Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

December 6, 2013

Outdoors: Kevin Reese — The great Air Rifle Debate

Corsicana — Most of us Texas hunters know mature boars are about as tough as North American critters get so when someone mentioned air rifles a few years ago, I had to raise a brow. At a young age, I was taught that air rifles were great for hunting; I hadn’t thought of big game yet but the shear velocity of some of today’s air rifles assured me that I could drop the hammer on something bigger than a squirrel… but just how big?

It didn’t take long to find my answers in the history books; however, first person perspective didn’t hit until 2011 when I ran into Crosman’s .357-caliber Benjamin Rogue Air E-PCP Air Rifle. Perhaps I didn’t get out to shoot nearly enough; I had never seen a pellet in .357-cailber; it was impressive but still, I wasn’t convinced it would be enough to take down a large animal. So, what does a guy like me do when he’s got some doubts? Homework!

Social media turned up nothing but haters. You know the kind; they’re the same guys who can’t stand that Hi-Point makes dependable, rugged firearms at less than half the price of competitors; although, I love the competitors’ guns, too! That said, I’ve never been a fan of abrasive, underachieving, overthinking, self-righteous  know-it-alls. Somehow their inability to consider data in forming their opinions only makes me search deeper, longer.

The Cold, Hard Truth

So, here’s the cold, hard truth, air rifles have existed for some 400 years and a number of them have been of sufficient power, accuracy and caliber to lay down our nation’s largest animals. Consider the remarkable and historic Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803 – 1806. While supplies were slim at best, they did carry a single pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) airgun, now known as the Girandoni .46-caliber, 22-shot Repeating Air Rifle and it was quite possibly the expeditions best defense; in fact, as a result of its use, many regard the Girandoni rifle as the real “gun that won the west”.

What? It can’t be! Lewis and Clark had an air rifle? Say it ain’t so! No, sir, it’s a fact. Read on …

August 30, 1803  — “Left Pittsburgh this day at 11 with a party of 11 hands, seven of which are soldiers, a pilot and three young men on trial they having proposed to go with me throughout the voyage. Arrived at Bruno’s Island three miles below halted a few minutes. Went on shore and being invited on by some of the gentlemen present to try my airgun which I had purchased brought it on shore charged it and fired myself seven times fifty-five yards with pretty good success.” (Lewis and Clark Journals, Volume 1)

The excerpt above was taken from Meriwether Lewis’ first diary page. Comprised of over 1 million words spanning 13 volumes, as assembled by University of Nebraska Press and Dr. Gary Melton, the Lewis and Clark journals reference this single air rifle no less than 39 times, often as a deterrent to violence at the hands of Native American tribes.

Detailed entries describe a recurring strategy when encountering tribes that vastly outnumbered the 38 explorers. The team dressed in full uniform, paraded into tribal settlements and bestowed gifts on tribal chiefs. After their grand entrance, Lewis demonstrated his repeating air rifle. The firearm could shoot up to 40 rounds per 800-psi charge and included a 22-round tube magazine capable of being emptied in less than 30 seconds. It’s worth mentioning that to charge the rifle some poor soul had to employ a bicycle-type air pump, cycling 1,500 times for a single air tank charge – that would be a pretty dismal job, wouldn’t it?

At one point, an overzealous chief tried to strong arm Lewis and Clark into revealing the contents of the expedition’s keel supply boat; however, the idea that confrontation could result in 38 men firing 22 rounds in less than 30 seconds caused the chief to back down.

While 22 muzzleloaders also accompanied the explorers, the Girandoni’s accuracy (largely as a result of a rifled barrel), repeatable firing and ability to shoot without depleting precious defense resources such as black powder also made the Girandoni a perfect choice for hunting big game animals.

It’s quite conceivable that without the Girandoni’s influence, the expedition could have been massacred early in the expedition. As a result, many historians agree the Girandoni air rifle was the single most important firearm in American History. Truly, without it, western expansion may not have occurred – a haunting point of contention and much more than a notch in the belt of airgun success stories.

Enter Technology

I recently began toying with Crosman’s Benjamin Rogue .357 air rifle and let me tell you, it’s bad to the bone, no pun intended although it likely would have not issue shattering any bone the bullet encounters with muzzle energy topping 193 foot-pounds with a 145-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip Bullet – I say bullet, it’s hard to label a .357-caliber anything as a pellet!

The Benjamin Rogue also does not look anything like Lewis’ Girandoni. While both are considered PCP systems, the Rogue’s patent-pending ePCP technologye means more versatility and increased power while the patent-pending EVALVE system makes for more efficient use of the air charge via precision, user-selected distribution options.

Shooters not only have some great ammunition choices to make, including round-nosed, flat-nosed and Nosler’s EXTREME ballistic tip bullets, they can even use their own cast .357-caliber pellets (inserted to satisfy the whims of those who might refuse to call them bullets – I’m trying a little PC).

The Rogue’s EPICLED display and selection buttons allow configuration of key ballistic elements including medium-high foot-pounds of energy/velocity options and bullet weights of medium (up to 145 grains) and high (over 145 grains). The rifle even includes manual mode setting.

