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Fun with AirForce and Firebird: Part One

Today Ian McKee whose blog name is 45Bravo tells us about a tour and fun shoot that AirForce Airguns and Firebird targets held near Ft. Worth a couple weeks ago. I was also at both events, and I will add my remarks and photos to his. I’ll begin each of my remarks with the intro — Editor

This is just Part One of Ian’s report. He attended both days of the fun shoot, while I could not go on Day two..

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me at blogger@pyramydair.com.

Take it away, Ian

Fun with AirForce and Firebird
by Ian McKee

Recently I was privileged to be among a small group of people who were given an opportunity to tour the AirForce Airguns factory, and attend a Fun Shoot sponsored by AirForce Airguns and Firebird Targets

I would like to start by thanking John McCaslin, Yvette Hicks, Ton Jones and airgun trick shooter Rick Rehm, who is Shooter1721 on YouTube. Dan Meeker and his staff from Firebird targets were also hosts of the shooting event. I thank everyone for their hard work in organizing and making this weekend happen. 

I think the regular readers here are familiar with AirForce Airguns, as BB has written about them many times over the years. If this is your first time here, AirForce Airguns is an American airgun company based out of the Dallas Ft. Worth area. They have been in operation since the late 1990’s and they produce airguns ranging from .177 caliber 10 meter target rifles to a monster .51 caliber suppressed hunting rifle.

Airforce makes single-shot precharged pneumatic (PCP) airguns, and they also manufacture the RAW (Rapid Air Worx) airguns that are magazine-fed repeating precharged air rifles.

The tour

John McCaslin and Yvette Hicks gave us a tour of the facility, answered our questions, and showed us their manufacturing process from raw materials entering the building, to the finished airguns ready for shipping, giving us an inside look into the manufacturing world of airguns. 

AFtour 1
John demonstrating one of the many CNC machines. 

He demonstrated some of the automated machines that performed the same task over and over with micrometer precision, and the meticulous hand assembly and testing of each rifle before shipping. 

Editor: I invited four guys from my church to attend both the tour and day one of the shooting event. They increased the crowd to about 20 people. And one of them is the guy who hit the pellet on top of the post without hitting the post.

AF tour 2
The AirForce tour crowd.

We were also shown some things AirForce is working on that will soon stand the airgun world on its ear. It’s a great time to be an airgunner!

Editor: I purposely DID NOT take a picture of the project that Ian just mentioned, because after seeing it an airgun designer would get important clues to its design. I assure you Ian is correct about the impact it will have. You will have to wait for the project to be brought to market before I tell you why I didn’t photograph it. I hope it is soon!

AF tour 3
RAW receivers as they come from the machine.

AF tour 4
A few of the AirForce airguns in the assembly area. RAW airguns are assembled in a different part of the shop.

Firebird shoot day one

The next day everyone met at Firebird Targets. They manufacture exploding targets that work with airguns, archery equipment and firearms. 

Firebird Targets are biodegradable, non-binary reactive targets. They don’t need mixing and are safe to transport. Firebird’s proprietary mixture and self-contained shell make it a safer alternative to Tannerite® and other binary compounds. Firebird Targets also don’t contain ammonium nitrate and are not classified as a high explosive. Best of all, Firebird Targets are easy to use without the need to measure, mix, and fill targets. Just peel the tab off the sticky patch on the back, stick and shoot!

The Firebird facility has a small range where they test each batch of their targets, and a larger area where they can have distances out to well over 200 yards if desired. Dan Meeker and his crew showed us a fantastic time while at their facility. 

Firebirdshoot 1
BB’s neighbor Denny having fun with the RAW MicroHunter in .22 caliber.

Firebirdshoot 2
Ton Jones holds the RAW MicroHunter

Firebirdshoot 3
BB fills a MicroHunter for Santa Claus (right), BB’s friend from church, Steve. He’s the guy who shot a pellet off a post without touching the post


The crews from AirForce and Firebird fed us, entertained us and invited us to shoot several of the amazing RAW MicroHunter air rifles in .22 caliber. Each rifle mounted a different offering from Lucid Optics. BB has started a blog series of the Lucid P8, and I will soon be giving you the rundown of the Lucid L5 5-25×56 as well. 

Day one of the shoot that I’m showing today was practice, in the morning it was plinking at shorter ranges, engaging multiple targets at different distances, the targets were steel spinners, my kind of shooting! The emphasis was on building your speed, while still hitting the targets. 

All of the rifles fired hundreds of rounds each with not a single hiccup, the only casualty was a fill pressure gauge on one rifle. Someone cranked the 4500 psi fill bottle wide open and it killed the gauge. But while the gauge no longer functioned, the gun kept working for the entire weekend and suffered no damage. 

The skill level of the shooters ranged from some that had never fired an airgun before to some very serious competitors with many years of airgunning under their belt, for the rifles to take such abuse is testament to their durability.

Editor: The guys from my church had the least airgun experience of those at the shoot. I stayed with them and helped them with the MicroHunters.

