Back From the SHOT Show: News from AoA

The Daystate Pulsar drew a great deal of interest, and to my eye is one of the prettiest bullpups around.

I just got back home from Las Vegas on Friday morning …. it was a killer trip and not for the reasons one might associate with this town! I was at the SHOT Show, and as in years past it was a hectic schedule for me. But unlike last year, though I missed media day due to family obligations, I was there for three full days. I caught a late flight in and arrived in Vegas just before midnight on Monday, grabbed a cab to my hotel, and got a decent night sleep. I arrived at the show at 8:30, and as I’d preregistered went straight to the press room. I had a couple quick preliminary meetings with magazine editors, got myself organized, then hit the exhibit floor.

The Daystate Pulsar drew a great deal of interest, and to my eye is one of the prettiest bullpups around.

The Daystate Pulsar drew a great deal of interest, and to my eye is one of the prettiest bullpups around.

I am contracted to deliver reviews or commentary on SHOT for Predator Xtreme (my publishing home base), for Fish and Game (doing an annual gear guide), Airgun Hobbyist, and Airgun Shooter (UK) on big bore airguns. So in my blog today, so that I’m not stepping on my own toes and plagiarizing myself while trying to write four different articles on the same event, I am going to stick to guns and happenings at AoA. And there was a lot happening there with two of the major releases in the booth; the release of the new Daystate Bullpup called the Pulsar, and AoA’s first foray into manufacturing with the big bore called the Bushbuck! The other two areas of extreme interest (for me) was the further integration of Brocock product line into Daystate, and AoA’s management of the MTC scope line.

The AoA booth was, as in years past, in the British Pavilion and by virtue of that had to only shot British products. Fair enough and there was enough to show that this wasn’t a major setback, except that the AOA Bushbuck couldn’t be actively displayed. This was a shame, in that it is the most powerful production big bore gun in the world, and at a SHOT Show this year with the emphasis on all the new big bores the rifle wasn’t given a chance to shine. Robert, Greg, and Darren were manning the booth for AOA, with Tony Belas (Daystate Dir of Sales and Marketing) and his team in attendance. A great group of guys and a vast amount of airgunning experience between them!

Tony Belas took the time to tell me about the history, features, and release plans for the Pulsar.

Tony Belas took the time to tell me about the history, features, and release plans for the Pulsar.

Tony Belas told me that the Pulsar redefines airgun design as we know it. The gun is built on more than a decade of electronic airgun design which has proven very successful in both hunting and competitive shooting, stating that Daystate’s revolutionary CDT system has a significan place in sporting airguns. He also told me that the Pulsar represents the 5th generation of this technology and provides the next major step forward.

The Pulsar brings together Daystate’s established CDT and MCT systems, and updates them into one of the most compact, ergonomic, and advanced firing systems ever seen. The Pulsar’s new electronic GCU system is housed in a rugged waterproof box for total protection against the elements. The ergonomic design is fast to deploy and looks to be a shooter-friendly bullpup packages, which I hope to comment on from an experience users perspective soon. Some of the other features are an integral laser sight to allow the user to wholly concentrate on the shot. The gun is rich in safety features with a sophisticated and multidimensional electronic safety system – a crossbolt safety catch, anti-double loading mechanism, and bolt-open deactivator. All of these features should add up to make the Daystate PULSAR THE gun for shooters that want a bullpup …. and can afford the cover price to the dance :) . I like the concept of a bullpup, but the realization of most designs leaves me less enthusiastic; if I am going to use a bullpup it’s because I want a compact, light, easy to deploy gun. A lot of bullpups feel like a fencepost in my hands, but I was impressed with the fit and feel of this gun and am anxious to hit the field with it.

The AOA Bushbuck is a massive gun, and is producing massive power. The bolt action has two cocking position, pull it halfway back and you get 3-4 shots at 400 fpe, or pull it all the way back and get two shots at an incredible 600 fpe! This is the most powerful production airgun ever built. I shot this gun in Arizona as it was being prototyped, and think it may well represent the apex in big game hunting airguns. It has a solid trigger that is one of the most tactile and smoothest I used on a big bore out of the box. I’m taking this gun hunting soon and will report more then!

Darren and I go over the new AOA Bushbuck, which to me was a major development. At 600 fpe out of the box this is the most powerful production airgun ever made ...... and a great side note, the gun we're looking at is mine and ships after the show!!!

Darren and I go over the new AOA Bushbuck, which to me was a major development. At 600 fpe out of the box this is the most powerful production airgun ever made …… and a great side note, the gun we’re looking at is mine and ships after the show!!!

Brocock has been coming up with guns that I really like, they are compact, simple yet elegant in design, great performers, and tend to be very compact. A gun I got my hands on la couple years back, hunted with a lot in the squirrel woods of the Midwest, desert rabbits out west, and pest control all over, was the Specialist. I groaned when I heard the gun was discontinued, but was happy to see that it has been resurrected with a new ambidextrous stock, which is more substantial than the original stock but still weighs in at 4lb and some change. Now here’s where I’ll weigh in with an opinion, when I want a compact hunting gun to carry on long hikes this is what I reach for, not a bullpup, but a well designed, lightweight, compact carbine. And for this type of gun, Brocock is producing some of the best of breed.

Tony and I discussing the evolving Brocok product line, and the companies airgun portfolio which consists of Daystate, Brocock, and MTC scopes..... exciting times!

Tony and I discussing the evolving Brocok product line, and the companies airgun portfolio which consists of Daystate, Brocock, and MTC scopes….. exciting times!

I can’t give you a lot of details on the MTC Scopes yet, there was not a wide range at the show, but I will say that the couple I looked at impressed with the clarity of the image in the lowlight environment. These scopes have a very short eye relief, which may take a little getting used to, however if the field performance is on par with what I say at the show, it will be worth the effort of acclimation!

Other fun things for me at the show; we filmed a segment of the American Airgunner Roundtable from the floor, setting up a mobile studio at the Pursuit Channels booth. I was joined by the usual suspects (Rossi, Tom, and Rick) and we each spoke about some of our favorite finds from around the exhibit hall. I also did a full blown photo shoot for Game&Fish/Sportsman magazine, which was a bit wild. I met in a studio they’d set up in the convention center, replete with all the lights and gear, and a staff consisting of photographer, director of photography, makeup artist, etc. I had to change into my camo and strike heroic poses in front of a white screen with an air rifle over my shoulder to calls of ” a quarter turn, raise your chin, look into the camera, look serious, be the expert”. Will see how it turns out, I think my face is better suited for writing or radio!

Have lots of guns coming to me over the next few months, one of the first things I’ll do is an upcoming hog hunt with the Bushbuck…. I’ll keep readers up to date!

BTW: If you want to get a broader look at the SHOT Show, I’ve got a two part video posted, stop by for a look

https://www.youtube.com/watch?x-yt-cl=84503534&v=XWZVnImk8iM&feature=player_embedded&x-yt-ts=1421914688

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Big Bore Airguns, Brocock, Daystate, SHOT Show, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Look Back At A Great Gun That Never Got A Chance

Flying into Las Vegas for the SHOT Show a few years back, I was eager (as always) to see what the airgun manufacturers had in store for us. I arrived Friday night and had to leave for a conference in Germany Sunday morning, which left me with one full day to cruise the show. I spent my limited time running from one Airgun booth to another as fast as I could, followed by pre dinner meetings, dinner meetings, and after dinner meetings.

A rifle that never got the chance to prove itself in the market!

A rifle that never got the chance to prove itself in the market!

But even under these time constraints I kept finding myself drawn back to the ROHM GmbH booth to look at two new rifles they were introducing; the Twinmaster Air Hunter Rifle and Twinmaster Air Hunter Carbine. These guns were both things of beauty, but it was the Carbine that really caught my eye: the precisely shaped thumbhole stock, the shrouded carbine length barrel, the solidly built bolt action, and the light crisp adjustable trigger all impressed.

An all around great little carbine that I really enjoyed hunting with. Who know what this gun might have done in the market if the legs not been kicked out from under it market introduction.

An all around great little carbine that I really enjoyed hunting with. Who know what this gun might have done in the market if the legs not been kicked out from under it market introduction.

The Air Hunter was developed in both a carbine and rifle configuration.

The Air Hunter was developed in both a carbine and rifle configuration.

After my second or third visit I sat down for a chat with the product and marketing guys in attendance, and was treated to a demo of and discussion on these yet to be released products. We agreed that when test guns were available, they would ship me the pair to get in some preliminary range and field time. As the months flew by, we kept in loose contact with an understanding they would be shipped as soon as a pre-release run of test guns was available. Then one day in June, I was notified that the brace of Air Hunters were being shipped and would be reaching me soon. I had some fun getting them through customs, a long story that I’ll go into another time, but eventually found myself sitting in my gun room opening a shipping container that held two packing boxes. The rifles resting therein had both made the long journey without incident or damage.

And a nice set of guns they were! Both of them dressed in laminate thumbhole stocks with stippled grips on the pistol grip and forestock. After a quick visual assessment, I cleaned the guns, attached the bolt (the only piece of assembly required), mounted a scope, filled the removable reservoir and charged it to 3000 psi, then sat down to sight in. I always bore sight my guns before the shooting, and the first three pellets sent down range formed a slightly ragged hole 3” inches low and a 1” to the right. I’ll get into the accuracy in detail a little further along, but want to say the first three things that I took note of were a) the stock was a great fit, b) the trigger was light and crisp, and c) the gun was very quiet. Sometimes, and it doesn’t happen often, you pick up a gun and it just “feels” right. My AA S410 FAC and Falcon PF 25 are two models that exemplify this; there are several great guns on the market but these two just felt good from the start. And extensive shooting and hunting experience with the rifles confirmed their promise as exceptional hunting arms. I had the same feeling with the Air Hunter Carbine, though carried on with the objective of maintaining a critical eye.

The kit contained both a 5 shot shuttle clip and a single shot tray.

The kit contained both a 5 shot shuttle clip and a single shot tray.

Fit and Finish

The level of fit and finish is very good, as one would expect from a gun at this price point. The laminate used for the thumbhole stock looks more like a traditional Walnut than the flashier muliti hued veneers often used in today’s guns. I think this gives the rifle classy good looks. The stippling on the pistol grip and forestock is well executed, and gives a good grip on the gun when the weather gets sloppy. All the metal work is deeply blued, and is well formed without machine marks or defects. It is solid without being bulky. A standard Weaver scope rail is factory installed, and I used it to mount a Hawke Map Pro 3-9x 40 variable scope. I found this carbine balanced very well, and the cheekpiece offered up a good sight alignment with the scope and medium profile rings used to mount it.

The Mechanics

The Air Hunter Carbine is available in .177 or .22 caliber (my gun is .22) and can be set up as a single shot using a loading recess insert, or as a repeater using a five shot strip magazine. Both the loading recess and the strip magazine will be included in the base package. The compressed air is supplied via a removable cartridge that has a fill rating of 3000 psi and yields approximately 40 shots per fill. The distal end of this air reservoir has an onboard monometer so that air pressure can be continuously monitored. This is a regulated gun, and the regulator is set to reduce the pressure to approximately 1950 psi over the 40 shot string. A filling adaptor that screws into a standard DIN tank fitting comes with the rifle. The reservoir screws onto this fitting, and after charging is automatically bled off as the cartridge is unscrewed. Therefore no external bleed valve is required.

This gun is cycled with a bolt mechanism, but is actually cocked by the compressed air pressure. If there is no charge, the gun cannot be discharged. The bolt is well proportioned and the action is smooth, I find that I can load and chamber a pellet very quickly. The triggers functional parameters; pull weight, slack, stop and force are preset at the factory with the weight preset at approximately 3.5 lb. The triggers position / finger distance can be adjusted using an Allen key. What is unique with this trigger is that there is virtually no stacking; the pressure one needs to exert to release the sear is a few grams. I really like the tactile response of this trigger for hunting, not too light but at the same time it breaks very smoothly.

Performance

I shot Crosman Premiers, JSB Exacts, and Eu Jin ,22 pellets for my initial shakedown of the Air Hunter. This gun is producing around 17 fpe, and performs very well with the CPs. I charged the gun to just under 3000 psi and shot 25 shot string, getting a maximum velocity of 752 fps and minimum velocity of 748 for a spread of only 13 fps. The accuracy achieved with the CPs was also impressive; shooting a series of five 10 shot groups at 25 and 50 yards I obtained .31 and .62 inch ctc groups respectively.  I have had good terminal performance on small game with CPs over the years, so decided to make this my hunting round.I think the combination of the quality barrel, well regulated air charge, ergonomic stock and the excellent tactile response of the trigger results in a very shootable package.

The gun provided consistency, accuracy, and power for small game hunting.

The gun provided consistency, accuracy, and power for small game hunting.

In The Field

On my first hunting trip with this carbine, I carried it for a day of rabbit hunting on a friend’s farm. The garden on his property was working as a magnet for the local bunny population, and he asked me to thin out the population a bit. I take these pest control duties seriously as this is one of the properties I use for deer hunting when season comes around. I rolled up late one afternoon, and scattered a few rabbits that had been feeding in the small park-like field in front of the farm house and bordering the 2 acre garden patch. I unloaded the Air Hunter and stuck a small pouch of CP pellets in my shirt pocket before starting out.  I moved to the edge of the cultivated area using the trees and bushes to shield my approach, before sitting down next to a small tree with an overlook of both the field and the garden. After a short wait rabbits started to appear but they were all out of range. Then I noticed one come out along the edge of the brush line at about fifty yards. I lined up the shot and squeezed the trigger, the light, crisp break along with the effectively silenced report allowed me to watch as the pellet dropped right on my point of aim! The rabbit rolled over, anchored on the spot. A similar scene played out a few more times with shots taken and made at 40 to 65 yards, before diminishing light sent me packing. The outing did give me enough shooting to appreciate how well this compact carbine handled in the field. On this trip I had the single shot loading recess in place, and found that I could easily and quickly feed the CPs and cycle the shot. The accuracy was outstanding, every shot was dead on target and every aspect of the gun was exceptional; they way it carried, the way it came to the shoulder, the sight alignment, and the responsive trigger made it a lot of fun to hunt with.

My next trip out found me chasing ground hogs, where shots sometimes have to range out a bit further and the quarry is a lot bigger. I was using XP 18 grain pellets this time, and in testing had found them to be accurate with the Air Hunter. Past experience had also shown me that they perform well on whistle pigs. Long story short; I stalked a series of fields but these late summer survivors would not let me get inside a hundred yards. I’ll reach out for a jack rabbit or prairie dog this far, but not an animal the sized of a well feed ground hog. This did give me a chance to walk, trot, leopard crawl, and crab walk with the gun, which reconfirmed my earlier assessment that it carried well in the field! Finally on my way back to the car, I looked up as I walked through a stand of trees and there in a small clearing sitting atop a log was a plump hog staring at me. I slowly raised the rifle and shot, taking him with a headshot as he prepared to vacate the area. He flopped over dead, and I counted off 32 paces as I walked over to collect him. As a rule, I’m not going to use a .22 air rifle for any prey much larger than this, and in my view the knock down performance of this gun satisfies my hunting needs for an air rifle in this caliber.

