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Seneca Aspen Field Review

Several weeks ago I received a package from Air Venturi containing the new Seneca Aspen PCP rifle. This is a rifle I had some great interest in as I felt it was something different and unique from other Airguns. The Seneca Aspen is a very innovative Air Rifle that is built with a pump integrated into it, this means we always have an available air source to keep us in the field. The Aspen is what I would call a “survivalist” type Airgun, great for long extended trips where weight may be a factor. Here are some factory stats on the rifle.

Seneca Aspen PCP Air Rifle, Multi-Pump PCP 

  • Pre-charged Pneumatic (PCP) Air Rifle with built-in pump
  • Side Lever Action
  • Two Stage Velocity Adjustment 
  • Fires up to 17 Shots with 40-60 Pumps
  • Two-Stage Adjustable Trigger
  • Synthetic Stock
  • 250 BAR / 3,600 PSI Fill Pressure
  • On Board Pressure Gauge
  • Automatic Overpressure Air Release
  • Manual Safety
  • Fully Shrouded Barrel
  • Rifled Steel Barrel
  • Pump Lock Carry Handle
  • Overall Length:  43.3 Inches
  • 11mm Dovetail Rail
  • Includes 10-Shot Rotary Magazine 
  • Includes Fill Probe
  • Includes Single-Shot Tray
  • Includes 4×32 AO Scope
  • Weight 8.0 lbs

Two Stage Velocity Adjustment

  • .22 Caliber: Low Power= 700 fps, High=900+ fps

As one of the most innovative options in PCP airguns, the Aspen uses an integrated pump to fill its 3,600 PSI/ 250 BAR cylinder. Once filled, you can shoot up to 17 shots with 40-60 pumps. Pumping the Aspen up is quick and easy, only requiring about 28 lbs of effort at 3,600 PSI. Once fired, your shots can reach speeds as high as 900+ fps in .22 caliber. The Aspen features a two-stage velocity adjustment to keep you firmly in control of your shot’s power. With a flick of the dial, hunters can switch to high-power for devastating knockdown shots and be ready for the next shot 5-6 pumps later. With its dial set to low, target shooters can take almost 20 shots before you need to pump again.The Aspen features a two-stage trigger to cater to preferred pull weight. These features alone make the Aspen worth the $400 price of admission, but what if you already have a fill source? If you want to fill faster, the PCP still includes a Male QD probe with standard foster fitting to fill up your airgun the old-fashioned way. With adjustable power, adjustable trigger, magazine, single shot tray and a 4×32 AO scope, and no fill source needed, the Aspen is an attractive and affordable option for PCP airgunners new and old.


The Aspen came packaged very well and included instructions, spare o’rings, fill probe, magazine, single shot tray, silicone oil and scope. My first impression was the stock that was obvious plastic and had a “hollow” type feel to it. I shouldered the rifle and was happy with it’s weight distribution, it felt very natural and the pump handle made a nice rest for my hand. The rifle felt very solid and the metal finish was very well done, especially the shroud.

I went ahead and mounted the 4X32 AO scope that came with the Aspen, this is a fair scope for short distances but difficult to use for precision shooting beyond 30 yards. The rifle thankfully does include sling studs on both the buttstock and forend that make the gun ready for a sling. I liked how the stud on the forend can be mounted to either left or right side depending on how you carry the rifle. The following morning we would visit the range to sight in the gun and do some chronograph readings.


Today we visited the local range where we tested several different types and weights of pellets, for accuracy as well as to chronograph the rifle on high power. We tested the speed using the .22 H&N Sport Field Target Trophy’s that come in at 14.66 grains. These are great pellets, and through the years have found they work well in the majority of the .22’s I have field tested. We first tested a 10 shot string at a 3000psi fill pressure.

The 3000psi fill brings the gun to about 22fpe using the 14gr pellets, these are fair numbers considering the small size of the Air cylinder. Next we would fill the gun to the maximum pressure of 250BAR or 3600psi for our next 10 shot string.

With the 3600psi fill we are now reaching close to 30 fpe, a great amount of power for hunting most all small game animals at extended ranges. We tested the accuracy at 35 yards, because the 4X32 AO scope was a bit underpowered to make precision shots at 50+ yards. No doubt with a scope upgrade this gun is capable of great accuracy, still I used the gun just as it came from Air Venturi. 

H&N Field Target Trophy .22 Cal, 14.66 Grains, Round Nose

JSB Match Diabolo Exact Jumbo Heavy .22 Cal, 18.13 Grains

JSB Redesigned Monster Pellets .22 25gr


The 25gr JSB redesigned pellets worked very well in the gun although they were going considerably slower, and not shooting very flat. I was pleased with how all three shot, but still felt the 14gr H&N’s may be the best match for flat shooting out in the open desert. The single shot tray as well as being able to fill the gun with my SCBA tank made the range a whole lot more enjoyable. The gun was easy to fill, but the only thing that got annoying was having to remove the small rubber dust cap from the fill port. My large fingers had a difficult time reaching in to remove it, a small flat blade screwdriver may have made things go faster.

After we had finished our work at the range I left the Seneca Aspen with 3000psi to check for leaks the following morning.


The following morning I woke up at 5:30 am and proceeded into the shop to check the gun for leaks, and to pack the Jeep with all the gear I would need for my several day field trip. The Aspen had held the 3000psi overnight just fine so I loaded it into the case and into the Jeep. Our drive would take us several hours North through the remote mountains to a familiar vast wilderness. This area is very remote and always requires great caution due to weather conditions and road hazards.

 

The weather was cold with rain clouds rolling in towards the West, at this point I had expected the hunting to be very slow over the next few days. I unpacked the Jeep, set up camp and loaded my pack with all my camera gear, water, snacks etc,

The area we were hunting resembles East African terrain. It is home to animals such as Pronghorn Antelope, Tule elk, Fox, Coyote, Mountain Lions, Wild Pigs and a wide variety of birds. The area is vast and consist of approx 38,900 acres of huntable area, one of the more remote locations I frequent. Marley and I hiked a bit North from camp where we immediately spotted one of the many large Jackrabbits that frequent the area, most we encountered were well beyond 100+ yards and well out of reach of the .22 caliber.

  We hiked for several miles up over a mountain where we finally made our way down through a steep ravine hoping to flush some Jackrabbits. I had taken several shots along the way at ranges no closer that 80 yards. The rifle carried very well and I much enjoyed using the pump arms locking handle to carry the Aspen with. The 8.0 LB rifle really shined in conditions where I was having to climb steep hills and switch my carry from sling to the handle. 

Marley and I came down a steep mountain that fed us into a huge open field with sparse vegetation throughout the hillsides. It had just rained several times in the past week so the green grass was looking somewhat like Springtime.

 The area was a great place to take a break as well as to film for the video portion of our review. I took a few shots with the Aspen, plinking at some rocks and just getting comfortable with some of my holdovers at various ranges. I found the rifle to be very easy to pump from 3000psi to 3600psi, the key is to go slowly and smoothly as to not allow the pump to heat up. It’s important to go slow, this will maintain the longevity of the o’rings.To fill the rifle from empty to full takes about 60 pumps, once the gun is to 3000psi it becomes very easy to get to 3600psi. I found that taking several shots and then pumping about 13 times would keep the power up.

  After a few hours of hiking around marley and I headed back to camp to have some lunch and to find a good location to take some scenic photographs of the Seneca Aspen.

Marley and I headed out again not far from camp and were able to take several shots, one that was a near miss at 83 yards.

It can get pretty frustrating sometimes when we are trying to “film” the excitement of a hunt, people like to see success more than failure. When hunting we never have a guarantee, all we can do is try our best and to enjoy the experience and relaxation of the location. By this time it was getting late and the temperature was dropping as the evening approached. Marley was getting a bit grumpy, guess she didn’t have enough action and she was exhausted. I put her to bed and made a nice campfire to stay warm for a few hours.

 

A few hours later it started raining fairly heavy, making it apparent we may move to a different location the following morning.


The following day I packed up the Jeep and decided to head home due to the rain making for very poor hunting and filming conditions. Several days later Terry, Marley and I traveled to another remote location in the high desert near Mojave. This area has a good variety of small game to hunt such as Ground Squirrels, Jackrabbits, Cottontail and Quail. We arrived to the location very early with the temperature being in the high 40’s, the plan was to hike the steep hillsides as the sun came up. We parked the Jeep in a very rocky area, a place we call “The Hills Have Eye’s” from past trips. 

