcement: Shao Lin is this week’s winner of Pyramyd Air’s Big Shot of the Week on their facebook page. He’ll receive a $50 Pyramyd Air gift card.

Shao Lin wins this week’s Big Shot of the Week.

The more I read the old books about shooting and guns written by men who were born in the 19th century, the more I realize how much alike we all are — and I don’t just mean shooters, now. I mean people, in general!

Let’s begin with nicknames or handles. We have some clever ones here on this blog. But are you aware that back in the late 1800s, shooters who posted letters in their favorite shooting publications — which at that time were mostly newspapers — did the same thing?

Names like Medicus and Iron Ramrod shout out from the late 19th century with their concerns that the younger shooters who are getting used to cartridge-loading breechloaders simply do not know the rudiments of shooting like the “real shooters” who grew up with black powder! The new crop of shooters (I’m speaking of late 19th-century shooters, now) have forgotten how to measure a group with string and they want to measure the distance to their targets in yards instead of rods like real shooters do.

Then, there are the experiments they performed. Dr. Mann was the great one for this, and he kept a very compliant Harry Pope busy fashioning the testbeds for his various forays into the arcane world of ballistics. Things like the cylindrical rifle action that allowed Dr. Mann to rotate the action by degrees in a complete revolution, all while the gun was safely snugged down in his 3,000-lb. “Shooting Gibralter” vise. Or the barrel he convinced Pope to rifle after drilling and tapping eight holes through the side of the barrel near the muzzle so Mann could test the effects of releasing gas to the side so it didn’t exit the muzzle with the bullet. Pope had to lay out that rifling job so those pre-drilled and threaded holes ended up in the grooves of his gain-twist rifling and did not cut through any of the eight lands!

I got a call the other day from Dennis Quackenbush, who follows my column in Shotgun News. He became interested in my comments on the rifling twist rate of airgun barrels as it relates to stabilizing those solid pellets that I call bullets. They don’t shoot very well in most airgun barrels because the twist rate of one turn in 16 inches of barrel isn’t fast enough to stabilize them once they exit the muzzle. So, he offered to make me two test barrels — one rifled 1 in 22″ and the other rifled 1 in 13″ — to test what effects the twist rate has on pellet stabilization. I’m going to accept his offer, and we’ll have yet another look at one of the big drivers of accuracy. I’ll also test velocity using the exact same power settings, so we will have a good look at how twist rates affect velocity.

Years ago, Dennis allowed me to cut off one of his smallbore CO2 rifle barrels an inch at a time so I could chronograph the pellets coming out of many different barrel lengths. I reported those results in The Airgun Letter after completing the test, which is why I now have some sense of how long a CO2 barrel needs to be to get maximum velocity.

Then, there’s the famous Cardew experiment from their book, The Airgun From Trigger to Target, where the authors fired a spring-piston rifle in an inert gas environment that didn’t support combustion — all so they could test the power level of a spring-piston rifle that was denied the possibility of dieseling. The fact that they did the experiment was good enough. We learned that all air rifles that shoot above a certain velocity diesel with every shot. But what was really cool was how they did it — by shooting inside plastic bags!

When I worked at AirForce, we had a customer who purchased a .22-caliber Condor, then proceeded to adapt the rifle’s reservoir to a large helium tank. He could then sit at a bench and fire the rifle on pure helium. He claimed to get over 1,500 f.p.s. from his modified rifle. It was useless for anything else, but he didn’t want to do anything other than see how fast it could shoot.

Even my semi-sane buddy Mac bought a 26-inch Weihrauch barrel in .177 just so he could adapt it to his son’s Condor. He was looking for a flat-shooting air rifle and I guess he got it, because his son is now supposed to be able to keep all his shots on the round end of a soda can at 80 yards.

Let us never forget the great pogostick repeating airgun! That one is now in Vince’s protective care, awaiting his verdict on whether or not it can be made operable.

