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Big Game Hunting I love prototypes: Part One

I love prototypes: Part One

Today reader Ian McKee, whose blog handle is 45Bravo, starts telling us why he loves prototypes. If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me at blogger@pyramydair.com.

Take it away, Ian

I love prototypes
by Ian McKee

AF logo

This report covers:

  • Prototypes
  • A dare
  • The Green Monster
  • Found its way home
  • No power wheel needed
  • Changes
  • Bigger has got to be better
  • Summary


I love prototypes of anything, I like to follow and document the evolution of a product from concept to final iteration. Some products can be in production for decades, with minor changes throughout their lives. Then, as customers’ tastes change the sales may drop off and the product is no longer economically feasible — so production is stopped. 

With some companies and products it is also common that cost-saving measures eventually become more important than quality. So changes are made to the design that cause the desirability pendulum to swing the other way.  I then document the decline until the product is eventually discontinued.

We have all seen this in many forms — cars, electronics, airguns, firearms etc. The list goes on and on.

Today I want to talk about one company and how their designs have evolved. I want to talk about AirForce Airguns.

A dare

AirForce Airguns started with a dare. John McCaslin, the founder of the company, saw a British CO2 gun at the SHOT Show. It belonged to a friend of his from the United Kingdom. John looked at the gun and told his friend who was selling them in the UK that he could create a better design. The friend said, in a challenging tone, “I’d like to see you try!” To an American, a dare is serious.

AF starter
This is the airgun that started it all. After seeing this British CO2 gun John McCaslin knew he could improve the design.

I have yet to see that Brit gun first hand, but one day I hope to handle it and take some close up video and photos. 

The Green Monster

John took his friend’s dare and made good on it at the next year’s SHOT Show. I have heard comments between Tom and John about an airgun called “The Green Monster” that was the actual first airgun that John McCaslin made after seeing the one above. [Editor: When I worked for AirForce I found the Green Monster in the plant. It was lying on the bottom shelf of a shipping table. I picked it up, dusted it off, cocked it and it fired. It was still holding air after 6 years of being abandoned!]

His friend told him his design was a good one (no kidding!) and if he could find a way to produce it, they would sell in the UK. Thus was born the GunPower Stealth.

Found its way home

I own one of the early GunPower Stealths. Its serial number is 667.  John says it was in the first batch sent to the UK. (From what I understand, they were exporting overseas only until BB convinced him American airgunners would be lining up in droves to get one.) My Stealth eventually made its way back across the pond to not only the USA, but all the way back to Texas where it was made.

The air tank on my gun is dated 12/97, and does not have the required DOT (Department of Transportation) stampings that are mandatory for pressure cylinders sold here in the United States. 

Build a Custom Airgun

No power wheel needed

My ancient Stealth is a far cry from the latest airguns that AirForce sells. The most noticeable difference is the lack of a power adjuster on the left side of the gun. The lack of a power adjuster is common on the UK airguns as they have a sub 12 ft. lb. power limit for airguns unless you have an FAC (Firearm Certificate.)

With a CO2 tank and the AirForce CO2 adapter installed, the Stealth generates 10 ft. lbs. on the nose. With the UK legal tank installed, it gets 11.8 ft lbs. If you screw on an old-style standard Airforce Talon tank, it gets about 20 ft lbs. With an old-style Condor tank, it gets right at 30 ft lbs of energy.

AF Stealth
It’s old, it’s plain looking, but man can it shoot!


Over the years much has been redesigned. The safety, the trigger mechanism, the valve and even the way you fill the airgun have all evolved. 

As John thought of ways to improve his design, changes were made. Some worked and were adopted. Others did not and were not. Without having first-hand knowledge of all of their design changes, I would venture a guess that more ideas have been rejected than have been implemented. 

During the tour of AirForce airguns we were invited to a few months ago, I noticed so many changes they had made to their designs. Some were major performance enhancements, others were aesthetic.  These include an adjustable butt stock, more efficient valves and integrally suppressed designs.

They have even subtle changes to the frame of the airgun. It has two functions, first it protects the safety when it is in the fire position, and it makes the airgun more pleasing to the eye. Some models even have the ability to be fitted with AR15 grips to meet your preferences. 

