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Education / Training Sam Yang Recluse big bore air rifle: Part 1

Sam Yang Recluse big bore air rifle: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

The Recluse from Sam Yang is a 9mm/.357-caliber, single-shot big bore air rifle.

Today, we’ll begin our look at the Sam Yang Recluse big bore air rifle. The rifle I’m testing is serial number 3922. This is a single-shot 9mm/.357-caliber air rifle that’s suitable for hunting larger small game such as coyotes, javelina, and any of the larger animals such as raccoons and woodchucks that we take with powerful .22-caliber and .25-caliber hunting rifles.

While this isn’t the same 9mm single-shot rifle I knew years ago (the Career Fire 201), it has many similar attributes. I mention that because, of all the Asian big bores, I’ve liked the 9mm single-shots the best because of their versatility.

Is it 9mm or is it .357 caliber?
Let’s clear this up right now. Nine millimeter is not exactly the same caliber as .357. A 9mm bullet measures either 0.355 or 0.356 inches in diameter, while a .357-caliber bullet measures either 0.357 or 0.358 inches. The difference sometimes matters and other times not. I have a Ruger Blackhawk revolver (a firearm) that has one cylinder for .38 Special/.357 Magnum and another for 9mm ammunition. Before testing it, I would’ve sworn that one caliber would prevail over the other; after extensively shooting both calibers, I can say they’re equally accurate.

I’ve been assured by Pyramyd AIR that the bore of the Recluse measures over 0.357 inches in diameter. Normally, I would run a lead slug through the barrel and measure it after it came out; but when the caliber is as close as this, shooting is often the better method for determining what works and what doesn’t. I have a wide range of .357 lead bullets to use for this test, plus Pyramyd AIR has also provided me with ample 9mm swaged lead bullets in both 70- and 90-grain weights.

Because this is an airgun, the bullets you use do not have to be lubricated. In fact, all the tests I’ve done with lubricated bullets versus unlubricated bullets show the lubricated bullets to be less accurate. If you’re buying bullets, buy them unlubricated if you can.

Because this is an airgun, it will not obturate the bullets when they’re shot. In fact, smokeless powder doesn’t obturate lead bullets, either. Obturation means the squashing of the base of the bullet out into the rifling so the bullet fits the bore better. Only black powder will obturate bullets properly. All other propellants need to shoot bullets that fit from the start.

To conserve air during testing, I may shoot for accuracy first and then chronograph those projectiles offering the best accuracy. As with any big bore, this rifle is going to consume a lot of high-pressure air, so it’s worthwhile to have a strategy that conserves as much as possible.

You may think that it’s possible to both chronograph and shoot for accuracy at the same time; but I’ve found that if I concentrate on one thing, the other will suffer. When I chronograph a special gun like a big bore, I do it at the firearms range and write notes that accompany the chrono ticket to help me remember all that happened for when I’m writing the report later on. When I shoot for accuracy, I don’t want any distractions because all my focus is on what I’m doing. Although it’s possible to both chronograph and shoot for accuracy simultaneously, I seldom do it anymore.

The rifle
The Recluse (the name was taken from the spider) is a single-shot rifle that has a sliding breech cover, much like the one we saw on the .50-caliber Sam Yang Dragon Claw. The bullet is laid on the breech trough, then pushed forward into the rifling. From what I’ve learned while testing the Dragon Claw, I’m going to be especially careful to insert the bullets correctly into the rifling every time in this rifle.

The rifle has the profile of an over/under shotgun, with the top of the receiver rounded in the rear. It cocks via a bolt handle that sticks out of the receiver on the right side of the gun, so it’s not very ambidextrous. Like the Dragon Claw, there are two different power levels to engage; and where the bolt handle stops determines which one is engaged. The gun arrived with the bolt handle separated, so it had to be installed before anything else was done. Doing so is relatively easy — just cock the bolt to the low-power setting with a screwdriver blade through the side of the cocking slot and attach the bolt handle to the bolt with a single Phillips screw.