After a BBQ lunch break and time to get to know the other competitors and Youtube celebrities,  everyone moved down to the longer range and shot .25 caliber RAW rifles at metal targets out to over 100 yards and well beyond! As an indicator that you hit the steel target, each was fitted with a Firebird target that exploded in a loud bang, and a huge plume of white smoke when hit, letting everyone on the range know you connected with that long range target. 

The Firebird targets are unique in that if you hit them with a solid center hit, it is an instantaneous explosion, if you hit the target close to the edge, it has a delayed, less forceful detonation, and if you hit hit the steel plate close to the target instead of the Firebird itself and the splatter of the projectile hit it, it gives a small PFFFT and some slight smoke, or none at all.

Also at the longer range was an Airforce Texan in .45 caliber, this one had the carbon fiber tank, and is capable of producing over 620 ft lbs of energy at the muzzle. I shot it at a full size dueling tree at over 100 yards. I was surprised at the recoil it generated, but I can say it smacks the steel plates with great authority, and flips them to the other side of the dueling tree with ease. It was big bore plinking at its finest!

In the evening we were treated to another fine meal, and a demonstration of the Firebird targets being attached to pumpkins, the semi soft surface of the pumpkin prevented the targets from detonating showing exactly how safe and stable they actually are, but with some “applied engineering” we were able to make them detonate when hit.

Today was just an overview of the weekend, in the next part we will cover the actual “competition” part of the fun shoot. 

Shoot Safe, Have FUN!


36 thoughts on “Fun with AirForce and Firebird: Part One”

  1. I wonder whether the shooting event, including the wining and dining, was laid on in response to past or current advertising. Anyway, I think it only right that the guests should express their gratitude, to their hosts.

    How interesting to read that some time in the future, there’ll be something nice and new. 🙂

  2. Ian,

    Thank you for taking us with you on the tour.


    PS: Section The Tour Editor’s note last sentence: “And one of them is the guy who hit the pellet on top of the powst (post) without hitting the post.” We know the pellet went pow on the pellet.

  3. Ian,

    Between you and BB I have a strong urge to move. Having been in that area before though, it is just a bit warm for me. Perhaps we can persuade AirForce and Firebird to move their facilities up here? 😉

    Thanks for the blog on the tour and Fun Shoot. I am looking forward to more on the competition. I am also looking forward to AirForce’s new project. I also hope it is soon.

    • Wish we had more of this airgun-fun in Florida – “have airgun, will travel.” FM is in fact traveling back home with three air rifles but will have to defer the enjoyment ‘til we all make it back home.

        • Any time, come on down! Met up with my buds after the Newton show; one of them brought two Gamo rifles for our planned backyard shootout but we never got to do any shooting – weather was not cooperating in Beech Mtn. As he and his Mrs. are getting ready to leave, he says “she tells me I have too many airguns (what is “too many?!”) so you take one.” FM desperately tries to convince him he NEEDS his pieces but he insists and won’t take anything for it.

          So FM has involuntarily adopted a Gamo Whisper Fusion Mach 1 with bespoke scope, in .177 and with “glowy thingy” fixed sights – another zero-in job awaits, generous friend states zero is “off” somewhat…Mrs. FM does not yet think the Worser Half has “too many airguns.”

          • LOL! Mrs. RR does. She asks what I will do with them all. Some are wall hangers which I mostly shoot. A few are for just in case I need something more long range and some are works in progress.

            I have to admit there are a couple of pistols I would really like to find new homes for. There is a Beeman 800/Diana 6G which I just had resealed and a 2240 with walnut grips that could stand to be adopted by someone, but most other of the old gals like it right here at RRHFWA.

            That is not too bad an air rifle really. Gamo has come a long way over the years. No, it is no Weihrauch, but what do you expect. With a little practice it might be fairly decent. The price sure is right.

            I have not shipped the parts yet. I should do such by this weekend. Sorry.

      • 45Bravo,

        Ian thank you for a FUN read about a FUN TIME.

        Mr. Holowpoint has been a favorite of mine for his exceptional quality cast bullets(slugs)/ball for everything fom .308 to .58 caliber! In the .575 DAQ Short Rifle his 350 grain hollow point bullet is an MOA shooter out to150+ yards; even his 283 grain ball is close to MOA at 90+ yards.


        • Cool, I am currently playing with 2 AirForce Texans, trying different projectiles that aren’t normally marketed towards Airguns, and some that I have not seen explored on the forums.
          One is in .357, one is .457.

          Also trying different combinations of weight and velocity focusing on accuracy, not velocity or ft lbs of energy on target.

          Thinking outside the box.


          • 45Bravo,

            Getting outside the box makes us better shooters.
            “I was surprised at the recoil it generated,…” made me laugh! It is always a surprise to airgun shooters that haven’t shot a Big Bore before and even moreso for the folks who think of airguns as toys.
            ”Also trying different combinations of weight and velocity focusing on accuracy, not velocity or ft lbs of energy on target.” I wish every Big Bore shooter started from that concept! There would be so many fewer folks claiming that their Big Bore couldn’t hit anything unless it was the barn they were inside of…. But the marketing of MORE POWER or MORE VELOCITY sets too many folks up for just that.