AF grips
The progression of improvements to the safety and grip over time.

Bigger has got to be better

Even their flagship Texan Big Bore series is not immune to changes over time. The first Texan was a .457 caliber side lever single shot airgun. No suppression, no frills, a very utilitarian airgun that was also the world’s most powerful production airgun. 

As demand increased, and feedback was received they found customers wanted more power and smaller calibers. John and the crew at AirForce listened. Today the Texan is available in many different calibers, ranging from .257 to .51 caliber. The platforms are both suppressed or not and come with short barrels, long barrels, carbon fiber tanks, or standard aluminum tanks. The possible combinations are seemingly endless. 


This is the start of a series of prototype airguns as I run across them and have access to them. I hope you enjoyed this peek into the AirForce airguns beginnings. 

Shoot safe, and have FUN!


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.

33 thoughts on “I love prototypes: Part One”

  1. Ian,

    So that is the backstory on how that gun developed and has continued to evolve! Imagine a company that actually listens tp their customers!. Very fascinating article Ian. What other prototypes with stories are coming?


    • Next will probably be JTS, I have three of their prototypes.

      I hope to get my hands on a Umarex FishR prototype to test and document.

      After that we will just see what I can put my hands on.


      • Hey BB
        I’m new to WP but Im on a couple of airgun forums. I don’t do social media
        (Facebook, insta, etc.) I really enjoyed your article on Swages and have been looking for several months for an affordable simple setup for swaging 22 pellets (Break Barrell, PCP, Springer). I have the newer Sam Yang DC and eventually want to make something for it but want to start with my 22 airguns.
        Could you send me the info for the 22 sawge set from Mike Reames?
        I would love to do this and share my expierments & expierence with airgunners world.
        Thank you for considering.

        • Junkie,

          I no longer have contact information for Mike Reames, but any competent machinist should be able to make a swage like that. Of course it will have to a cylindrical pellet because to make a diabolo takes precision dies that cost five figures and a special press to work the dies that will no doubt cost even more.

          A less expensive way would be to cast the pellets, though I must tell you that casting something as small as .22 caliber is not that efficient. Read this post:



          • Thanks so much for the reply. I’ll check out the link. I’m not really looking for efficientcy more for accuracy and expiermenting. Thanks again in search of a machinist now.

  2. Thanks Ian!

    As a designer by trade with a “continuous improvement” attitude, I’ve always liked to follow product development history.

    I’ve looked at AirForce products many times over the years and being one who always preferred traditional styling, could not warm up to the “black gun”. In recent years I’ve come to accept bottle guns, synthetic stocks and other non-traditional designs like the FX Impact and Panthera. If/when I decide to explore “big bores” one of the AirForce PCPs will definitely be considered.

    Thanks for the write-up!

  3. Thanks Ian for this write up and thanks for the photo of the British airgun that started it all. That Gunpower Stealth of yours is a real gem. If you go insane and with it to live somewhere else, you know where it will be welcome. 😉

    Many years ago I met John McCaslin at the Roanoke Airgun Show. He told me of the beginnings of his company and many of the changes that have been adopted along the way. When I talked to him, they had just introduced the Condor series. Very shortly thereafter they brought Ton into their fold and brought out the Escape series.

    At the time I talked with John McCaslin, he told me of their efforts to develop the Texan, one of which lives here at RRHFWA. It is the .457 LSS with CF tank. I also have one of the very early Talon SS in .22 with no side screws to hold the barrel mounts.

    My first PCP was an early Talon SS that was built by BB for Mac. It ended up in Gunfun1’s hands.

    • RR, I have thought of selling the Stealth over the years.

      But every time I take it out to make sure it still holds air and to shoot it I remember why I will probably never sell it.

      I still use it for work for pest control.

      The reliability and flexibility of the platform and the ability to change power levels with only changing the air source is in equaled.

      But I will keep you in mind.


    • Ridge, what do you think of the LSS?

      I have been running the .357 standard with aluminum tank, and the .457 SS model for a few months.

      I have been experimenting with non standard air gun projectiles.

      They are too much fun!