The bolt is at the low power cocked position. The cocking slot widens to the right for inserting the bolt handle when installing it.

I note that, like the Dragon Claw, the Recluse bolt is very stiff when new. From experience, I know this loosens with use; and by the time I have about 20 shots on the gun, it should be functioning fine.

You also get a probe-type fill adapter that I’ll explain in a moment, a single extra o-ring for the adapter, an extra bolt attachment screw and two sling swivel studs…if you care to mount them. The front stud takes the place of the forearm screw and is easy to install, but the rear stud is a wood screw that must be attached to the stock by drilling a pilot hole then screwing in the stud.

Besides the bolt handle and screw, you get the adapter (bottom) one extra o-ring, an extra bolt handle screw, a front sling swivel stud that attaches in the forearm screw hole and a sling swivel stud with wood screw threads.

Stock and forearm
The woodwork on the rifle is first-class. I’m sure many of you know that Korea, where the Recluse is made, is one of the countries making many PCP stocks for the rest of the world these days. They do first-rate work and can get fine woods. The Recluse is stocked with a straight-grained walnut that’s relatively free of figure but very clear and strong. There are attractive panels of laser-cut checkering on each side of both the pistol grip and the forearm, and the diamonds are sharp enough to help you hold the rifle.

Both the pistol grip and the forearm are flat on the sides and on the thin side. I like the feeling because it makes the stock easier to grasp. The bottom of the forearm is also flat and makes the perfect rest for your palm when shooting offhand or from a rest.

The butt has a Monte Carlo comb and a raised cheekpiece on the left side, only. Clearly, this rifle is made for right-handed shooters.

The metal
The air reservoir and barrel are both polished and deeply blued. The receiver and sliding breech cover are plated with what appears to be chrome over an unpolished cast part. It’s attractive in a showy way.

The adapter
This past weekend, I had to talk a new big bore owner though what I’m now going to show you. He’s new to airguns, so he isn’t aware of some things that old-timers take for granted.

The end of the adapter that fits into the air hose coupling is beveled on the inside. It looks funnel-shaped. That shape is intentional, because it mates to the hose coupling that has an external beveled shape of the exact reverse angle. Sometimes, these two surfaces mate with strictly metal-to metal contact and other times there’s a thick, black rubber seal inside the hose fitting. Either way, the adapter has to be screwed into the hose fitting with a wrench on both parts. Finger-tight is not enough. This isn’t a fitting that uses an o-ring, where the air pressure distorts the o-ring to make the seal. You have to make the seal by tightening the two parts together.

The inside of the hose end of the air-filling adapter is beveled to mate with the coupling on the end of the fill hose. These two parts must be screwed together with wrenches to seal the high-pressure air.

This hose coupling has no rubber seal, so the seal is obtained by tightening the fill adapter into this coupling with two wrenches.

I told this new airgunner to do this, and he first assured me both parts were together very tight, yet air was still leaking at the connection. He had them finger-tight. Then, he tightened the connection a little more with the wrenches. The leak stopped and we gained one more veteran PCP user who will never have to be shown that step again. For all readers who are new to the world of precharged airguns, this is how many adapters fit on their air hoses.

General observation
This rifle is a lot like the Dragon Claw except for the smaller caliber. It’ll use comparatively less air and, if you cast your own bullets, less lead. The power is not too far behind the larger-caliber rifle because the velocity is really high on this one. In fact, it’s so high that I’ll be checking it very carefully. This could be a delightful way to acquaint yourself with the world of big-bore airgunning.

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.

36 thoughts on “Sam Yang Recluse big bore air rifle: Part 1”

    • 177or22,

      Any good medium priced scope works well. I love the leapers and center point scopes in the 3 X9, 3 X 12 and 4 X 16 variations with adjustable objective. The side adjustable ones are particularly nice.