Left-eye dominance
Here’s a problem many shooters have. Their dominant eye is on the other side of their body from the side that dominates the motor skills. The most common is a right-handed person whose has a dominant or master left eye. This can be overcome in a number of ways — including tinkering! Back when Edith was shooting BRV, she discovered that she is left-eye dominant; but Gary Barnes, who made the rifle she competed with, made her an outrigger scope mount that put the scope in line with her left eye. The mount had to be boresighted for just one range; because like the pellet drop, the gun also shot to the left from the shooter’s perspective. No problem in BRV, though, because it was all shot at one distance.

Edith’s outrigger scope mount helped her sight with her left eye while shooting right-handed.

But Edith is far from the first shooter to have this problem. Take a look at the lengths a shotgun maker will go to satisfy his client.

A friend owns this shotgun with a crossover stock. It was made to aid a right-handed shooter who is left-eye dominant.

A couple months ago, I bought an unusual Schmidt-Rubin Model 1911 rifle at a gun show. This one has been carefully transformed into a fine target rifle. I could spend a whole blog on just this one rifle, but here are some highlights. The military stock has been completely reshaped into a target style with a deeply curved pistol grip. The bolt handle that used to be two cones of red plastic (yes, I said plastic — though they may be almost any synthetic, since this is a 1911 rifle) now has a steel ball for a pull. It looks odd but it works. And the front sight is a thing of beauty. A man has taken the time to hand-make a target globe front sight with replaceable inserts. I got only the one insert that’s in the sight now, which is two brass wires arranged like scope reticles. They look crude up close; but last week at the range I put four cast lead bullets in one inch at 100 yards, and that was the first time I ever loaded for this rifle.

Someone converted this Swiss Schmidt-Rubin model 1911 rifle into a target rifle. The stock is fashioned from the original military stock.

He replaced the conventional red synthetic bolt knobs with a steel ball, which he welded to the bolt handle.

The amount of time and care that someone put into making this target sight is amazing! This is where enthusiasts will take the sport when they have the time, motivation and skills.

I remember attending an airgun breakfast sponsored by the NRA at the Annual Meetings in Kansas City. Dennis Quackenbush and I sat on either side of the man who was the CEO of Crosman Corporation at that time. We got onto the subject of all the people who modify Crosman airguns, and the executive said he was surprised that shooters would spend time and money on a $39 airgun. Dennis told him, “Oh, but they do. You sell them the gun for $39 and I sell them $125 worth of accessories. Your guns are keeping me in business!”

From the look on the man’s face, I don’t think he believed us. And from his perspective, maybe he was right. He might sell 50,000 SSP air pistols in a year and Dennis might sell the parts to modify 500 of them in various ways. So, each man had an entirely different perspective on the situation.

As a writer, though, my eye is always on what people are doing, or what they say they want to do. I can’t be interested in a buyer who responds to a point of sale promotion at a discount store, because he may lose interest tomorrow. It’s when he finds his way to this blog through the tanglefoot of the internet and asks that first question that tells me we’re about to gain another potential member in out growing ranks. It’s at that point that my mantra becomes one of flypaper.

Almost anything can be interesting if it’s presented in the right way. And with airguns, one of the right ways is to wow the audience. Make them say to themselves, “I didn’t know that!” If you can do that, we’ll gain a lot of new shooters who are interested in learning.

Another way to attract new people is to help them through the minefield of hype and hyperbolae. The marketing people are doing all they can to attract people to the hobby, but it’s us veterans who will make things inviting enough that they’ll want to stay. And that is what I want, more than anything.

Sam Yang Dragon Claw .50 caliber big bore air rifle: Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

The Dragon Claw from Sam Yang is a .50 caliber big bore air rifle.

Today, I’ll test the velocity of the Sam Yang Big Bore .50 caliber Dragon Claw single-shot air rifle. For this test, I used two Air Venturi bullets and a swaged round ball that are available from Pyramyd Air.

The rifle is supplied with a probe-type quick-disconnect fill device, and I can finally report that the Koreans have now conformed with the rest of the world in supplying these adapters with standard threads that attach to common 1/8″ BSP fittings. In the past it was a chore matching these adapters to hoses you might have on hand (if you’re already into PCP airguns).

The No. 1 recommendation I have if you’re buying the Dragon Claw as your first PCP is that you also purchase the Pyramyd Air Quick-Disconnect male fitting and switch out the fill port on your rifle. Then, you can fill from a variety of high-pressure air devices, including the Air Venturi 88 cu ft carbon fiber tank. You’re going to want something that large to keep this monster gun supplied with air.

Let me address the air issue right now. This rifle does use a lot of air. I found that I got four useable shots on high power or eight shots on low power, and each time I did that the gun dropped from 3,000 psi to 1,500 psi for high power and 1,200 psi for low power. This number of shots per fill is fairly good considering the caliber of the rifle, but you’re going to refill it often. Don’t even think of using a hand pump for this rifle!

Shot with open sights
I decided to shoot the velocity test shots with open sights to simplify things at the range, and in so doing I learned that this rifle shoots very low at 50 yards. So low, in fact, that it was impossible to move the point of impact up to the point of aim. That’s good to know, because I’ll want to use a scope mount with some droop correction for the accuracy test.

While I chronographed the Dragon Claw, I also got to see how it shot with open sights.

The rifle actually grouped pretty well with open sights, considering I was shooting three different projectiles at two different power levels for each. Of the approximately 25 shots I fired, about 21 grouped in a hand-sized group. Unfortunately, it was below the target paper, so I’ll leave all accuracy testing to Part 3. But this test did show me a couple things about the gun.

I know why there’s a low-power level
First, you may remember that I was skeptical about using the low-power level. Now I know why it’s useful. With the Air Venturi 200-grain round nose lead bullet, the rifle gave eight good shots on low power — and they all went into that group I mentioned. When I scope the rifle for the accuracy test, this is one power level I’ll definitely try.

On low power, the 200-grain bullet ranged from a low of 562 f.p.s. to a high of 613 f.p.s. The average was 598 f.p.s., which gives us a muzzle energy of 158.85 foot-pounds. That’s for eight shots on low power.

On high power, I got four good shots from all the bullets. The 200-grain bullets ranged from 687 f.p.s down to 610 f.p.s., with an average of 640 f.p.s. That’s an average muzzle energy of 181.95 foot-pounds. So, I got half the number of shots for a 23 foot-pound gain. It doesn’t seem worth it to me. They did group with the other 200-grain bullets, though.

The 225-grain Air Venturi round nose lead bullets also gave four good shots on high power. They ranged from 652 f.p.s. down to 581 f.p.s., with the average at 614 f.p.s. That’s an average muzzle energy of 188.4 foot-pounds. That’s not much better than the 200-grain bullets, so I think I’ll stick with the lighter bullets. These bullets also went into the main group with everything else.

On low power, the 225-grain bullets gave eight good shots, ranging from 614 f.p.s down to 521 f.p.s., with the average at 563 f.p.s. That’s an average muzzle energy of 158.4 foot-pounds. They also went into the main group at 50 yards.

Round balls
It was the Hornady .495-inch round balls that didn’t do so well in this gun. They averaged just 465 f.p.s., so they must fit the bore very loosely. Since the balls weigh only 183 grains, the average energy was just 87.77 foot-pounds. They did not group with the other bullets. They were about six inches lower than the main group, though centered with it.

Shooting behavior
The Dragon Claw has a heavy trigger. I would estimate that it releases with about 8 lbs. of pull, and there’s considerable creep in the pull. The rifle recoils about like a lightweight .22 Magnum rifle or even a .38 Special fired from a rifle. A friend at the range noticed the recoil when I fired.

