AirForce Texan: Part 5

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Texan
AirForce Texan big bore.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

This report covers:

  • Upgrade to the TX2 valve?
  • Mr Hollowpoint
  • The day
  • Mr. Hollowpoint 333-grain bullet
  • Stretching the air
  • Cold!
  • First two bullets
  • Time to refill
  • Summary

The .458 Texan from AirForce Airguns I’m testing has been with me for many years. Mine is from the first production run. And AirForce has made significant changes to the rifle in the time since mine was made (read Part 3, where the new TX2 valve is discussed), but I don’t care. My rifle still hits hard and drills heavy bullets where I want them to go.

Upgrade to the TX2 valve?

AirForce offered to upgrade my Texan to the new TX2 valve if I wanted. I would gain additional power from the new valve, plus with the new carbon fiber air tank I would retain the 4+ good shots, because even though the new valve uses more air, the CF tank it’s in gets filled to 250 bar/3,626 psi. I could also switch over to the new barrel that is just as long as mine, but has a faster 1:30 twist rate that stabilizes the heavier bullets better. My 535 foot-pound rifle would become a 700 foot-pound rifle with the heaviest bullets.

I don’t know if I want to upgrade or not. My rifle has proven deadly accurate already with a 215-grain semi-wadcutter from Tin Starr bullets. It put 6 of them into about 1.5-inches at 100 yards. And it doesn’t take 700 foot-pounds to dispatch a whitetail deer or a feral hog.

Texan big bore best group
Remember, we measure from the center of the 2 holes farthest apart. Those two radii equal 1 bullet diameter (center-to-edge equals one radius). So, subtract one bullet diameter (.458″) from the measurement shown on the calipers and you get the center-to-center measurement. The group measures 1.506-inches, center-to-center.

If, on the other hand, I did upgrade I would be testing an entirely new air rifle, because both the barrel and the powerplant would be different. To work properly with the TX2 valve the internals of my powerplant would also have to be changed.

In Part 4 I tested my unaltered rifle, using the new TX2 tank and valve. My rifle’s best power had been 535 foot pounds. But now, with the new valve and a Mr. Hollowpoint 490-grain bullet, the power jumped up to 655 foot pounds on the first shot. And that was without the powerplant modifications my rifle needs to do its best with the new valve.

I’m the guy who always says, “Never get rid of an accurate airgun.” Is that what I would be doing if the changes were made? I want to hear what you think. Now, let’s get on with today’s report.

Mr Hollowpoint

Robert Vogel, who is Mr. Hollowpoint to big bore shooters, sent me an assortment of his bullets to test in my Texan. I showed you four of them in Part 4, last November. My thoughts were to select the one or two best performers, tune the power adjustment wheel to optimize the rifle to that bullet — and then leave it alone. 

In Part 4 I tested four of the five bullets he sent. Today I will test number five. I’ll also go back to the bullet that has proven to be the most accurate previously and see if it still as good as it was in Part 4. Remember from Part 4 that I asked him to size all the bullets 0.458-inches, because that’s the size with which my rifle does its best.

The day

I shot the Texan last Friday at the rifle range with reader Cloud9, who is still testing his RAW field target rifle. We were on the 50-yard range that is covered and has nice concrete shooting benches. But my first test that day was the BSA R10 Mark II, and I shot a lot of 10-shot groups with it. You’ll see that one tomorrow.

The day was a cold Texas day. The temperature wasn’t that bad, but the wind was chilling both me and Cloud9 to the bone. By the time I got to the Texan I had already been shooting for almost 2 hours and was pretty cold. 

Mr. Hollowpoint 333-grain bullet

First I will test that last bullet that Mr. Hollowpoint sent. It’s a long 333-grain bullet with a deep hollow point and wide grease grooves that are separated by narrow bands. It looks different enough from all the other bullets I’m testing that I decided to save it for last.

Mr. Hollowpoint 333-grain bullet
The 333-grain bullet from Mr. Hollowpoint looks quite different from all the others.

The first bullet landed in the bull because the rifle was still sighted in from last November. When the second, third and fourth bullets also struck black I thought maybe this would be one to consider — especially for shots at close range. Those first 4 shots grouped in 1.405-inches between centers at 50 yards.

Stretching the air

Then I tried to take a fifth shot without refilling. The onboard pressure gauge read 2,000 psi before the shot and I knew I should refill, but I thought I would take a chance. That fifth bullet landed 2-1/2-inches below the lowest bullet that was already in the bull. It was still in line with the group above, just much lower. It opened the first 5 shots to 3.838-inches at 50 yards.

At this point I refilled the rifle to 3,000 psi and took a final shot. If it went into the first group I would know that 4 shots are all I can get from this 333-grain bullet on a fill to 3,000 psi. 

Well, it did go to the first group, but it landed higher, opening those first four shots to 2.308-inches at 50 yards. Obviously I’m disregarding the lower fifth shot from the first fill in this measurement.

333-grain bullet group
The first 4 shots all hit the bull and grouped in 1.405-inches at 50 yard. The fifth shot on that fill dropped lower, opening the first five shots to 3.838-inches. By filling the tank again, I fired a sixth shot that hit above the first four. That group of 5 shots measures 2.308-inches between centers. Sorry for the blurry image.

Cold!

My little fingers were getting really cold by this time, so I knew I didn’t have much more time remaining. When you see all that I shot with the BSA R10 Mark II you’ll understand how long it took me to get to this point.

I wanted to give the most accurate of the five Mr. Hollowpoint bullets one final chance to see if it was still as accurate as it had been back in November. That was the 300-grain hollowpoint. Back then I put five of them into 1.232-inches at 50 yards, with three of them in 0.349-inches. Could I still do as well on this frigid day? And if I could, maybe I could adjust the power adjuster to optimize it.