Terry, Marley and I hiked along this small animal trail that took us alongside of a large mountain, as the sun came up the Jackrabbits and Cottontail usually start moving about. Terry and I both took several shots on a few Jackrabbits, it was still a bit dark so spotting them was difficult. Marley flushed one from a nearby sagebrush and nearly grabbed it by the back legs. She was so happy and excited to be out with the boys on this great morning. As we circled back I had spotted several large Jackrabbits scatter, two of them stopped high above me on the hillside at 85+ yards. I moved as slowly and quietly as possible getting myself just in front of a large bush at 75 yards. 

 I took the shot that put the 14gr H&N right into the Jackrabbits chest, that ‘THWAAAP’ echoed through the canyon like it got hit with a baseball. Marley and I moved as quickly as we could up the side of the steep hillside to recover our kill and to relax in the shade. Terry and I both were surprised how quick that large Jackrabbit went down!!

It was a great morning so far, very pleased with my 75 yard kill, good size one too!


After a short break we continued along the trail and circled back towards the Jeep where we had planned to drive down lower into the valley and check for Ground Squirrels.

 

This area is normally crawling with Ground Squirrels in the Spring and Summer months but I had expected to see a few adults out and about considering how nice the weather was.

I had decided to load the magazine with some NSA .217 19gr slugs, wanted to see how slugs would shoot out of the Aspen.

We headed along a cattle trail that ran parallel with a dry creek bed, trees, fallen logs and rock outcroppings were abundant here. 

  We hiked for a bit and saw very few Ground Squirrels, the few we did see were extremely skittish and difficult to get close to. Terry, Marley and I sat under a large Oak tree and waited for several to pop their heads out from under a fallen tree.

  

After spending about an hour or so in several spots we had concluded this area had very little action, my guess was the temperatures were still much to cool for busy activity. We moved back to the Jeep where we set up a few things to shoot at 35 yards. Terry was excited to get to shoot this really cool rifle.

Terry was impressed with the entire rifle, especially the trigger that I have concluded is one of the best out of the box I have field used. The Seneca Aspen is a great gun, has excellent power, sidelever is very smooth and the ergonomics such as the pump handle work very well to the entire package. After lunch we packed up the Jeep to head down the long road and head back towards home. Turned out to be a great day just to get out with Marley and my good friend Terry.


Later that evening I wanted to document a bit of preventative maintenance to the Aspen in video form. I went ahead and removed the shrouds end cap to see if the shroud may have had any baffles or any form of sound deadening material. 

The shroud does not have any baffles between the 4″ muzzle and end cap. The Aspen is very quiet but I can see how some baffles can easily be fitted to quiet the gun even further. (I personally see no reason to quiet the gun further) Next I looked to the small air tube just under the shroud, it has a knurled cap that can be removed. What is this? The direct answer for this is to service the pump tube at the factory and serves no direct purpose to the end user. My guess is it may be to remove the tube from the air tube assembly. Moving on I wanted to show the points of lubrication that include the breech o’rings, the Aspen includes a small bottle of silicone oil. We will use a Q-Tip to apply a small amount of silicone oil to the breech o’rings.

Next we will apply some silicone oil to the pump o’ring, this hole is visible when we open the pump handle arm all the way.

This is a good time to lubricate the pump arm linkage as well as to brush off any debris that may have accumulated on or around the pump area. After the rifle is broken in after about 500 shots it’s necessary to increase the hammer preload. The Seneca Aspen comes with a small allen wrench that fits in the small hole in the stock just behind the breech.

After the rifle is broken in the hammer spring will start to settle, to bring the power of the gun back up we turn the the adjustment 1 full turn “clockwise”. I would not recommend going further with the chance of either spring failure or causing binding issues. This adjustment would come in great for those who have a chronograph and want to “fine tune” the rifle. Modifications and adjustments beyond what’s in the user manual will most likely void the warranty. 


My time with the Seneca Aspen has been great, this truly is a worthy field gun and one that would impress even the high end Airgun snobs. This rifle has passed the test of being rugged and I feel with proper care it’s something that will last under heavy use in the field. Enclosed are my final honest thoughts on this rifle.

                   PROS

  • Great power
  • Shoots a variety of pellets well
  • Great metal finish
  • Smooth solid Sidelever
  • Great trigger
  • Lightweight
  • Handle is very useful
  • Sling studs
  • Inexpensive magazines
  • Solid shroud and barrel band 
  • High/Low power setting
  • Great safety
  • Can pump or fill with a tank 

                  CONS

  • Scope, difficult to use at longer ranges
  • Stock feels hollow
  • Cover for probe is difficult to get off

Overall this is one heck of an Airgun, perfect for a first PCP being it has the pump built into it. The sidelever, trigger, metal finish and high/low power settings are features found on guns costing near three times as much. People may complain about the stock but the reality is that it’s very durable and weather resistant. As mentioned, my only real complaint is the scope, the accuracy of the gun is well worth the upgrade in my opinion. Even without the scope the gun is well worth $400. For an out of the box $400 PCP this is no doubt one of the best performing rifles I have ever field used, perfect survival rifle being independent with air and shooting a variety of pellets well. Air Venturi was smart to brand this rifle and I see them selling a ton of them over the next year. From an Airgunner that likes to tinker and tune I can see this being a winner as well, capable of much more than it gets out of the box. I hope this review may help others decide on this rifle as their next purchase. Enclosed is the review in video form as well as the link as to where to buy it. Remember “The best Airgun is the one you’re shooting”


     


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Airgun Ground Squirrel Adventure Hunt

With the recent wind and rains here in California it has been difficult to get away to do some hunting. My good friend Terry and I had planned to leave early Friday morning and head out to a familiar stomping ground several hours away. Terry, Marley and I had planned to stay for several days where we would scout several new areas as well as film for several upcoming videos. The night before it had rained quite heavily so I was a bit skeptical about the road situation going into the hunting area. This area is many miles off the main highway and heads into what I call an oasis in the desert.

Road heading in approx 6:45am

The recent rains had left everything green and full of life, Terry and I stopped near a large Oak Tree where we planned to site in the rifles and scout a portion of the valley for Ground Squirrel activity. This area is one of the best habitats for the California Ground Squirrel with it’s many fallen trees, rocks and hillsides to dig their holes in. After Terry, Marley and I spent some time getting the guns ready we hiked around and could hear the distant bark as well as the occasional Cottontail rabbits moving about. (out of season)The morning was still a bit cold and the sun was not in full effect, nevertheless Terry still managed to hammer a Ground Squirrel out of its hole at near 55 yards. After about an hour we packed up and moved to the area we had planned to camp about a 1/4mi North. This area had a great place to park the vehicles and spot Ground Squirrels all over the many large rock outcroppings.

We unpacked and proceeded to hike around looking for a good area to sit an eradicate them from distance.

Terry glassing for Ground Squirrels

After a bit of hiking around we settled down in a nice spot that looked to be very active, just needed to be patient and wait for them to come out.

Marley’s running the camera

It didn’t take long for us to spot several squirrels moving about and both Terry and I had our sites on several.

Terry and I were both getting connections from 55 yards all the way out to 70+ yards.

Result of a .30 47gr NSA HP to the head.

Terry and I spent about an hour or so moving along the hillsides where we frequently could spot Ground Squirrels sunning themselves on the rocks. This place was beautiful and had some pretty amazing views of the vast Oak tree covered valley below.

Terry and Marley taking a break.

After some time taking a break Terry proceeded down the hill where there were many rocks, Marley and I stayed above. After a few minutes I could hear barking and soon after the distant CLAP of a Ground Squirrel receiving a headache.

Tapian Mutant .22 at 30 yards,that shut him up.

Marley and I sat under an Oak Tree for about 45 minutes where I was able to take down several Ground Squirrels at various ranges.

A few screen-shots of the video.

Marley was having a great time hiking around with us but by this time we needed a break so headed back to camp for some water and snacks.

After a short break we decided to stick around camp and look into the nearby rocks where occasionally one would appear. I had spotted one high up on the very top of a rock outcropping at 75+ yards. I manned the camera while Terry took the shot with his Tapian Mutant.

Good shot considering the wind.

As our long day was coming to a close and the sun was going down the temperature dropped near 30 degrees making “camping” sound horrible. We both decided to pack up and head home as the night and lack of dry firewood would have been simply unbearable. We headed out the long dirt road back to civilization left with the memories of yet another successful adventure.


I hope some may enjoy this write up and be inspired to get into the field and enjoy the outdoors. Airguns have brought much joy into my life and have enjoyed sharing it with the community through video and writings. Enclosed is the video documentation of our adventure along with some bonus content regarding the Nielsen Specialty Ammo 47gr slugs as well as the Tapian Mutant bullpub. Till then, the best Airgun is the one your shooting.