Opening day of Indiana’s squirrel season found me in the woods at daybreak, in full camo with the carbine in hand. I moved to a den tree that I’ve hunted a few times over the years and settled in for a wait. After a half hour, nothing was happening in my area but I did hear the repetitive barking of a squirrel off to my right. Grabbing my pack and rifle I slowly started moving in the direction of the sound, stopping often and listening. I sat at the base of a tall mast producing tree where I thought I’d heard some movement. After a few more minutes I heard cutting and saw a telltale patch of red fur from the fox squirrel high up. But the foliage was so heavy I could not see well enough for a shot. Standing up, I leaned around the base of the trunk to a point that I could see the bushytail stretched out above me. Bringing the rifle to shoulder, I leaned back and lined up a bead right on the noggin. The thumbhole stock allowed me to comfortably hold the rifle in this awkward position, and shooting almost straight up I squeezed the trigger. A plump red squirrel dropped through the branches landing at my feet. Within two hours in the woods, I had three nice fox squirrels loaded into the game pouch of my pack.

So, I started talking about these rifles and wrote a couple articles that got interest up, but nobody could find the guns or track down the manufacturer. I tried reaching the marketing folks at Roehm that had shipped the guns to me…. the phones went unanswered, emails went unanswered, I even tried snail mail without success, only to find much later on that the company had ceased operations and their assets sold. Since I have found that Airguns of Arizona had a couple of these guns hidden away in inventory….. but in the end I don’t believe more than a small handful ever made it into shooters hands. I’ve seen this a few times over the couple decades, what looked like a promising gun that for one reason or another never hit the market. Mine get a place of honor in the display case.

Other news:

I’m getting ready to leave for the SHOT Show in a couple days, and it’s going to be both a lot of fun and very busy. I’m covering the exhibition for four different magazines, a TV show, and I know there are a lot of new guns coming out! I’ll keep you all updated!

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Hunting Accessories, Pest Control, Rabbits, Rifle stocks, Small Game Hunting, stocks | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Tree Squirrel Part II

My friend Randy Mitchell down in Kentucky was the guy that got me hooked on squirrel hunting. My first season in the Midwest I was only moderately successful, but after some hunts with him I started getting much better results. He and I wrote a book together on squirrel hunting several years ago.

My friend Randy Mitchell down in Kentucky was the guy that got me hooked on squirrel hunting. My first season in the Midwest I was only moderately successful, but after some hunts with him I started getting much better results. He and I wrote a book together on squirrel hunting several years ago.

The first step in a successful hunt is to select a good woods to hunt. I look for large mature trees with mast or another food source close at hand. The last few years I’ve used google maps to scout areas that look like good squirrel habitat, which has helped me locate some productive new hunting grounds on public land. I also keep a notebook which list the details on the areas in which I have seen squirrels, as they continue to be productive if not over harvested. You can often find two or three areas that contain most of the squirrels in an area, and then focus on these spots. I like to pick a protected pathway to so that I can quietly move to the site where I have set up my blind, and hunker down. I like to move into position before first light and set up, that way I am able to sit back undetected, as the squirrels start moving about. The blind I use is a wire frame pop up tent with shooting windows all around. These blinds set up and break down in seconds, keep me dry, and lets me move around without being seen. An alternative to setting up a blind is to wear camouflage, and I have several sets to match the different environments in which I hunt. My normal outfit consists of pants, jacket, mesh gloves and face cover, and hat. The advantage of this over the blind is that I can move around and still hunt. Another piece of gear I’ve really come to like over the last couple years is a leafy 3d camo poncho, which can be worn or used to set up a variety of different hides.

Some might say that complete camo for squirrels is overkill. but I believe it makes a big difference, especially on squirrels that get hunting pressure. At the very least, wear a face cover and gloves.

Some might say that complete camo for squirrels is overkill. but I believe it makes a big difference, especially on squirrels that get hunting pressure. At the very least, wear a face cover and gloves.

I like to use stalking and still hunting techniques when I’m entering the woods anytime after daybreak. Moving in a haphazard way through the woods will result in not seeing any squirrels for hours after; this is the perfect way to ruin a hunt. Take a few slow steps and stop for at least a minute. The squirrels may think you are a deer quietly foraging, and resume whatever they were doing. If you happen to spot a squirrel in the distance, move slowly and only when he has his attention dedicated to something else. Often you can get close enough for a shot, which is the name of the game when hunting with an airgun.

Slow spot and stalk hunting is more difficult than setting up a blind and often less productive.... but is the most fun way to hunt the bushytail.

Slow spot and stalk hunting is more difficult than setting up a blind and often less productive…. but is the most fun way to hunt the bushytail.

The Hatsan is an entry level gun that can get the job done. The Airforce Talon and the Benjamin Marauder also fit this bill.

The Hatsan is an entry level gun that can get the job done. The Airforce Talon and the Benjamin Marauder also fit this bill.

Another technique is a variation on the theme, which is to combine stalking or sitting a blind, and using a call. I sometimes favor using a squirrel call when I am hunting an area I know holds a population of bushytails but I’m not seeing any. I have the best results with a chatter call. Squirrels are both social and vocal animals, and you’ll frequently hear more than one chattering at a time. A chatter call can get others chattering and reveal locations. I have had mixed results with this call, sometimes it works and sometimes nothing. But I use these when I am not having luck otherwise, so I find them worth a try. If you do get a response, put on a stalk. If not, keep still, quiet, and wait! Chances are a curious squirrel is coming in to investigate. I have used the distressed squirrel pup and the barking calls on occasion, but I don’t seem to have the much success with these. But I don’t claim to be an expert squirrel caller, so it might be me!  Often when stalking through the woods, you and the squirrels will become aware of each other at about the same time, and these arboreal escape artists are very adept at keeping the tree between the two of you as they scamper to the offside precluding a shot. If hunting with a partner, have your buddy walk around the tree and quite often the squirrel will slide around right into your crosshairs. When hunting alone I’ll sit for a few minutes before throwing a rock or a branch to the other side of the tree, which will often move him back into shooting position.

Depending on the gun I am using, I will either take a head or a chest shot, but prefer the head shot. These kill zones are about the same size, so it’s really a matter of what target the squirrel presents me with. Squirrels are fairly tenacious little animals, so I prefer to use a heavy round nose pellet.

Ok, so we have a squirrel down, now what? These animals are actually make quite good table fare when prepared properly. Regardless of what game you shoot in the field, how it comes out on the dinner table has a lot to do with the way you care for it in the field. I prefer to skin and clean my kills as soon as possible, and have found a few ways to quickly and effectively prepare bushytails. The approach I’ve found to work quite well is to grasp the squirrel by the tail and use your knife and cut into the tail just above where the tail connects to the body above the anis at the underside of tail. Cut through the tailbone being careful not to cut the tail off the squirrel. Cut through to the skin on the other side of the bone leaving the tail attached by a narrow band of skin holding it to the rest of the hide. Hold onto the rear legs and skin the tail down the squirrel’s back a couple inches. Now take the tail and clamp it down to the ground with your boot, and put all your weight on it. Grasp the rear legs tightly and pull upwards until the skin peels off up to the squirrel’s neck. Next, grab the front legs that are still in the skin and pull them out of the skin up to the feet. Then let go of the rear legs as you grasp the edge of the hide left on the rear portion that looks like his pants on the belly side and pull it off like pulling his pants off , down toward his rear feet. Cut the front and rear feet off and your done with the skinning. A great advantage with this technique is that it leaves little or no hair on the meat. I did not realize early on that it is a good idea to remove all of the musk glands during cleaning and gutting to prevent a bitter taste. The glands are small grayish balls found on the neck, under front leg arm pits, on belly and hips areas, directly behind rear leg knee joints under the flesh. You must cut into the flesh behind the rear knee all the way to the bone in order to find the gland here. The other glands are readily apparent after the animal has been skinned.