Mr. Hollowpoint 300-grain bullet
Mr Hollowpoint 300-grain bullet that you have seen before is the most accurate of all his bullets that I’m testing.

First two bullets

Since I had just filled the Texan for the last shot with the 333-grain bullet, it still had a lot of air, so I decided to shoot the first couple 300-grainers before refilling. Shot number one nicked the top of the bull at 50 yards. Shot two, however, could not be seen clearly through the UTG 6-24X56 SWAT scope. My Meopta MeoPro HD 80 Spotting Scope, however, revealed that the second shot had gone through the same hole as the first shot. I thought that was what I was seeing through the UTG scope, but I needed confirmation. You can see it in my photograph.

Time to refill

At this point I wanted nothing to spoil this group, so I refilled the rifle to 3,000 psi. Shot three landed apart from the first two shots, but it was very close. Shots 4 and 5 are clustered with it. This five-shot 50-yard group measures 0.659-inches between centers!

Back in 2015 I shot five shots into 0.762-inches at the same 50 yards. Those were the same bullets that made a 1.5-inch 100-yard group.

Texan big bore best group
Back in 2015, I managed to put five 215-grain bullets into 0.762 inches at 50 yards. This was clearly a good bullet!

300-grain bullet group
Last Friday, five 300-grain bullets made a 0.659-inch group at 50 yards. This bullet from Mr. Hollowpoint has edged out the Tin Starr bullet from 2015. Will it do as well at 100 yards?

Well, there is no way that I am fooling with the power adjuster after shooting a group like this. This Texan is sighted-in for 0-75 yards right now with this bullet!

Summary

My current Texan is very accurate and as powerful as I need it to be. But by allowing AirForce to upgrade it to the new TX2 valve and the new barrel, I would have a brand new airgun to test. I’m leaning in that direction, but I would like to hear what you readers think.

As it stands now the 300-grain bullet from Mr. Hollowpoint is extremely accurate. I do think I need to test it at 100 yards before I do anything to the .458 Texan.


AirForce Texan: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Texan
AirForce Texan big bore.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • Mr. Hollowpoint
  • The test
  • Two important things
  • Bullet seating
  • Shot count
  • 255-grain bullet target 2
  • 300-grain bullet group 1
  • 300-grain group 2
  • 350-grain bullet
  • 365-grain bullet 
  • Discussion
  • Summary

Today I finally report on my AirForce Texan .458 that we looked at last in September. Some reader asked me to try different commercial bullets in my rifle, and while I was talking to Ton Jones at AirForce he said they really like the bullets Mr. Hollowpoint, Robert Vogel, makes. So I contacted him and ordered a selection of bullets to test.

Mr. Hollowpoint

Robert was on a hog hunt when I contacted him, but when he returned we communicated and he generously sent me a sampling of some of his .45 caliber bullets. I asked for them to be sized .459, because my Texan’s bore is .458. He said he understood and would try his best to satisfy my needs.

If you get nothing else from today’s report get this. The best accuracy with lead bullets comes with bullets that are sized exactly the diameter of the bore, measured from the depth of one groove to the depth of the groove on the opposite side, or up to one-thousandth of an inch larger. In my experience, one-thousandth of an inch larger is best.

Because Mr. Hollowpoint casts his own bullets, he can control the sizes, up to the limits of his molds. And I have to tell you this — I have been casting lead bullets for over a half-century and I can see that Robert Volgle does excellent work. Not all who cast bullets do. Many people cast hard lead bullets because the antimony that hardens the lead also makes the lead flow better. But these are bullets so soft a thumbnail can scratch them. That’s what you want for a big bore airgun.

By maintaining a tight watch on the temperature of the lead and the bullet molds during casting good bullets can also be made from soft lead, and it’s obvious that Robert Vogel knows what he is doing. Every bullet mold has a “personality” of its own, which means you have to learn what they like before you can do good work.

One last observation. Casting hollowpoint bullets involves extra steps that many bullet casters won’t take the time to do. Not only do the bullet molds have to remain at a constant temperature — the hollowpoint pin also has to, and that’s not a given.

Robert sent an me assortment of bullets to try, and I’m not going to rush things. I selected four of them to start with. We will refer to them by their nominal weights in grains. There is a 255, a 300 a 350 and a 365.

Texan bullets
Mr. Hollowpoint’s lead bullets are well-cast. As you can see, the shapes differ a lot, though they are all hollowpoints.

The test

I shot 5-shot groups for this test because of the amount of air being used by the rifle. I shot off a concrete bench with the rifle rested in a long sandbag. The rifle is scoped with a UTG 6-24X56 SWAT scope.

Tom shoots
It was good to get behind the Texan once more.

Two important things

When I visited Ton in September he reminded me of two important things. The first is to always seat the bullets deep in the Texan’s breech or they will tilt in the bore. That destroys accuracy. The second thing is to adjust the rifle’s power adjuster for each bullet you shoot. It’s best to find one good bullet and set the rifle up for it, rather than to hop from bullet to bullet. It’s the same as for a pellet rifle that likes certain pellets, only with the Texan it’s more sophisticated because you are adjusting the powerplant for each bullet you shoot.

I did one of those things in today’s test but not the other. I seated each bullet deep into the rifling like Ton said, but I did not change the power adjuster. Until I find the bullet I’m searching for there is no sense adjusting the power for each bullet. I will waste all my samples just trying! So let’s look at bullet seating first.

Bullet seating

I started shooting the 255-grain bullet first. Shots one and two overlapped each other on the paper, and then shot three landed 1.5-inches lower. I wondered what caused that and then remembered my lesson from Ton in seating each bullet. So bullet 4 I seated properly and it went back to bullets 1 and 2. Lesson remembered! Let’s look at what I’m saying.