The rifle is bolt action and comes with a top mounting 6-round rotating magazine. The ballistics and repeating fire do well to ensure I have what I need to exert a little predator and feral hog population control… and even fill a deer tag if the opportunity presents itself!

The Benjamin Rogue .357 is a tad on the heavy side but still a fairly comfortable carry for an overweight, under-exercised guy like me. Still, I would keep shot opportunities on larger animals within 75 yards.

Targeting Naysayers!

Not only was an air rifle instrumental in big game hunting and saving their precious powder supply during their expedition, nearly all states allow hunting with air guns in some form or another.

Imagine the buzz circulating deer camp this fall when you drop the hammer on your next success story with an air rifle!

My friend, Chip Hunnicutt, found out when he anchored a phenomenal buck, still in velvet, with his Benjamin Rogue .357. Is an air rifle enough gun to get the big game job done?

It was more than enough to hunt with, protect and intimidate its way across the uncharted west, one life-threatening encounter after another, as recounted 39 times in Lewis and Clark’s journal.

A Little Extra Encouraging

Part of the draw for me is simply one of sentiment. Shooting an air rifle takes me back to a time and place where life was still largely uncharted, simple, even carefree in some respects although, again, for me growing up was tough. It takes me back to when Dad and I had time to spare and each shot meant so much more than just another can down; each one of them added to the mosaic of my character.

 

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Area schedule for the week

    Here's a look at this week's schedule for Golden Ciircle teams and Navarro College. The schedule does not include upcoming bi-district playoff games in softball because times and sites have yet to be determined.

    April 18, 2014

  • BG baseball GC Baseball/Softball: Blooming Grove sweeps Rice in baseball and softball

    Blooming Grove's Lions needed this one.
    Heck, they need all of them.
    That's where they're living today on the Blooming Grove diamond, where everyone knew going into Friday's game with Rice that the Lions need to win their final three games to have a chance of nailing down the final playoff spot in District 23-2A.
    One down, two to go.
    “It's in our hands,'' said Blooming Grove Coach Matt Anderson moments after his kids beat Rice 8-0 Friday night. “As long as we take care of our business we'll be fine.''

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • GC Softball/Baseball Roundup: Frost girls win district title

    Frost's Lady Polar Bears needed to win to nail down the district title and they never trailed, jumping out to a 7-0 lead en route to an 11-7 clinching victory over Itasca Friday on the road. They wrapped up their second district title in a row with a 9-1 record and enter the playoffs next week at 13-1.

    April 18, 2014

  • CHS Baseball/Softball: Whitehouse sweeps Tigers in baseball and softball

    The Tigers lost a tough game to Whitehouse, 11-3 as the Wildcats' ace, Pat Mahomes, who went four innings and gave up all three runs on two hits and five walks

    April 18, 2014

  • GC Basketball/Baseball: Mildred's Connor Hill sees life clearly

    There was never any doubt for Connor Hill, never any question about what he would do or how he would do it.
    Sure, there was that meeting with his mother and father and talks with the doctor when he was 10, talks and meetings that came accompanied with worry and concern.
    But never from Connor.
    He just never dwelled on the fact he played sports with one eye. He didn't worry or talk about it when he was 10 and he never talked about it at Mildred High, where Hill emerged as a star on the basketball court and baseball diamond.

    April 18, 2014

  • Frost Lady Polar Bears Area Champions.jpg GC Track & Field: Roundup — Frost girls win area meet

    The Frost Lady Polar Bears made a shambles of their district track & field meet last week, scoring 206 points, and they were dominate again in the area meet Thursday, scoring 162 points to win the meet at Blooming Grove.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • RON MORGAN.jpg Morgan:The new endangered species

    Am I just that old, or have amateur athletics gone absolutely nuts these days? On second thought, don’t answer that unless it’s yes to the nuts part.
    High School and college basketball are on the verge of being totally ruined by AAU basketball. Top roundball prospects are identified by the junior high level if not earlier.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • GC Track & Field: Area meet Roundup

    Corsicana's Gilfillan wins 4A area pole vault title; Frost girls win 1A area team title, Frost boys finish second

    April 17, 2014

  • GC Baseball: Mildred falls to Riesel, 9-0, on the road

    Mildred managed a hit and struck out 12 times in a 9-0 loss on the road that could have given the Eagles some cushion in the 23-2A standings. They are now 5-6 with a game at league-leading Teague Tuesday.

    April 17, 2014

  • 4-18-14Roman.jpg CHS Soccer: Tigers boys and girls top off season with strong showing on All-District teams

    That tough and gutsy style of play sent both the boys and girls teams into the playoffs and on Thursday the Tigers were rewarded again for their fine seasons as two boys won special honors,four boys were named to the All-District first team and two girls earned first-team honors.
    Michael Roman, who did a little of everything — and did it well — was named the District 28-4A Utility Player of the Year, and sophomore defender Jesus Barreto was named the district's Newcomer of the Year.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo