I cut my teeth on pellet guns when I was a kid. I actually burned through three of them during the course of my childhood. I watched those poor guns go from bright and shiny in the store, to repaired more times than I could count, to reluctantly being discarded with honor in favor of something better. I squeezed those triggers until they were literally garbage. In those days I used my pellet rifles to shoot venomous snakes, ventilate discarded beverage cans, nail the occasional errant squirrel and generally keep my little world safe for democracy. My, how times have changed.

Lots of things have evolved during my half-century on this planet. Electronic sights were unimaginable in my youth. The cell phone and the internet were the stuff of science-fiction writers. Also, air rifles were toys for kids to use until they graduated up to real guns. Nowadays, with the advent of the AirForce Texan pre-charged air rifle, a sportsman of modest means can use an air rifle to put a whitetail buck on his wall. So long as he was meticulous about his craft, he could conceivably bag a black bear with an air rifle. But, of course, this requires something more than your typical air rifle.

I have a pre-charged, .25-caliber AirForce Escape air rifle that is almost unnaturally accurate. As the trigger trips a valve rather than a sear, its action just seems globally smoother. The ergonomics of the futuristic-looking rifle are superb and the power behind the pellets is prodigious. However, all that pales in comparison to the Texan.

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An onboard gauge helps the shooter keep track of remaining pressure. Experience with the gun makes it easy for shooters to gauge how it will perform at various pressure levels.

The Texan pushes .45-caliber bullets at speeds of up to 1,000 fps. In its optimized configuration, it produces some 500 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. To put that in perspective, that’s 1.5 times more powerful than the typical .45 ACP government round, which is itself a proven stopper. In the right hands, the Texan is proof against most wild game animals in North America.

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The trigger breaks sharply and crisply at 2 pounds, and the cocking handle employs compound leverage to make the 22-pound cocking force seem miniscule. The 490cc onboard air tank holds up to 3,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. A single charge is good for 12 to 15 shots depending on bullet weight and selected velocity. The rifle itself has a tuner to adjust velocity and, subsequently, power. Practicing with the rifle and optimizing the loads it fires is half the fun. Running the gun is like handloading your ammunition one round at a time off the bench.

Powering the rifle is theoretically possible with a hand pump, and I keep one handy just in case. However, pressurizing that big tank to 3,000 psi with a hand pump is a workout of the highest order. A much more civilized approach is to use a scuba tank. Any place that services scuba tanks can fill your tank for you. I scored a brand new scuba tank from Amazon for less than $200, including delivery. Our nearest scuba store will fill the tank for $10 a pop. Be forewarned that your typical box store air compressors will not even come close to the pressures needed to service your tank.

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This is a new sort of rifle and ammo providers are cooking up projectiles to meet demand as I type these words. Hunters Supply specializes in cast lead bullets and carries more options than you might reasonably use. Hunters Supply offers literally one-stop shopping for anything you need to feed your serious air rifles or black-powder weapons.

The bore of the Texan slugs out to 0.458 inches, so .457 projectiles fit perfectly. Options range from 143-grain soft-lead round balls all the way up to massive 405-grain slugs as big as your finger. The 143-grain balls will flirt with 1,000 fps when fired and yield 12 or 13 proper shots from a tank. The huge 405-grain monsters still push north of 700 fps from a full charge and hit downrange like a freight train.

Most all rifles have a favorite load, and working that up with the Texan is great fun. Hunters Supply has the bullets to customize the performance you want from this unique rifle. I found the 350-grain bullets to be a good combination of accuracy and downrange thump.

Pushing The Limits

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This isn’t your grandfather’s air rifle. The AirForce Texan throws massive bullets remarkably fast. That means it cracks like a real rifle and sports the recoil to boot. Mass times velocity in one direction always equals mass times velocity in the other direction. That’s not just a good idea; it’s the law. What that means practically is that this air rifle actually kicks a bit. It is not fearsome enough to be unpleasant, but you’ll know you are shooting a serious gun.

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To load the rifle, charge up the onboard tank from your scuba tank, or, if you are seriously into fitness, use a manual pump. Filling the onboard reservoir from a scuba tank takes maybe 15 seconds. Run the charging lever forward to open the action and place a bullet in the breech. Now close the action with the lever. The safety resets itself with each cycle, so it must be manually deactivated with each shot. The trigger has an entirely predictable take-up and a very sweet, crisp break.

