If you read my posts or saw the videos from the SHOT Show, you know two of the areas generating a lot of interest were the new big bores and the new bullpups. I like bullpups and think they serve a purpose, though truth be told I am more of a traditionalist when it comes to my hunting guns. But the abundance of new mid and big bores, now there is something that gets me excited! BY the way, I’, going to return to the topic of mid bores at the end of this post…. And a big bore I got really excited about was the AOA .45 Bushbuck, which is the most powerful production big bore on the market, but to hijack (and modify) an old saying, only accurate airguns are interesting. So I could not wait to get my hands on this gun.
One of the reasons I was looking forward to this gun, was that the driving force behind it is my good friend and AOA’s resident hunting expert Kip Perow. Kips one of the best airgun hunters around, he is a professional hunting guide, he is an airgunning expert, and he owns and shoots many of the big bores on the market. So when a guy likes this says he is going to focus on developing a big bore hunting gun, it warrants attention! I got a chance to shoot this gun when I was down in Arizona after the EBR, and though we only had it on the indoor range, I was able to appreciate the craftsmanship that went into the gun, note the nice trigger, smoothness of the action and firing cycle, and was impressed with the ergonomics and the fit of the gun. I also appreciated the stability and the light rearward recoil on a gun generating a whopping 600 fpe.
AOA had quietly informed a select group of customers about the gun, and the first production run sold out before the gun was released to market. I reserved one last year when they started development, at that time based only on Kips involvement. Like I said, the involvement of a serious hunter and airgun expert, was all I needed to have my interest piqued! Through a fluke AOA could not put the gun out on display at their booth at SHOT, as a ruling had come through that only British built products could be shown …. which is a shame because this rifle would have been a major draw! Now here’s a bit of back story, the gun at the SHOT show was my gun and was going to be shipped to me afterwards. So when I’d passed by the AOA booth and saw somebody holding my gun a saying how beautiful it was, I wanted to yell “hands off, that’s my gun”!
At any rate, I was heading off on a hog hunt in Texas and had the gun shipped down and waiting for me. Kip had hand casted two .451 bullets for; me a 405 and 420 grain solid bullet with a large metplate. He had mounted an MTC 5-20x scope and sighted the gun in, and everything was shipped in and waiting. I am writing this trip up for an upcoming article in Fur-Fish-Game so won’t go through every detail here; but will mention a few things I noted while hunting the gun. I hunted from a brush blind in the morning and evening, but where I had my success was still hunting the very heavy brush in the mid day, where I saw more hogs, and bigger ones, than anybody else at the ranch. This meant I carried the gun a lot, and it is a big rifle that could be a challenge in the tight vegetation coming in from every side and top and bottom. At one point I shot a 205 lb boar and it was one of the more adrenaline inducing hog hunts I’ve had. We stalked the pig for well over an hour, but at one point thought we had lost him, until I spotted him partially hidden behind some bushes. I found a spot at about 65 yards where I could sit with my pack on a dirt mound, and get lined up for a broadside. When I shot, it knocked the pig back, he wobbled, then ran on a beeline directly at me. I will tell you that sitting on the ground at eye level with a hog that big, with tusk you could see and sharpness you can imagine, Is a motivation to take action. Almost immediately after my shot I started to reload and pulled the gun up and shot him in the head at about 25 yards dumping him on the spot. When we dressed this pig we found the fist bullet had passed side to side coming to rest just under the skin line on the off shoulder. The shields on this pig were an inch thick and as hard as rock. The second shot had taken him right between the eyes. The cool thing ……. we got this all on film. The sow I hit on the run, she was moving towards me but unlike the boar didn’t know I was there. I don’t know where she was heading or why, but she didn’t seem interested in stopping. It was a front quartering shot that broke the left front shoulder, traveled transversely all the way through and broke the rear right hip. She went down and didn’t get back up.
I can’t imagine how this gun could have served me any better; it was dead accurate, very powerful, very shootable. The trigger was fine by my hunting standards; heavy enough that even with gloves it had a good tactile response, but light enough that it facilitated accurate shooting. If i was going to change anything, I’d go for a carbine version even at the cost of some power and a lower shot count….. but that seems to be the first thing I say with every new big bore I shoot! This gun has the potential of becoming my favorite big game big bore to date!
What I wanted to mention about the mid bores; while taping a recent Round Table at the SHOT Show, my friend and airgun guru Tom Gaylord and I had a difference of opinion. I said that I differentiate big bores (.40 and up) from mid bores (the .30’s) because in my application I think of the mid bores as predator guns and big bores as big game. The complicating factor is some mid bores start to cross over into big bore performance. Here is my rationale; most of the .30’s are in the 90-120 fpe range, and I believe the relatively low power and small caliber make it suboptimal for larger quarry (but perfect for coyote sized game). On the other hand, my preference for big game is a gun doing at least 250 fpe and with a larger (.40) caliber because a bigger bullet produces a larger wound channel and a) better killing power and b) produces a better blood trail when tracking is necessary. If you don’t seperate these guns out and classify them all as big bores, a guy with a 90 fpe .30 may be lead to believe they have a viable deer gun. Where I gets murky is that Sam Yang and Benjamin produce .35’s that are pushing up against the lower levels of power for big game hunting, so grouping them as mid bore with the associated understanding that this is a lower power predator gun may do them a disservice. I have no doubt that a .30 can take deer and hogs, I have done so along with impala, springbuck, and warthogs, but think the majority of guns in this caliber are not the right choice, and those guns that are, are more of an experts gun. Having said this, I still believe that differentiating the mid bores and big bores makes sense from a hunters perspective, and as these guns are built for hunting not paper punching, this is the perspective that matters.