by B.B. Pelletier

Okay, the field target course will have to be postponed until 2009. We didn’t get the students we need. But we’ll select some dates very soon and everyone will know when the first class is next year. I’m also looking into ways of reducing the length of the course to make it easier on the students.

Hey – what they ought to do…
How many times have you heard someone “invent” a gun he thinks ought to be made, only to discover that it actually was? I know this is a common occurrence for me.

One gun I hear about a lot is a powerful single-stroke pneumatic. After they discover the powerplant, some shooters become enamored with the fact that the single-stroke is pneumatic, so it shoots without vibration or movement and it takes only a single stroke of the lever to charge the gun. The only thing the makers forgot to do was make it powerful. So, these hopeful shooters do that in their mind and then wonder why the engineers overlooked such an important thing.

It’s the same as wondering why the car manufacturers won’t release that 100 mpg carburetor, now that we really need it.

Why don’t “they” make a powerful single-stroke pneumatic air rifle?
“I would buy one in a heartbeat if airgun manufacturers would just get off their collective butt and design what ‘we’ want. We want a single-stroke pneumatic air rifle with enough power for hunting.” That’s exactly what Parker-Hale did. Or rather they accepted the design of an independent airgun designer and put it into production. A single-stroke pneumatic rifle with enough power for hunting.

Well, I lucked into a chance to see and operate a Dragon at the 2008 Little Rock Airgun Expo, and I knew I’d be reporting it to you readers someday. When a reader recently saw one for sale on the American Airguns free classified ads page, he asked about it. I answered his question and asked if he’d like a report, which brings us to today. Since I’ve never tested the rifle the report will have to be thin, but I’ve added some detail photos that you won’t see anywhere.

The Parker-Hale Dragon is a large single-stroke pneumatic rifle that shoots like a PCP. The owner shoots his rifle at the 2008 Little Rock Airgun Expo.

Enter the Dragon
The Dragon is an 11-lb. single-stroke pneumatic air rifle that looks like a PCP with a pump added on. It shoots at just under the British legal limit of 12 foot-pounds, so those .22-caliber Crosman Premiers will probably be going out the muzzle between 575 and 590 f.p.s. Being middle-weight pellets, they have to be lower in energy so some super-heavyweight doesn’t push the rifle over the legal limit. The lever is attached to the right side of the action and pivots near the muzzle. It swings through about 105 degrees of arc to compress all the air it takes to generate 12 foot-pounds.

Make no mistake, the rifle has the firing characteristics of a PCP. There is zero recoil and vibration when the shot takes off. Because of the low muzzle energy, the report is relatively low, too. About like a Sheridan Blue Streak with five pumps of air. Thank the longer barrel for that. And thank the weight of 11 lbs. (before adding the scope) for the stability of a field target rifle. The weight seems to come from the extensive – nay, dare I say universal, use of steel components and parts. The Dragon is a lead-sled, compared to a normal PCP. Most of that weight is in the extra pumping mechanism, but the use of steel in the parts is a driver, too.

Make ready!
Ever watch the film Patriot and thank God you didn’t live at the time of the American revolution? Getting a flintlock ready to fire was no simple task. Well, if the rifles had been Parker-Hale Dragons instead of flintlocks, the revolution would probably have lasted a few more years. Compared to a flintlock, making the Dragon ready to fire is a chore.

I forget all of the steps to making the gun ready, but here are the ones I do remember. First, you simultaneously lift up on the safety button and push the trigger forward to set the valve. Then, you pop the pump handle away from the stock, but that requires you to pinch two sheet-steel cams together while simultaneously pulling them away from the stock. Once the lever joint has been properly freed, you swing the lever out and up to the top of its arc, just past the muzzle of the rifle. Next, you close the lever, compressing the air. Then, you cock the rifle, which retracts the bolt, allowing you to load a pellet. Close the bolt and you may be ready to fire. I forget if the safety comes on automatically at this point.

Before you push the trigger forward to close the firing valve, the safety button in front of the trigger is pushed straight up.

Once the safety is up and out of the way, the trigger is pushed forward to close the firing valve.

The next step is to pump the gun, but before that, the pump lever link is simultaneously squeezed together and pulled away from the stock to free the joint.

Now the pump lever is swung forward past the muzzle and then returned to the resting point alongside the stock. After that, all that remains is to cock and load the gun.

It may sound as if I am criticizing the Dragon’s design as I describe the process to make it ready, but that’s not my intention. I was given a rare opportunity to examine this strange and almost handmade air rifle mechanism, and I vowed to report the process to my readers, if and when I wrote about the rifle. Where else are you going to get this kind of information? I know for a fact it wasn’t reported in the airgun magazines when the gun was new, because I was interested in this rifle for myself.

The trigger is light and crisp – just what you’d expect from a top-grade PCP. In its day, the Parker-Hale Dragon was on the pricier side of the cost spectrum, but it didn’t last very long. As I recall the gun was available for only a year to 18 months before it was pulled from the market in 1997. Parker-Hale stopped making firearms and airguns of any kind in the year 2000. The Dragon is not a common model. That’s why I told the reader who inquired that the $600 asking price for a non-functional gun was a no-brainer. It’s no doubt worth twice that and more.

The bottom line
At this point a few thousand of you readers know a little something about an exotic airgun that had a very short life. That will not prevent someone from saying, “You don’t understand. When I said I wanted more power I meant 30-40 foot-pounds. When is someone going to make a single-stroke rifle like that? And I’d like the weight to be 8 lbs. with a scope. Yeah, that sounds about right!”