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Hatsan FLASH Review/Hunt

This field use review of the new Hatsan FLASH .22 caliber entry level PCP was one I had been very excited for. The market for entry level PCPs has become what almost seems like a race between many different Airgun manufacturers. I believe this is a great time for people to get sucked into this sport as the market has produced so many budget minded PCPs. HatsanUSA sent me the .22 caliber FLASH that was set to debut at the 2018 Shot Show in Vegas. My job (That was apparently done for free) was to simply field use the rifle and to document my experiences through video and my writings here. I received the rifle on a Friday and was eager to spend some time with it at the range to test various pellets and to site the rifle in for a two day hunt the following week. My initial thoughts of the rifle out of the box were very good, the gun was obviously very lightweight coming in just under 6lbs. The thumbhole ambidextrous stock was very comfortable and with the raised Monte Carlo cheek the rifle shouldered very well.

The FLASH felt very sturdy and super solid, I checked for flexing of the barrel, stock and breech, finding no movement. The rifle came with two rotary style magazines, single shot tray and quick fill probe.

Model FLASH
Caliber .22
Max Velocity*  From our field use

(Lead Pellets)

.22 915 FPS

18gr

Shots At Optimal Velocity**  

.22 25 shots

Stock Advanced polymer, ambidextrous thumbhole with monte carlo raised cheek and piccitiny for bi-pod mounting.
Key Features Bolt action

Fully shrouded choked barrel

165cc fixed aluminum air cylinder

Optics Rail (11mm and 22mm)

Spring-Loaded Rotary Magazine, single shot tray

Quick fill probe

Under 6 lbs

Anti Knock System

Onboard pressure gauge

Overall Length 42 1/2″

MSRP $299

After some time looking the gun over in the shop and mounting the Hatsan Optima 3-9x40ao scope I was ready for the range. Here are several more detailed photographs of the gun that may help to show a bit more of the gun not represented in the video.

Adjustable (metal) Quatro trigger with manual safety

Rubber butt pad with raised Monte Carlo cheek, very comfortable.                                                                                                               

Bolt action design with 11mm&22mm dovetail rails for mounting a wide variety of optics.

Single shot tray that snaps into place, perfect for range use.

Quick fill probe

Pressure gauge, gun fills to 3000 psi

Two 12 shot rotary magazines included

My main goal was to get to the range, use the chronograph and to test a wide variety of pellets to match the best accuracy and power. I was very happy to have the provided single shot tray and I prefer single loading from the bench, much easier than loading magazines. The gun was easily filled with my air tank and can see someone with a hand pump having no trouble filling the small 165cc air reservoir. The FLASH was very quiet and what I would consider backyard friendly, the QE shroud did an exceptional job quieting the 30 fpe bark. The Quatro trigger was a bit heavy but had a very predictable break, the trigger is fully adjustable and the gun includes the two small allen wrenches to easily do the job.

After some work with the chronograph the rifle was starting at a 3000psi fill with first shot 915fps using 19gr H&N Baracuda Hunter Extreme’s shooting 25 shots with the last settling at 863 fps at 1700 psi. I wanted to keep the gun as is out of the box but can see some tuning potential to bring a flatter shot string. After documenting the numbers I moved onto accuracy and found the 18gr H&N Sniper Magnums to be the best I was able to achieve. Hatsan has incorporated a new Anti-Knock System into this rifle, what is this system? The Anti-Knock System is essentially a safety device that keeps the hammer in place during times the gun is bumped, bounced or knocked or dropped. This system ensures the gun cannot discharge air without the trigger being engaged. This may be a fix to a problem that was never there and one I personally have never encountered. I think this safety device does add a bit of further comfort and piece of mind added to a field gun such as the FLASH.

5 shots at 25 meters

After spending a good part of the day with the FLASH I was very excited to get out into the field with it that following weekend. I packed the gun away in a soft case and inspected it several days later for any loss of air, it held exactly at 3000 psi where I left it. Friday evening I packed up the Jeep with all the equipment and gear Marley and I would need for the several days in the Mojave desert. My good friend Tom Costan was accompanying us for the several day trip where I had planned to do some video work for several different field use projects. Marley and I left the house very early to make way through the desert in good time and to try to make the most of the day. From the highway we followed a rough motorcycle trail near 16 miles into one of the most remote areas of the Mojave desert.

As we drove through the whooped out trail Marley was keeping watch for the occasional Jackrabbit that would bolt in front of us. The area had many large rock outcroppings, Joshua trees and miles of animal trails heading from the desert floor into the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas.

These areas of the desert are very unforgiving and are home to many dangers such as snakes, mountain lions and birds of prey. After arriving to our spot nestled between several large rock outcroppings I set up camp and unloaded my camera gear and Airgun. By this time it was 11:30am and the temperature was in the high 60s. I checked the zero of the gun as I had packed the FLASH into a soft case, sometimes the rough ride can knock the scopes out of zero. The gun was still perfectly zeroed and ready for the day of hiking. Marley and I slowly hiked a bit South of camp where there was a huge amount of rock outcroppings, we made our way up to the base of it and sat for awhile looking for movement.

After filming several segments for the video I had spotted several Cottontail’s moving about through the many rocks and small crevices. I spotted one at near 70 yards sitting in a small crevice on the side of the adjacent rock outcropping.

I lined up for the shot that was across the canyon only to be to low just skimming its right front leg, it ran down to the left stopping just behind a boulder where I was able to make a finishing shot at 35 yards.

The FLASH is extremely quiet, especially in the unconfined spaces of the wide open desert. When hunting small game it’s sometimes important to have a quiet report as so it doesn’t alert the many other animals in the vicinity. After collecting and bagging our kill Marley and I continued around the mountain of rock formations hoping to spot several more rabbits. As we continued down a small animal trail I noticed a squirrel ranged at 68 yards off to my left sitting atop a large sagebrush.

For longer offhand shots like this the FLASH really shined with it’s lightweight shoulder-ability.

68 yard head-shot

After another short break Marley and I headed back to camp to have lunch with Tom before venturing out again into the afternoon sun. The area was very beautiful and so quiet with the only sounds being heard were from the many different types of small birds that move through the dense sagebrush. I couldn’t help but to stop and take a photograph of the FLASH.

After continuing our hike along an animal trail the sun was beginning to set over the mountain that dropped the temperature by near 20 degrees. After hiking around for a good bit of time seeing nothing within range Marley and I headed back down towards camp to see if Tom had better luck. Tom was sitting on top of a huge rock outcropping that looked over miles of desert floor.

That evening was not as cold as we had expected, we made a nice little campfire that warmed us enough to enjoy the beautiful night sky. I slept all through the night and awoke by 7:15am to air up the FLASH and head out due South towards the large outcroppings from the previous day. Marley and I slowly made our way, stopping frequently to scan the many nearby rocks. Early morning is an excellent time to Cottontail hunt, better than late evening from my experience. As we made it to the top of this hill I spotted some Cottontail ears from behind a large rock at 40 yards.

I made a nice headshot that thumped the rabbit down without even a twitch where Marley made her quick recovery.

Marley and I continued on over the hill making a big several mile circle that would ultimately lead us back to camp.

As we made our way down to the valley floor I spotted several more rabbits scurrying away with one that left me with a split second shot that was a near miss.

By this time I had to end my time with the FLASH and work on some other video work with Tom. My time spent with the FLASH was very successful and can’t wait to get out with it again very soon. The rifle is an absolute pleasure to carry around all day and made offhand shooting in off camber terrain much more doable.  The FLASH is a laser accurate rifle out to 70+ yards and is no doubt a great entry level choice in the PCP market. I hope my short adventure may be enjoyed and too will bring someone closer into purchasing their first PCP rifle. I will enclose this video that documents everything I have written and can only hope to share more very soon. Till then, “The best gun is the one your shooting” take care!! (Note) several months after we did this review with no compensation from Hatsan we sent an email asking for some assistance to get the word out about Airgunflix. Our email was ignored, after all the hard work we have done to support Hatsan we felt a bit used. We do not support those who do not support us, this has left a fowl taste as to how they treat the hands that feed them.Cheers MSA Team