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From the perspective of a guy who has been compulsively squeezing triggers ever since he could walk, the firing experience here is indeed unusual. This rifle groups as well as any big-bore centerfire gun of comparable performance might. Once the rifle was zeroed, I could burst milk jugs until I got tired of doing it. The beautiful 2-pound trigger makes precision work easy off the bipod. At around 8 pounds, the rifle is light enough to use in the field but heavy enough to manage the recoil that physics dictates must arise out of throwing those massive slugs.

As the speed of sound in dry air at 68 degrees Fahrenheit is 1,025 fps, the Texan does not produce a sonic crack. However, the racket caused by chunking those big old bullets at nearly that speed will not lend itself to stealth. I opted for earplugs and suggest you do, too.

Gearing Up

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An optional riser rail brings the rifle’s optics to the right level for a proper cheekweld.

AirForce produces everything you need to get the Texan shooting straight and hard. I opted for a 4-16x scope on a riser mount to match my cheekweld and a folding bipod. Like everything else AirForce sells, these accessories are of top quality and match the rifle perfectly.

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The buttplate on the rifle is rigidly clamped to the air tank and is easily adjustable with included Allen wrenches. The air tank has a soft foam cover so you don’t yelp when settling into the rifle on a cold winter day. The polymer forearm on the rifle is sleek and cool, just like everything else.

The Texan’s barrel is German-made and selected for precision. The Spin-Loc tank mounting system allows the operator to tighten the tank in place finger-tight and then seal it with the included spanner wrench. A small setscrew then secures the Spin-Loc collar in place against accidental loosening. Our test rifle had a small leak in the valve that interfaces the tank to the gun, which kept the air rifle from holding its charge long-term. The guys at AirForce made that right in short order and the Texan subsequently rendered splendid service. I store my smaller AirForce Escape with the tank under pressure, and it does not seem to lose air even if it hangs on the wall for months on end.

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Meriwether Lewis and William Clark embarked on their two-year voyage of discovery in 1804 armed with, among other things, a state-of-the-art, .46-caliber Girandoni repeating air rifle. Designed by Batholomaus Girandoni in 1779, this remarkable rifle included a 20-shot, gravity-fed magazine and typically managed about 30 rounds per charge of air.

The rifle weighed about what a comparable musket might and required around 1,500 strokes on a hand pump to charge its air reservoir. The air rifle’s maximum effective range hovered around 150 yards, but it could be fired as quickly as balls might be indexed into the breach, an extraordinary feat for its day. In capable hands, the state-of-the-art Girandoni could keep the pot filled with venison.

Now fast-forward a couple hundred years and the AirForce Texan throws some truly massive slugs with enough wallop to drop most anything that walks. As there is no residue of combustion, maintenance requires nothing more than a good wipe down and a smidge of oil now and then. So long as the rifle is not abused, it should yield proper service for your grandchildren.

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When fed by a scuba tank, the Texan will keep you in the field hunting until you get tired of doing it. It is also a simply splendid way to transform most any fluid-filled container into shredded rubbish at most any reasonable range. I defy you to explode a milk jug, or three, with this massively powerful air rifle and not grin doing it.

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AirForce makes air rifles for grownups. Its products exhibit superb engineering, exceptional attention to quality and trend-setting innovation. They are also designed and built right here in the U.S.A. Even for an old guy like me who has squeezed triggers all of my adult life, the AirForce Texan is legitimately new, different and cool.

AirForce produces air rifles in a variety of shapes and sizes for target, utility and big-bore applications. By carefully selecting the right rifle for your application, you can legitimately put a trophy buck on your wall or drop the meanest feral hog with an air gun. Any misconceptions you might have had about air rifles being for kids are dispelled the moment you squeeze that trigger.

For more information, call 877-247-4867 or visit http://www.airforceairguns.com.

This article was published in the 2016 issue of Gun Buyer’s Guide. For information on how to subscribe, please email Subscriptions@athlonmediagroup.com or call 1-800-284-5668

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