A couple years ago, I met airgun enthusiast and big bore rifle builder Terry Tate and was introduced to the world of shooting and hunting with big bore air rifles. Tate builds a 20 gauge shotgun with interchangeable rifle barrels that I used to harvest several wild hogs. He also offers rifles in several calibers. The power of air is astounding. At first it was tough for me to wrap my mind around an air rifle that shoots a 350 grain 45 caliber slug at velocities high enough to shoot completely through even a big wild boar. Trust me, there are several big bores on the market that will do just that, and more!
As my interest in the sport of big bore hunting grew and my knowledge of the sport increased, I began penning more articles on my adventures taking hogs, axis deer and even an aoudad. In Texas, the only game animal that is legal to hunt with and air powered rifle is squirrel and this new regulation took effect last year. But rabbits, exotics including hogs and predators are fair game. The state is currently looking at a proposal to allow big bore air rifles for taking deer and other game.
In the beginning I was full of questions about shooting and harvesting game with a big bore air rifle. Just what could I expect from a rifle propelling heavy bullets via the power generated from a 3,000 psi. air chamber? What kind of range could I expect in hunting situations? I certainly am not an expert on the mechanics of just how air rifles generate such power from compressed air, but I do know a thing or two about hunting and harvesting game.
The big bore rifles I shoot are of the PCP (Pre-Charged pneumatic) variety, they have a built in air chamber and are filled via a high pressure carbon fiber or scuba tank. Since I use my rifles mostly for hunting, I keep them charged to near 3,000 psi. All the rifles I’ve used thus far will deliver three very strong, killing shots with a full charge and many more accurate shots for target shooting. I sight my air rifles to be dead on at 50 yards. A quick look at a ballistics chart will prove that even big bullets of 300 or 350 grains traveling at around 850 fps. shoot a relatively flat trajectory out to about 75 yards. The drop from 75 to 100 yards is a bit more and in my humble opinion, shooting big game much past 100 yards with big bore air rifles should be left to the experts and that does not include yours truly. The better rifles do generate the power to cleanly kill game out that far but the shooter better know his bullet drop and the precise range he’s shooting. Obviously, mill dot scopes are very helpful when shooting the extended yardages.
This will go down in the annuals of air rifles as the year of the big bores. Several companies introduced their new rifles at the SHOT show this year. Among them was a 45 caliber rifle by Air Force Airguns named The Texan. For the past several months, I’ve been shooting, testing and hunting with one of these new state of the art air rifles. I’ve used it to cleanly harvest several wild hogs and an aoudad and it’s performed flawlessly. My favorite round for big game has become the 350 grain solid lead bullet by Hunters Supply . Out to one hundred yards, the rifle I’ve been shooting will shoot groups every bit as tight as any centerfires in my gun cabinet.
Luke Clayton with a nice Aoudad he harvested with his Airforce Texan.