Sam Yang Dragon Claw .50 caliber big bore air rifle: Part 3
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, we’ll look at the accuracy of Sam Yang’s Big Bore .50-caliber Dragon Claw single-shot air rifle. Thanks for being so patient on this report. It took three separate trips to the range to collect the data for what I’ll tell you today, and the report will not end here. This rifle has some more secrets to reveal, although I now know a lot more about it than when I started.
For starters, this airgun needs some break-in time, so plan on it. When I started this test, the rifle was very stiff and hard to cock, but now it has smoothed up considerably. The hammer spring is still very stout, so cocking the rifle isn’t that easy; but at least the hammer comes back smoothly now. In the beginning, it was actually difficult to stop the cocking mechanism at low power because the hammer required such a yank to retract. Well, that’s behind us now; and the rifle can easily be cocked for low power or high power. Plan on about a hundred shots for a break-in.
Open sights could not adjust for the barrel droop
I never planned on using this rifle with open sights since it has such a nice scope base on top of the receiver, but just for fun I tried shooting several groups with the open sights during the initial chronograph testing. Naturally, all testing was done at the rifle range due to the incredible power of the airgun, so the targets were at the same 50 yards I would normally shoot using a scope.
But even with the rear sight adjusted as high as it will go the rifle still shot about 6 inches too low at 50 yards. I tabled the report on open sights and moved on to a scope.
The second time at the range, I discovered that the adjustable scope mount was not adjusted for the amount of droop this particular rifle has, so that was another day I couldn’t really test the rifle. I did discover, however, that .495-inch round balls scatter all over the place. They shoot about two feet low and group in 12 inches or more, so I decided not to test them further. Both the Air Venturi 200-grain round nose lead bullets and the 225-grain Air Venturi round nose lead bullets from Pyramyd Air seemed to hold some promise, and they were the ones I brought back for testing the next time.
Scope and mount
I was using an AirForce 4-16x50AO scope mounted in an old B-Square (American-made) one-piece AA adjustable scope mount. You can’t get that mount anymore, but you can use a Beeman 5039 adjustable mount in its place.
Before the test
Going into the accuracy test, I had a couple notions that proved to be wrong. Maybe not entirely wrong, but certainly not completely right, either. The first that was the rifle was going to be more accurate on low power than it would be on high power, and the second was that the 200-grain bullet would outshoot the 225-grain bullet. I will address these faulty ideas at the end of this report.
How the test was conducted
I learned (I thought) during the chronograph test that the rifle had enough air for two good shots on high power and five good shots on low power. The assumption for low power proved correct, but during the testing I discovered that a third shot on high power was possible with reasonable accuracy. I say “reasonable” because of another variable that I’ll have to conduct another test to resolve.
The five-shot groups you see that were shot on low power were all shot with a single fill, but the five-shot groups on high power were shot using two fills. The rifle was refilled after the third shot.
Let’s see the targets!
The groups are too large to show actual size, so they’ve all been reduced to fit the screen. The target is a 50-foot timed and rapid-fire pistol target whose bullseye includes a 9, 10 and X ring and is 3-1/16-inch or 7.9cm in diameter. I will explain each target in the caption.
What’s going on?
While no big bore airgun is a tackdriver, they all do shoot better than this. I vowed, therefore, to discover what the problem is, or at least to test the rifle more thoroughly. I even told Edith I would clean the bore with J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound, the way I do when a smallbore performs erratically like this. Only I don’t think that’s what’s happening in this case.
Look at how the bullet is loaded.
The difficulty I think I’m encountering is the bullet is not being seated uniformly in the rifling. When I load it, I push it forward with my finger; but that must not be far enough. Perhaps, sometimes it is and other times I don’t push it far enough forward. Look at the last target and you’ll see three holes of what I would consider an acceptable group and two that are wild. Maybe those two were not seated far enough forward to engage the rifling, so they slammed into it at high speed and in a tilted position.
In the next test, I’ll take care to use a special tool to seat every bullet as deep into the breech as I’m able. I think that will solve the problem, but only testing will tell us for sure.
Until I know for sure that I’m seating all bullets correctly, I can’t really say which of the two ways is more accurate. The same goes for high power and low power, which seemed to reverse in accuracy when I changed bullet weights.
Too much is unknown at this point, but at least this rifle is getting a very thorough test!
How much air does the Dragon Claw use?
I now have over 100 total shots on the test rifle, and my Air Venturi 88 cubic-foot carbon fiber tank is still filling the rifle to 3,000 psi. I also filled a Talon SS tank twice from the same carbon fiber tank during this same period. Those of you who plan to get a big bore rifle are well-advised to also get an 88 cubic-foot carbon fiber air tank to fill your gun.