My all around favorite small game gun is probably the Daystate Huntsman Classic. There are a few other guns that perform as well.... but none look better doing it!

My all around favorite small game gun is probably the Daystate Huntsman Classic. There are a few other guns that perform as well…. but none look better doing it!

The FX Royale is another gun that provides outstanding performance in the squirrel woods, and in .25 is a tackdrive on accuracy and a sledge hammer on power.

The FX Royale is another gun that provides outstanding performance in the squirrel woods, and in .25 is a tackdrive on accuracy and a sledge hammer on power.

There are several airguns that I like for squirrel hunting, which include springers and PCPs in various calibers. My favorite springers these days are; the RWS 34 .22 which is light and compact making it very easy to carry and bring into action, even in heavy spring foliage. The RWS 350 Pro Compact is a gun that I really enjoy for its classic lines, and it delivers the pellet on target with excellent accuracy and power. The Walther LGV comes in a variety of configurations, and are high quality guns that are smooth shooting and offer excellent power and accuracy, but the reason I like them specifically for squirrel hunting is that I can shoot them well from just about any position, whether I am sitting, standing, or prone. I also like my old Webley Patriot in .25 because this gun is a powerhouse, and in the heavy spring bush where I want to anchor the animal this gun does the job.  I have found that when matched to the right gun, the JSB Exacts and Predator Polymags.177 and .22 work very well, and the JSB Exacts and Benjamin Domes pellets are great in the .25. Some of the PCPs I like to use for Mr. Bushytail are the Daystate Huntsman Classic, the Wolverine type B in .22, the FX Verminator, and the Brocock Concept elite which are all accurate rifles with a multishot magazine and shrouded barrels. Another old favorite is the Prairie Falcon .22 with the eight shot rotary magazine that is a tack driver, and of the entry level guns that offer big performance, I’ve been getting great results with the Hatsan AT44 and Benjamin Marauder which shows you can get in the game on a budget as well. Saying that this list comprises my favorites is a bit arbitrary, as there are many guns I enjoy taking to the woods with, but they exemplify the type of gun I like. Sometimes when out for predators and an opportunistic shot at a squirrel comes up, I will use my mid bores to take small game as well, not the ideal squirrel guns but they do a good job anchoring squirrels!

So that’s my quick look at squirrel hunting, which arguably is the most popular airgun hunting quarry in North America. Of all the hunting I’ve done for different game in different places, some of my best memories are of squirrel hunts. If you haven’t tried it, and I mean seriously hunting them not just shooting them out of the bird feeder in the backyard for pest control, which is a valid application for an airgun but is not the same as hunting them in the woods, give it a try. Even as an experience hunter you may be surprised that such a small animal can provide such a big challenge!

Categories: Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Airgun Hunting’s Ubiquitous Game: Tree Squirrels

The gray, red, Aberts, and fox squirrels are all very cautious and elusive animals.  To consistently take squirrels requires an ability to stalk, a great deal of patience, and knowledge of the squirrels behavior.  I do a fair bit of deer hunting and find squirrel hunting excellent practice for bigger game. I also use my airgun hunting time in the woods pre deer season to find good places to set up my blind on opening day of deer season. If you can sneak up on a squirrel, you’re on your way to sneaking up on deer.

These creatures are spectacularly well suited for life in the trees, and move with a fluidity and speed that is truly amazing.  Gray, Aberts and red squirrels spend more time in the trees and less time on the ground, and fox squirrels spend more time on the ground scavenging than the others. Squirrels have the ability to literally disappear from sight in a seconds notice, and once that happens you probably won’t see him again for some time, if at all.  They are very adept at putting a tree between themselves and a hunter and making it difficult to line up a shot, though you can use this trait to advantage when stalking in to set up a shot.

Whether hunting fox, gray or Aberts squirrel, to be consistently successful you need to know your game and its habits.

Whether hunting fox, gray or Aberts squirrel, to be consistently successful you need to know your game and its habits.

This means knowing where to look for them, such as mast producing hardwoods.

This means knowing where to look for them, such as mast producing hardwoods.

And finding and understanding sign that they are in the area, where they are feeding and where the are denning.

And finding and understanding sign that they are in the area, where they are feeding and where the are denning.

Both gray and fox squirrel’s habitat is woodland with oak and hickory trees, yards, stands of trees around cultivated areas, actually just about anywhere there are trees and food.  As a general rule of thumb, grays like the denser wood area and foxes prefer some open ground area with the trees more spaced out. Squirrels nest in holes in trees or build leaf nests in tree branches. In inhabited areas, squirrels have the bad habit of building their homes inside human homes – and at that point they are no longer a game animal but a pest. One species or another can be found in most of the United States. Grey squirrels are active year-round and arboreal; they do not hibernate even in the very cold regions of their range, and they must have trees to survive. They are most frequently encountered around sun-rise and are the most active after sun-up. In the places I hunt, squirrels are classified as game animals and the fish and game regulations define the hours they may be hunted. Make sure you know the laws where you hunt. .Squirrels populations peak every five years or so. Squirrel tracks look a lot like a rabbit’s except the tracks of a squirrel are more bunched, and tend to end at the base of a tree.

These arboreal rodents eat a variety of foods; corn, sunflower seeds, hickory nuts bird food left in feeders, nuts insects, fungi, seeds, berries, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and in tough times, tree bark. Squirrels can be voracious carnivores and devour quantities of bird eggs and the chicks of many birds. I have to keep vigilance on my property as the large squirrel population will play havoc with the nesting songbirds and at the feeder During August-October, they are feeding heavily on hickory nuts, acorns, beech, dogwood or black gum. I have also seen them eat corn, sweetgum, poplar, cypress, pine, ironwood and wheat. They bury acorns and other nuts – but before they cache the nuts, they bite out the base that prevents the nut/seed from germinating. Squirrels must have a source of water and are seldom found far from it, I often hunt along the edges of streams and creeks. In some states, and Kentucky and Indiana come to mind, it is legal to hunt from boats if certain guidelines on the type of water craft used are adhered to. I use my Ocean 12’ SOT kayak as both a platform from which to hunt as well as a means of getting into secluded squirrel woods, and tie this into my other hobby of ultralight camping as well.

My kayak is a great platform for hunting squirrel (where legal) and a great way to getting into secluded hunting areas.

My kayak is a great platform for hunting squirrel (where legal) and a great way to getting into secluded hunting areas.

As mentioned, squirrels can be found in almost any wooded area within their range and have adjusted well to man. Often squirrels thrive within the city, making their homes wherever a suitable den can be found. We sometimes shoot squirrels within the city limits when they are pest, and for legal reasons this is one of the times I hunt with an airgun because I must rather than because I choose to. In the rural and wilderness areas one can usually find squirrels by finding a food source.

Squirrel_3

Gear also changes based on conditions, but I always carry range finder, binos, call, and a knife.

Gear also changes based on conditions, but I always carry range finder, binos, call, and a knife.

