We will look at airguns. No, not the small ones that you use to shoot tin cans. I’m talking about the big-bore airguns that carry enough kick to drop a whitetail. Those airguns exist and they are not meant to be used as a toy.
Nowadays, interest in airguns is growing. It could be due to the increasingly restrictive gun laws or the fact that airguns can skirt around no-discharge ordinance or because using one is fun. As I’ve said before, if you need an airgun to take down a big game, you need to look at a specific segment of the airgun world that I fund particularly more exciting than the rest.
Big-bore airguns fire projectiles that are larger than .25 caliber. These aren’t your ordinary backyard plinkers. They are purposefully built to take down the big game so they can produce at least 300 foot-pounds of energy. That is enough to take hog- or deer-sized animals.
As of now, there are only about 15 states that allow hunters to take big games with an airgun. However, there has been open discussion about allowing a more widespread use in the future. This is within the realm of possibility since most states already allow you to take small game and varmints using air rifles.
Given that there could be a day when you could go out hunting big game with airguns, which one should you get? I have some suggestions for you.
You can say that the AirForce Texan is the one that started the whole big-bore airgun trend. The original Texan was loved by many hunters, which led the company to create other variants of the gun. Some of them come with shrouded barrels that can reduce sound signature drastically. In addition, AirForce just developed a carbon fiber tank that is rated for high pressure of up to 2,625 pounds per square inch as well as a new valve that can handle the pressure.
All these innovations allow the AirForce Texan 50 CF to put over 800 foot-pounds of energy behind its 520-grain .51-caliber pellet. Their new tanks can also be used for any earlier model Texans, meaning that you can get the same knockdown power with your existing rifle.
As the name suggests, every Texan rifle is manufactured in AirForce’s Fort Worth Texas factory using premium components such as match-grade Lothar Walther barrels and two-stage, adjustable triggers.
The latest bullpup from Hatsan has some serious firepower in a small package. The PileDriver spits out .51 caliber pellet at 850 fps, with an energy of over 800 foot-pounds. Achieving that amount of power requires the air tank to be filled to 4,300 PSI. The high pressure in the tank gives you five full-power shots and additional follow-up shots if needed.
Although the barrel is 33-inch long, the bullpup configuration helps keep the overall length down so you won’t have too much trouble negotiating tight spaces with it. Other handy features include an adjustable cheek rest and buttpad for a more comfortable shooting experience and a long Picatinny rail so you can mount any optic of choice.
You also have the option to get the PileDriver in .45 caliber. This variant spits out the pellet about 50 fps faster and allowing you six full-power shots before the power starts to bleed away.
The Umarex is known for its ability to mimic famous firearms in its airgun offerings. Now, they’ve set themselves up as a very serious big-bore contender with their Hammer. Manufactured in the United States, the Hammer spits out .50 caliber, 550-grain pill with 700 foot-pounds of energy behind it. Although the Hammer hasn’t reached the public yet, some professional airgun hunters have already downed some animals with it including the African cape buffalo and American bison.
The Hammer comes with a few notable features such as the 8.5 Picatinny rail for optics, Magpul AR-style grip, three M-LOK (pronunciation: M lock) attachment points, rear sling stud, and a Foster connection allowing you to pressurize the carbon fiber tank to 4,500 PSI quickly. The trigger breaks at around six pounds cleanly, the bolt cycles easily with two pounds of pressure. That way, you can put down follow-up shots quickly if you need to.
The Evanix Rex looks similar to an AR-style pistol. Although it is smaller than other big-bore air rifles, the Rex still has enough power to take down a large game. It spits out .45 caliber pellet at 395 fps with 260 foot-pounds of energy. To achieve this power, the sub-4-pound precharged-pneumatic pistol works at about 3,500 PSI and allowing you to have five full-power shots. In addition, the trigger guard doubles as an under-lever cocking mechanism that allows you to load the Rex by pushing the guard forward, exposing the chamber.
Dreamline is known for its handy features in their products, such as an externally-adjustable regulator that allows you to dial the power up and down on the fly. Over time, you can see new improvements in newer models. Now, the Dreamline is almost completely adjustable with fine adjustments for the valve flow, regulator pressure, and hammer tension, so that you can get every little bit of accuracy you want.
Although the Dreamline does not cost as much as the FX’s premium models, it still comes with the same barrel housing and liner system that allows you to change both the caliber of the gun and twist rates for different kinds of pellets. Moreover, the adjustable dual-stage trigger feels like it should be on a match rifle. The Dreamline cocks at a side lever and feeds from a rotary magazine. This mag holds 13 .30-caliber pellets, but it can hold more if you go for a smaller bore.
Gamo has some experience in airguns, but they have not really tried out big-bore airguns until the TC-45. The TC-45 looks a lot like the Evanix Rex and this is by no means an accident. Some people have speculated that it’s actually Evanix that builds the TC-45 for Gamo. In addition, the TC-45 works pretty much the same as the Rex does.
The barrel on the TC-45 is a little over two feet. It comes with an integrated modulator to keep the noise down while the gun pushes out 350-grain .45-caliber pellets up to 900 fps with 400 foot-pounds of energy behind it. The carbon fiber tank doubles as a buttstock and gives you three full power shots before losing power. Similar to the Rex, you can load the gun by using the under-level trigger guard cocking mechanism. The trigger breaks at only 3.5 pounds, so offhand shots can be done even though the rifle weighs in at 12 pounds.
With this, you pretty much have two big bore airguns in one. The Seneca Double Barrel PCP Shotgun comes with two .50 caliber smoothbore barrels and you can fire shells that are filled with #8 or #6 shot. According to the company, the payload in each shell will travel at 1,130 fps. In comparison, a lot of conventional trap loads go anywhere around 1,150 – 1,225 fps. Their claim isn’t out of this world though, considering that the shells are much smaller than a 12-gauge and they contain fewer pellets.
Personally, I would not take this with me to the duck blind. I suspect that it would be fun to use in a dove field or while chasing rabbits, though. You can load the shells easily via the sliding breech and you can get pre-loaded shells or fill your own if you want custom loads. You can also use this to shoot air bolts and .50 caliber slugs. If you remove the choke tubes, you can also load both through the muzzle. With slugs, you should have around 600 fps and 140 foot-pounds. With bolts, 425 fps, and 170 foot-pounds.
Finding big-bore semi-auto air rifles is difficult nowadays. However, Evanix changed that with the introduction of their Air Speed. It is a .30 caliber precharged pneumatic air rifle that spits out pellets as fast as you can pull its two-stage trigger.
If you want, you can empty the seven-shot rotary magazine in under two seconds, so you can follow up with more shots quickly if needed. In addition, the rifle design is ambidextrous and the mag can be fitted from both sides. The pressure on the Air Speed can also be adjusted if you want to tinker with accuracy and power. Evanix offers the Air Speed in .177-, .25-, or .30-caliber pellets.