Texan 255 1
Bullets one and two overlapped, but bullet 3 dropped because it wasn’t seated properly. Bullet 4 was then seated correctly and went back to bullets 1 and 2. Group measures 1.991-inches between centers at 50 yards, with the top three in 0.516-inches.

Texan 255 loose
The 255-grain bullet lies loose in the loading trough. Whatever you do, don’t close the breech with the bullet laying out like this!

Texan 255 cocked
Here I’ve pushed the bullet into the breech half-heartedly. Don’t do this! the rear of the bullet is tilted up. I have exaggerated the angle for you to see. But I can feel a much smaller tilt when it clicks down straight. I press the bullet down and then in with my thumb.

All bullets do not seat in the barrel to the same depth, but each different type of bullet does seat into the rifling to the same depth every time when the same thumb pressure is applied. And it takes a LOT of thumb pressure! The rifling straightens the bullet, aligning it with the axis of the bore and setting up the rifle for the best accuracy.

Texan 255 seated
This is how deep the 255-grain bullet seats when it is done right. 

Seating the fourth bullet right is what caused it to return to where the first two bullets strike the target at 50 yards in that first target. And here is BB’s tip to Texan owners. Press the base of the bullet down and in to seat it correctly.

Shot count

I remembered refilling the Texan after 3 shots in the past, but that was in 2016 when I was shooting at 100 yards. This time I fired 4 times on the first targbet and there was still 2,300 psi remaining from a 3,000 psi fill. So, on the second target I fired the rifle 5 times on a fill. That is very good air management for a rifle in the Texan’s power range. I haven’t chronographed these bullets yet, but suffice to say we are getting something in the low 300 foot-pounds range with a bullet this light.

255-grain bullet target 2

I just shot the second target and did nothing special. Just 5 shots, one after the other. This time the group was more open, measuring 2.388-inches between centers. I still think this 255-grain bullet is worth spending some time on, but for now I moved on.

Texan 255 group 2
The second group of 255-grain bullets is more open and larger. Five shots in 2.388-inches at 50 yards.

300-grain bullet group 1

Next to be tested was the 300-grain bullet. This one has narrow bands that the rifling engages It seats easier and a little deeper. The first 5 shots landed in 1.258-inches at 50 yards. Shot number 4 is the stray and the other four bullets are in 0.504-inches between centers. Wow! Now, THAT is a group!

Texan 300 group 1
Five 300-grain Mr. Hollowpoint bullets are in 1.258-inches at 50 yards with 4 in 0.504-inches.

This is a bullet worth pursuing! And I can tell that the power adjuster is set almost optimal for this one. It probably needs to come out (less hammer pressure) just a little. A second group might tell us more.

300-grain group 2

The second 50-yard group of five 300-grain bullets is also small, measuring 1.232-inches between centers. Three of the bullets are in 0.349-inches. This bullet really wants to shoot!

Texan 300 group 2
Five 300-grain bullets are in 1.232-inches at 50 yards, with three of them in 0.349-inches.

350-grain bullet

Next to be tried was the 350-grain bullet. Five of them (still on a single 5-shot fill) went into a vertical 3.714-inch group at 50 yards. Given the 300-grain bullet’s performance I think I’ll leave this one alone.

Texan 350 group
Five 350-grain bullets strung vertically in this 3.714-inch group.

365-grain bullet 

The final bullet to be tested was the 365-grainer. The Texan put five of them into 4.857-inches at 50 yards. It was another vertical group and the worst one of the test.

Texan 365 group
The Texan put five 365-grain bullets into this vertical group that measures 4.857-inches between centers. It’s the largest group of the test.

Discussion

In light of the 300-grain bullet’s performance, I think it is the one to pursue. The 255-grainer is also good and shows promise to be even better, but the 300-grain groups tell me they are the bullet the Texan likes the best out of the ones I tested — so far. I have one more Mr. Hollowpoint bullet to test — a 333-grainer. I also want to try adjusting the power setting to optimize the rifle for the 300-grain bullet. If it turns out the way I imagine, that will be the bullet to order in quantity.

Of course I also need to test the velocity of this bullet, so we can find out the power. No sense doing that until I’m sure the power adjustment is set to the optimum. And then if this bullet warrants it I will shoot it at 100 yards.

I did measure the diameter of the 300-grainer, though, and my caliper says it is 0.4570- to 0.4595-inches across at the base. Soft lead bullets usually measure out of round after they have been handled awhile. But their softness squishes them into all corners of the bore, which is where the accuracy and velocity come from.

Summary

That’s it for this report. But as you can see, we aren’t finished with the .458 Texan just yet.


Big Bore airgun calibers

Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • The greater problem
  • The beginning
  • Bullets — not pellets
  • .308 caliber
  • Bore size
  • .357 caliber
  • Black powder
  • The .45 caliber dilemma
  • Shoot soft lead bullets that are slightly larger
  • Other big bore calibers
  • Summary

Most shooters are familiar with the smallbore airgun calibers of .177, .20, .22 and .25. Even shooters who don’t consider themselves to be airgunners know at least the .177 and .22 calibers. But in recent years there has been an explosion of big bore airgun calibers, and I am seeing that many shooters have little knowledge about them. If that were the only problem it would fix itself, because over time people always learn.

The greater problem

The bigger problem are the airgun manufacturers that do not know much, if anything, about the larger calibers. This report will address the lesser-known truths about big bore airgun calibers.

The beginning

Where do the big bore calibers start? Well, they start at anything above .25 caliber. But there is a big bore caliber called .257 that is a legitimate .25 caliber. The difference is the .257 big bore shoots elongated bullets rather than diabolo pellets. Instead of 45 grains they can weigh 100 grains and more. They can reach out hundreds of yards, where the wasp-waisted hollow-tailed diabolo falls off fast after just 100 yards.