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2017 Extreme Benchrest AZ

On Monday October 9th we left the American Air Arms facility in Valencia CA to drive over seven hours to Mesa Arizona for the annual Extreme Benchrest. We had two vehicles, ours was a small sedan just big enough for me, Lindsey, Claudio Flores and his wife Magda. We had a van as well driven by Doug Noble and Tom Costan that was loaded with guns, gear and a ton of lead. I drove for about 45min before I received a call from Tom asking if I had loaded the brand new .452 Slayer into my car? haha I thought he may have been joking me, no it was not a joke, it was indeed forgotten. I got off the freeway and headed back to the Valencia facility to retrieve the first prototype from the back room where it was sitting in its case behind a chair. By this time of the day traffic was getting quite heavy and it became apparent we wouldn’t be arriving in Mesa AZ till half past midnight. We made only one stop for gas, was nice driving such an efficient car. After hitting a good amount of traffic due to accidents, construction and single lane roads we finally made it to Mesa. Throughout the past year we became friends with Stephen Marsh who lives in Mesa, fairly close to the Rio Salado Sportsmans Club where the Extreme Benchrest is held. Steve and his wife Leslie were kind enough to open their home to us for the entire week. They had a beautiful home along with a large detached workshop that we would be able to use for our daily gun maintenance. After about an hour of visiting and eating some amazing chilli that Steve prepared we got to sleep where we had planned to leave in the morning for some shooting and hunting. The following morning after a great night’s rest from our long drive from California the five of us guys headed about an hour out of town into the open desert. I had been wanting to hunt the famous Antelope Jackrabbit for many years so was very excited to finally have the opportunity to try. Steve took us to a place he has gone many times over the years and was to be a great place to both hunt and shoot. We arrived off the highway onto a long dirt road that we followed for about a mile till we came to a small turnout. We set up a few tables and some targets at ranges out to 200 yards, perfect area to sight in our rifles.

from left, Tom Costan, Stephen Marsh, Doug Noble

 After Several minutes setting everything up we pulled out several guns being used for the Extreme Benchrest such as the American Air Arms EVOL .30, .357 Slayer as well as the .452 Slayer.

Claudio Flores from Patagonia Airguns with the American Air Arms EVOL TAC .30

Doug Noble had several rifles such as his .257 Condor being shot by Steve as well as his .338 Condor that he has invested years of work into, more about that rifle later on at the range.

(Above)Stephen with the .257 Condor

Tom Costan with the American Air Arms .452 Slayer

After a bit of target shooting Tom and I headed out to try our hand at hunting the Antelope Jackrabbit that’s only found throughout the Sonoran Desert.

Tom and I slowly walked a small trail that lead through some very large Saguaro CactusThese cactus can grow up to 40′ tall and live to be over 200 years old.

As we walked through the desert both Tom and I were having a difficult time avoiding the many small cactus that seemed to like jumping onto our pantlegs, hahaha

Me (Dana Webb) with the EVOL .30 Classic

After making a large several mile loop, nearly feeling lost, we headed back up and crossed a road where I soon found some fresh Jackrabbit droppings and some urine. I knew we were in the right area and soon enough I spotted my first Antelope Jack that sprung from behind a knee high bush. The Jackrabbit was moving along pretty good but not into full sprint, I waited to spot him again but lost sight as he made it into a ravine. The terrain here was very difficult to navigate and almost impossible to walk in any sort of straight path, every step was something with sharp spines. I spotted several more and will say it was amazing as to just how huge these species are compared to the Black Tailed Jackrabbit. They at glance can be near mistaken for small dogs, very exciting. After trying to stalk one I finally made a shot as it was moving away at 85 yards near missing the top of it’s head. The Sonoran desert is very hot, especially in the middle of the day when shade is near impossible to find. Tom and I headed back to the vehicles for water and took what shade we could find next to the van. After being in the sun most of the day we packed up and headed back to the house to shower, relax and get something to eat. That evening we spent a good amount of time in Steve’s garage cleaning our rifles and preparing them for the following day’s practice at the Rio Salado Sportsmans Club.


We woke up early to arrive at the range to spend the day practicing with our Big Bore rifles for the following days Extreme Benchrest. The Rio Salado Sportsmans Club allowed us the day to practice on the rifle range, unfortunately we did have to share it with the firearms.

Custom Doug Noble .308 Condor

Stephen Marsh with Doug Noble .257 Condor and Nick Nielsen from NSA

We spent some time here practicing before we were able to move down to the Extreme Benchrest ranges that had been closed during set up for the event. We practiced for several hours before heading out to Airguns Of Arizona for our sign in to the Extreme Benchrest.


The showroom at Airguns Of Arizona was much smaller than I had imagined but still had plenty of Airgun’s, scopes, and misc related items. After signing in and picking up the event schedule we headed out to a nearby restaurant called Los Dos Molinos for dinner and drinks.  This was a great place to eat, so good we actually went back the following night as well, highly recommended.

That evening we spent several more hours in the garage cleaning our rifles and preparing for the following morning’s first card of the Extreme Big Bore part of the event.


We arrived to the range early to find many familiar faces and a good amount of first time competitors.

We had a few minutes to practice before we had our first 200 yard target, I was feeling pretty confident with my Doug Noble built .308 and was excited to compete with it. I was happy to see many more competitors enter the competition this year, it shows growth that will help progress the sport. The targets look big from the below photograph but I can assure you it looks very small at 200 yards out as well as the black center bullseye. My .308 Condor performed very well and was confident that I had done very well.

5 shots each on each of the top targets, bottom two are sighter targets

Right after I finished my 30min card I immediately had to move over to the American Field Target area that was on the other side of the property. After signing in and given my scorecard I proceeded down the beautiful nature path to the first area that had 4 field targets set up at various ranges. Look who’s in front of me, my good friend Thayne Simmons the owner of Side-Shot as well as part of the Utah Airguns team. Thayne is a fabulous shooter and cleared the lane with a standing offhand shot like it was nothing.

Thayne Simmons (Team Utah Airguns)

I was nervous and had never shot American Field Target before at the Extreme Benchrest. I was using my EVOL .30 and really had not set the gun up for this event, I simply was all over the place with my close shots. After making only two hits out of the 8 needed I was feeling quite simply embarrassed with myself. This is they type of event that really requires good offhand skills and knowledge of holdover and under techniques. After making several hits on the far targets and missing most all of the close ones I was finally done with the coarse after about an hour. After my horrible shooting was over I headed back to the car to grab my camera and head back down to spectate some of the more familiar faces and to hopefully learn to better myself.

Above left, Matt Dubber spectating Ted Bier

Steve Scialli AEAC channel filming Ted Bier

After hanging out spectating for a few minutes I headed back over to the range to capture some photographs of the goings ons and say hello to a few friends.

 

Airguns of Arizona’s Kip Perow setting up the 25 meter targets

Paul Capello from Utah Airguns taking a break

I had a chance to check out some pretty cool Airguns as I walked around the event including a glimpse of the new Daystate .308 Big Bore being used by no other than Andrew Huggett known for his moderators. The prototype rifle makes a striking resemblance to a Beaumont, makes me think some of the work was subbed out to them by Daystate. Beautiful rifle indeed, thank you Andrew for the great photographs!

daystate .308

Next Door to Andrew was Doug Noble ringing out his highly custom .338 Condor, this gun really has near to nothing left of the Airforce Airguns platform. This gun started out as a Condor and slowly over several years of hard work made it’s way into a masterpiece of a Big Bore. Doug is one of the nicest guys in the sport and is always willing to share his knowledge with others, I was lucky to be able to use one of his builds to compete with.

 

Stephen Marsh shooting the American Air Arms .452 Slayer

The American Air Arms  Slayer line of rifles have been around for several years now and was exciting to see quite a few this year at the Extreme Benchrest. Tom Costan has spent the past year developing this new .452 Big Bore rifle that is far advanced from anything else. This rifle is a repeater that’s capable of multiple shots at over 500+fpe with a lightweight, short package. The Slayer is a true top down new design that shares absolutely nothing with any existing platform. Tom, myself and Stephen all were hitting silhouette’s out to 560 yards with it, consistently. Here is a short video that shows some of the action.


After lunch I headed over to the 75 yard range to help Steven and Claudio setup for their first card. They were both using the new EVOL .30 TAC manufactured by American Air Arms. These guns are extremely accurate and well built guns, I believe if you put enough of one gun manufacturer into a competition you’re going to get great results. I have noticed a “certain” company has near monopolized the market and can only hope a new American Made gun can change that.

The 75 yard card is a very difficult event as this range is known for having very difficult winds that blow very erratically. The shooter has 30 min to make 1 shot onto each of the 25 small bullseye targets with a small bottom row used for sighters. Points are deducted for more than one shot on a target so it’s critical to count pellets, yes I made this mistake that cost me progression to the main. After the 30 min the Airguns of Arizona staff heads out to change targets for the next relay of competitors. I set up my bench and got to honorably sit next to none other than Kip Perow, one of my favorite members of the AOA staff and one heck of a great hunter.

