For me, one of the best ways of spending an afternoon – besides shooting airguns with a friend – is reading, or watching, a man-on-the-run thriller. I have a particular fondness for some of the older ones, like The 39 Steps by John Buchan which first appeared as a magazine serial in 1915. In it, an ordinary guy – Richard Hannay – finds himself thrust into international intrigue and on the run from sinister forces. Buchan was both the 15th Governor General of Canada and the author of dozens of books, both novels and non-fiction. Talk about an overachiever! The 39 Steps is available as a book and has been turned into a film several times. I recommend it.
Recently I had the opportunity to watch another man-on-the-run thriller that I had not seen in several years: Rogue Male. Based on the 1939 novel by Geoffrey Household, the 1976 film stars Peter O’Toole as Sir Robert Hunter, a British sportsman who stalks and takes aim at Adolph Hitler with a high-powered rifle. He misses and is captured and tortured by the Gestapo, who make up a fanciful story about why he is missing, throw him off a cliff, and leave him for dead. But Hunter doesn’t die, and he makes his way back to England only to find that the Gestapo is still after him. To escape his pursuers, he literally “takes to ground,” burrowing into a hillside in far out in the countryside.
As I watched Rogue Male, I couldn’t help but think, “Sir Robert really would have benefitted from having a small, light air rifle for collecting small game. And that’s where the trouble began.
I got to thinking about what would be the smallest, lightest air rifle that could be reasonably counted on for taking small game, at say, 20 yards. I’m not aware of any really featherweight springers. The venerable Benjamin 392 tips the scales at 5.5 pounds. The Crosman 2100 weighs 4.8 pounds. The Crosman 760 weighs only 2.75 pounds, but I would want something that breaks down easily to a smaller size for easy transport. The 1377 pistol with a steel breech and red dot weighs 3 lbs. 6 oz., and as I have written before — http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2013/08/various-and-sundry.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=various-and-sundry — can be challenging to shoot accurately to harvest small game (even though it is a lot of fun to shoot).
Then it came to me: what about the Kip Karbine? Some years ago, Kip at www.airgunsofarizona.com built for me a tiny air rifle based on the 1377 multi-stroke pneumatic pistol. It featured a pumping forearm from the backbacker rifle, a plastic detachable shoulder stock, a steel breech and a .22 barrel. When it arrived at El Rancho Elliott, I mounted a muzzle brake from a Daisy target rifle (mainly because I liked the look of it, and it protected the muzzle) and a diminutive Bug Buster scope. The whole rig weighed about five-and-a-half pounds, and I used it that way for some time.
But as I looked at the Kip Karbine and thought about Rogue Male, I wondered what I could do to reduce the weight even more. I took off the Bug Buster scope and mounts. They were surprisingly heavy – 1 lb. 5.8 ounces. The Daisy muzzle brake already had dovetails for mounting a front globe sight, so I clamped one to the rail with a post-and-bead insert mounted inside.
The rear sight was more of a problem. I couldn’t use any sort of peep sight that hung over the rear of the breech because a screw got in the way. A Williams peep sight looked like it would interfere with the operation of the bolt. But while rummaging through my parts drawers, I came upon a peep sight – I believe it is from Mendoza airguns – that looked like it would clamp to the dovetail on the breech. It worked! Even better, when I went outside, I found that it had sufficient vertical travel that it would sight in.
The final question was: would it generate enough power for reliably taking small game at 20 yards? I began banging away at a tin can at 20 yards, increasing the number of pumps until it penetrated both sides of the can. At twelve pumps, the Crosman Premier pellets punched through with authority. I chronographed the gun – which I have no dubbed the “Kip Karbine Ultralight” – and found that it was launching 14.3 grain .22 caliber Crosman Premier pellets at 484 feet per second. That works out to 7.4 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle, and ought to be enough to get the job done. I really like shooting it, and since there are no custom parts, it ought to be possible for readers of this blog to put together their own version of the Kip Karbine Ultralight if they so desire.
For those who would like a much higher quality way of traveling light, I understand that FX airguns makes a sight attachment accessory which allows most FX’s (or anything with a standard threaded muzzle) to have a front sight rail: http://www.fxairguns.com/2011/09/foresight-mount/
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott