Sam Yang Dragon Claw .50 caliber big bore air rifle: Part 4
by B.B. Pelletier
This is the second accuracy test with Sam Yang’s Big Bore .50-caliber Dragon Claw single-shot air rifle. As you may recall, or you can check out by reading Part 3 again, the rifle shot all over the place last time. I decided that I was not seating the bullets into the rifling as far as they needed to be, so this time I took special pains to seat all the bullets. I’ll tell you how that went as I report my findings.
I’m still filling the rifle from the same Air Venturi 88-cubic foot carbon fiber tank that I was using when I started this report. The tank has not been refilled, and there are now about 150 shots on the Dragon Claw (at the very least!), as well as a couple fillings for a Talon SS reservoir. The gun is still being filled to 3,000 psi, so that carbon fiber tank is definitely the way to go.
A customer test
While I was testing the rifle, a Pyramyd Air customer needed some help getting his Dragon Claw filled, so I spent some time working with him. He sent me a picture of a target he shot with his rifle at 30 yards. I’d like to show it to you to use as a basis for comparison with the results I’m reporting today.
This customer also reports that the discharge sound wasn’t as loud as he’d thought it would be, and the recoil wasn’t as great as expected. He felt it was just a gentle push. I would agree with that observation. It isn’t until you get into the 500+ foot-pound region that these rifles really start kicking, and even then, they’re more like a .243 than a .30-06.
Slugged the bore
I finally broke down and slugged the bore of the test rifle. To do that, you drive an oversized lead slug through the barrel so that it takes the impression of the inside of the bore. The swaged 225-grain round-nosed bullet I used as a slug measured 0.497 inches before it passed through the bore. The slug that came out also measured 0.497 inches across the widest point and 0.494 inches across the grooves. I do see striations from the walls of the bore on all the high points around the circumference of the slug, so this bullet completely fills the bore of the rifle and nothing more. The slight displacement caused by the shallow rifling is apparently enough to push the rest of the circumference out to make perfect contact with the bore. A 0.495-inch lead ball would be too small for the rifle I’m testing.
Thread protector gone
When I shot, I removed the thread protector from the muzzle. A reader thought that because it projects a half-inch beyond the muzzle, it might reflect back a pressure wave that disturbs the bullet as it leaves the muzzle — and I agreed. The threaded muzzle is just there for a silencer that is useless to U.S. shooters, anyway, so if this were my rifle I would leave the protector off.
Now I was ready to shoot the rifle with both the Air Venturi 200-grain round-nosed lead bullets and the 225-grain Air Venturi round-nosed lead bullets. I didn’t know how the air in the tank was doing at this point; since the gun’s fill level is 3,000 psi, I started the test on low power. Five and even six shots can be gotten on low power, and the gun will still have about 2,000 psi remaining in the reservoir.
I was careful to seat every bullet into the rifling at the front of the breech. For this, a medium-sized Allen wrench worked very well. I actually walked the tip of the wrench around the base of the bullet and could feel it squeaking into position. I pushed until there was no more movement possible with every bullet that I shot.
Starting with the 200-grain bullet, the shots were slightly left and high at 50 yards. The photo shows each bullet is striking the paper square, so we know they’re stable at this distance.
Five Air Venturi 200-grain round-nosed lead bullets made this 4.198-inch group at 50 yards.
Next, the 225-grain round-nosed bullet was tried. This was also on low power, so the rifle had to be refilled between strings.
Five Air Venturi 225-grain round-nosed bullets made this 5.14-inch group at 50 yards. Notice that it’s a vertical stringing, indicating some large velocity variations.
Shooting on high power
When you switch to high power, you have to remember that the Dragon Claw gives only three good shots per fill. So, a five-shot group means the rifle has to be refilled after shot three.
The 200-grain round-nosed bullet grouped best on high power. This 3.322-inch group is the best of the entire test.
On high power, the 225-grain bullet also surpassed the results of the low-power test. Five bullets went into a group measuring 3.727 inches across the centers.
What have we learned?
The first lesson was that the bullets need to be properly seated in the rifling. You have to use a tool like I did to ensure that this happens, otherwise you aren’t going to get any accuracy.
Next, we learned that there are six shots at low power and three at high power per fillup. A carbon fiber air tank is the only way to go.
Did the thread protector make any difference? Not that I could tell. It’s still unnecessary for operation, though, and I think I would remove it.
Round balls did not work in this rifle. One reader says they work fine in his Dragon Claw, but he also slugged his barrel and got a much smaller dimension than the test gun.
Both Air Venturi bullets worked equally well, with a very slight nod going to the lighter ones. High power did better than low with both bullets.
And, finally, from the target sent in from the Pyramyd Air customer, we see that his rifle performs very much like the test gun. He may not have seated his bullets as rigorously as I did because his 30-yard group is larger than my 50-yard group, but it looks similar and is in the same general size range.
Is the Dragon Claw the rifle for you? Only you can answer that, and the answer will depend on what you expect from a big bore air rifle. They’re vastly different from smallbore airguns, and you have to come to them with the right frame of mind. Don’t buy one because you think it’s a substitute for a centerfire hunting rifle, because there’s still a wide gulf between this and a typical deer rifle. If you’re interested in owning something that’s a little different, the Dragon Claw certainly qualifies.