      This scope I highly recommend:

      I own one, and highly recommend it!! To me this is one scope that gives you a whole lot of “bang for the buck”! In my opinion, it gives the MOST “bang for the buck”! Since I have owned about every brand and price range scope you can imagine, I believe you can trust my judgement.

      You can get better, at 3 – 5 X the price, but imho not that much better. UNLESS you want to be a national field target shooter. In which case you might want to invest the extra money. For general plinking, hunting, and informal target shooting, this scope works very well and don’t break the bank.

      All the other Leapers as well as the similar Center Point scopes and even Sun Optics and Bushnell and Hawke scopes are all good, as well as Simmons, and even some of the moderate priced Tasco’s. But you really can’t go wrong with the Leapers scopes from PA.

      So just choose what you think looks the best or has the specifications (magnification, weight, and features) you like!

    • 177or22,
      Something to consider. The Marauder fires dead calm, so you don’t need a scope that is air-gun rated. You can pretty much use any kind of scope, so you have the luxury of seeking a scope based on features without worrying about breaking it (unless you want to share this scope with springer’s). That’s my 2 cents on this matter.

        • 177or22,
          Yes. Scopes have to be rated for air-guns, meaning springer’s. A scope that may work fine on a high power (center-fire) rifle may break on a springer. But you specifically asked about a scope for a Marauder. Marauders are PCP’s, and not springer’s, and more importantly have no recoil, so again, you can use any scope (including something not rated for air-guns).

        • Re-read yesterday’s article concentrating on the recoil motions…

          Even a massive Weatherby magnum only recoils in one direction. Standard scopes are designed so that the internals are braced against “getting left behind” when the tube suddenly jumps toward the rear (in other words, simplified, the internal bracing is against the front end of moving parts, and a spring on the back end holds the moving parts against the brace).

          Spring/piston airguns have a rather mild rearward recoil, which is stopped, and may even be reversed, when the piston bottoms out in the cylinder. This stop/reversal, on a firearm scope, moves the internals against the spring not the bracing. Move far enough and parts may jump out of alignment.

          There is also rotary spring torque, as the spring expands it twists (the piston rotates one direction, the receiver the other — until the piston bottoms out again and the two act to stop the twist rapidly). This rotation of the receiver, if sudden enough, could contribute to rotating the reticle tube in the scope (the BSA AIRGUN-RATED scope that I’d had on a .22 RWS model 54 is about 15 degrees to the left, with fewer than 100 pellets… That scope now sits on an AirSoft M-14, and a Leapers is on the m54 — though I have had to return one Leapers that arrived with a 5 degree rotation).

  1. This item just came up in my Google news alert:


    While this is in Vicksburg, Mississippi, it occurs to me that the same thing might be happening in police departments around the U.S.

    Brief summary of the above: Confiscated guns are being sold to raise $ for the police dept. Some have been held since 1978, including 2 airguns. This might be a good place to buy used firearms and possibly vintage airguns if those are among the items from 33 years ago.


    • Amazing — considering how many jurisdictions have tried the reverse… paying (scrap prices) for people to bring in firearms for disposal (after maybe checking them [the firearms, since the plans typically calim to be “no questions asked”] for a criminal record).

    • It is troubling that the ‘Ayes’ exceeded the ‘Nays’ and that the bill failed to pass only because two of the Assembly members were absent or failed to vote– and those two usually vote ‘Yes’ on this issue! That means that we are far from out of the woods on this issue, and possibly won this time around just by luck or happenstance. Does anybody know if it take a unanimous ‘Aye’ vote to pass, or just a simple majority, or some other proportion?

  2. I’ll be interested to see the accuracy on this Korean big bore. So, they have walnut trees in Korea? I didn’t think of that wood as Asian.

    Gun Doc, John Browning stands out to me for the number and diversity of his designs. In fact, I can’t think of any other great designer who created more than one great gun: Peter Paul Mauser, John C. Garand, Mikhail Kalashnikov…. But would you also agree that John Browning did not create any particularly accurate gun? His forte seems to have been all about simplicity and reliability. (Although maybe his M2 BMG was an exception since it was also used as a sniper weapon.)

