AirForce Texan big bore rifle: Part 3
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• Starting to test accuracy
• Scope swap
• On my own
• The best bullet
• Yada, yada, yada…
• At 100 yards
When I ended the last report, I said there was a lot more to say about the new AirForce Texan and that I would get to it in the next report. Today, I’m going to talk about accuracy, which all of you want to know about. This will be a complete report; but even when I finish, there will still be more to tell. I have a special report coming about the effectiveness of big bore air rifles on big game in general, and I’m sure that one will evoke a lot of discussion.
Starting to test accuracy
I began testing the Texan from my past experience with other big bore air rifles. I knew that guns that developed around 200 foot-pounds of muzzle energy may get up to 10 shots per fill of air, but those that generate above 300 foot-pounds usually get just 2 good shots per fill. I knew the Texan was a 500 foot-pound gun, so I started testing from that assumption. I would shoot 2 shots and then fill the gun again, and so on.
Early in the testing, I removed that 4x scope that Airforce mounted on the rifle and mounted an obsolete scope that’s a lot like this UTG 4-16X56. The 4x scope was unclear at 50 yards (fixed parallax set for 100 yards), and I needed all the aiming precision I could get. The UTG scope gave that to me.
On my first trip to the range, I didn’t have the chronograph, and all I was concerned with was whether or not the Texan was going to be accurate with the bullets I was shooting. I’d already fired the rifle many times over at the AirForce plant, but the range we shot at over there was only about 25-30 yards; and I was now shooting at a 50-yard range at my gun club. Plus, I always shot their bullets. Now, I would be shooting my own.
Every time I shot the rifle at AirForce, it was deadly accurate. One time, shooting offhand, I put three rounds into the same hole at this distance, which is way out of profile for me. Another time I hit a dime-sized circle of Tannerite to trigger an explosion for a video that Ton Jones was filming. I knew the rifle was very accurate. But how good would it be with my own bullets?
On my own
The first bullet I tried was a 405-grain .458 lead slug that I cast myself. This is the bullet I shoot in my 45-70, as well as in my Quackenbush .458 Long Action Outlaw. I knew it was accurate in both those guns, so I felt it was a safe place to begin.
I did not understand the Texan at this point, so I just filled it to 3,000 psi and fired 2 shots per fill. The first 10-shot group at 50 yards measured 3.159 inches between centers. I was happy with this because it was the first attempt. However, on this same day, I also had some Tin Starr 405-grain hollow base bullets, so I shot a second group with them. Ten went into 2.071 inches at the same 50 yards. Now, I was excited! Simply by changing bullets, I had shaved 1.088 inches off the group size! And, I was just beginning!
The next time I went to the range, I went with 6 different Tin Starr bullets and a chronograph. On that first day, I’d noticed that when I filled the rifle after 2 shots the pressure was sitting at around 2500 psi. That means the rifle used only about 250 psi for each shot. The norm for a gun of this power is 500-750 psi per shot.
The best bullet
Next, I was fooling around with some of the lighter bullets — the 215-grain semi-wadcutters to be exact — and that’s when I did it. I shot 6 shots through the chronograph to see what would happen and got the following results:
Shot 1 — 835 f.p.s.
Shot 2 — 899 f.p.s.
Shot 3 — 881 f.p.s.
Shot 4 — 870 f.p.s.
Shot 5 — 856 f.p.s.
Shot 6 — 830 f.p.s.
When I filled the gun, it still had about 2,000 psi in the reservoir, so these 6 shots were not taking very much air at all. I’d adjusted the bullet tuner before switching to this light bullet, and apparently I got it just right.
Then, I shot 5 shots at 50 yards with the 215-grain semi-wadcutters. I shot all 5 shots on the same fill. They landed low and left in a group measuring 0.762 inches between centers! That was astounding! The Texan was clearly different than the other big bores I was used to.
Yada, yada, yada…
Once I discovered how economical the rifle was with air, I started shooting it a lot. I mean, I shot 50-100 shots every time I went to the range. I tested every bullet Johnny Hill of Tin Starr bullets gave me, which is how I found the 4 that were the best. Those were mentioned and shown in Part 2 of this report.
My friend Otho also shot the rifle several times, as did another friend, knifemaker Tank Fisher. Tank found the Texan easy to load and shoot, and both he and Otho did very well with the 405-grain Tin Starr bullets. Though the 405s are great, the 215-grain semi-wadcutters are even better. I saved them for myself, since they were the most accurate of all and I had a serious test to complete.
I shot the rifle so much that I actually ran my 88 cubic-foot carbon fiber tank out of air each time I went to the range! That was a new experience. I had to refill the tank before I could go back to the range again. In the past, this tank has lasted for at least a month of heavy PCP testing — but before now, I never shot a big bore this much. I had all the bullets I could shoot from Tin Starr, and the Texan is so easy to load and shoot that it was like shooting a smallbore — except for the size of the holes!
I have several more small 50-yard groups I could show you. However, at this point in the testing (with over 200 bullets downrange), I began to wonder about the rifle’s possible accuracy at 100 yards. I was up against a deadline for Shotgun News. I had to complete the article I was writing by the end of November.
At 100 yards
I did try the 405-grain bullet at 100 yards, but the best it could do was put 10 of them into about 3 inches. That’s better than I have ever done with a big bore air rifle at 100 yards, but it isn’t the best the Texan can do.
On the last trip to the range, I stapled a couple targets at 100 yards and set about to see what the 215-grain semi-wadcutter could do. At first, I shot 6 shots per fill. As I did, I noticed that shots 2 and 3 always landed very close to each other. I wondered what would happen if I shot a group that had several shot numbers 2 and 3 (after a fill)? So that’s what I did, and that’s what I’ll show you now.
I filled the Texan and fired a single shot three times. Then, I shot 2 carefully aimed shots at the 100-yard bull. When I finished, there were 6 holes that measured 1.506 inches between centers. That’s 6 shots in 1.50 inches at 100 yards. That was my best target of all.
That ended my time with the Texan. I had just one day to get the rest of the article put together so Edith could edit it before I sent it in. Remember, we measure from the center of the 2 holes farthest apart. That equals 1 bullet radius (center to edge equals one radius). So, subtract one bullet diameter (.458″) from the measurement shown on the calipers.
AirForce needed their rifle back for other writers to test, so I had to give it up. There were only a few hand-built Texans in existence at this point in time, and the demand for them was enormous. Seldom, if ever, have I been so sad to see an air rifle go back to the manufacturer.
Let’s look at what we’ve learned about this rifle to this point. First, it has a unique new valve that operates on 3,000 psi air. It does not respond well to over-filling. Next, it has a bullet tuner that must be adjusted for each weight of bullet that’s fired if you hope to get the best results from the gun. This tuner is not the same as a power adjuster, though that’s exactly what it does.
The Texan is very easy to cock and load and uses less air per shot than most guns of similar power.
Finally, I learned that it isn’t the big heavy bullets that are the best in the Texan — it’s that 215-grain semi-wadcutter! I want to talk about that with you in the next part of this report, so stay tuned.