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Published on: Sep. 20, 2010

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Jeff Cox

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Crossing a Fence

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the kick or the rifle’s deafening roar. The Quackenbush rifle barely nudged my shoulder when it spit out a cylindrical lead bullet weighing 425 grains (a tiny bit less than one ounce). The report was so mild, I felt a little silly wearing earplugs.

Ken’s deer rifle gets its power from a carbon-fiber tank containing air under 4,500 pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure. This is the same tank firefighters use to breathe in smokefilled buildings. A single charge is enough for three full-power shots. You can get more shots during target practice by using lighter bullets.

Ken’s 425-grain, hollow-point lead bullets are huge compared to the brass-jacketed bullets used in most center-fire rifles. My .30-06, a venerable favorite cartridge among deer hunters, typically is loaded with 165-grain bullets for deer hunting. While air-gun bullets are nearly three times as massive as those of conventional deer rifles, they are not nearly as fast. Bullets leave the muzzle of Ken’s Quackenbush rifle traveling at 750 fps. A .30-06 bullet zips along at nearly 2,800 fps, nearly four times the speed of Ken’s projectiles.

This has a couple of practical implications for air-gun hunters. First, they cannot shoot as far as hunters using conventional rifles. Bullets begin falling the moment they leave the muzzle, so a bullet traveling onequarter as fast as a modern rifle bullet drops four times as far in the time it takes to reach the target.

Partly because of bullet drop, Ken will not take shots at deer much beyond 50 yards. In contrast, a skilled marksman can easily shoot a deer at more than 200 yards with a .30-06. Pushing through air causes bullets to lose speed after leaving the muzzle. This reduces their ability to penetrate hide, flesh and bone, and is another reason why Ken hesitates to try shots beyond 50 yards.

Another avid air-gun deer hunter reduces this disadvantage by using lighter bullets. Nick Hammack, of Richland, loads his Quackenbush rifle with .45-cal. round lead balls weighing 143 grains. With the same air power behind them, these lighter bullets travel faster, making slightly longer shots practical. During the 2009 firearms deer season, Hammack shot a nine-point whitetail buck at 124 paces using a round ball. A longtime competitive shooter, Hammack understood his rifle’s capabilities well enough to know how much the lead ball would drop at the distance and compensate for it.


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