    As to your question about pellets for the Crosman 1077, I’ve used RWS Hobbys and they are utterly reliable and very accurate.

    The detailed mechanics of spring rifles make me wonder how we can hit anything with them with that momentum in opposite directions while the pellet is still in the barrel.


  3. Hello! I have a question, and was told that this might be a good place to ask it..

    When my edition of “blue book” arrived, I noticed something that shocked me:

    Elmek smooth bore guns are listed to be worth 3500dollars in 60% condition, and 2500dollars in 20% condition!?

    A few years ago, I was given two old wrecks by a guy i bought a Webley Tracker from, and they are the same guns in the pictures, marked with the hexagonal “elmek” logo, but blued, not nickeled.

    I am amazed that guns as crude as these can be worth anything, but they might be very rare? Mine are in very bad condition, but there might be hopes of saving one of them.

    Would they have any collectors value if they are skillfully restored?

    • Dag,

      First of all, don’t believe everything you read in the Blue Book. Sometimes it’s just one man’s opinion, and mistakes have been known to happen.

      Second, restoration of any kind usually destroys the value of a collectible airgun. Only when the work is of the quality Doug Turnball puts out, and even then, it can still subtract value from the gun.

      And finally — Elmek??? That was a new one to me. Thanks, because I like to learn new things.


    • Dag Evert,

      Yes, Elmek guns are rare. I think the bluebook is way off here. I placed a bid on one on gunbroker about a year ago that was in shootable condition. Ended up selling for around $650.00. I think the potential purchasers of Elmek guns are rarer than the bluebook believes. I’m guessing that those prices are close to what Robert Beeman paid for his Elmek’s that are now in his collection. 😉


      • Thanks! The Elmek is an under lever spring gun in .25 calibre, smooth bore. it has a “pistol grip” attached to the lever, and the lever also is the trigger guard.

        What you say about the value sounds reasonable, I was a bit surprised when i saw it.

        Might have to get one of them in good working condition one day!

  4. BB,
    You mention pushing the bullet into the rifling in the breech of the Recluse and also about slugging the barrel to measure its internal dimensions. Is there a kind of “universal fit” for big bore bullets that you have observed over the years, or is each gun/barrel unique. For example, “a bullet .0010 to .0015 smaller than the groove diameter would be a good bet for accuracy.” Or , ” a bullet .0010 to .0005 smaller than the groove diameter will usually deliver good power. With variations in rifling height and width and number, is such a generalization possible? Just trial and error like pellet guns?
    How often do you get bullets stuck in the barrel?
    When you slug a big bore, what do you use and how hard to do you normally have to push?
    Pretty open ended, I know!

    • Lloyd,

      The universal best fit of bullet to bore is the bullet is one-thousandth of an inch larger than the widest dimension of the bore. That is a rule of thumb, but in 47 years of handloading with lead bullets, I have found it sound.


      • B.B.,
        Thanks, I will work with that as a baseline. I know we’ve talked before about the minute differences in barrel sizes and bullet diameters, and with big bores it seems like you often need to try 3 or 4 different diameters to find one that works well. It sounds like you have that in the works for the Recluse.

  5. Hi all,

    Legislation in general: Mark Twain: No man’s liberty or property is safe when the legislature is in session.

    John Browning and accurate rifles: Browning was first and foremost a hunter. Who else would make a shotgun with a magazine cut off so you could quickly cut off the magazine, eject your duck load, and quickly chamber a goose load? Who else would have a gun you could run dry, and then it would automatically chamber the first round you put into the magazine. The Auto 5 has both features. Browning designed practical features to bring the game to bag when the difference was eating meat and beans or just beans. His rifles were plenty accurate for the task at hand, and any thing more was wasted thought. Now, having said all that, I don’t know that he didn’t design an accurate rifle. Someone with more knowledge can comment. One of his first designs became the Winchester single shots. How accurate are they?

