Home Grown Big-Bore Airguns

As technology and opportunity expand, so does the popularity of airgunning — a boon for predator hunters.

Home Grown Big-Bore Airguns

The general configuration of the Texan leans towards a tactical design, with an ergonomic pistol grip and lots of rails for mounting accessories. 

The growing popularity of big-bore airgunning has been driven by American hunters over the last decade and a half. This can be attributed to several factors: increased awareness of these guns, expanding hunting opportunities as more states add regulations to permit airguns as a method of take and the availability of big-bore airguns.

There was a time when the only sources for big bore airguns were from boutique builders turning guns out as one-offs or small production runs, often with exceedingly long waiting times. There were a couple of offshore manufacturers; however, these guns were lower power. Remember that with an air-powered rifle, the ammunition does not store the energy, but rather it is the gun itself. A couple of .357 rifles shooting the exact same bullet could be at polar ends of the power spectrum.

Two of the largest U.S.-based airgun manufacturers entered the market with big bore airguns, Crosman with their Rogue and (later) Bulldog .357 rifles followed shortly afterward by AirForce with the Texan in an ever-expanding range of calibers. Crosman’s production Bulldog topped out at about 200 fpe without a third-party tune-up. Having said this, the Bulldog has accounted for some big animals bagged, and in the states where deer hunting is allowed with airguns it makes for a viable deer hunting rifle.

I have received many questions about the Airforce Texan, and this article will focus on this extremely powerful airgun. It took Airforce a bit longer to get around to building a big bore rifle, but when they did, it was a heavy hitter out of the box. Their Texan .457 and .50 represent two of the most powerful production rifles on the market: The CF series .457 generates around 750 fpe energy, and the .50 caliber generates about 850 fpe! There are a couple of other new rifles that are pushing up around the same power. Quite honestly, I don’t think 100 fpe one way or the other matters very much when a rifle is in this rarified air. But if you’re one of those people that want the absolute highest level of power, you can also customize the Texans to keep on climbing.

About the Rifle

The general configuration of the Texan leans towards a tactical design, with an ergonomic pistol grip and lots of rails for mounting accessories. The two-stage adjustable trigger is one of the best on a production big-bore. I found the stock trigger was perfect for me, with a bit of uptake and a clean, crisp break.

The butt of the rifle consists of a 490cc air tank in their standard power configuration, doing up to 650 fpe. A carbon fiber tank is utilized in their CF series guns to reach the higher fill pressures needed to drive the more powerful version of Texans. There is an adjustable stock that mounts on this bottle. I’ve heard some shooters say they have to work at a consistent cheekweld with this design, but I’ve never found it overly problematic. But if you don’t like this stock, the popularity of these rifles has led to several third-party stocks becoming available. As a matter of fact, a cottage industry offering components and tuning services for the Texan has popped up over the last few years.

I believe there are some real advantages to this bottle-in-the-back design. First, it keeps the overall profile of the rifle sleek and provides a good shot count. The bottle also incorporates an Inline Valve that is efficient in directing the airflow from the bottle directly to receiver and projectile.

The other design element I’ve always appreciated with the Texan is the sidelever cocking action. I find it to be a natural and fast-cycling mechanism in a field gun. Cocking the bolt of a powerful big bore can take some effort, but Airforce has this one set up to work with little cocking effort required.

From the beginning, I had one criticism of the rifle: it was too long for my taste. I’ve mentioned that some people want the most powerful rifle possible. To satisfy this market requirement, the production Texans are exceptionally long guns with a length of 48 inches. If you add a suppressor, you are moving into a 55 to 60-inch LOA. I am happy to shoot my .457 at 500 fpe instead of 650 fpe if you can knock 8 to 10 inches off the 34-inch barrel. As a matter of fact, in my early guns, I had the barrels cut down and recrowned. Airforce eventually began manufacturing and offering a carbine version. For me, this is now close to perfect.

Another area where the Texan shines is in the caliber options available; there is a .257 that is a flat shooting tackdriver, perfect for long-range varmint and predator hunting. The .308 and .357 are both excellent shared-service predator/deer rifles, I think the .457 is the perfect all-around North American big game gun, and the .50 is the choice if you’ll be going after bison, bear or large African game such as cape buffalo, kudu or eland.

More Than Output

For me, there is a lot more to choosing my hunting rifle than power output. Obviously, accuracy is critical, but shot count, ergonomics, shootability in the field, reliability, ease of carry and maneuverability are all high on my list. I have found that the Texans in all calibers have served me well on many hunting trips over the years, meeting these requirements.

Another key feature of these rifles is the power can be adjusted externally. For airguns, this is like handloading a powder burner. It allows the power to be optimized for a specific projectile. With the .357, you might go with a light projectile and dial down the power for coyote hunting, then dial the power up when feeding heavier bullets to the gun for deer. This power adjustment will let you find the right balance between power, accuracy, consistency and shot count.

All these calibers exhibit reliable accuracy once the right projectile is found and dialed in. There are too many calibers and not enough space to cover each. But I will say that when I put the crosshairs of my .257 on a coyote’s head at 125 yards, I expect a dead coyote. And when I drop the crosshairs of my .457 on a broadside of a buck at 100 yards, I expect to see him crash to the ground. The accuracy of the stock rifles and carbines is excellent for hunting, and there are many options for fine-tuning it to get the full potential of this inherently accurate design.

My experience with the Texan product line is extensive; I’ve taken many feral hogs with the .308, .357, and .457, including some massive porkers. I have used the .357 for javelina, deer and predators. The .308 has also worked like a charm on predators and is probably my favorite all-around coyote gun. And the .257 is accurate and flat shooting for the long-distance stuff.

There are a few big bores on the market that I really like for various reasons; performance, ergonomics, weight and LOA, costs, shot count, or aesthetics. The Texan ends up on my shortlist almost every time, though. The qualities discussed in this article have been widely recognized and appreciated. While I don’t have hard data on this, anecdotally, I would bet that there are more Texans shooting big game than any other single brand of big-bore airgun these days.

Jim Chapman writes about airguns for Predator Xtreme.

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