Interest in airguns is growing. Maybe it’s because of increasingly restrictive gun laws and the ability of air arms to skirt no-discharge ordinances, or because they’re just plain fun.
The most exciting segment of the airgun world is the so-called big bores, which fire projectiles larger than .25 caliber. Make no mistake, these guns aren’t backyard plinkers. They’re serious hunting guns built with big game in mind, producing enough energy to take deer- and hog-sized animals.
Only around 15 states currently allow hunters to take big game with an airgun, but many have had open discussions about permitting the practice in the future. And most states allow the taking of small game and varmints like coyotes with air rifles. Here’s a look at some of the better big bores available today.
1. AirForce Texan 50 CF
The AirForce Texan is one of the air rifles that started the big-bore airgun craze. The original Texan was a huge hit with hunters, leading the company to develop variations of the rifle, including some with shrouded barrels that greatly reduce noise. AirForce recently developed a carbon-fiber tank rated for high pressures of up to 2,625 pounds per square inch, and a new valve that can harness the additional PSI. This allows the Texan 50 CF to produce over 800 foot-pounds of energy with a 520-grain .51-caliber pellet. The new tanks can be retrofitted to any early-model Texans, giving hunters even more knockdown power with their existing rifle. True to the name, every Texan rifle is built in AirForce’s Fort Worth Texas factory with premium components like match-grade Lothar Walther barrels and two-stage, adjustable triggers. Starting at $1,229; airforceairguns.com
2. Hatsan PileDriver
Hatsan’s newest bullpup packs some serious power into a compact package. The PileDriver delivers a .51 caliber pellet at 850 feet per second for energy in excess of 800 foot-pounds. It takes a lot of pressure to pull that off, requiring the air tank to be filled to 4,300 PSI. The high pressure in the reservoir lets a shooter take five full-power shots, allowing for plenty of follow-up shots if needed. Though the PileDriver has a 33-inch barrel, the bullpup configuration keeps the overall length down, so maneuvering through heavy cover with it isn’t a chore. An adjustable cheek rest and buttpad help make shooting the rifle comfortable, and a long Picatinny rail lets you mount just about any optic. The Pile Driver is also available in .45 caliber, and it throws the smaller pellets about 50 fps faster while allowing for six shots before power drops off. $1,179; hatsanairgunsusa.com
3. Umarex Hammer
Umarex is probably best known for its realistic replicas of famous firearms in airgun form, but they’ve set themselves up as a serious big-bore contender with the introduction of the Hammer. It’s built in the U.S.A., and the Hammer delivers 700 foot-pounds of knockdown energy to reliably take big game with a .51 caliber, 550-grain pill. Though the Hammer hasn’t yet reached the public, a number of professional airgun hunters have taken some notable animals with it, including American bison and African cape buffalo. Noteworthy features include an 8.5-inch Picatinny rail, Magpul AR-style grip, rear sling stud, three M-LOK attachment points, and a Foster connection to pressurize the carbon-fiber reservoir quickly to a maximum pressure of 4,500 PSI. The trigger breaks cleanly at about 6 pounds, and the bolt cycles easily with only about 2 pounds of pressure, so you can get the second pellet in quickly if you need a follow-up shot. $849; umarexusa.com
4. Evanix USA Rex
The Evanix Rex has a similar silhouette to that of an AR-style pistol. Despite being smaller than other big-bore air rifles, the Rex still packs quite a punch, delivering a .45 caliber pellet at 395 feet per second with about 260 foot-pounds of energy. To accomplish this, the sub-4-pound precharged-pneumatic pistol operates at around 3,500 PSI to deliver about five full-power shots. The distinctive trigger guard also acts as an under-lever cocking mechanism, allowing the user to load the Rex by pushing the guard forward to expose the chamber. $700; evanix.com
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5. FX Dreamline Classic
I had the privilege of using one of the Dreamline’s predecessors to take out gulls and pigeons inside trash transfer stations. The features that made me fall in love with the guns of this Swedish airgun maker (including an externally-adjustable regulator that lets the shooter dial the power up or down on the fly) have been improved upon in the new model. The Dreamline is nearly infinitely tunable, with fine adjustments for valve flow, hammer tension, and regulator pressure to help you squeeze out every little bit of accuracy. Despite not costing as much as FX’s premium models, the Dreamline features the same barrel housing and liner system that lets the user easily change both the caliber of the gun and twist rates to account for different kinds of pellets. And the adjustable dual-stage trigger feels like it belongs on a match rifle. The Dreamline cocks via a side lever and feeds from a rotary magazine, which holds 13 .30-caliber pellets or more if you choose a smaller bore. $1,099, fxairguns.com
6. Gamo Big Bore TC-45
Gamo isn’t new to airgunning, but they haven’t really dipped their toes into the world of big-bore until they introduced the Big Bore TC-45. You may have noticed more than a passing similarity to the Evanix Rex, and that’s no accident. Rumor has it that Evanix builds the Big-Bore for Gamo, and the TC-45 functions in much the same way the Rex does. The barrel on the Big Bore TC-45 is just a hair over two feet. It features an integrated modulator to keep things quiet while pushing a 350-grain .45-caliber pellet to 900 feet per second with around 400 foot-pounds of energy. A carbon-fiber tank serves as a buttstock and provides three full power shots before the point of impact starts to drop. Like the Rex, loading is accomplished using the under-lever trigger guard cocking mechanism. The trigger breaks at only 3.5 pounds, making offhand shots easy despite the 12-pound weight of the rifle. $999; gamousa.com
7. Seneca Double Barrel PCP Shotgun
If one big bore isn’t enough, how about two? The Seneca Double Barrel PCP Shotgun features two .50 caliber smoothbore barrels that allow you to fire “shells” filled with #6 or #8 shot. The company claims the payload in each shell will travel at about 1,130 feet per second. To put that in perspective many conventional trap loads move in the neighborhood of 1,150 to 1,225 fps. However, the shells are much smaller than a 12-gauge, and contain fewer pellets. While I wouldn’t take the Seneca Double Barrel in the duck blind with me, I bet it would be a blast in a dove field or to use while chasing rabbits. The shells load easily through the sliding breech, and you can buy pre-loaded shells or fill your own to develop custom loads. Air bolts and .50 caliber slugs can also be shot through the Senaca. After removing the choke tubes, you can load either through the muzzle. Expect about 600 fps and 140 foot-pounds with slugs, and 425 fps and 170 foot-pounds with bolts. $899; airventuri.com
8. Evanix Air Speed
Semi-auto air rifles are a rarity, and big bore semis are just about unheard of. But Evanix has set out to change that with a .30 caliber pre-charged pneumatic air rifle that delivers pellets as fast as you can pull the two-stage trigger. The Air Speed allows a shooter to empty the seven-shot rotary magazine in less than two seconds, giving plenty of opportunities for fast follow-up shots. The rifle is completely ambidextrous and the magazine can be fitted from either the right or left side. You can also adjust the pressure on the Air Speed for accuracy and power. Optics attach using a Weaver rail, making ring selection simple. The Air Speed comes chambered for .177-, .25-, or .30-caliber pellets. $1,105; evanix.com