Once you have located the food source and know where the squirrel feeds eat, one must find where squirrels live. The favorite home of a squirrel is a hollowed out tree with a small opening of a couple of inches. The tree must be large enough to support a male and female squirrel and about 6 young, so the tree must be quite large in diameter. Squirrels also make temporary housing by bunch leaves and twigs in the upper parts of trees, and these often are seen as the leave start to fall, looking like large bird nest. Do not be tempted to shoot into these nests to scare out squirrels as this is illegal in most if not all states. Squirrels will often make a temporary nest in the same trees they have their permanent dens in, perhaps to get better airflow in the hot and humid summer nights, or perhaps where the male is chased off to when there are very young in the nest. These shelters are made near a food source so that food doesn’t have to be carried over a long distance.

 

Whether you are out for fox, gray, or Aberts squirrel, you have to hunt well and you have to hunt smart to be successful on a regular basis. The first step is knowing your quarry. Next installement I'll talk about some guns (the one in this photo is a home made PCP I built several years ago)

Whether you are out for fox, gray, or Aberts squirrel, you have to hunt well and you have to hunt smart to be successful on a regular basis. The first step is knowing your quarry. Next installement I’ll talk about some guns (the one in this photo is a home made PCP I built several years ago)

 

I’ll follow up with the second part of this discussion next post!

Categories: binoculars, mouth calls, Optics, Pellets, Small Game Hunting, springers, Squirrels, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sparrows (I think) in China

Several Years ago, almost twenty as I now think back, I was living in Tokyo. I had to make a trip over to China on short notice, and a scheduling error found me with free time and stumbling into a really unique airgunning experience. I wrote this up for my first airgun hunting book, the American Airgunner, and since that collection of hunting stories is long out of print, thought I’d share it here again.

This is one of those strange stories about a hunting trip that wasn’t supposed to be a hunting trip. I was living in Tokyo at the time and working all over Asia. I had been called down to Beijing China on short notice to help salvage a project going bad. My travel agent arranged the trip, my office in Tokyo arranged the meetings, and everything was set… I thought. I climbed off the plane in Beijing and made my way to a hotel a couple of miles outside of the airport and several miles outside the city. I had stayed in this hotel a few times before, and the plan was to get a nights sleep and be picked up by my companies driver in the morning. I called into the office to tell them I’d arrived, but nobody answered. I kept trying and kept getting the same results, so after a couple of hours I called back to Tokyo to find out what was going on. There were several calls back and forth and it was finally determined that there had been a mistake in the schedule and I was suppose to have arrived three days later, and to make matters worse (or better as it turned out) there was a holiday just starting and I was on my own. I decided to set up shop at the Movenpick Hotel out in the country rather than head into the city, and spend a long weekend drinking beer and laying by the pool. I did this with great success and woke up the next morning a bit off color, and decided to get some exercise instead of a replaying the events of the day before. I called down to the concierge and asked what activities were available and after running through the options decided to rent a mountain bike and go for a ride in the countryside. I had the hotel pack me a lunch and a couple bottles of water, threw some stuff in my pack and was off.

My hunting partner in China – one of those trips that sticks in your mind forever. We couldn’t speak each other language, but managed to make a good hunt!

My hunting partner in China – one of those trips that sticks in your mind forever. We couldn’t speak each other language, but managed to make a good hunt!

Just a mile or so away from the hotel, I found myself on little packed dirt roads surrounded by agricultural land, mostly rice paddies, that stretched out as far as the eye could see, I kept riding as the day started to become warmer, it was a clear blue sky with a scattering of clouds. Riding along I saw something coming towards me, but I couldn’t make out what it was, and as it grew closer I realized that an entire family was balanced on a bike. Mom, dad, baby and grandma (or grandpa, I couldn’t tell) perched on what looked like a dilapidated beach cruiser, and what contributed to the bizarre silhouette was the ample stock of household goods and farming implements they had also loaded on. I eyed them thinking this was quite a site, when I realized they were looking at me the same way. I am over 6’1’’ tall, wore somewhat longhair and a beard at the time, was wearing day glow bike shorts without a shirt. I must have been the very picture of some rice field demon rolling down the road. We all pedaled by, eyes locked on one another, going on our way with our own individual stories of the weird sight we’d seen.

I continued on for a few more miles and rode by several family farm compounds that, even though we were only twenty or so miles out of Beijing, looked like something out of the distant past. They were of a common design, a few rough stone buildings arranged in a rectangle around a courtyard, with a large hinged door to allow entry with equipment or animals. I could see families inside, going about their business. At one of these compounds, it was somewhat larger than the others, and surrounded by scattered trees I saw what looked like a teenage boy of fourteen or fifteen creeping around these little woods with an airgun. I broke out my water and a snack, and leaning my bike against a tree, sat back to watch. After a few minutes the kid saw me and looked somewhat alarmed. He started moving away, but I waved him over. Trying to look friendly and non-threatening I finally got him over to me, and using my Berlitz language book I tried to ask him about his gun and what he was hunting. I did not know then, but I do now, that the Berlitz guide has a dearth of hunting expressions. Using sign language to show him that I liked to hunt (aiming and squeezing off shots from my imaginary gun) and trying to modify the Berlitz phrases for meeting new friends at the disco, I continued my inquiries. At one point, he looked at me with what I thought was alarm and trotted off into the compound. Now I’ve done it I thought, I led him to believe that I was a western subversive set on infiltrating China with a plan to get my hands on an air rifle, and cause god knows what havoc and mayhem.

As I was climbing on my bike to take off before the family descended on me with pitchforks, the kid came running back carrying an additional rifle. He indicated through signs (he spoke as well but I got not one word of it) that I could use a rifle and shoot with him. This was too good an opportunity for an inveterate airgun hunter, and besides, I was on my own schedule and in no hurry to anything else. The rifle was an underlever cocking pneumatic air rifle, which had a military look to it. I later realized that it was probably some variation of a Model B3 rifle that is now days commonly sold via the internet. It was roughly finished and pretty banged up, but on shooting a few shots to acclimate myself, found it pretty accurate considering I was using iron sites. We were shooting .177 flat head pellets, and I had no way of knowing (or based on the diminutive size of our quarry, really caring) what velocity these guns were putting out.

We hiked down to some trees behind one of the out buildings where I had first seen him stalking. Looking up I saw a flock of perhaps forty or fifty little brown birds flitting from limb to limb. I pointed and he nodded affirmation that these were our quarry. I took aim at a bird about 20 feet up in the tree and squeezed off a shot, missing him cleanly. The kid laughed, I guess bad shooting transcends cultural differences in language and humor, and snapped off a shot…. Plap! A bird dropped to the ground. The others did not seem to take notice that one of their numbers had departed under less than favorable (for him) circumstances. I took aim once again, and this time nailed one of the little buggers with a chest shot. The bird came tumbling down, and my hunting companion didn’t look pleased. He pointed to the chest shot and indicated this was bad placement; he made me understand that these little birds, I think they were sparrows of a type, were destined for the table. I spent the entire afternoon shooting and the two of us took a large number of birds, which seemed to please him to no end. We would shoot at a stand of trees until the birds got nervous, then move to another. I think a CO2 multi shot rifle probably would have been powerful enough for this game, and the ability to follow up would have been nice.

I noticed it was getting late in the day, and nodded my thanks for the fun day of shooting. Riding away I thought it interesting that without being able to speak the same language and having nothing in common but the hunt, I had spent a really fun day somewhere in the agricultural backwaters of China shooting what at home was a pest, but here I guess I should consider game. I have long believed that there is a certain subset of any population that are hunters, and now I know they have their own language.

