Big bore airguns: Think you’ve seen it all?
by B.B. Pelletier
Got an urge to talk about big bore for a while, so I’ll start with what many airgunners don’t know. Big bore airguns have been around since the 1500s – that you know. And, in 1780, the Austrian army had either 1,000 or 1,500 .47 caliber .22-shot repeating air rifles – you probably know that, too. But are you aware of the resurgence big bores are making on the American hunting scene? Not many are.
What IS a big bore?
Well, it’s anything bigger than a smallbore, I guess. Since .25 caliber (6.35mm) is the largest common smallbore airgun caliber, anything bigger than that would qualify. Yes, there are .28 caliber big bores, but the preponderance of calibers start at 9mm, which is very close to .357 caliber (it’s .356, actually). They go up as large as 118 caliber, which is a projectile larger than one inch in diameter! If you’re good, I might show that one to you later on.
Can you do anything with 9mm?
What this question really asks is if you can hunt with 9mm. The answer is YES. If you use the 9mm single-shot from Shinsung, you can shoot pistol bullets up to 125 grains that will stabilize and be accurate at ranges under 75 yards. Bullets like that are suitable for coyotes, fox, beaver, javalina, turkey and other game in the 25- to 50-lb. range. If you shoot the 9mm Career Ultra repeater, it can only shoot a lightweight pellet, but that’s still good medicine for rabbits, woodchuck, raccoons and possum. Pyramyd has many pellets for this caliber
Penetration is the name of the game
Writer Elmer Keith tested lead bullets on cattle and hogs in stockyards and proved that pure lead bullets moving at low velocity can out-penetrate a high-velocity rifle bullet, unless that bullet is designed for penetration, such as an armor-piercing round. Penetration is how big bore airguns do their work. When you hunt with them, you’re more like a bow hunter than a modern rifleman, because your bullet penetrates deep and causes massive bleeding. The animal doesn’t usually drop instantly, but will run for a distance, then lay down to expire. Of course, shot placement is even more important when shooting a big bore because you do not have hydrostatic shock assisting you.
Moving up in caliber
If you want to go larger, Sam Yang makes the Big Bore 909, a .45 caliber single-shot. It’s got about 200-225 foot-pounds of energy and can take deer with a good close shot. Then there is the Dragon-Slayer, a .50 caliber rifle from Shinsung. This one also makes it up to 200 foot-pounds and has already taken whitetail deer. Pyramyd Air sells both .45-caliber and .50-caliber lead “pellets” (they’re really bullets) for these big bruisers, or you can use lead pistol bullets in the 909. But, it doesn’t stop there.
Moving up in power
Dennis Quackenbush makes big bores up into the 500 foot-pound category, and one .72-caliber monster he built topped 1,000 foot-pounds. Gary Barnes also makes powerful big bores in the 400-1,000 foot-pound class. Both of these makers are backordered most of the time, so you will have to wait anywhere from one to four years for one of their guns. Pyramyd Air has big bores you can shoot right away!
That’s a 77-grain 9mm pellet in between a .563 caliber bullet (left) and a .459-caliber bullet.
Two .45-caliber lead spools dwarf a .22 caliber Crosman Premier pellet. They have high drag that makes them fly straight.
I will talk about actions, barrels, bullets and more in the future. Tell me what you would like to know about big bore airguns.