The gun cocks by pulling back on the spring-loaded hammer. It’s stiff in a new gun, and it takes a bit of finesse to stop on the low-power setting. The tendency is to haul back as hard as you can, which takes you right to high power.

Observations thus far
The Dragon Claw is a handy big bore that’s got plenty of power and is priced right for the category. It seems to be very good on low power, and I’m looking forward to shooting it with a scope.

Are there .17 caliber firearms?
J-F, one of our Canadian blog readers, asked this question and I thought I’d answer him here. Yes, there are plenty of .17 caliber firearms; though, just like the .22 calibers, they’re not the same size as airguns. In the case of .17 caliber, the firearm bullets are all smaller.

Two very popular .17 caliber firearms these days are the .17 HMR — that’s a .22 Winchester Magnum rimfire necked down to .17 caliber — and the .17 HM2, which is a .22 long rifle necked down. The HMR leads the HM2 in the popularity contest, even though the ammunition is three times more expensive.

I have a .17 HM2 rifle that a friend of mine built for me on a Hungarian single-shot .22 long rifle action. You’ve seen this rifle before, because it’s the same gun I used for testing the Blue Wonder cold bluing process. And, the blue is still beautiful on that barrel, despite my never wiping the gun down and purposely handling the barrel to see if I could get the finish to wear.

The .17 HM2 cartridges are based on the .22 long rifle round.

My .17 HM2 rifle is based on a Hungarian single-shot trainer. I blued the barrel with Blue Wonder cold blue in another report.

I cleaned the barrel just for this report, so naturally I had to shoot several rounds to foul the bore again. A clean barrel almost never shoots to the same point of aim as a slightly dirty one. Once I was satisfied that the rounds had stopped walking, I adjusted the sights and shot a five-shot group at 50 yards. It’s no great group, and several PCPs I’ve tested will beat it hands-down, but it’s in the right place.

Not great but also not terrible for open sights at 50 yards. The .17 HM2 is a nice, inexpensive varmint cartridge.

So, yes, there are .17 caliber firearms, as well as pellet guns. That’s my report for today. Next time, I’ll have a scope on the Dragon Claw, and we’ll see how well she can do.

Sam Yang Dragon Claw .50 caliber big bore air rifle: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Today, I’ll begin our look at Sam Yang’s Big Bore .50 caliber Dragon Claw single-shot air rifle (serial number 3526). The rate these new big bores are being made is stunning! I remember when Dennis Quackenbush first offered the Brigand — a .375 caliber roundball shooter that ran on CO2. It was 1996, I believe, and there simply were no other modern big bore air rifles around at the time. Oh, that’s not entirely accurate. There were a few boutique makers producing a handful of guns, many of which were “engineered” so close to the edge of disaster that shooters risked their lives every time they filled them.

The Dragon Claw from Sam Yang is a .50 caliber big bore air rifle.

History of big bore airguns
Big bore airguns are the oldest type of mechanical airgun, dating back to around the year 1550. There’s an airgun action in the Danish Royal Museum that has the date 1603 engraved on the action, and historians who have examined that piece know there had to be something that pre-dated it because it’s so advanced. Then there are certain written records than make obscure references to someone (Guter?) living in Nuremberg around 1550 who is associated with mechanical airguns.

Big bores remained popular up to World War I, when they promptly died out. They had no doubt been on the wane for many decades before that, and the war simply made people stop doing things that were of little importance. That’s the same time that schuetzen shooting all but died off here in the U.S.

Fast-forward to the early-1990s, and big bores re-emerge in the marketplace. The main big bore airgun in 1990 was the Farco air shotgun, a .51 caliber brass gun (crudely plated with nickel) from the Philippines. It was a smoothbore and it could just barely generate 100 foot-pounds with a heavy load of shot that left the muzzle at under 500 f.p.s. You couldn’t hunt birds with it, because it was too slow. I tried shooting hand-thrown clay pigeons and quit after hearing the shot bounce off them at about 20 yards. But importer Davis Schwesinger filled his gun with higher-pressure air, getting around 1,200 f.p.s. with a .433 roundball in a 20-gauge shot cup, and he managed to kill a very small wild pig down in Florida, which gave birth to the modern big bore airgunning craze.

