By Jeff W. Zimba
Now I don’t know about you, but in the past when I thought of an air rifle the first thing that came to mind was the famous Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun from my youth. That is all about to change.
I had a Daisy Red Ryder as a child, like countless other people and it was my pride and joy. I used to have a blast plinking at targets in the back yard. As I got a little older I moved up to a multi-pump pneumatic rifle. This new rifle had the ability to dispatch small game, and much to my Mother’s surprise, it was with this gun that I brought home my first contribution to “squirrel stew.” I enjoyed my air rifles immensely, but since I was introduced to “real” firearms at such an early age I quickly lost interest in them.
When I received a call from John McCaslin, President of Airforce Airguns, the topic of our conversation was his recent acquisition of the remaining Feltman air powered submachine guns from Vintage Pneumatics Corporation. The Feltman guns were the ones we all used at the carnivals to shoot the red star out from the center of the target. These submachine guns, which resembled a Model 1928 Thompson, were connected to a low-pressure line and fired standard number 2 shot. Vintage Pneumatics manufactured these rifles in small quantities after purchasing the rights from the original manufacturer in the 1990s. At this point, Airforce Airguns will be hand-assembling 50 of these classic firearms from the remaining parts they acquired and then they will no longer be produced.
John mentioned that he also had another product we may be interested in and said he would send me the information. The day I received the information package on the Airforce Talon SS, I called back to request an evaluation unit and I received it a few days later. The Talon SS is a high-pressure, Precharged Pneumatic (PCP) pellet rifle available in .177 caliber and .22 caliber. It looks radically different from any air rifle I have handled in the past. It utilizes a 500cc cylinder as an air reservoir that doubles as the stock and it looks more like a tactical rifle than a conventional air rifle. The configuration I tested was the .22 caliber Talon SS. While the Talon SS appears to have an 18-inch barrel, it is actually a 12-inch barrel with a 6-inch expansion chamber. This expansion chamber strips away air turbulence and protects the muzzle. It also has a familiar side effect that many NFA collectors will be familiar with, and that is a big reduction in sound.
I think aside from the non-conventional looks of the Talon SS, it is really the performance that sets it aside from other air rifles. The 500cc cylinder that feeds the Talon SS holds 3000 pounds per square inch of compressed air and can be filled with a special high pressure hand pump or with a standard SCUBA tank. The hand pump and the SCUBA tank adapter are both available directly from Airforce Airguns. This massive air reserve allows the shooter to take advantage of over 400 power settings and allows the shooter many shots between fillings. The velocity of the projectile can easily be adjusted from as low as 300 fps to as high as 850 fps depending upon the weight of the pellet. At the lower velocities, air is conserved and the shooter can expect over 200 shots after filling the tank. At the highest settings you can still expect over 30 consistent shots without a refill. The highest number of shots I fired through a single tank on the highest setting was 45 and I experienced no loss in accuracy and consistency.
The power is easily adjusted by turning the power wheel on the left side of the barrel. There are an incredible number of possible settings and adjustments can be made in the field with no tools. The rifle can be sighted in at several settings and returned to zero at each setting by dialing in the same number. This allows you to use it with one scope or set of sights at one power level and with another scope or set of sights at another power level without starting from scratch each time.
The Talon uses a two-stage trigger that is adjustable for position and over-travel. It is shipped from the factory set at approximately 3 pounds of pull and breaks very clean and smooth. As a safety feature, when the Talon SS is cocked, the safety is automatically engaged and must be set to “fire” before you can discharge the rifle.
Accuracy of the Talon SS was well above my expectations and was far superior to any air rifle I have had the opportunity to shoot in the past. My test ammunition consisted of Crossman Copperhead .22 caliber, 14.3-grain wadcutters. The gun was extremely consistent out to 35 yards. I never had the opportunity to shoot at any greater distances due to the heavy snow conditions the time of year it was tested. The majority of the shooting was conducted indoors. At 50 feet I was able to shoot several single hole, 3-shot groups, the largest being 0.362-inch.
The barrel is a 12-inch Lothar Walther barrel with a twist rate of one turn in 16 inches. As mentioned above it incorporates an integrated sound reduction system. (The standard Talon utilizes an 18-inch barrel with no expansion chamber). It’s extremely quiet and would allow even the most urban plinker to target practice without bothering anyone. Extra barrels may be purchased and it can easily be changed from .22 caliber to the more common .177 caliber at any time.
There are three 11 mm dovetail accessory rails on the Talon SS for mounting sights, scopes, a bipod or several other accessories available.
The Talon SS is certainly not a toy. It’s a serious rifle and must be treated in the same fashion as any other firearm. It’s a lot of fun to shoot and everyone who handled and fired it was very impressed. I would highly recommend it for anyone who likes to plink in their back yard or basement or hunt small game at short distances. As for tactical applications, I believe that it could have a legitimate purpose in the law enforcement community for taking out motion sensors, lights or mirrors when noise or over penetration is a concern.
Talon SS Specifications
Caliber: .177 (4.5mm) & .22 (5.5mm)
Overall Length: 32.75 inches
Barrel Length: 12 inches
Barrel Twist: One turn in 16 inches
Weight: 5.25 pounds
Air Tank Volume: 490cc
Retail Price: $439.95
P.O. Box 2478
Fort Worth, Texas 76113
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V6N10 (July 2003)|