    Scopes: I know they are expensive, but I have always stuck with Leupold. Probably 80% of mine have been bought used, because so far, my quote is “If it looks good, it is good, because if it ain’t good, Leupold will make it good.” This policy used to extend to obviously damaged scopes, but they have pulled back on that. But if there is no obvious damage in my experience they stand squarely behind their product. I have had few problems, but every one I have had was handled courteously, quickly, and well.

    Gun Doc

  6. Wow, 16 posts untill i got to one relating to my Recluse,oh my bad NO POSTS RELATED,ridiculus, that Said, I love my Recluse, I shoot H&N rnd balls 77gr on low for squirrels and rabbits, and the 158gr Snakebite from Dash Caliber on high for yotes,feral hog and deer. truly it is very versatile hunter, i use a centerpoint 3-9X40 AO and love it as well,great bang for the buck and unbeliveable once Will Piatt or LeRoy Rodunner powertunes it for ya.The down side is the Korean angle,soley imported by AirVenturi so theres no way to get parts or even the time of day from the SamYang people.tho Gene in the tech dept at AirVenturi has offered to help if he can(cocking arm breaks OFTEN).with replacement parts. Great blog B.B. keep it up. Oh, and all you posters out there…PLEASE try to stay on topic….TY

    • Chef Spyder,

      No “on topic” requirement on this blog! We believe airgunners should be able to discuss whatever they want, as long as they stay civil.

      If your cocking arm is breaking, the problem may be the replacement parts used in the tuneups. As I mentioned, these guns do break in and become much smoother as they go.


      • Sorry B.B. didn’t mean to come off like that, just passionate about the 909 platform. Actually i have one of the newer Recluse models and the handle seems to be a little different than pics i see of the older 909 .45s.I know they have made upgrades and my handle has held up well tho i am carefull with it.

  7. I am thinking about buying theSam Yang Recluse 357. What is the effective range which retains accuracy? Any information on this rifle will be very much appreciated! Is the referb guns as good as the new ones? I thought that referb might Even be better because the tech department may have inspected it and worked some of the bugs out.

    • I was in the middle of testing the Recluse and it leaked. I’m now in the (slow) process of rebuilding it, so I can finish the test.

      What is accurate? Typically these rifles will shoot a 3-inch group at 50 yards. Sometimes a little better (2 inches?).

      But some guys think they are accurate because they can hit a half-sized ram silhouette at 150 yards.

      So how accurate it is depends on your definition of accuracy.


  8. I just read an article in Predetor Extreme on the Recluse and it was printing 1 moa at 100 yards now that to me is really accurate for an air rifle…. using 115 or 11 6 grain pellets…… i was thinking of getting one but if it will only do 3″ at 50 yards forget it….

    • coyoteklr,

      Was the rifle you read about modified in any way? That is usually how people get better results than I get when I test the factory versions.

      As for a rifle that’s capable of one-inch groups at 100 yards — I don’t know that any big bore air rifle can do that yet — even for just five shots, let alone the ten I test with.


  9. B.B.,
    Anticipating your future review on the Recluse. I am strongly considering a big bore gun and was hoping that this one might be reliable out to 100 yards or more. Any thoughts or recommendations on caliber or brand for long range big bore shooting?

    • Erik,

      There aren’t going to be any future reviews of the Recluse. This one failed when I air it up and was never repaired. I sent it back.

      The Korean guns are good out to 50 yards, but if you want to shoot accurately farther than that you need something more powerful. The smaller calibers work best the farther out you go, but if you want toi hunt with the gun, get the largest caliber you can find. I like the Quackenbush .458 myself.


  10. BB:
    2.1/2 years ago you dropped the review on the Recluse due to a faulty test weapon. Back then, you stated that there weren’t going to be any future reviews on that model? Since then, dual tank models have come out and the Sam Yangs seem to have established popularity and a following. Would you consider obtaining another Recluse and taking up where you left off?

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