By 1996, Dennis Quackenbush had already made 10 kit gun versions of the Paul air shotgun and was starting to make his new Brigand. The Brigand was a .375 caliber roundball shooter that originally operated on CO2.

Once Quackenbush was established, other smaller boutique makers like Gary Barnes started producing a few big bores. Gary’s guns eventually were (and still are) very accurate, after he learned how to rifle barrels, but the early smoothbores I tested back in 1998 were barely able to keep their balls on a 4′x4′ cardboard box at 50 yards. But Gary witnessed a father/son team shooting smoothbore big bores they’d made, and their homemade dumbbell-shaped projectiles that were copied from the French Balle Blondeau shotgun slug were reasonably accurate out to 40 yards. Soon thereafter, Barnes began offering his own version of the dumbbell slugs that eventually took his big bores out to 200 yards with game-killing accuracy.

The Asians came to the party in the 1990s with a 9mm and something they called a Big Bore 44, which actually had a bore diameter of 0.457 inches. There haven’t been commercial .457-inch bullets since the 1920s, so go figure what they were thinking. The 9mm was based on the red-hot .25 caliber Fire 201 air shotgun, and it would have been a wonderful entry into big bores except there weren’t many lead bullets around. You see, nobody casts lead bullets for 9mm pistols — they’re all jacketed, which don’t work well in airguns. Some American makers jumped in and started swaging their own 9mm lead bullets, and that finally made these guns shootable. Pyramyd Air now offers swaged 9mm bullets.

The Asians also made several other big bores. One was a 9mm lever-action called the Ultra, which would have been nice except it accepted only very short 9mm bullets through its magazine feeding mechanism. Another was the .50 caliber Career Dragon Slayer that I tested for you years ago. I also made a YouTube video that has gotten a few hits. If you want to see a typical Asian big bore in action you ought to watch it.

Then, of course, there’s Crosman’s own recent entry into big bores, the Benjamin Rogue. It’s a .357 caliber rifle that uses computer control to give the most efficient use from the compressed air onboard.

But in today’s blog, we’re starting a look at Sam Yang’s new Dragon Claw .50 caliber rifle. The specs put it at 230 foot-pounds, which is an increase from what Sam Yang big bores used to be capable of. Naturally, I’ll test that very carefully for you.

Out of the remarkably flimsy cardboard box, the Dragon Claw comes to you with the side-mounted bolt handle detached. That should be the first thing in the owner’s manual, but the Chinglish manual that came with the test gun puts the instructions for this way back toward the back of the manual. Fortunately, Edith rewrote the manual, and you can find it in the Pyramyd Air manual library. Print that manual if you want one to read. However, the current Sam Yang guns come with the new manual.

The gun
The Dragon Claw is a .50 caliber, single-shot, precharged pneumatic air rifle. It has a sliding breech for loading the bullets or balls, and in the past I’ve found this to be an ideal type of breech for these big bores, because it doesn’t limit the types of bullets you can load.

The stock and forearm are made from beautiful figured walnut and have several panels of sharp laser-cut checkering on both the pistol grip and the forearm. Most fine air rifle stocks are made in Asia today, and the quality of the workmanship is first class.

The wood in the stock is beautiful and conforms to every top-quality specification for a rifle stock.

The stock is proportioned correctly for an average adult. The forearm is tall, slim and squared at the bottom, and it feels very nice when the rifle is held offhand. A pressure gauge (manometer) is in the bottom of the forearm. It tells you the pressure of the air stored in the reservoir. The gauge is calibrated in something Asian (millinewtons per microhectare?), but it is also color-coded green, yellow and red so you know where to stop filling.

