by B.B. Pelletier
Sometimes, I just need to blow off steam by writing about the things that interest me, and today is one of those days. There were a lot of oddball guns I could have written about, like my 1860s gallery dart gun that I showed you a while back. I took it to the airgun show at Malvern, Arkansas, this April and airgun collector/writer Larry Hannusch disassembled it as fast as I might field-strip a Garand. And almost as easily. I watched so I could do it again on my own, and I discovered that the gun is lacking its volute springs — the very things I was worrying about breaking if I shot the gun. So, I can now fix it with a coiled spring and a new cocking arm from Dennis Quackenbush. But that will be a future report.
David Lurch Primary New York City gallery gun.
Today, I want to talk about something that’s both very contemporary and yet wonderful at the same time. It’s one of those airguns that people either love or hate, though I’m about to show you some things you never saw before that might make you like it a little better.
The rifle is an AirForce Talon SS (cheers from our reader, twotalon), but it’s a look at the SS in a way that’s never been seen in print. I’m going to take you inside the walls of the AirForce company and show you what I was playing with when I was their Technical Director several years ago. This isn’t just any SS. It’s my SS.
After the Condor came out and most of the launch hooplah died down a bit, I realized that we now had a 24-inch barrel that would also fit the Talon SS. You get a 12-inch barrel with the gun when it’s new, and that barrel is totally enclosed inside the tubular frame of the rifle in the same way that a shroud fits other PCP airguns. Only, when the SS was designed, it was built that way on purpose, for those were the days before barrel shrouds became the rage. The Talon SS was the first production PCP to intentionally use a shrouded barrel to quiet the muzzle report.
But, I want to talk about the 24-inch optional barrel, because that was what was new to me in 2004. I knew that the Talon, with its 18-inch barrel was quite a bit more powerful than the Talon SS, by virtue of the extra six inches of barrel, so the question was: How much more powerful would it get if we added another six inches?
About that time, the phones started ringing at AirForce, asking the same question and I was tasked with finding out. We know that a .22-caliber Talon SS can pretty easily pull 25 foot-pounds with accurate pellets. I’m not claiming that to be the maximum power the gun can generate, but back in 2004 that was about the best we could do with accurate pellets. And, I plan to show you what “accurate” means in a future report.
Move to the longer-barreled Talon, and the same powerplant will generate about 32 foot-pounds under the same conditions. That gave me some hope that the 24-inch optional barrel might boost the SS up to 36 or possibly even 38 foot-pounds. But that estimate turned out to be conservative.
I did the testing and discovered that the SS with a 24-inch barrel could easily generate 39-41 foot-pounds of muzzle energy with good accuracy; and, if I used the heaviest pellets then available, it got up over 45 foot-pounds! Because it was capable of launching them so much faster with the longer barrel, the rifle became a good platform for the heaviest pellets. Whatever accuracy they were able to deliver that was decent — but not the absolute best — was a realistic thing for the modified rifle.
I’ll do a velocity test for you in the next part, but for now let’s just leave things there. I now had a 40-45 foot-pound air rifle that also got 35-40 good shots on a fill because I was still using the conservative SS valve. This was no Condor that blasts out all its air in 20 powerful shots. This was an air-sipper that also got great power (with the longer barrel) as well as a high number of shots per fill. It was difficult for me to justify putting the 12-inch barrel back on the rifle. Except for the noise.
My rifle is a lot longer than the standard Talon SS. It has a 24-inch, .22-caliber barrel and an aftermarket silencer tube that extends the frame of the gun past the muzzle. I’ll tell you about the scope in part 3 of this report.
Because the 24-inch barrel sticks out past the frame, the SS is no longer quiet when the longer barrel is installed. But fast-forward a couple more years and that problem was solved. A device that at the time I bought it was called a “frame extender” became available. It was now possible to again enclose the barrel. When installed it, I discovered that this rifle is even quieter than the stock Talon SS, while producing about 10 foot-pounds greater muzzle energy.
I had my cake and was able to eat it, too! Except for one thing. The modified rifle is now very long. Many people said it was too long in this configuration. Well, excuse me, but I am the guy who also shoots a Trapdoor Springfield and a Remington Rolling Block rifle. Don’t tell me how a long a rifle should be!
The rest of my Talon SS is absolutely stock — most of it the way it came from the factory back in 2001. You would think that working at AirForce, where I had access to all the very best parts, I would have built up a special rifle for myself, but that wasn’t necessary. The parts they produce are all so uniform that I never had to do anything to my rifle in thousands of shots. I did replace the striker and its two bushing/bearings with a newer version, but that was only so I could test it extensively before AirForce started shipping it in guns. After the test was finished, I was too lazy to change back, so my rifle has a striker from 2004. The valve is untouched, just the way I got it back in 2001, and I used to build the valves when I worked at AirForce. If there was something better, I would have had one.
The trigger in my rifle has never been apart, let alone worked on. I learned very early that AirForce triggers are best left just as they come from the factory. One of my jobs was to spray the various trigger and safety parts with a dry-film moly that lubricates them for life. If you put oil or grease on an AirForce trigger, it will attract dirt — and that’s the quickest way I know to foul it. Trigger parts inside the frame channel have to be able to move as the gun is cocked and thus they need to be left absolutely dry.
So, my rifle is stock except for the addition of a long silencer on the end. Does the silencer work? Yes, it does! When my SS is generating over 25 foot-pounds, it makes the same noise discharging as a relatively weak breakbarrel like a Bronco.
What makes me like this air rifle so much? Well, I hope to demonstrate that to you in the coming reports. You’ve heard of a busman’s holiday? Well my Talon SS is the rifle I built for myself when I could have had anything I wanted, and I want to show you how well it works. The cool thing is that you can have one just like it, because my gun is entirely off-the-shelf!