To wrap up my story, as I tried to find my way back it got dark. There were no lights anywhere and I was surrounded by a great deal of nothing. The compounds were all shut up, and even if they weren’t, I wouldn’t have been able to communicate. My food and water were long gone; I was hungry, thirsty, and lost. I was using my compass to try to keep going in the right direction, and it was a little disconcerting riding along under moonlight. After working my way through fields and around dead ends, I rolled out parallel to the paved road. But I wasn’t sure if I’d come out above or below the hotel, so taking a chance I picked a direction. It turned out to be the right direction and eventually I rolled into the hotel parking lot. The next morning I brought the bike back, and the guy that rented it to me was most unhappy that I had kept his bike all night. After the exertions of the day and night before, I decided that I’d spend my last free day back at the pool, drinking beer and reflecting on the hunt.

Categories: airgun ammo, bird hunting, Destinations, pest birds, Small Game Hunting, Spring Piston Airguns, springers | Leave a comment

Thoughts on Competition and the Extreme Bench Rest

Me lining up a shot, I proved you don't have to shoot well to have fun!

Me lining up a shot, I proved you don’t have to shoot well to have fun!

I’m getting packed up and preparing to leave on an airgunning hog hunt down in Texas for a few days. It’s going to be a lot of fun, getting out in the field for a quarry and in a place where modern big bore airgun hunting really took off. Being out in the field, and hunting is one of the things that bring me a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment.

I have to admit that I never had any great interest in competitive shooting; I have always been impressed with good shooting, but the type of methodical interest in the smallest of detail to wring the absolute best accuracy out of gun and ammo, never captured my interest. When I’d read my monthly subscriptions to the British airgun magazines, I’d absorb the hunting articles while glancing over the field target match reports.

Everyone getting ready to shoot, Quail Creek has a very nice purpose designed airgun range.

Everyone getting ready to shoot, Quail Creek has a very nice purpose designed airgun range.

But then about three years ago I attended EBR which was my first match (outside of the LASO big bore long range matches) that really focused on the discipline of target shooting. I smiled as I watched these guys pull out specialized rifles with heavy, angular, chunky stocks, placed in over engineered bench rest, set up timers and wind flags and at what seemed precisely timed intervals carefully squeeze of a shot. This was a million miles away from my typical shooting environment, but it held no strong appeal. I shot that first match with a borrowed gun I’d never touched before, and while the other guys on the line were letting off a shot a very minute, I sat down, threw the rifle over my camera bag and was done in about four minutes. Every shot a dead rabbit…. But a mediocre score that dropped me in the middle of the pack. Then I shot the timed silhouette and the fast paced action, and had a blast! Now this was an event I wanted to try again someday. Unfortunately that year I could only spend a day before having to return home for a family gathering.

Looking down range.

Looking down range. Noah, a 12 year old shooter, clean the clock of the majority of shooters. This kid is one to watch!

But I thought to myself on leaving, next year I’m going to bring my own gun and really practice up! And I did…. That year I brought my FX Boss, sighted in and proven for the EBR and also brought my Huntsman Classic for a .22 for the other events. Misfortune snarled at me again, the wife of one of my staff (from my day job) decided to have a baby on Saturday morning, and I found myself on the way back to Minneapolis to pick up a suit and tie, before climbing on a later plane to fly to the east coast to cover a meeting for him….. no shooting that year!

So this year I was all set to come to play!! But shortly before the scheduled event I was called to our corporate headquarters to review my department’s performance: the good news was that our performance was very good and that I could still make the event. The bad news was the meeting was in Tokyo and I returned to Minneapolis the night before and had to leave early the next morning for Tucson. I was worn out and disinclined to lug my guns along, so once again shot borrowed guns …. And I shot horribly. But I still had a great time …. And that’s what I want to write about in this post!

And the winners are .... that's Tim MaMurray standing center stage in the winners circle.

And the winners are …. that’s Tim McMurray standing center stage in the winners circle.

Why would I kill myself to rush halfway around the world, say hi and goodbye to my family that I’d been away from for a week, to jump on another plane for a cross country flight? It’s because while I have a growing interest in the competition (and I swear next year I’ll be prepared J ) the Extreme Benchrest has become for me the ultimate airgunning event! There are great shooters, many very interesting guns, a lot of old and potential new friends, and no matter who you are a chance to learn and see something new. The fact that the heads of some of the finest airgun manufacturers in the world have a presence and are committed to the event provides an outstanding opportunity for airgunners to meet the guys that produce the guns and gear, and speak with them in a relaxed and open manner. The camaraderie is great as well: I know I’ll see my friends from Europe, south of the border, and from all over the country. The guys from AOA do a fantastic job of organizing and hosting the event, and I have some good friends in that group that are always fun to catch up with. The fantastic social gathering can’t be discounted, I think you’d have to work hard not to enjoy it!

The shooting events include the 25 Meter Benchrest, the 75 yard Extreme Benchrest, the Time Silohuette, Field Target disciplines, and pistol matches. There is something there for just about every shooter, and I will go into more detail on each event and the competitors in upcoming blog posts. I will tell you that after years of watching these serious shooters, I am motivated to take a more competitive view of the EBR in future, I was happy to be a spectator (and spectators are very welcome by the way). But when you see how focused and talented these guys are, you want to jump in and do your best. There are Sportsmen and Professional classes for the events, so newbie or very experienced there is a place for you.

So now I’m going back to packing for the Texas hunt in the morning, and will follow up with you later to share more experiences and observations about the EBR!

 

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Competition, Daystate, Destinations, EBR, Extreme Benchrest, Long Range shooting, Shooting technique | Leave a comment

A Date With My FX Verminator!

I was watching Shane Keller clean up in the speed silhouette event at the Extreme Bench Rest shooting his FX Verminator left handed, and it got me thinking back over my experience with the gun. I have been blessed and lucky in that my love of Airguns and hunting dovetailed with a modest skill with the pen and keyboard, and writing about the sport has become a second job for me. I still have a professional life outside of airgunning, but I spend a lot (just ask my wife and kids) of time shooting and hunting. Having professed awareness of my great luck, I feel like an ingrate when I complain, but here it is; I have too many guns to shoot. OK, I can almost see you rolling your eyes and strumming the world’s smallest violin, but there is a real cost to this……. Namely I don’t have time to shoot or hunt my favorite guns as much as I’d like, and the Verminator is a perfect example. Cycle through dozens of new guns each year, try to get out on a few hunts with the ones that make the cut, and it doesn’t leave much time to circle back on the old favs.

Shooting my Verminator out on the wide open grasslands of Kansas, this gun is a long range tack hammer!

Shooting my Verminator out on the wide open grasslands of Kansas, this gun is a long range tack hammer!

 

At full power with heavy round nose pellets the Verminator delivers a lot of power exactly where it's needed.

At full power with heavy round nose pellets the Verminator delivers a lot of power exactly where it’s needed.

 

But that’s exactly what I intend to do with my .25 caliber Verminator. I’ve taken rabbits, prairie dogs, raccoons, guinea fowl, pigeons and ground hogs with this superb take-down rifle over the last couple years, but it hasn’t made it out to the field with me much recently. But tomorrow I’m heading to the snow covered woods in pursuit of squirrels, and my Verminator’s coming out of hibernation. So let me tell you why this gun is one that stays in my collection even if I don’t get to shoot it much; 1) it is a very accurate rifle, 2) it is powerful when it needs to be, but can be dialed down when appropriate, 3) the bottle butt stock provides a lot of air for a high shot count, 4) the side lever cycles very quickly and feeds reliably, and 5) it breaks down for transport, and can be put together in a variety of configurations.

With the long barrel/shroud extension assembly, the bipod attached, and the power turned up this gun was a sniping machine taking out long range prairie dogs on a couple hunts in Kansas a while back. The intrinsic accuracy let me dump prairie dogs out past a 100 yards, with the hard driven .25 pellets knocking them head over stumpy tail. The other great thing was that the high volume of air let me stay in the field shooting for much longer than my buddies that seemed to constantly be hiking back to the truck for a refill.