A small pressure gauge is built into the bottom of the forearm so you always know how much air is in the reservoir.

The metal is finished a deep, lustrous black that’s polished as well as an Air Arms rifle. The receiver is made from a non-ferrous metal that’s finished bright and is engraved around the borders.

Overall, the appearance of the Dragon Claw is first class, though the lines run more to a shotgun profile than that of a rifle. While there appear to have been some changes in the finish because the rifle shown on the website is finished with a black receiver, but my test rifle is finished bright, in fact, it’s the way the lighting was set up for the website images so the detail on the receiver wasn’t washed out with a lot of light.

The rifle weighs 7.5 lbs., which makes it a lightweight. There’s going to be some felt recoil. Oh, and the manufacturer has thoughtfully provided a threaded muzzle for those who cannot get arrested by other means. Seriously, if you own a silencer that will screw on to this rifle, it better, by golly, have a $200 tax stamp with it! Don’t even kid about something so basic, because both Joshua Ungier and I have been asked by BATFE to give expert testimony in cases where illegal silencers have been found on big bore airguns. Making one for yourself breaks at least two federal laws.

The sights are first-rate, adjustable open sights that I will simply have to test at the range. Seldom, if ever, do modern big bores have any sights, and these look so inviting that they’ll be tested. I’ll also mount a scope, because I know it will probably increase my accuracy a bit. It will also be interesting to make that comparison.

The rifle has two power levels, which is about as useful as a reading lamp at the beach. Pull the cocking bolt back to the first click and you have low power. One more click, and it’s up on high power.

Low power? Who would ever want, need, or conceive of using low power on a big bore? I guess I’ll have to test it for you just to satisfy some idle curiosity, but believe me, low power on a big bore is like a mower deck on a AA fuel dragster. People don’t buy big bore airguns to shoot them on low power.

As for sophistication, these Asian rifles don’t have a lot. They operate on a very simple slam-fire type of knock-open valve. However, they’re capable of a fair number of shots. If this one comes close to the advertised power level, it’ll be a very capable gun regardless of the level of sophistication.

My muzzleloaders have caused me to lay away many roundballs in different calibers. One of them is the 0.495″ round ball that’s used in a lot of .50 caliber percussion rifles. I plan to try these in the Dragon Claw, as well, just to see if they can be used. Come to think of it, I may have to spend a couple of range sessions with this rifle to test all it has to offer.

What can you do with a big bore airgun?
People ask what can be done with a big bore airgun, like there should be an answer. What can you do with a Tailorcraft tail-dragger airplane or a Ford Model T? You don’t have to DO anything with them, except have them, love them and perhaps use them once in awhile. They don’t have to serve a purpose to exist.

Yes, they can be used to take larger game animals, but I think the attraction is greater than that. Come along and let’s find out together.

Swiss Arms P92 replica pistol
Swiss Arms P92 CO2 BB pistol

More and more, we're hearing that airguns are ideal for firearm training when it comes to improving trigger control, acquiring a target and increasing accuracy. While all those are big pluses, let's remember the other reasons: (1) Save a fortune on ammo (if you can even get firearm ammo!). (2) Shoot at home. (3) No hearing protection needed. (4) Airguns are a fraction of the cost of firearms. So, click on the image & add this to your gun vault.

New .22-cal. Sheridan!
Sheridan 2260MB CO2 rifle

Sheridan has always made .20-cal. airguns. So, this new .22-cal. rifle is particularly exciting. And, it's available only in limited quantities. If you collect Sheridans (or just love them for their quality), you MUST add this to your gun vault. It's a single-shot CO2 rifle with a metal breech. Bolt-action single shots like the 2260 are ideal for teaching proper gun handling. Everything you love about Sheridan guns…and more. Get yours NOW before they sell out!