            There is usually enough energy to get to the target, most often enough smack to get the job done, and do it with a modicum of accuracy with most Big Bores.


            • I agree, I’ll admit, while a lifetime Airgunner, I had never really been exposed to big bores in person

              I had shot.a .357 Texan, recoil was negligible, .30 caliber carbine or 38-40 WCF recoil,.

              But I had never fired a .457 standard Texan and with the 365gr bullet, I say the recoil was in the range of a .50 caliber muzzle loader with about 80gr of powder, with the light rifle contributing to some of that.

              The short carbon fiber tank made the length of pull so short you has to be cognizant of the scope eye relief.

              I could be wrong but I think with the right projectile, and the right tune, any quality big bore should be accurate, but what do I know, as I said, I am new to big bores.

              I know Lothar Walther makes both match barrels, and sporting barrels.

              But even their sporting barrels are better quality than some other makers..they wouldn’t have kept the reputation if they didn’t.


            • Also Shootski, I have found my .357 is hold sensitive, if I rest it on a bag with the whole bag supporting the gun, and me just holding the grip and butt, the accuracy is less than stellar,

              If I rest the back of my hand on the bag, and the rifle on my palm, or if I shoot off a bipod, and just support the butt, and holding the pistol grip, my groups improved greatly.

              I am only about 100 rounds into the rifle though.

              Who would have thunk, it likes to wiggle…..


              • 45 Bravo,

                What you just related goes to the heart of the accuracy check and sighting in debate that has been fought for decades…actually at least a century or more: Whether to do rifle/ammo precision checks off of a bench/bag/rest/bipod as well as the sighting in or do the sighting in off hand (or other expected shooting position) or that it really doesn’t matter.
                My personal position is that the accuracy checks are done with as little human influence as possible to avoid that group of variables and then add the human to the position(s) for sighting in. I keep a log of sight/turret settings so i can dial roughly correct for each position but even then many of the variables are different so the D.O.P.E. changes regardless. I guess that is why it is Previous Engagement seemingly meaning the previous shot!
                The piece of DOPE that i have been toying with recently is EAST or WEST bullet path and how much it effects Elevation settings. It really only becomes significant when the TOF (Time Of Flight) is 1+ seconds from muzzle to impact.

                Keep shooting, let the barrel shimmy and shake, but don’t forget to smile often!
                What we get to experience is FUN no matter the outcome of the last shot. The next one is wanting to be sent down range by YOU.


  4. Thanks Ian!

    I’m always curious about new technology, any idea when the mystery product will be released?

    I may end up with an AirForce rifle in the cabinet yet. Been looking at the Raw offerings, will wait the see what the “new and improved” offering is about.

    Cheers and happy Friday!

      • 45Bravo,

        Ian Tom didn’t take picture: “Editor: I purposely DID NOT take a picture of the project that Ian just mentioned, because after seeing it an airgun designer would get important clues to its design.”
        Does that hold for the list of requirements too? Any chance even a partial listing; small scraps for the Blog Dogs ;^)

        So i was studying up on what is new on the EötVös Effect and found this as a side bar:

        It explains some of what Ton avoided on his Long Shot; especially: 4) Excessive Time of Flight. I would add waiting too long to shoot the next shot(s) while the conditions change and folks do more computations.
        The Custom Drag Models (CDM) could/can be done for our shorter ranges with a LabRadar and a computer maybe even a new smartphone. An ambitious Air gunner could make money doing CDM for pellets Field Target shooters as well as for airgun Benchrest shooters! At least until AI bumps them out of business.

        Scraps please!


        • I have had the same discussion of the attached sidebar you linked many times with my shooting buddies over the years.

          Being completely being transparent, I was allowed to take photos, but I promised not to publish them.

          I can not and WILL NOT break that trust.

          But I will throw out a scrap for the “blog dogs”.

          While during the tour, when John showed us the rifle I started asking questions, about the rifle, then the closer I looked the more pointed the questions became.

          He answered all of the questions except one.

          Then I realized I was ignoring the silent 800lb gorilla that was in the room.

          It was the several hundred pound shooting bench that was made into the concrete floor of the indoor range and that the rifle was strapped to, just to remove the shooter error out of the equation as you mentioned.

          Now back to a regular discussion:

          In the last 5 years, technology in Airgun design, and projectiles has grown rapidly, we are now regularly breaking the sound barrier with pellets and slugs, so that side bar you linked is becoming relevant to the average Airgunner.


  5. Wow, that looks like it was a lot of fun. The only thing that I think might have made it more fun is if someone had thought of making some exploding wabbit targets out of the Firebird targets. The old Beach Boys song “Fun Fun Fun Til Her Daddy Took The T’bird [Firebird] Away” is now going around in my head…

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