After my 30 min card all I can say was wow, that wind is pretty hard to deal with. I was thankful to have had the sighter targets, otherwise I would have been all over the place. The wind would push the pellet up, down, left and right. I kept my eyes on some of the wind indicators that were set throughout the range, it helped a bit. After my 30 min card I packed up and headed back up to the other range to do some filming and take some more photographs. A few days before we left California my good friend SteveO started working on some shirts that we could wear to the Extreme Benchrest. He wasn’t able to finish them in time so kindly overnighted them to AZ for us to wear. Anyone interested in some really cool Airgun related shirts can contact SteveO at Dream Graphic Designs.

nielsen specialty ammo

Left Claudio Fores, Nick Nielsen, Tom Costan


 I want to really thank Nick Nielsen from Nielsen Specialty Ammo for coming out and showing his support to all of us. Nick had worked very hard developing precision ammo that worked well for us and drove all the way from California to make sure it performed perfectly. Him and his wife Jessica were more than helpful to us and I just wanted to let them know how it’s been appreciated, thank you!


Our day was near over and will say the Arizona sun can take a lot out of a person while competing, moving things back and forth etc, I was beat to say the least. We headed back to the house for a much needed break, some food and a good cleaning of our rifles to prepare for yet another day of competition. The following day we arrived to the range by about 8:15am for the Big Bore Steel competition at ranges 85 yards and 200 yards. These are swinging flash targets that take a good amount of energy to move, especially at 200 yards.

85 Yard flash targets

For this competition we are only allowed to use 24 shots with only two extra, have to make 12 shots on the 85 yard flash targets before being able to move to the 200 yard ones. I had my holdunder marked in my phone and was confident to be able to hit the 85 yards consistently. Per the rules we were not allowed to tether the rifles and had to make sure to disconnect the fill hose from the rifle after filling. I filled after each shot to 3000 psi and was using the .308 swaged 99gr Nielsen Specialty ammo. My scope was mounted on a Coldshot scope base that has a wheel that adjust the MOA of the scope, this keeps the scope from maxing out adjustments at long range. I fired my first shot with my given spotter behind me, missed and could not tell where it had gone. I knew it wasn’t the wind because it was near same conditions as day before. I really didn’t know what to do other than to shoot a few more, after 12 shots as well as my two extra I finally found that the scope got bumped off to the right by close to 3 mills. After I found my zero I made every shot perfectly, my spotter actually felt really bad and later came up to me to find out what had happened. I think as the gun got moved around the day before, traveling in van etc, just got bumped off a bit. I was certainly frustrated but have done this long enough to know it can happen to anyone. After the competition we walked over to the 25 meter benchrest where Tom and Claudio were both set to compete. Tom had brought his trusted TX200 .22 with a Hawke Airmax scope that unfortunately had problems with the parallax. Stephen loaned Tom his QB78 that had been converted to HPA to use, I gave him credit for trying as I thought he may do fairly well with it. Claudio was using his Edgun Leshiy .25, a beautiful gun and extremely accurate to boot.

After the 25 meter event we took a break to have some lunch followed by card 2 of the 75 yard Extreme Benchrest. We got to spectate a bit as my card wasn’t for another hour, took several pics and sat in the shade tent.

 

From left, Dale Wolcott, me, Tom Costan, Claudio Flores

Michael Wendt from Airgun Nation

After taking a break in the shade I gathered my gear and prepared to set up my bench for card 2 of the Extreme. I was a bit nervous especially as it was now later in the day with the wind picking up a bit more heavily.

Me sporting my new Dream Graphic Designs T Shirt

As I sat at the bench watching the wind flags moving in all directions I took my first sighter shot that showed me the wind was moving my pellet near 1 mil dot high and 1 1/2 to the right. The wind would sometimes quickly change so I found myself taking many test shots before I actually moved up to my target.

Middle target, I shot twice -10 points

I was doing ok I thought considering how bad the wind was, problem was I would plan to take a shot on target and then at last second decide to shoot the sighter. By doing this I would have to replace my pellets into tray used for counted targets. I didn’t trust myself and could not see through the scope that I had made an X, big mistake that ruined my card. The wind was so bad at times that some competitors were actually hitting others targets, I was just happy to make into the red. I knew immediately after I saw this picture my chances of moving on to card 3 were gone. All I could do now was be there for my teammates and try and be of service best I could.

After all of us had competed we headed back to the house to clean guns, eat and get a good nights sleep for the final day of the Extreme Benchrest. 


The next morning we headed out bright and early as Doug had qualified for the final 100 yard event and Claudio had the Speed-Silo event. That morning Tom, Doug, Steve and I set up the guns for some long range fun that seemed to attract at one point a very large crowd. We were shooting the monster Big Bores at the furthest silhouette that was set out at 560 yards. Tom, Steve and myself were consistently hitting targets even beyond that. My girlfriend Lindsey was hitting the 330 yard silhouette with Doug’s .338 Condor like it was no big deal. The new .452 Slayer was attracting a lot of attention and Tom was more than happy to allow people to shoot it.

 

mygirlfriday805.com

Lindsey from mygirlfriday805.com

330 yard silhouette’s

After a few hours of Airgun playtime we headed back down to the tent to watch Doug in the final card of the Extreme where he would be shooting 100 yards.

The wind in the afternoon usually picks up pretty good and can swirl quite erratically moving the shot in all directions. Doug has a good amount of skill with his Big Bore’s that shoot slugs that are not as affected by turbulent winds such as a diabolo pellet is. The 100 yard Extreme really separates the great shooters from the amazing shooters. The 75 yard cards are hard enough but moving out to 100 is really quite insane. To be a winner here will rely on many factors beyond just having an accurate gun, reading the wind, sorting pellets, scope etc, to name a few. Doug had told me that he found it an honor just to make it into the 100 yard extreme. The guys who made it are some of the best shooters in the world that make this competition pretty stiff. After this card was finished the AOA team prepared the range for the Speed-Silo event that has become very popular. This event was one that Claudio was very excited to compete in using his new Edgun Leshiy .25 carbine. This is a very unique Airgun and one I couldn’t wait to watch him shoot.

This is a very difficult event where you are racing to knock down 16 silhouette’s at various ranges.

  • Airgun Rifles or Pistols – Must use lead pellets – NO BBs/Round Balls
  • Airguns can be single shot or magazine fed
  • Any caliber is allowed up to .25 caliber
  • Any type of sight is allowed
  • No Airgun can exceed 50 FPE
  • No semi or fully automatic airguns are allowed – All airguns must have a cocking device or action for each shot fired
  • No magazine loading apparatus allowed (NEW-2017)
  • Each shooter will have 16 targets that must be KNOCKED down or off the TILE.
  • This is a timed event and the object is to knock down all 16 targets in the shortest amount of time.
  • There will be 20 shooting lanes open and rounds will be run every 5 to 10 minutes.
  • The top ten (10) lowest times in each class will qualify for the finals to be held on Sunday after the 75 Yard Extreme Benchrest competition has been completed.
  • All entrants for the 75 Yard Extreme can compete in the Speed Silo.
  • Shooters are allowed to shoot in three qualifying rounds.
  • The targets are all standard metal .22 LR silhouette and include four rams, four pigs, four turkeys and four chickens.
  • Targets are placed from 30 yards to 60 yards.


After the Speed-Silo even we all headed back to the house to clean up for the Banquet dinner and awards ceremony where we would find out the winners of each event. The awards banquet and raffle were held at Las Sendas Club House overlooking a beautiful golf course.

We sat down surrounded by friends, family and highly respected members of the Airgun community, I think we were all pretty tired from the long week so it was nice to be able to relax. One of the first winners to be announced was our very own teammate Stephen Marsh, winner of the pellet challenge.

75 yard pellet challenge won by Stephen Marsh

This years Extreme Benchrest were all amazing shooters, I’m really happy for Thayne Simmons as he is not only a good friend but part of a great team at Utah Airguns. Matt Dubber has been someone I have admired for a long time and have gotten much enjoyment out of watching his YouTube channel found at AirArmsHuntingSA. I spent some time this year talking to him one on one and really appreciated his sincerity and love for the sport of Airgunning. Shane Keller is a wonderful example of an Airgunner and am very excited for his well deserved victory, I’m sure we’ll hear more from him as the year goes on.

extreme benchrest

from left, Shane Keller, Matt Dubber, Thayne Simmons

The next event we were waiting to see was the Big Bore competition as that was the real reason we made it to the Extreme this year. This year I was so proud of Tom Costan as I know how hard he worked on the new .452 Slayer that was literally only finished days before the event. Over the past several months he has been not only running American Air Arms but designing and building these guns that have trumped the Big Bore podium this year. The results in .45 over were Tom Costan, Thayne Simmons and Kip Perow.

left, Dana Webb, Tom Costan, Thayne Simmons, Doug Noble

After the awards we had a chance to say goodbye to several friends and even make plans with some new ones. This event has brought so many together and was a real pleasure to be part of.

from left Thuan Donnyfl Du, Alvaro lopez, Claudio Flores, Torres Gianni


I thank all who attended and especially want to thank Airguns Of Arizona for hosting such a wonderfully planned event. Afterwards we all said our goodbyes and headed down the road back to California loaded with great memories and experience that will last a lifetime. I wrote this in the hopes of getting more people involved in this sport and to show that almost anyone who loves Airguns can enjoy this event. If anyone has any interest in the Extreme Benchrest results or more information, it can be found here.

