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

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.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

58 thoughts on “Sam Yang Dragon Claw .50 caliber big bore air rifle: Part 1”

  1. Well,I should be asleep by now….according to my schedule.I got to use my new longer range today to benchrest my USFT @ 50 yds in 100+ degree heat.The seat was burning my…well,you know.Even in swirling winds I got some really encouraging groups with CPheavies and Beeman FT’s.Finding a big bore blog tonight,along with the potted history is just a big fat bonus.I especially like the final paragraph! A “Tomism” if there ever was one! If you’ve never shot a big bore airgun,come to Alabama,and I’ll fix that fer ya.

    • Hey, I also read that when I should have been sleeping! It was 00h30 for me, so that gave me a whole 6 hours of sleep, that’s plenty, scorching heat here too, it’s supposed to be around 45° celsius here today.

      Edith you been very busy with the new PA site and it shows I (Really! Me the french speaking guy I proud of myself, I feel like when your in school and you caught the teacher making a mistake). So penumatic instead of pneumatic and color coaded instead of coded :-D.

      As for what can be done with a big bore… Well making big holes in stuff would surely be my number one interest, I’d like to try one of these someday, that and a shrouded airgun, must be nice shooting without any report… And speaking of silencers couldn’t they be legal for airguns in .177? How could it be used on a firearm? It would too small right? Am I missing something here?


          • J_F,

            No need to look them up. I’ll find some clever way to jam a couple of them into the next report I do from the range. It will probably be Part 2 for this very rifle.

            I have a 17 HM2 that I really love. I’ve been looking for a way to include it in the blog and you just gave me one.


            • Hey you know me, always happy to help 😉 I’m glad I could be of assistance to you!
              Can’t wait to read this, I’m always happy to discover new things, even more if they’re related to shooting sports.


          • .17 Remington (necked down .223 Remington) centerfire

            .17 HMR (Hornady Magnum Rimfire; necked down .22 Winchester magnum rimfire — Ruger’s 77/17 even uses the same magazines as the 77/22)

            .17 HM2 (Hornady Mach 2; necked down .22 rimfire)

            .17 Remington Fireball (necked down .221 Rem. Fireball) — the commercial response to the wildcat

            .17 Mach IV (and Wikipedia shows something like 15 other wildcat designs in .17… and even a few .14!)

  2. B.B.

    Where do you find PBA ammo for it? Or would I have to get some 1/2″ aluminum bar stock and fire up the lathe?

    Watch out Gamo….this one might even be ethical for pig hunting.


  3. BB:
    I first discovered big bore air guns while looking at pellets on the PA site and finding them in 9mm,44 and 50 cal.I thought,
    “shurly there mush be shom mishtake” as Sean Connery would say.
    Truly a jaw dropping moment to eventualy see the Sam Yang rifles.
    You know it is easier to convince folk over here of the existance of UFO’s than it is 50 cal air rifles.

    • Rather impractical would you say? A 12 ft/lb .50? Practical hunting distance about 3 feet? Just far enough that the bullet will not fall on your foot?


      • TwoTalon:
        I bet the 50 cal slug would still make a satisfying ‘thud’ when it dropped to the ground though 😉

        As I mentioned a while back about our 12ftib limit.
        It applies to what a ordinary fella can buy,over the counter no questions asked.(except age perhaps)
        If someone has a firearms cerificate though,they can buy whatever power air gun they want.
        Why the big bore air rifles haven’t made it over here,I really don’t know.It would be great to see them.

        • More limited sales due to FAC requirements, or maybe no real useful and legal purposes?
          Then again, it may have something to do with what you fellows consider right and proper.


    • Dave,

      The height of irony is that the United Kingdom has given the world more than its fair share of powerful big bores. Not just the vintage ones, either. There were UK makers producing .50 caliber rifles in the 1990s.

      I wish I could remember some specifics, but no doubt some reader with more functioning brain cells will be able to recall who was doing it.

      Bowkett was behind at least some of it.


        • Eeeew Justin Bieber, gotta agree with you on that one that is REALLY disgusting.
          How peolple listen to that crap or worst actually spend money on that kid products is beyond conceivable to me.
          Now if you haven’t done so yet quickly go wash your eyes.


          • If he was like most of the people that do music that I never listen too, I would probably never heard of him. But crap !!!!
            Justen Bieber stuff in the stores, and even Justin bieber stuff on the sattelite that is wasting good programming space. GAAAAAK ! He is playing this for all it’s worth.


  4. BB,

    Love the phrase “about as useful as a reading lamp at the beach” – hilarious! I’ll have to remember that one for future use.

    I did get a Dragonslayer earlier this year so I will be interested to see how the Dragon Claw compares.

    One use I have found for mine – rendering old computer hard drives useless. Much more fun than reformatting and my niece had a new video of her shooting for facebook.


  5. This was mistakenly sent to blogger by Conner:

    Dear Tom,
    I have read the other comments and have the same problem with most other bloggers. A Ruger Air Hawk with a bent barrel and i have removed the action from the stock. I am not exactly sure what the best way is to get leverage on bending the barrel. Should i have it cocked, when bending it…but i feel that is not the safest way. If it is what would you say would be best to keep it from dry firing. Should i use a vice grip but i believe that might cause damage to the metal and frame Thank you for your time and if you could be so kind to enlighten me on this dilemma.