Bullets — not pellets

Another thing is big bore airguns shoot bullets, for the most part — not pellets. Yes, there have been some .308, .357 and even .45-caliber diabolo pellets made for certain airguns, but big bore airguns have been around since about the year 1350 and they have always used bullets — round balls until around 1850 and conical lead bullets since then. The diabolo pellet is a 20th-century invention.

.308 caliber

Recently the .308-caliber big bore has gained a lot of traction in the marketplace. People hear the caliber size and envision the .308 Winchester cartridge that they know is very powerful. But a .308 caliber pellet driven by air is far less powerful. It gives up the one big advantage of the big bore airgun — size. With a .308 air rifle your shot has to be precise or you risk wounding your quarry. That said, the .308 can do the job for a good shooter.

Bore size

Now let’s consider bore size for a moment. You don’t have to do that with a pellet. A .22-caliber pellet should work in most .22-caliber airguns. Accuracy will differ from pellet to pellet and we sometimes sort pellets by the diameter of their head, but that’s as far as it goes. Not so for big bore bullets! And this is where shooters new to the shooting sports get confused.

A .308 bullet may be very accurate in a .308 big bore airgun, or it may not even stabilize. That gun may need a bullet that’s .309-inches in diameter to work well. It all depends on the size of the bore! You see, smallbore airgun barrels are closely controlled to fit the pellets of their caliber. But big bore airguns can have barrels of widely varying internal sizes. That’s because there are no set standards for barrels of big bore airguns. They tend to be firearm barrels that have been used on airguns.

There are exceptions, of course. AirForce Airguns, for example, orders hundreds of barrels in each big bore caliber they produce from Lothar Walther. They are such a large customer that they can specify the exact inside dimensions, as well as the rifling twist rate. That’s something that Joe from Podunk, who makes 50 rifles a year, can’t do. He has to select his barrel from the stock items a barrelmaker offers.

.357 caliber

The next size up from .308 is .357 — and this caliber is a huge problem! Ten years ago it was called 9mm, which is sized 0.355-0.356-inches in diameter. The Koreans who were the first to make rifles in this caliber made them with barrels sized for 9mm lead bullets. The trouble with that is, unless you know where to look, it’s very hard to find 9mm lead bullets. That’s because 9mm is mostly a pistol caliber. All the bullets that are popular for 9mm pistols are jacketed and don’t do well in airguns — especially not the underpowered Korean ones! It took a full decade for the airgun makers to realize their mistake, and it took dealers and shooters even longer. Even today there are many shooters who think one-thousandth of an inch shouldn’t matter that much with a bullet. But it does!

Black powder

This is where a background with shooting black powder firearms comes in handy. There are two big reasons for this. First, when black powder explodes upon firing, the instant high pressure upsets the base of lead bullets, obturating (squashing) them into the bore. They are squashed into the rifling where they fit the bore better and also seal against the burning gasses. Airguns cannot do the same, so the fit of the bullet to the bore is critical from the start.

The second reason a black powder background or at least a knowledge of their history is important is because in the past (1250 A.D. to 1900) all non-military firearms (read that as black powder, because that’s all there was for most of that time) came with bullet molds when they were made. The owner had an idea of his gun’s caliber but it didn’t matter as long as he used the mold that came with it to cast his bullets. The military held gun makers to more exacting specifications so they could produce the bullets for their soldiers. Their guns didn’t have to each come with a mold.

Today, though, black powder arms are produced to more exact specifications, so their owners can purchase bullets to go with them. But it still isn’t a smooth road.

The .45 caliber dilemma

Now we come to one of the biggest dilemmas in big bore airguns today — the .45 caliber that exists in no less than three distinct sizes! And they are not interchangeable. Starting with the Koreans again, when they made .45 caliber big bores they made their barrels for bullets of a diameter of .452-inches. That is the modern .45 pistol diameter for the .45 ACP cartridge. And some .45 Colt revolvers also have bores that size. 

Bullets made in that size are expected to be fired from .45 caliber handguns at 850 f.p.s. or so. They weigh from 160 grains to 250 grains — AND THAT IS IT! If they are shot in big bore air rifles in the 200-225 foot-pound class, they are fine.  The Turks are also making their .45 big bores with bore diameters in this size. I have no idea of what the Chinese who make the big bores for Gamo are doing, but it does bear consideration.

The next popular size of .45-caliber bullet is .458, and it has another problem. Some makers are calling their rifles a .457, but I doubt you will find bullets of that size unless they are custom made. Don’t worry, though, because .458 bullets are what you want to use anyway. They fit the bore, where .457 bullets usually don’t.

These are the air rifles that shoot bullets weighing 350-500 grains. They will also shoot the lighter bullets, as long as they are sized .458 and not .452.

Then there are the big bore rifles that are made by boutique makers who turn out a few guns a year, in caliber .454. These guys don’t last that long and finding bullets for their rifles can be a real chore. This size was for Colt Single Action Army revolvers from decades ago. You’ll have to go to a custom bullet maker to buy them today.

So — they’re all .45 caliber, but in three different sizes! Did you know that? If you didn’t and you shoot your rifle with the wrong size bullet you aren’t going to do very well. A 24-inch group at 100 yards can shrink to a 3-inch group, just by using bullets of the right size!

Shoot soft lead bullets that are slightly larger

So—the lesson today is to shoot lead bullets of the right diameter. The right diameter is one-thousandth over the bore diameter in most instances. But you need to experiment with different sizes to make certain. I have been doing this for over 50 years and in my experience a thousandth larger with a lead bullet is what you want.

They should be soft lead bullets, because hard cast bullets will leave lead deposits in the bore. Air rifle bullets also don’t need to be lubricated — as long as they are soft lead. In fact they shouldn’t be. They are ideal for the velocities at which the most powerful of these air rifles shoot — generally 700-900 f.p.s.