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Texan .457 100 yard Ballistic Gel test/Hunting weekend

Friday afternoon Nick Nielsen and I headed out from his house where we had a several hour drive into the mountains. Here we would be spending the next four days hunting and vigorously testing ammo. We had to take Nick’s truck that was loaded to capacity with the good amount of supplies and gear needed to sustain us for the several days ahead. We were having quite the heat wave here in California so I was more than happy to enjoy the 20 degree cooler weather the mountains provided.

Nick Nielsen 

We made it up the long winding highway thankfully with very little traffic as well as some very scenic views that I was happy to enjoy being I wasn’t having to drive. We made it into town where we met up with our friend Russ who was kindly allowing us to make use of his beautiful cabin. Soon after we arrived several other Airgunners arrived to join us as well, was nice to see a few folks I hadn’t seen in awhile.

From Left Craig, Dana, Russ, Nick, Kerry not pictured

After some catching up we got down to business and headed quite a few miles into the outback where the remote cabin was nestled. The road was quite rough heading up to the cabin that is only accessible during the Summer months before the snow makes it inaccessible to vehicles. As we arrived up through the well hidden trail to the cabin it was near pitch black outside making it hard to get around the many tall pine trees. We stepped out of the truck and were greeted by what looked to be the coolest hunting cabin I have ever seen, was excited already. All the guys were as impressed as I was to be able to stay in such a beautiful place. The place had a rustic charm that followed all the way through the door of the two story place. We were all able to sleep very comfortably with plenty of space as well as a kitchen and wood burning stove in the center of the floor. I was so happy to be away from everything for the next few days as well as being able to enjoy it with some friends. The night was still young but we decided to get some sleep as we would be awakening early to do some hunting.


The next morning it was nice to get up in such a beautiful place and get to enjoy the view from such a nice spot.

 

The plan was for us to meet our friend Jon down the hill near a favorite local shooting area, from there we planned to do some Coyote and Jackrabbit hunting. Nick and Jon thankfully were both very familiar with some of the areas that made finding each other much easier. As we made our way up the steep dirt fire road we soon spotted Jon’s truck parked where he had gone off on foot to do a little scouting. I got my gear out and headed Southward up into the hills to check out the Jackrabbit situation. As I headed up the hill I could barely make out Jon’s figure as his camouflage blended in near perfect to the surrounding terrain.

Was great to get out again with Jon, one of my new favorite hunting buddies and just an all around pleasure to hang with. As we headed back down the hill I couldn’t help but to capture some candid shots from afar. How lucky we are to be able to explore so much open country!

After a few minutes to gather our thoughts we decided to head further down the road that proved to be a little rougher than we had hoped for. I felt sorry for Craig’s nice shiny truck as it was not equipped for such a boulder infested “trail”. After a short stop to investigate an abandoned vehicle that through our report to the police turned out to be stolen we headed on. As we made our way down the steep trail it became apparent we were not going to make it back up, luckily we had seen plenty of little roads that gave us some options back to the highway. After the road flattened out Nick and I spotted a coyote running across the desert paralleling the wash, Nick hit the brakes and I was quick to pull my rifle from its case. By the time I loaded up the Coyote was already near 150+ yards away on the run, I ran out as fast as I could and took a shot that came fairly close amazingly enough.

I hiked down into the wash that was covered in Coyote tracks that told me the place was very active. Jon decided to join me as the others continued down the road in the vehicles where they tried to find a suitable accessible trail back onto the highway. The sun was by this time coming down pretty hard on us with only a few opportunities from the few Jackrabbits we encountered. As Jon and I made our way up out of the wash we continued onto the road where Nick, Kerry and Craig were taking a break. After relaxing for a few minutes we loaded into the vehicles and headed back up the long winding highway that ultimately gained us some altitude into a much cooler setting. The area we had arrived to was a hybrid desert environment that had many rock outcroppings, cactus and densely covered sagebrush.

Nick had wanted to try calling in some Coyotes as the area looked to offer some good cover to make some stands as well as having plenty of high ground to see some distance. The backdrop of this area was very pretty as well as the ground that was heavily covered in quartz crystals. This will definitely be a stop I will be making with Lindsey as she is an avid rockhound. We set our stand halfway up a nearby hillside that offered a good view of our surroundings while still providing some good cover to hide our silhouette’s.

After calling for near 20 minutes without seeing or hearing and sort of response we decided to pack it up and hike in a few miles to explore the area. We had thought with all the rocks the area may have a good number of Ground Squirrels, later we had learned many of this area had been hit by the plague that wiped out a huge number of the populations. We slowly weaved our way through the many rocks, trees and small washes that appeared to have almost no living creatures. I always find it interesting that what looks to be a great habitat turns out to be missing some key that only animals can be in tune with. As we continued a big several mile loop that sent us back to where we parked our vehicles we spotted a Jackrabbit flash across the trail in front of us catching us all off guard. I had noticed it move to my right side behind some trees, figured I may be able to stalk it. Nick and Jon watched as I moved slowly side stepping hoping to catch the Jackrabbit standing still.

Sure enough as I moved around a large Juniper (Juniperus Californica) tree I was able to spot the Jackrabbit just in front of a small sagebrush at about 75 yards. I made a quick shoulder shot using the new 45gr Nielsen Specialty Ammo HP that sent the Jackrabbit down with authority.

Nick and Jon both were excited as with all the hiking around we finally had something to show for it as we headed back to the trucks. After a short break we packed up the trucks and returned Jon to his truck and then continued back into town for a burger. After visiting a very cool restaurant and consuming a huge mac&cheese burger, that’s right “mac&cheese burger” I was ready for some relaxing back at the cabin for a few hours. Nick and I had planned on doing an evening hunt followed by trying to call in some Coyotes later that night. After several hours of relaxing at the cabin and taking a nap I was feeling a bit refreshed and ready to head back out. Craig and Kerry stayed back at the cabin while Nick and I ventured back down the hill into the open desert where we had had spotted the Coyote earlier.

The evening was beautiful and a bit cooler thankfully, hiking around in the high temperatures really sucks the life out of you. We had brought plenty of water to stay hydrated, even through the night. Nick and I hiked through the wash and up a steep hillside a bit North of where we parked the truck.

Nick was using his .357 Bulldog loaded with his proven accurate 110gr swaged hollow point. Through some vigorous testing Nick is happy to have finally developed a slug that works well out of the Bulldog out to 100+ yards. The rifle was outfitted with an electronic sight coupled with a powerful red light made by Wicked Hunting Lights that has several great features such as adjustable mount, intensity control, and an adjustable focus beam.

Nick and I sat on the side of the hill with our electronic caller set near 65 yards down the hill from us. We started the caller out with a Jackrabbit distress on a medium tone that sent a good sound down through the desert floor. After several minutes Nick and I both began scanning the area for flashing eyes. I had my beam set very wide and dim, barely visible but still enough to spot the flash of peering Coyote eyes. We continued calling for about 45 min till finally I spotted a faint glare at near 130+yards behind a large Joshua tree. I thought it may have been a Jackrabbit but the eyes were spread to far apart and it definitely had a canine type movement. As both Nick and I continued to watch it I decided to intensify the red light that gave a more pronounced view of the animal. After several minutes of watching it peeking from behind a joshua tree it finally moved far enough into the light to see it was a Coyote. I took the shot that was aimed at center of it’s chest, the shot fell short right between its front legs where it amazingly offered Nick another shot. We both missed and through the excitement had a hard time spotting the direction it had ran off to. This is the kind of hunting that really gets the heart going, it can be frustrating though. After spending another few minutes scanning the desert floor we concluded the area may not be as full of life as we had anticipated. Nick recovered his caller and we made our way back to the vehicle to go meet up with Jon who had been scouting several other areas. After a short meet with jon it was getting late so we headed back up the long beaten road to the cabin to call it a night and get some much needed sleep.