    Connor Kobylinski

    • Connor,

      You must remove the barrel from the action to bend it. Once it is out, you will be able to find a way to anchor the breech so you can pull on the muzzle. The bend is almost always at the top of the base block.

      One what to anchor the barrel is to put a drill bit in a vise and lay the barrel over it sideways, sio the bit passes through the pivot hole in the base block. Then a second drill bit at the end of the base block to hold it wile you pull on the muzzle should work well. Get a bit for the pivot hole that just fits.


    • Which way is the barrel bent? What I generally find useful is to lock the base block in a strong, solidly anchored vise padding it generously with a thick, strong cloth). I then drape another large cloth over the barrel from the muzzle) and slide a pipe over it. Avoid metal-to-metal contact, and you’ll be fine.

    • That’s pretty sad. Poor kid. When will people stop seeing Airguns as toys?
      It’s sad to see stuff like that happen, so much fun can be had with these…

      Accidents like these makes us all look bad.


  6. One question…are there any big-bores that don’t look so much like shotguns (other than the Rogue)?
    It’s the one thing that would stop me from ever considering them.

  7. Thanks for reviewing this gun.
    “What is it good for?” Blowing big holes in things, for sure.

    I just finished watching an episode of “Swamp People” and had an idea. These guys shoot hooked alligators at a range of about two feet. Sounds like an ideal use for these big bores.

    Maybe PA could work out a deal with these swampers to equip them with these big bore air guns.
    PA could get product exposure and the public could get educated.


    • That is good news, though the 2289 is better. I converted my 1377 into a 2289 with 18 inch barrel. Now, if only Crosman would include that platform in the custom shop…

  8. 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.

    Well, my HP 48SX offers the following units: Pascals, Atmospheres, Bars, Torr, mmHg, inHg, inH2O (though since the Torr was defined to be approximately equal to a mmHg it seems redundant).

    Our favorite 3000 PSI converts as:

    3000 PSI => 83122.78 inH2O => 6108.06 inHg => 155144.8 mmHg => 155144.8 torr => 206.84 bar => 204.14 atm => 20684271.88 Pascal

    Any of those look like a match?

  9. To BB: wondering if you could do a trajectory plot for a projectile or two. IOW if it’s sighted in a t say 25 yds., how far below the point of aim would the impact point be at 50 yds etc.

    Thanks, Kevin in CT

    • Kevin,

      Many things enter into the trajectory. The initial velocity, the ballistic coefficient, etc.

      Far better for you to actually pattern the specific pellet you are interested in on a piece of paper at the distances you wish to know.

      While software can suggest the results, only be actually testing will you know for sure.


      • Hi BB, talk about a DUHHHH moment on my part, just about every reloading manual I own has not only loads of ballistic tables for the various projectiles but also shows the formula used to calculate the ME, drop, etc.

        Kevin in CT

  10. Hey BB,,well I already know I’m having a .50 Cal Dragon Claw,so my question is on my New Condor,(Had her 4 weeks) and to say I’m Happy would be an understatement!
    What has me puzzled is the Eunjin 35.8 grain pellets are very accurate,(As too is the H&N Barracuda’s),but what’s very strange is at 2800 psi the Eunjins are travelling at 1009 fps and the Cuda’s are running 985 fps.The power wheel is on 8.2 and I’ve tried the test over and over and 1009 is the lowest the Eunjin’s (And 1013 highest) travel at 2800 psi and I’ve Cronied her on 3 Crony’s?
    Now I’m not Complaining,,but she seems to be very Powerful and the FPE is wicked,(80.95)!
    The next shot with Eunjin’s is 1001 fps and so on.
    Now I know it’s not because I’m too close to the crony as I’m back 4 feet and it’s the same result back farther,(Just a little less FPS the further back).So what I’m wondering is,,Is this Normal for Eunjin’s to be this accurate and even more so high on the FPE Scale?
    Btw,,I am 200 FASL, here as well.



    • Troy,

      Apparently your rifle really likes those Eun Jins. It could only happen that way from bore fit. And you know for certain that your breech is tight, because it’s holding all that pressure.

      Great gun. Never sell it.


    • I can’t comment on the pressure point — I don’t have the facilities to do enough shooting with the chronograph (the .22 rimfire trap rings like a bell when hit from 15 feet, and I’m sure someone would call the police if I kept it up enough to find the curve… As it is, I ran about 12 different pellets through, one each…

      So, unknown pressure level, my .22 Condor at 8-0 (7-16?)
      21.1gr Baracuda Match => 1010.0 @ 47.79
      32.4 EunJin pointed [my heaviest pellets] => 939.5 @ 63.50

  11. It’s again discouraging that a big bore airgun with these parameters is made to look like a shot gun, finished brightly, and a few other oddities like the pressure units. If they only made an improved Quackenbush type of rifle…as far as low power practicality, I may have to disagree with you if the power were say, around half full power. That would be a practical combination for close range hunting such as for hares, raccoons, and my interest, close range turkey hunting out of a ground blind where shots are usually under 30 yds. It’s just too bad the maker of this gun didn’t ask for input from some of the western airgun forums and big bore airgun afficianados.

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