Other big bore calibers

Yes there are big bores in calibers other than the ones mentioned here. A number of rifles in .40 caliber have been made, but they were all made by low-rate or custom makers who probably made them to work with a lead bullet that is commonly available. 

That being said, there can be big bores in other calibers, as well. I know of several big bores made to shoot the 12 gauge rifled slug that looks like a diabolo pellet. It’s called the Balle Blondeau.

Balle Blondeau
The Balle Blondeau is a 12-gauge slug that looks like a diabolo pellet. Some smoothbore big bores have been made to shoot it.

Like black powder arms, a big bore airgun can be made in any caliber. If you plan to buy one, make sure you can get the bullets for it first.

Summary

This has been a brief but fairly complete look at big bore projectiles. I have concentrated on the bullets rather than the few diabolo pellets that exist, because the bullets are where it’s at for big bores. Stay tuned.


AirForce Texan: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Texan
AirForce Texan big bore.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • TX2 valve for .45 and .50 caliber Texans
  • Old rifle, fresh test
  • “New” bullets
  • The TX2 valve
  • Power setting
  • Seat the bullet in the rifling!
  • Velocity
  • One more velocity lesson
  • Summary

After writing Part 2 of this report last week I went to AirForce last Friday morning and spent a couple hours with Ton Jones, talking about the Texan and the new TX2 valve and carbon fiber tank. I took my Texan that was made in the first production run, and we attached the new tank to it. That answers the first question — does the new tank fit older Texans?

AirForce Texan Ton Jones
|Ton Jones set up my .45 caliber Texan with the new carbon fiber tank and the TX2 valve.


The TX2 valve boosts power and currently only the .45 and .50 caliber Texans work with it. There is also a difference between the valve cap on the .45 and the .50 caliber valve, so to use the same tank on both airguns the cap needs to be exchanged.

Old rifle, fresh test

Reader Chris USA mentioned that my last report on the Texan was in August of 2015. Yes, it was. The accuracy and velocity data I have given you thus far came from those reports. Since there is a new tank and valve, I conducted new velocity testing with my same rifle and a new tank last Friday. I will cover that later in this report.

“New” bullets

Chris also suggested that I try some of the “new” lead bullets that are being made for the Texan. I hope to do a little of that, but since conical lead bullets are 160 years old, there isn’t really anything I haven’t seen. I think what Chris is really asking for are my comments about some of the bullet makers who are in the market. What I see is a lot of guys who don’t know lead bullets are responding to things the sellers are telling them.

Twist rate

Well, one thing I learned last Friday was the newer Texans come with a barrel that has a twist rate of one turn in 30 inches. They have done this to accommodate the heavier bullets people seem to use. I don’t know what the twist rate is in my barrel and AirForce asked if I wanted to change over, but my rifle is so accurate now that I want to leave it as it is.

The TX2 valve

The TX2 valve is unique in that is has no spring to push it closed. It relies on air pressure alone to do that.

Power setting

In Part 2 I showed the power setting I used for my tests in 2015. Well AirForce has changed the power setting mechanism and Ton told me my rifle was set wrong for the TX2 valve. The index mark needs to be between the first and second notch on the right for heavier bullets and never past the second mark for anything. Since heavier bullets remain in the barrel longer than light ones, They maintain back pressure against the firing valve — holding it open longer.

 So we set it as high as it would go. That means the most spring tension on the striker. On newer guns you may lose sight of the index mark when you reach the end of the adjustment range.

Texan power setting

The power adjustment wheel is turned as far to the right as it will go — putting maximum tension on the striker spring. This was set for the lightest bullets we tested.

TexanSS bullet tuner
These are the power settings on the Texan power adjustment wheel. According to Ton Jones you should never go lower than the second mark that’s shown as 3/4 power in this picture when using the TX2 valve. You want to make that setting your lowest point for the standard tank, as well.

Seat the bullet in the rifling!

If there was one big mistake I made in part 2 it was showing you a bullet laying in the loading trough and telling you that the bolt would push it home. Well, it doesn’t work that way. I’ve gone back and corrected the language in Part 2 and now I have to tell you how important it is to manually seat each bullet into the rifling. I knew that from testing the TexanSS in 2018, but for some reason I reported it wrong in Part 2 of this report. And some bullets present problems, as well. For example, the semi-wadcutters that were the most accurate in my Texan want to enter the breech tipped on an angle unless they are pushed into the rifling. Their angled nose is the reason for this. Once the front band of the bullet encounters the rifling, it squares up the bullet with the bore and everything is okay. You also get more consistent velocity that way.

TexanSS bullet seated
Ton Jones seats a bullet into the Texan rifling. If you can stand the rifle up and the bullet stays in the breech, it’s seated okay.

TexanSS semi-wadcutter
The slanted nose on this semi-wadcutter bullet makes it want to tip over when seated into the Texan breech.

TexanSS semi-wadcutter seated
Once the front band of the semi-wadcutter bullet was in the rifling, the bullet was square with the bore.

Ton took me outside and let me listen to a shot with a well-seated semi-wadcutter. It bellowed , which is how you know it’s seated right. And I heard the bellow through my electronic noise-suppression headphones.

Velocity

Okay, I said that the TX2 valve gives fewer shots than the standard valve. Let’s see. We’ll check the velocity with a 490-grain flat nose bullet made by Mr. Hollowpoint — Robert Vogel. There you go, Chris!

The tank was filled to 3600 psi and the gun was fired. The bullet went out at 776 f.p.s. That’s 655 foot-pounds at the muzzle. We topped it off a second time and the next bullet went out at 778 f.p.s. for 658.74 foot-pounds. This time we did not refill the tank. 