The next morning we woke up a bit more casually as we had planned to stick around the property, explore a bit and to do some shooting. The property had several Airgun only ranges that stretched out through the trees to 150 yards. We took a short walk up the hill to check out a few of the other cabins, what a beautiful day.

The area had several cabins that were each peacefully hidden away from each other nestled through the treeline. Russ had not yet arrived so we decided to go visit the place he uses as a weekend sanctuary, what a neat little place it was.

After a few minutes of enjoying the views from his porch we made our way back down the hill to set up the 100 yard range.

The range was set in front of a cabin that was built in 1905 by a miner that had several nearby open mines that he worked for many years until he died. The place had been abandoned for many years but thankfully had survived the elements in good condition.

 

Nick had planned to do some ammo testing with his Airforce Texan .457 Airrifle. I had brought all my camera gear to capture the entire test through both photographs and video to help him promote his new ammo that will prove to be the best.

Nick had brought two blocks of Clear Ballistics that were (9x4x4) each and would be set at 100 yards. I encouraged them to be placed at distance to see how well his ammo would react at hunting ranges. I know several ballistics test have been done but none that I know of at 100 yards, close range test are worthless in my opinion. We set the block of Gel out at 100 yards on a block of wood just under the target Nick used to sight in the rifle.

The ammo we were testing was a 220gr NSA Hollow Point that Nick has spent a great deal of time developing to be accurate.

After the gel was set up Nick spent some time cleaning his barrel followed by leading it up with some practice shots. Those little clear blocks don’t leave much room for error at 100 yards.

After Nick took several practice shots I went out on the range to start the small camera I had placed several feet from the ballistic gel. After my return I filmed the event with my handheld movie camera as well as trying to capture some other photographs of our experiment.

As you can see from the (above) video snapshot the shot entered thankfully near center of the block making way all the way through both blocks.

I was impressed he made the shot so perfectly center, I have not seen any other Texan ammo be able to achieve much more than hitting a barn at 100 yards.

We brought the blocks back to our shooting table and examined to find the 220gr NSA had made it’s way entirely through the first block and 3/4 of the way through the second block. Craig dug out the slug and we continued to use the gel to continue testing with some other lines of ammo Nick is developing.

Left to right .300 44gr/.300 44gr Polymag/.357 110gr NSA/.457 220gr NSA

After having lunch we continued to shoot a little more and conclude the rest of the testing we had left to do. We did a good amount of testing with some of the smaller bore slugs and some of the results were pretty dang impressive.

 

Left to Right .250 39gr JSB/.250 39gr NSA point blank /.250 39gr NSA 100 yards

Soon after our testing had concluded Russ,Craig and Kerry had to leave us to head back to civilization. I was most pleased to have had such a great group of Airgunners to hang with as well as to hunt with, thank you all. Nick and I relaxed a bit and were soon getting settled in for the night as the plan was to get up fairly early to pack up the truck and return the key to Russ.


After a great nights sleep I think Nick and I both were ready to start heading back home, a shower was about all I could think of. After cleaning the cabin and securing the doors and the gate to the property we headed back down into town to return the key to Russ. I want to personally thank Russ for his kind hospitality as well as the honor of his several visits with us during the past few days. Thank you my friend!!


After we said our goodbyes Nick and I headed down the road where we met up with Jon to do some scouting through some other areas of the desert, some of which were extremely remote.

We parked near some large rock outcroppings that stood like landmarks in the vast dry desert, figured these areas may sustain life.

The temperature was well up over 100 degrees so plenty of water was an absolute necessity in this unforgiving desert. We drove through several different areas and decided to settle on one spot that had a huge amount of rocks that no doubt had to be home to several coyotes. We hiked several hundred yards from the vehicles and I set myself up on top of a small hill, just high enough for a good view of my surroundings.

Nick and Jon stayed down a bit lower to manage the caller as well as to look from the other direction, my thoughts were focused on some small caves that I believed could be a coyote den. Nick started his caller with the Jackrabbit distress and within about three minutes I sure enough spotted a Coyote coming right out of the rocks to my right side. The Coyote was coming in really fast and I was not even fully prepared with my gun nor my movie camera.

I set the camera in the general location with no zoom, basically guessing where it was aimed, in this video snapshot (above) the arrow is where the Coyote was along with the direction he was moving. I raised my rifle as he came into around 75 yards, Jon whistled getting him to stop just long enough for a perfect head shot. I pulled the trigger and CRACK!!!!!!! NOTHING CAME OUT OF THE GUN, I forgot to load it……..OMG!!!!!! Well the Coyote was only about 200 yards away by the time I unzipped my pack to grab a slug. What an embarrassing thing for me to do, I was to put bluntly pretty pissed off about my blunder. Apparently when I got out of the truck I cocked the gun, set it down and grabbed a water forgetting that I didn’t load the rifle. When I picked it up I checked it, noticed it was cocked and assumed from habit that I had loaded it. UHHHHHH wow, ok I’m glad I got that off my chest now. Nick and Jon were having fun with it, those guys are both awesome and am so glad to have friends like them. I can honestly say I learned a big lesson on this outing, a failure like that just makes the hunt that much more special when it’s a success. The hunt for me is really just to be in nature, enjoy the company of friends and just to try being a positive example to other Airgunners. After the walk back to our trucks we were tired, hungry and overheated from the sun beating down on us, we called it quits and headed to a nearby town for a burger. I want to especially thank Nick from Nielsen Specialty Ammo for inviting me with him and showing me such a great time. I would encourage anyone looking for the best quality ammo made by someone who puts tremendous dedication into all his products to contact Nick for help. Till next time, keep shooting and enjoy what you have.

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2016 EXTREME BENCHREST

On Wednesday October 5th 2016 Doug Noble, myself and Tom Costan left the American Air Arms facility in Acton California to head out 7 hours into the Arizona desert. Our trip had not started as soon as we would have liked as our rifles had literally been just finished that morning setting us back more than 6 hours. I was very excited as this was my first widely followed Airgun event where I was sure to meet some very familiar faces. My goal was to do well in the Big Bore event and to hopefully place well in the small bore 75yard benchrest that was to be very challenging. We arrived in Arizona early that evening where we settled in and made sure we had all necessary components to compete the following morning. The next morning we piled into the van and made our way for some coffee before our arrival to the 2016 Extreme Benchrest event.

We pulled into the beautiful  Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club by 7:30 am where we were greeted by banners and an army of Airguns Of Arizona staff diligently getting the event ready.

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We made our way into the registration area where we were kindly greeted and given our time schedule that included a small bag of goodies along with an 2016 Extreme Benchrest T-shirt. Tom, Doug and I were excited to get some practice in before our 1st afternoon Big Bore event. We unloaded our guns, tanks and pounds of other shooting equipment to the nicely shaded shooting benches.

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We were greeted by AoA’s own Kip Perow who later I found to be quite a great shooter in the Big Bore event. The man sitting was Ron from High Arc Hunting shooting the new Bushbuck .45 monster Big Bore rifle. Doug Noble set up his custom built .338 that he has spent many months preparing to shoot here.

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Other well known names such as Rossi Morreale (below) from the show American Airgunner were practicing for the event. Tom and myself had a great talk with Rossi and were impressed with his love for the sport and his sincerity in trying to make it grow.

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As Tom and I set up our new guns for testing we had Micheal Wendt (below) the new owner of Airgun Nation forum come by to say hello and to check out our new guns. Micheal is a very friendly guy that had some very positive energy behind him and one I was glad to meet.

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I was having a great time trying out my new wood stock EVOL .30 while Tom was using the .30 TAC version. We were practicing with both of the American Air Arms .357 Slayers as well. For me it was quite the adjustment to switch between two completely different power levels. I was sighting in my .30 for the 75 yard event and my .357 Slayer for 200 yards.

img_6924-copy-copyimg_6908-copy-copyMy first event was the Big Bore 200 yard event where we were shooting at 4 military style targets, we had to make 5 shots onto each target. I was shooting horrible not only due to the wind but I had chosen the wrong scope for the application being a fixed parallax. After that disastrous event I headed over to have my Airtank filled where I was kindly greeted by Todd DeOrio (below) Airguns Of Arizona’s fill station expert. He was most helpful and very on his game as I had to visit him quite often over the next few days,never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a fill. Thank you

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The rest of the day we practiced some more and walked around in between checking out some cool guns and even spotting a few more well known shooters such as my friend Tim McMurray of Mac1 Airguns and former winner of the EBR.