      • Ian,

        I like it, but it is not really what I want. I have not played with it enough to get the results I want out of it, I think. I need to shoot it a whole bunch more, but my dog gets really upset when I pull the trigger on it, even when I am at the shooting bench almost 100 yards from the house. All I can say is I am glad it is suppressed. It can make a good bit of noise, even with the suppression.

  4. Who knows? AF may consider producing a more “traditional” style airgun someday, being they listen to their customers. Hope you’re feeling better today, BB.

  5. 45Bravo,

    Ian, great non-technical blog; i could actually keep up for a change without much trouble.
    Seriously, interesting topic and i might even own an AirForcemanufactured airgun one day…likely a RAW though. It has nothing to do with my U.S. Navy affiliation ;^)
    Prototypes are among my favorites as well; though usually aircraft or their sub systems.


  6. Ian

    “ integrally suppressed designs.”

    Are design improvements in integral suppression of interest to readers? They are to me but I’m no designer, just an interested bystander.

    Thanks for this fascinating report about a man with the vision to create an ongoing successful company.


    • Deck,

      You bet that integral suppression is of interest to many shooters. What Ian didn’t mention is AirForce invented it! Yep — the Talon SS was the very first integrally suppressed air rifle. I was there and watched it happen. My GunPower Stealth was also a great airgun, but the Talon SS was the one that won me over!


    • Does an integral suppressor not require the extra regulatory hurdles, because it cannot be transferred to another firearm? If so, can barrels with integral suppressors be obtained for other airguns as aftermarket replacements?

        • Too bad. I like the idea of noise suppression for the sake of my own hearing (what is left of it anyway) as well as not disturbing others with my hobby, but I hate the idea of giving our government another reason to inquire into my personal information by applying for a permit to own a suppressor, just on the principal of it.

          • In the USA airguns and their suppression systems are not regulated by the federal government at this point in time.

            Several states and municipalities have made airguns regulated in many ways.

            I think in New Jersey they are seen the same as firearms.

            Since I live in the free state of Texas I design and 3D print my own suppression systems for airguns.

            Different designs for different power levels and air volume.

            One day that will probably change with the crazy power levels airguns are getting now.

            That will be a sad day for American Airgunners.


            • Maybe, but doubt we will cave in without a fight. Consider the EPA has been going after diesel engine “tuners” and tuning shops over alleged Clean Air Act violations, only to have helped spawn a number of “underground” type individuals and elusive online shops still carrying on with mods and parts. Agree with Roaming Greco about having to give “the Feds,” meaning ATF, personal information which would make one a target should someday our “enlightened” politicians choose to enact legislation to confiscate all such arms and devices registered with the agency.

              This is why FM is not sure about going through the permitting process to install a folding wire stock on his GSG MP40. Interestingly, a friend who enjoys the sport and has several suppressed firearms told yours truly recently the turnaround time between applying for these permits and approval is down to weeks – at least in Florida. He was approved for a firearm suppressor within a week of submitting the application. This was taking a year plus not that long ago.

  7. BB
    No time for air guns, about to rain again, and off topic.
    I have just been dumped on by California in their effort to reduce Methane in the Atmosphere and comply with the EPA limits established under the Biden administration. Costly and time consuming and noncompliance may result in escalating penalties. It involves Trash and Recycling, and it may be heading across the country to you guys. Mandatory Recycling.
    If someone has the three 65-gal recycling containers, Blue, Gray and Green it may not change things much, but San Diego is planning to eliminate Free (Tax paid for) Trash Service in the city and make people pay for it. That’s another part of it altogether. No compensation for that action either.

    It involves having a Dumpster AND Recycling Containers for over $210. per month or applying for a Self-Haul Permit with associated record keeping requirements and random inspections for compliance and what I need to do to comply.

    Was going to get deeper into it this weekend but on second thought I just about covered it here already, minus the specifics. Nothing recyclable can go into the dumpster. No wood, glass, plastic, metal, cardboard, yard trimmings or organic waste.?? Really!

  8. Ian,

    Well done. I love reports such as this.

    I derive a satisfaction similar to yours by reading of the different variations of certain air guns in the Blue Book. Often, if an airgun was produced for a long enough period, one can trace improvement after improvement after improvement, and then reduction in quality after reduction in quality after reduction in quality, followed by discontinuation. It is a tale of American manufacturing history as much as it is a history of an individual air gun.


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