Then a while later I mounted the short barrel and took off for a hike around a buddies farm after rabbits. Atypical of some bottle/stock configurations this guns fit and ergonomics were comfortable to shoot quickly offhand standing or kneeling, which this property and game called for. Here, unlike the prairie dog hunts where I was shooting constantly all day, I dropped the crosshairs on a couple rabbits and both of them were anchored in place. Another trip followed, shooting in buildings and around equipment and buildings. I mounted the shroud extension and dialed down the power, and used the gun to quietly dispatch starlings and pigeons in big numbers. Pass through and collateral damage from the occasional miss (shooters fault not the gun) bounced off the tin roof without puncturing it, ensuring I’d be allowed back on another day! That’s why this gun stays in my gun room, and why I’m leaving the new gun I’m supposed to be testing this weekend on the rack, to go on a field date with the Vermintor!

Out around the farm on this trip, I had the shroud extension on to reduce noise.

Out around the farm on this trip, I had the shroud extension on to reduce noise.

This big cottontail didn't know what hit him.

This big cottontail didn’t know what hit him.

You can see more in this article on my website:   http://www.americanairgunhunter.com/Verminator.html

I hope you are all enjoying the winter hunting season, and urge (at least you northerners) to get out there and hunt/shoot before the dog days of winter set in for real! I’m flying out to Texas next week for some big bore action on pigs, then Arizona on birds, fitting in the squirrel and coyote hunts when and where I can……. Because by the time SHOT Show rolls around in January it’s going to be too cold to go out in my neck of the woods. It will be me, a mountain of guns and pellets, and a lot of work on the indoor range!

Categories: Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Concept Elite

I’ve just posted a video on the Brocock Concept Elite, and will be adding more information on it soon. Taking it out squirrel hunting this weekend then out for rabbit in Texas and AZ in the next few weeks. Below is the transcript from the video, and the link is;

The Brocock Concept Elite 22S6 is a high performance PCP hunting rifle in a compact package. The LOA is 38” and weighs in at about 6.7 lb.

The Concept shares many attributes with another Brocock model, the Specialist, but unlike the stripped down and very functional Specialist (which I hunted with, reviewed, and loved BTW), the Concept is equipped with the features you’d expect in a full sized premium gun.

The Concept is dressed in a thumbhole stock shaped from a piece of nicely figured walnut, with sharply cut checkering on the pistol grip and forestock. The muzzle is threaded and the air reservoir, which uses a 30 mm airtube providing substantially more onboard air storage than other Brocock carbines while still looking and balancing well.

The gun is cycled via a bolt action that has two slots in the receiver, the front locks the gun for firing and the rear serves as the sole safety, holding the breech open in a non-firing position. This bolt was a bit stiff at first, but is loosening up as I put more pellets through it. The pellets are feed through a cylinder that holds 6 shots, and is sturdy and reliable ….. as a matter of fact it is the same unit used in most Brococks multi-shots.
The gun fills to 200 BAR, and is connected via a proprietary fill probe…. Fill it up. Bleed the line, disconnect and you’re ready to shoot. I sat down at my indoor range to test several pellets, getting a one hole 6 shot group with H&N Baracudas. A big surprise, I tried several pellets including my JSB Exact jumbos which quite atypically, the gun didn’t like. Both the H&N Baracuda’s and Baracuda match were far and away the most accurate.

Filling the gun to 200 BAR and running the H&N Baraudas over the chrony, there was not a curve but rather the velocities stared high and fell off. Vmax = 772 fps, V min = 694 fps, Vmean = 738 fps over 36 shots with a 78 fps spread. However, if you measure shots 1-18 the velocities range 772-743 fps for a 29 fps variation. When hunting birds I refilling after the 5th magazine (30 shots).
Then I braved the MN cold and moved outdoors to shot at 50 yards, and while the groups opened up a bit, they could still be covered with a quarter….. better if I hadn’t been shivering! Shooting offhand at 30 yards yielded up good results as well.

Following is a look at how the gun performed for me while on a pest control shoot for Eurasian doves out in a much warmer Arizona. The number of birds here is incredible, and I worked my way through the feedlots, barns and tree lines bordering the farm. I had the opportunity to shoot the gun offhand, off sticks, and using whatever rest were available.

So what do I think? The Concept Elite is one of the nicest compact hunting rifles I’ve ever shot. It fulfilled the basic requirements for excellent accuracy and yielded up power in the 20+ fpe range and is an outstanding performer on small game. While it’s a bit on the loud side and the bolt was stiff at first, it is ergonomic. Points well. And is a blast to shoot. This is one I’m buying for my collection.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Compact Hunting Rifles: Stepping Out With The Brocock Concept Elite

OK, so it’s no big secrete amongst those that know me, I’ve got a thing for compact hunting rigs. Set me up with a selection of the premium PCP rifles, and my natural tendency is to gravitate towards the lightest, shortest, yet always full performance gun in the collection.

After the recent AOA sponsored EBR I headed out with a small group of friends to shoot pest birds, and while my hunting companions carried and FX Royale, a Kalibr Cricket, and a RAW 1000….. I opted for the diminutive Brocock Concept Elite S6 .22, and didn’t have a minutes regret. The gun provided consistent accuracy out to 75 yards (and further at times), adequate power to drop doves and pigeons at those ranges, and suprising shot count considfering the smallish air reservoir.

The Concept Elite S6 is a compact and all around hunting rig that does everything a full size rifle will.

The Concept Elite S6 is a compact and all around hunting rig that does everything a full size rifle will.

So I’ll tell you what the gun is, but first a quick work on what it isn’t. It is not the ultra-compact Specialist, which is a gun I really like that was recently discontinued. The specialist gave up everything that added weight; the stock was a cut away pistol grip affair that used a light weight wood (painted black), had a very small diameter air tube, didn’t have an air gauge or a shroud, and as a result was quite lout without an added moderator. It was however the most ergonomic compact full power gun I’ve ever shot.

The number of birds on this shoot was incredible,,, and the Concept did a great job at 75 yards... some were further.

The number of birds on this shoot was incredible,,, and the Concept did a great job at 75 yards… some were further.

These three frames show a dove exploding under a well placed chest shot.

These three frames show a dove exploding under a well placed chest shot.

Now enter the Concept Elite; it has an air gauge, a larger diameter air tube, a modest shroud) and a beautiful hardwood thumbhole stock. It is still very compact. but the weight has crept up significantly (though still under most full sized guns). Where the specialist was a work-a-day hunting tool the Concept Elite is something of a looker. The stock is first and foremost ergonomic, but the wood is finely figured, the styling very sleek, the checkering generous and finely cut, and the trigger very nice. The Concept Elite uses the same revolver type cylinder magazine as used on the Specialist, which is easy to load and in my experience on both guns exceedingly reliable.

I worked my way along the border of the trees surrounding the feed lots and pens shooting birds out of the trees offhand, off the fences and roof tops off sticks, and out in the middle of the fields resting on the trucks rooftop, and found the gun shootable from virtually every position including some quite awkward ones as I worked to thread my way between fences, buildings, troughs, and cows.

We walked away with an excellent bag of birds, this was just a small portion of the mornings take.

We walked away with an excellent bag of birds, this was just a small portion of the mornings take.

I’m going to get the gun on the range with a bunch of pellets for some quantitative shooting for groups and over the chony. I also plan to use it for some squirrel hunting next weekend when I get back home and will give a follow up on performance in the brutal Minnesota winter squirrel woods!