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Food and refreshments were available all day long with a great shaded area with plenty of room to sit and chat. Precision Airgun was on hand with its mobile repair center as well as the onsite gunsmith.

img_6964  Day two for us was to practice till about 3:00 where we were to shoot our first 75 yard card.

img_6925-copy-2 I had still been dialing in my gun and practicing the best I could in the wind that didn’t seem too bad as of yet. Tom was shooting the best out of the three of us with his gun, ending with him doing fairly well on his card. I had made the mistake of not using my sighters as often as I should of, ending with me doing very poorly. (no need to post pic)

Day 3 we had or 2nd 75 yard card to shoot, all three of us were in the 3rd relay so we had a good portion of the day to practice. As I walked up to practice I saw another more familiar face such as Ted Bier.

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As the time approached I was feeling confident in my gun and my ability to shoot it well. We all headed down to our lanes to set our bench and to start the 75 yard event. I thankfully used a rear lead bag that proved to work much better for me, good to learn for future competitions. The wind was not as bad as the previous day but was still a bit unpredictable for me. This time I used my sights as needed and filled my gun along with using sorted pellets. For me this was my personal best and was very pleased regardless of how I placed.

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img_6983As you can see, these are very small targets and very humbling when missed. Unfortunately as good as I had done this day my previous card had killed my chance to qualify for the 3rd card at 100 yards.

Day 4 started early for us as our Big Bore event started at around 8:00 where we would be shooting at 85 yards and 200 yards. I was pretty confident with shooting 200 yards but was a bit nervous of the 85 yards as I’m not used to having to hold under. Doug, Kip, Ron and Tom were all shooting great. That Bushbuck is a pretty amazing gun, Doug’s .338 is just plain radical.

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I had a bit of confusion with my 85 yard targets but in the end was very happy with a 2nd.

After the event we had nothing more to do till the banquet so we spent our time plinking with our guns and visiting friends. I was having fun offhand shooting the 200 yard silhouette while Doug was visiting the 550 yard silhouette with his custom .338. My good friend Jim Walton (below) from “Fun Birds Hunting” came by to visit and to do a bit of shooting with us.

img_6947-copyHad some more visitors from Chile “Patagonia Airguns” So nice to see people from all over the world, bringing some very nice airguns to compete with.

img_6958 img_6957My friend Steve Marsh (above) who lives in Arizona and came to keep us company and to show us some killer places to eat throughout the area. I cant wait to come back and do some hunting when time allows. The day was just about to and end with a few Thunderheads in the distance.

img_6991We headed down the road several minutes to a very upscale banquet hall that was overlooking a beautiful golf coarse. This is where we would have dinner, announce the winners and to draw for the raffle prizes.

img_7006Some very nice raffle prizes this year.

ham-raffleThe dinner was excellent along with coffee and dessert, and followed by the awards.

img_7007 Big Congrats to Ted for winning the $5000

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This year had so many amazing competitors,some that traveled from far away places. I see this event only growing stronger and I will say the future is in the young shooters. We all as airgunners need to focus on the progression and to try sharing this wonderful pastime. I want to especially thank the AOA crew for doing such a wonderful job and being so welcoming to me as this was my first year competing. I feel it was well worth the trip and can only help to do better next year. The 2016 Extreme Benchrest has many events that can fit just about any shooters needs. Next year I plan to compete in the American Field Target and Big Bore events. Anyone that’s wanting a fun,family friendly event,this is a winner. Thanks to all who participated. Results can be found here: 2016 Extreme Benchrest

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Jackrabbit Hunting Guide

Hello all, I decided to write this guide hoping to encourage other airgunners to get out and try hunting these amazingly elusive animals. Jackrabbit hunting in the open desert with an airgun requires careful stalking (inside of 40-50 yards) and demands precise shot placement. It requires a good amount of skill and patience but can be very exciting.Jackrabbits can be found throughout the United States but my focus is the Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) that is found throughout most inland parts of california.

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The habitat I’m most familiar with hunting them is the high desert and wooded forested areas in the 3000/4000ft elevation range. Black-tailed jackrabbits occupy mixed shrub-grassland terrains. Their breeding depends on the location; it typically peaks in spring.Young are born fully furred with eyes open; they are well camouflaged and are mobile within minutes of birth, thus females do not protect or even stay with the young except during nursing. They do not migrate or hibernate during winter and use the same habitat of 0.4 to 1.2 miles year-round.Where you find one I can guarantee many as the average litter size is around four, but as high as seven.They have many predators such as raptors and carnivorous mammals, such as hawks, owls, coyotes, foxes, and wild cats.On several occasions I have spotted a coyote stalking them. Black-tailed jackrabbit populations are common in sagebrush, creosote-bush and other desert shrub-lands: palouse, shortgrass, and mixed-grass prairies; desert grassland; open-canopy chaparral; oak and pinyon-juniper woodlands; and early seral (succeeding each other), low- to mid-elevation coniferous forests.

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Jackrabbits prefer open areas where they can see predators coming, they are active primarily at night. During the day they lie crouched in a “form” a small indentation they make in the dirt.(below)

jackrabbit form

When they are in the form they usually have ears back and are fairly flat against the ground making them very difficult to see. Active areas will usually always have “forms”and usually always will have droppings and sometimes signs of fresh urine.

Now that we have learned a bit about Jackrabbits lets take some time to discuss gear needed to head out and find them.
Enclosed is just a basic list of items I usually carry that can change with the area, time of year and the amount of time I will be in the field.

-Backpack capable of carrying items(camo prefered)
-A good accurate gun,not recommending under 24 fpe
-More water than you think you need
-Food/snacks
-Knife
-Lighter/matches
-Plastic bag
-Rangfinder/binoculars
-Multitool
-Spare magazines
-Pellets
-Sun hat
-Camera
-Longer hunts may require buddy bottle if using PCP gun
-Shooting sticks although I rarely use them
-Cooler & ice for the meat
*(NOTE)Always let someone know where you are on a
map and when you will return.

I also use a good amount of camo, sometimes even covering my face in the colder months. Footwear is critical as I’m usually doing a lot of hiking. For myself It took me a longtime to learn how to walk while hunting, this was my biggest learning curve other than knowing where to look for Jackrabbits. I found myself time and time again going to fast having the Jackrabbits hear or see me well before I could even get a shot. Slow down with light steps and don’t be afraid to stop for a moment to look around, sometimes you can spot them several yards in front of you if your lucky. If you find one they are usually EVERYWHERE but are amazing in they’re ability to blend in. In the morning hours as the sun comes up you can sometimes spot the luminous peachy glow of their ears when they’ve been back-lit by the sun. This in my opinion is the easiest way to hunt them.

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I usually like to start my hunts 30 minutes before sunrise and have found Jackrabbits to be most active till approx 10:00 am, after that they are usually back in a form against a tree or thicket. Another option for jackrabbit hunting is to find an area they are active and simply still hunt waiting for one to pass in front of your line of sight. When I hunt this way I usually like to try and find high ground if possible. During the middle of the day I find that Jackrabbits all tend to stay in the shade or thick parts of cover, usually always near an open field. Here is just a small example of where I would be looking for them,this is a prime desert habitat.

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Many times when hiking I will spring one from a bush or area they are hiding, usually they will stop to freeze for several seconds allowing just enough time to make a shot.Jackrabbits usually always will run in a circle, eventually always ending back where you saw them. Some say that whistling can get them to stop but I have never had luck the many times I have tried. They run approx 1 to 2 miles so it may take an hour or so for them to return, again this is only my experience and may not always be the case. Most of the time I park and then make a 1 mile wide circle around my truck, ending up back at the truck. You can also walk a long ridge looking downhill and then back on the adjacent ridge to the vehicle. You have to be able to spot them sitting (usually under a tree) at 30-100 yards and set up for a shot. Sometimes you only have seconds to spot and take a shot, with an Airgun it can be frustrating. You can hunt effectively with groups of 1-3 people that walk parallel to each other 50-75 yards apart. Everyone must be in sight of each other at all times and be aware of their safe shooting lanes (no shots at all on the side where the other person is). Walking a large loop around, staying even with each other gives good opportunity to flush more Jackrabbits and can get very exciting. In the event you are able to make a kill its a good idea to dress your jackrabbits at the first opportunity and put them on ice. Even though you cleaned your Jackrabbit in the field, you still need to give the meat a good second cleaning at home to get it ready for the table or the freezer. Use cold water to wash off any blood or dirt from the meat. Trim away any damaged meat & discard all bruised and bloodshot pieces. Trim and discard the major tendons and tough connective tissues. Jackrabbit hunting is very rewarding and some of the most fun I’ve had using an air rifle. Some Jackrabbits can get very large, some resembling small dogs.

Hope the assortment of info provided may give enjoyment and to help someone get started in jackrabbit hunting.

Happy Hunting 8)