Thoughts on Bullpups
I was down in my basement range this morning shooting a few of the bullpups I either own or have on loan. Now there are guys that love the look and feel of a bullpup…… there are those that maybe don’t love the looks or “feel”, but appreciate the compactness (this is me)…… and there are those that just don’t like anything about them. I have said before that I think bullpups are study in form following function, these guns are meant to be deployed quickly, in crowded conditions or tight spaces, to carry while letting the shooter have freedom of movement.
I like to be in the field with a traditional rifle, but more importantly, I’m the hunter that wants the best tool for the job. And there are times such as shooting in the tight confines of a truck, in buildings, or hiking through very heavy underbrush when a more compact a gun is more practical. Recently I used the Benjamin Bulldog on a hog hunt in Texas where I had to crawl through acres of thicket, and when I got an opportunity to shoot a big, mean, and way too close hog, barely had space to shoulder the gun it was so tight. The bulldog worked well, I don’t think a full size gun would have, at least I don’t believe I could have crawled through the under growth with a long barreled rifle to even have gotten the opportunity!
There are different attributes that I look at and give weight to when evaluating a bullpup; I want the overall length greatly reduced over the standard rifle version of the gun, with no loss in power or accuracy. And since the same length barrel is generally used on a bullpup as on a full sized rifle, there is no reason this should not be achieved. I want the controls and ergonomics to be optimized for the package; good trigger, easy to reach/deploy safety, and importantly I want it to be light weight. Reducing the LOA is important, but if the weight isn’t concurrently reduced I feel like something is being missed.
Having shot almost every bullpuped airgun on the market, including a bunch of custom guns, I am still searching for my version of the perfect example. Out of all these guns ranging from .177 to .357 caliber in single shot, bolt, sidelever, semi and full auto actions, none have achieved my ideal. Most retain the performance which is great, some have come up with good triggers (not easy in this design), accessible and easy to deploy safety, and some have delivered actions that match this style of guns. Some have developed ergonomic stock designs, though several still feel “chunky” and I’m not always impressed with the comb …. or at least the place where the cheek welds to the stock. The other area where most of the bullpups I use fall short, is getting the weight down. For some reason, many of these bullpups I’ve used are quite heavy. I will add that because of the compactness of these rifles, the weight seems distributed along the shooters center of gravity, and is therefore not an issue when shooting. As a matter of fact I do find that I do some of my best offhand shooting with the heavier pups. However, extra weight is noticeable as you slosh through through a muddy bottom land while hunting squirrels or crawl along an arroyo while out on a desert prairie dog shoot!
The reason I’ve pulled out the “pups” and have been shooting them so much, is that I just got word that the FX Wildcat I ordered is on the way, and I want to benchmark it against my current best in class. I cannot wait to get my hands on it having been told by a couple of friends who have been shooting the Wildcat that they think it is the closest thing to what I’ve described as my ideal. Great performance, outstanding trigger, a perfectly positioned sidelever action (talk more about this later), ergonomic, but the real attraction not often achieved is that this design is compact, narrow across the beam, and lightweight.
Over the coming weeks I’ll start sharing my experience with the gun, and give some side by side comparisons with several other bullpup models. After a couple weeks on the range it will go with me to South Dakota on a prairie dog shoot, where it will get a thorough workout on the huge population of these burrowing rodents! If you subscribe to Predator Xtreme take a look at this month’s Airguns Advantage column, my topic is bullpups.
My Favorite Action
I’ll start out by saying that I like several PCP rifles that don’t use my favorite action. But they have so many other things going for them that I can overlook this. Mitigating features are: outstanding performance, great triggers, ergonomics, craftsmanship, design, high volume air capacity, high shot magazine capacity, ruggedness/reliability …… but if looking only at the action my favorite is hands down the sidelever. I find it the most intuitive, reliable, smoothest, quietest, and fastest to cycle.
I think the bolt action is the best looking, and several are fairly easy to cycle, especially on the premium range guns. For instance, I wouldn’t change the bolt on my Huntsman Classic for a sidelever, because well, the gun looks perfect as is. But I am sure that if it was a sidelever I could cycle it more quickly for a follow up shot. I find it easier on most sidelever actions to cycle the gun without dismounting from my shoulder, which can be a big plus when hunting and needing a quick follow up.
Last month I was in Puerto Rico on an iguana cull, and switched from a harder hitting .30 caliber gun to a .22, because the .30 used a bolt and the .22 the sidelever action. Not only could I work faster with the sidelever, the other guys continued using bolt action guns and all of them had bruised up their hands after a couple days of shooting!