Shot……Vel.
2………..763
3………..731

The tank registered 2590 psi after three shots. We then went outside and Ton fired shots 4, 5,6, and 7. On shot 7 there was a partial tank dump and on shot 8, with just 800 psi showing on the gauge before the shot, the tank dumped all its air. I would say shots 4 through 7 were good enough for finishing shots on game that was down.

One more velocity lesson

Ton filled the tank to 3,600 psi and loaded and shot a 210-grain bullet. It went out at 620 f.p.s. That left 3300 psi in the tank. He told me to watch what happened to the velocity as he shot more.

Shot……Vel.
2………..660 
3………..726 3130 psi remains
4………..795 3050 psi remains

Velocity is increasing as tank pressure drops since there is no valve return spring to close the valve. Want a lot of shots from a big bore? Here they are! And, if you want to increase the velocity — reduce the pressure in the tank!

Summary

We’re just getting started with the Texan. It’s a big bore with performance you can stretch! I have a lot more to tell so don’t go away.


AirForce Texan: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier


AirForce Texan big bore.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Why more air?
  • Why a big bore?
  • Texan operation
  • The big bores that fill to 4,500 psi
  • Big bore bullet philosophy
  • Cocking and Uncocking
  • Can it be uncocked?
  • Summary

In Part One I hopefully familiarized you with the AirForce Texan. Specifically I am talking about the .45 caliber Texan. AirForce and Pyramyd Air both call it a .457-caliber rifle, but it’s really a .458. Only bullets sized .458 and larger will be accurate.

These days you can get either this rifle or the new .50-caliber rifle with the standard 490cc tank that fills to 3000 psi and gets 3-6 shots, depending on the bullet fired and the power setting, or you can get the carbon fiber tank with the TX2 valve. That one fills to 3,.600 psi. The TX2 valve opens more to pass more air and it closes faster to conserve air better. It does use more air with each shot, but it also has more air. Expect 6 or more good shots from a fill to 3,500 psi.

Why more air?

The TX2 valve uses more air to give the bullet more of a push. That equals greater velocity which means more power. Do you need that to hunt big game? No. A .45 caliber big bore that produces 500 foot-pounds at the muzzle will take down a 2,000 lb. American bison, which is about as big as it gets. Whitetail deer are being taken with relatively small caliber big bore airguns such as .357s and even .308s!

Why a big bore?

Currently many people are thinking about a time when they may have to hunt for their food. Certainly a firearm can do all that needs to be done, but there are concerns that, when the time comes, there may not be any firearms, or it may not be possible to use them or get ammunition for them, and what do you do then? I am showing you how to load ammunition for that reason.

Many other people just want to be prepared in case those things happen. A big bore airgun is nearly ideal, since air is free and bullets can be cast from lead. With a big bore airgun  air and bullets are all you need, besides the rifle.

Yes, we can discuss bows and other things. Airguns are just one solution. However, they are the topic of this report.

Texan operation

Enough talk about the why. Now let’s find out about the how.

The valve in this rifle is not the simple knock-open design familiar to most PCP airgunners. It does work that way, but this valve is balanced to not need a powerful thump to knock it open. Instead of just slamming the valve open the way most big bores do, the Texan’s valve opens more precisely. The amount of time it remains open is partly controlled by the gun’s tuning mechanism and partly by the weight of the bullet that’s being shot.

A heavier bullet moves slower, and therefore remains in the bore longer. As long as the bullet is in the barrel, it prevents all the compressed air from escaping, and the air pressure continues to push back against the firing valve. That back pressure prevents the valve from closing.

The valve dwell time, or the time it remains open, is therefore a combination of the tuning mechanism adjustment and the weight of the bullet. The results are fantastic—better than any other big bore has ever achieved.

A Texan shooter can, at will, change the amount of force with which the striker hits the valve by simply adjusting the bullet tuning mechanism or adjuster. To do this, the sidelever must be forward to expose the adjustment wheel in a window on the left side of the frame. The wheel in that window is turned clockwise to increase the tension on the striker spring for lighter bullets and counterclockwise for heavier bullets.

Bullet adjuster
The bullet adjuster on the left side of the frame is exposed when the cocking lever is forward. This is my very early Texan that I have adjusted for heavy bukllets. Use something like a ballpoint pen to move the wheel. Push the holes up to turn the wheel out (longer valve opening time) for heavy bullets and down, which is in, for lighter bullets. The marks along the top are rough references. The adjuster is set at about  2.5 (arrow).

This adjuster is called the bullet adjuster because it is adjusting the gun to the bullet. Yes, the power is affected, but the bullet is what is being adjusted for.

Yes there are other big bore air rifles that get up to 10 shots per fill and I wouldn’t want to be hit by any of them! But the last shots those airguns fire have nowhere near the power needed to dispatch large game humanely. The last of the (perhaps) 6 shots of a Texan can still do the job, as they have greater power than the first shots of those other big bores.

When the striker spring was properly adjusted, I got six shots with a 215-grain .458 pure lead semi-wadcutter bullet on a single fill of air. The velocities of those six shots that started with a 3,000 psi fill were 835 f.p.s., 899 f.p.s., 882 f.p.s., 870 f.p.s., 856 f.p.s. and 830 f.p.s. The lowest energy in that string was 329 foot-pounds and the high was 386 foot-pounds! I’ve never seen a big bore rifle put out six consecutive shots at that power level on one charge of air! In fact, until I saw that chrono ticket, I had been refilling the rifle after every second shot. Suddenly, it dawned on me how differently this gun works!

The big bores that fill to 4,500 psi

Now that I’ve shown you what a Texan can do on a fill of 3,000 psi, what can those other radical big bores that fill to 4,500 psi do? There are several on the market and while they are not exactly in high rate production, they should be considered.

Well, they are powerful. Some get over 600 foot-pounds of energy on their first shot. But shot two drops below 500 foot-pounds and then it’s time to refill. Only you won’t get a full fill because your carbon fiber tank is no longer at 4,500 psi.

Big bore bullet philosophy

Another thing most shooters don’t appreciate—in fact, many cannot believe that bullets from a big bore airgun go right through medium-sized game and out the other side. Unless they hit a large bone inside the animal, that bullet will slip right on through. I’ve experienced this personally several times, plus I’ve heard the same thing from other hunters. Big bore bullets are seldom found inside animals like whitetail deer and sheep.

During this testing I shot my own cast bullets plus bullets that were provided by Tin Starr. They make bullets for cowboy action shooting around the country and they also make big bore lead bullets

sTin Starr bullets
Tin Starr bullets that worked best were the 405-grain hollow base on the left, the 350-grain flat nose, 240-grain round nose and finally on the right is the best bullet of all—the 215-grain semi-wadcutter.

bullet in trough
A bullet is in the loading trough, waiting for you top push it into the breech.

Cocking and Uncocking

I said I would talk more about cocking the rifle. The sidelever does not work the way you imagine it should. There’s no heavy spring to fight against the forward movement of the lever. It takes about one pound of effort to swing open the breech for loading.

Okay, if the lever is easy to open, then the effort has to come when it is closed — right? No, that’s wrong, too. The closing effort is also minimal. It might take as much as five pounds to close the action. Somehow, all the effort of cocking the striker spring has been bypassed! It’s like getting free money or seeing an election promise that’s actually delivered!

When you do this is you’re only compressing a 22-lb. spring. That’s very light.

Can it be uncocked?

The ease of this operation gives you a clue that the Texan’s action is different than any you have ever tried. But there’s one more huge question to ask. How do you uncock this beast?

Other big bores are uncocked by grabbing hold of the bolt or cocking handle and pulling the trigger. When the sear releases the striker, you ride it forward with the bolt handle until it comes to rest against the valve stem. If you didn’t restrain the striker, dry-firing one of these monsters is enough to draw attention to yourself from several houses away.

The Texan uncocks much easier. When the gun is cocked, open the lever all the way again and then pull it closed just far enough to allow the automatic safety to be released. The sidelever handle has to move back about ¾ of an inch for this. Then, just pull the trigger and the sear will release, allowing the striker spring to relax. It’s completely safe, even though you’re uncocking a rifle with a 600+ foot-pound potential.

Summary

Now that we have a good start on the Texan, where shall I go next? I have a good idea, but I would like to hear your input.


AirForce Texan: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Texan
AirForce Texan big bore.

This report covers:

History
Here is the deal
No more energy is needed
The TX2 valve
Summary

Twenty-five years ago big bore airguns were the stuff of dreams. They existed as antiques in collections, but for those who lacked big cash, they were unapproachable. Then, in 1996, Dennis Quackenbush did something about it. He started building the .375-caliber Brigand. It shot .375-caliber round balls and was a bolt-action breechloader. It was powered by bulk CO2 gas and put the ball out the muzzle at around 675 f.p.s. I tested mine on 1100 psi air and got velocities of 800 f.p.s. and more.

History

What followed is history, First the Koreans jumped on the bandwagon, followed by the Turks. They made high-caliber big bores, but in terms of energy they put out half or less of what a really powerful big bore did.

Back to Quackenbush — his .457 Outlaw produced over 500 foot-pounds (mine got 539 foot-pounds) and became the industry benchmark for a powerful big bore.

Big bores captured everyone’s attention.  We even had an annual shoot at targets out to 300 yards.

In 2014 I was invited over to AirForce Airguns to see something new. It turned out to be the rifle we now know as the Texan. It was initially built in .458 caliber, and now exists as a .257, .308, .357, .458 (AirForce calls it a .457, but that size bullet is hard to find. They also make it in .50 caliber! All barrels are Lothar Walther.

Here is the deal

Many big bores these days require being pressurized to 4,500 psi. That means after the initial fill even your large carbon fiber tank will no longer fill to capacity. The Texan only fills to 3,000 psi, and it gets three powerful shots on a fill. And it is accurate.

In 2015 I shot five 215-grain semi-wadcutter bullets into 0.762-inches at 50 yards and six of the same bullet into 1.506-inches at 100 yards! That, my friends, is some shooting!

Texan big bore best group 50
At 50 yards, I managed to put five 215-grain bullets into 0.762 inches. This was clearly a good bullet!

https://www.pyramydair.com/s/m/AirForce_Texan_Big_Bore_Air_Rifle/3575Texan big bore best group 100

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.

Texan big bore Tank
Tank Fisher gets down on the Texan at 50 yards. Off to the right of the 50-yard berm is the 100-yard target berm, and to the right of that you see the 200-yard berm.

No more energy is needed

A .22 Hornet cartridge produces just under 700 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. Would you shoot an American bison with one? I hope not!

But Stephan Boles shot and killed a bison with a souped-up Quackenbush .457. The bullet went completely through the side of the animal and was lost.

So — here is the deal. we don’t need big bores with greater muzzle energy. They shoot through the largest animals already. More energy will just be wasted.

Big bores kill game through bleed-out. The animal bleeds until it expires. A larger caliber means faster blood loss. But more energy is meaningless.

AirForce Texan buffalo
in 2007 Stephan Boles killed an American Bison with a Quackenbush .457 Long Action.

But numbers sell airguns and in the big bore game the number is foot-pounds. So, even though it was already the world’s most powerful production big bore, AirForce upgraded the valve for greater power.

The TX2 valve

The TX2 air valve is found on the .50 caliber and .45 caliber Texans. With a carbon fiber reservoir filled to 3,500 psi a .50-caliber Texan with the TX2 valve will get three shots at over 700 foot-pounds and the first one will top 800 foot-pounds. And that is with a rifle that weighs less than 8 lbs. 

Texan splats
Two .50-caliber bullet splats taken from the steel trap at AirForce.

Summary

I haven’t even finished introducing you to the Texan yet but I have to end it here. I have an eye doctor’s appointment and when both eyes are dilated I can’t see the computer screen. Just know there is a lot more to come.


The Benjamin Bulldog big bore: Part 5

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Benjamin Bulldog
Benjamin’s new Bulldog bullpup big bore air rifle is a .357-caliber 5-shot repeater.

This report covers:

  • Pellets
  • H&N Grizzly pellets
  • JSB Exact King 35 pellets
  • Velocity for the King
  • Air Venturi round nose bullets
  • Velocity for the round nose
  • One more trip to the range?

Benjamin Bulldog Tom on bench
This was a good day to test the new Benjamin Bulldog.

I spent another day at the range with the Benjamin Bulldog .357 air rifle. The day was calm, but that doesn’t matter as much when you’re shooting a big bore.

I think I’ve decided what the Bulldog is best suited to do. Besides being a very handy rifle for medium-sized critters like coyotes and javelinas, the Bulldog is a wonderful big bore for general plinking. I know that a lot of airgunners buy big bores without thinking of the use they’ll put them to, and plinking seems to be the top choice; but most guns are not suited to a lot of shooting. They use too much air and constantly have to be topped off. The Bulldog will give you 10 good shots on a filll and with the right ammo, it seems like the ideal big bore to plink with.

Pellets

I already know the rifle was good with Tin Starr semi-wadcutters, so on this day I tried to find other ammo that also worked well. Among the bullets I took were 2 pellets — one a diabolo and the other a cylindrical. Let’s look at the cylindrical first.

H&N Grizzly pellets

The H&N Grizzly is a hollowpoint bullet with a hollow base. I’ve listed it with the pellets because it has no grease grooves, so it’s not useful as a bullet in a firearm. They are listed as 0.356-inch caliber, and I measured several at a very uniform 0.3565 inches. That makes them 9mm and not .357 caliber, so they’re really not right for the Bulldog. They weigh 82 grains.

I ordered Grizzlys to test the Air Ordnance Modoc, which is a 9mm big bore, but production problems have delayed the shipping of that rifle. So, they were on hand, and I gave them a try.

As expected, these pellets did not do well in the Bulldog. Five went into 8-1/4 inches at 50 yards. That’s not the fault of the rifle nor of the pellet. It was just an experiment I decided to try.

JSB Exact King 35 pellets

The other pellet I tried this day was the 81-grain JSB Exact King 35. This is a diabolo pellet that I’d seen perform on the set of American Airgunner last month. It surprised me then, and it surprised me on this day, as well. The King is a diabolo pellet whose skirt is larger than the Bulldog’s bore. The nose measures 0.3565, which means it probably rides on top of the lands.

JSB Exact King 35
Grizzlys on the left and JSB Exact Kings on the right. The Kings are a great pellet for the Bulldog.

Out of the first five Kings I shot, 4 went into 0.679 inches, with the fifth shot opening the group to 1.554 inches at 50 yards. That was stunning and a real eye-opener. So, I shot several more groups at 50 yards. They were larger, but nothing more than 2 inches for 5 shots. So, I put up a target at 100 yards and shot 5 pellets into 4.238 inches.

JSB Exact King group 50
Four JSB Exact Kings are in 0.679 inches at 50 yards. Five are in 1.554 inches

The interesting thing about this pellet, aside from its accuracy, was the uncanny tendency to go very straight. All my groups were well-centered — even at 100 yards. If I overlaid all the 50-yard groups, they’d be 20 shots in about 4 inches. This is the pellet for this rifle!

JSB Exact King group 100
At 100 yards the JSB Kings dropped by 12 inches and grouped 5 in 4.238 inches.

Velocity for the King

I quickly chronographed the King pellet, because I knew it was a winner. Here’s what 10 shots looked like.

Shot……Velocity
1…………890
2…………897
3…………904
4…………904
5…………891
6…………891
7…………891
8……did not register
9……did not register
10……….835

At the highest velocity the King pellet produced 147.02 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. At the lowest recorded velocity, it still produced 125.43 foot-pounds. Not only is the King an accurate pellet that the Bulldog loves, it also has respectable power.

Air Venturi round nose bullet

Another stunning bullet in the Bulldog was a 70-grain round nose from Air Venturi. Pyramyd Air doesn’t list this bullet anymore, but the Bulldog loves it. Best 50-yard group was 1.25 inches between centers. And, 15 bullets overlaid went into about 3 inches at 50 yards. These bullets also went very straight.

Air Venturi group 50

The Air Venturi 70-grain round nosed pellet put 5 into 1.25 inches at 50 yards. I see they’re no longer available, and I’ve been told they’re not coming back in stock.

Velocity for the Air Venturi round nose bullet

I ran 10 of these bullets through the chronograph and got this:

Shot…………Velocity
1………………889
2………………903
3………………900
4………………900
5………………880
6………………908
7………………915
8………………870
9………………857
10…………….829

At the top velocity, this bullet produces 130.17 foot-pounds of energy; and at the lowest velocity, it makes 106.85 foot-pounds. So, it’s another small- and medium-sized game round that’s also a good plinker. This one didn’t group well at 100 yards — although I fully expected it to. But it opened to more than 12 inches at 100 yards, so it obviously isn’t stable past about 50 yards. That’s okay because 98 percent of my shots are at 50 yards or less.

One more trip to the range?

I’m hoping to get one more trip to the range, where I’ll test the 145-grain Benjamin Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets, the Tin Starr 101-grain semi-wadcutters, the 70-grain Air Venturi hollowpoints and the JSB King pellets one last time.