Other stuff
I hope all of you are enjoying the winter hunting season. I’m sorry I’ve been late with my postings but this time of year is crazy for me as I get a lot of my materials for articles in (Predator Xtreme, FurFishGame, Airgun Shooter, and Airgun Hobbyist) videos, and the American Airgunner program in a four month window, so please stay with me and I’ll get back on track soon. If there are any guns, gear, or hunts you’d like me to cover in an upcoming blog post, just let me know.

Categories: Airguns of Arizona, Brocock, offhand shooting, pest birds, Rifle stocks, stocks, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Part II: My Personal History with Big Bores

In this second part I’m going to take a look at the growth of big bore airguns, again from my personal observations, so it’s a history that is skewed to what I’ve seen. Having spent a lot of my life living around the globe, I found that the history I learned in school wasn’t quite the same as the history others were learning in Europe, S. America, Asia, Africa ……. in broad strokes it’s the same but the interpretation and importance of events differs. So be it with my history of big bore airguns!

Perched on a hillside overlooking a waterhole in South Africa, with my binos up and .457 airrifle at the ready.

Perched on a hillside overlooking a waterhole in South Africa, with my binos up and .457 airrifle at the ready.

For me it started when I was looking for a guinea fowl gun to take to South Africa about twelve years ago, and knew I wanted something more than the standard calibers I was working with, and was thinking about something that could shoot a .30 roundball. In doing my homework I came across references to the Lewis and Clark gun, and even older guns used for hunting and military purposes. That was interesting, but what was more important was that I came across the name of Dennis Quackenbush, which I talked about in last weeks post.

The first gun Dennis built for me was a .308, which was configured as a short rifle (20″ barrel).He’d been selling this gun for a couple years in small numbers, and mostly guys were using them as a sort of novelty, with hardly any discussion of them being used for hunting….. Except for one guy out in Texas by the name of Eric Henderson. I’d used my .308 for coyote, fox, and raccoon, but heard from Dennis that Eric was shooting hogs, rams, and other exotics. I had Dennis build me a .50 caliber with a longer barrel, and after a couple phone calls with Eric, jumped a plane and flew down to hunt with him.

Pig down at 65 yards. This gun delivered more than enough power to anchor this pig, which by the way was the ugliest I'd ever seen even before I dragged it out of the water hole and through the mud (hich didn't improve on its looks).

Pig down at 65 yards. This gun delivered more than enough power to anchor this pig, which by the way was the ugliest I’d ever seen even before I dragged it out of the water hole and through the mud (hich didn’t improve on its looks).

At this time there were not too many places where you could hunt these guns, so Texas became ground zero for us. As a matter of fact most of the places where you could hunt with big bore airguns restricted them to high fence non-game animals. I took a lot of rams in Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Oklahoma, with the .308 and .50 caliber guns from Quackenbush. This was not my favorite type of hunting, but it did let us get a lot of the initial experience with these guns on game.

The only other big bore guns I found during these early days were being built by Gary Barnes, and were the polar opposite of the practical hunting guns Dennis was building. They were very expensive, took a a very long time to build, and well quite honestly always seemed to me like the fantasy swords of the airgun world. I shot a couple of them, but was never inclined to take one hunting.

 

My .50 caliber Sam Yang Dragon slayer is a great 75 yard predator gun with roundball or light slugs.

My .50 caliber Sam Yang Dragon slayer is a great 75 yard predator gun with roundball or light slugs.

Slide7

 

Then one day I got a call from the guys in Korea to say that they had built a rifle called the Dragonslayer in .50 caliber. They had the first gun to hit the USA shipped to me, and I took it out to hunt hogs. This gun was much lower power than the Quackenbush rifles I was shooting, but it was very accurate with roundball, and I managed to take deer, hogs, and later some smaller African antelopes as well as many predators with it. Having a production gun readily available was a game changer, because by this time Dennis was lining up buyers as fast as he could build guns and not everyone that wanted to hunt a big bore could get one. The second thing that happened was that it opened a market for big bore airgun tuners that could up the power on these production guns.

A few other guys with backgrounds as machinist started small scale production of bigbores. Joe Bontrager, Leroy Rodenaur, Jack Haley and a few others were turning out guns in limited number, but still the demand outpaced supply. Some of these guys didn’t stay in business long; Bontrager over extended himself and his business failed. To be honest, I liked Bontrager small bore guns but was not at all impressed with his .50. It was powerful enough at about 300 fpe, but it was inaccurate with every projectile I tried, had a terrible stock, and one of the worst triggers I’ve ever used. I never felt comfortable enough with this rifle to hunt with it. Leroy’s rifles are really well made, I used his little .457 short rifle to take a deer in Missouri a few years back and was quite impressed with it. Unfortunately for us (fortunate for him) his business in aeronautics took off and his time to manufacture guns vanished…. so if you have one of his guns, good on you and hang on to it! Jack was the guy that started turning out guns in numbers, and his design was really a slightly modified early generation Quackenbush knock off, but he built them solid, they were powerful and accurate and they did offer a viable alternative to waiting on a Quackenbush.

During this time Dennis had come out with his long action (LA) model guns, and the first three he built for Eric, Randy Mitchell, and I to bring to South Africa where we used them to take a lot of big game. Several tuners and modders have taken these guns and cranked up the power getting over 600 fpe and going to some very large calibers (.72), The American manufacturer Crosman entered the fray with a .357 called the Benjamin Rogue, which was accurate, powerful, but also very big, heavy, expensive, and the electronic action did not resonate with the market leading to it being discontinued within a couple years. But this gun was responsible for getting a lot of visibility for big bore airguns in the mainstream hunting media. My hunting buddy Randy had also started manufacturing a gun through his company Adventures in Airguns called the Corsair in .308, eventually adding a .357 to the line. These are sleek little guns, that can be very accurate and powerful, and many owners have added sleek stocks available from Richards MicroFit.

The Korean manufacturers; Sam Yang expanded their line of big bores to include .357, .457, and .50 calibers and Evanix came to market with a wide array of .357′s in the 100-135 fpe range. these guns were notable for a few reasons; they were moderately powerful and are well suited for predators and medium sized game, they are moderately priced, and readily available. However, without being tuned to generate higher energy output the Evanix guns are not well suited for larger quarry.

More recently the Europeans entered this niche segment with the .303, which is the smallest of the big bores that I prefer to call midbores. The Daystate Wolverine came out with FX fast on their heels with the companies Boss .303. These guns are in the 100 fpe energy range and are great predator guns that are very effective and practical for small game. as well.

Concurrent with the development of guns there has been rapid development of ammunition with Seth Rolands BHD, Robert Vogels Mr. Hollowpoint, Hunters supply, and H&N coming out with a wide range of airgun bullets. In addition JSB has come out with traditional Diabolo style pellets in .303 and .357. There are now pellets and bullets to meet just about any application from small to big game, in a multitude of calibers.

At the present time I know of three new big bores that are either completing the prototype phase or preparing to go into production, and expect that by the time the 2015 SHOT Show comes around we’ll have some new guns available.

I’m finishing this blog entry as I prepare go out for another day in Virginia hunting with my Quackenbush (converted to a muzzle loader), taking a nice whitetail on opening day of season. I’ve shot lots of mule deer, blacktail, and whitetail with firearms before switching to big bore airguns and they tend to be a bit hazy, but I clearly remember pulling the trigger on every one of my more than three dozen airgun harvested deer…… As more venues open up to hunt deer with big bore airguns, I think it becomes less likely I’ll use my fireams again!

NOTE: I wrote this a few weeks ago, and just realized I never posted it. Sorry for the delay!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment