And I Cannot Lie!
By Tom McHale
What sucks wind faster than a corrupt mayor answering the door to a 60 Minutes camera crew? A big-bore airgun, that’s what. In more scientific terms, each time you fling a lead ingot downrange you’re using enough air to have its own gravitational field. That’s OK though because air is free (unless you live in New York City).
Anyway, I recently had a “freedom delivery” — a Gamo TC-45 big-bore air rifle, complete with a suppressor, dropped off right at my front door. No papers, licenses, or cavity searches required.
The manometer keeps track of your air pressure (above). At full power, you’ve got about five shots worth with
the heavier projectiles. The TC-45’s air reservoir doubles as a stock (below). Unless you only need a few shots
you’ll want an air tank like this Omega Air Cylinders model.
The TC-45 is a single-shot, bolt-action with a 480cc carbon-fiber air reservoir that performs double duty as a buttstock — the primary reason the front end is so slender and normal in appearance. Opposite the quick-connect Foster air fill fitting is a manometer (pressure gauge) to show air-pressure status. Reminiscent of a lever-action rifle, the triggerguard acts as a cocking mechanism and opens and closes the breech for loading. It has a “half-cock” for lower power and more shots per fill. Then there’s the “full-cock” for big power to take down a Yeti.
So how much air does it take to get the lead out? The tank itself contains 250 bar (a fancy way of saying 3,600 psi — or 112.5 times as much as the tire on my Toyota Sequoia).
All this pressure will give you maybe five full-power shots with a heavy projectile. If you want more shots, use the lower power setting and trade velocity for volume. But however you shoot it, you’ll need an external air cylinder (think a higher-tech SCUBA tank) because using a hand pump will simply give you a coronary — trust me; in the name of science and journalism, I tried. After leaving the ER I began using a 75-cubic-foot carbon fiber tank from Omega Air Cylinders. It packs 4,500 psi of air and includes its own manometer and a high-pressure fill hose.
Wal-Mart doesn’t sell .45 caliber pellets, so I called Hunters Supply. You know how sometimes you get a feeling something is meant to be? I had this when I finally reached David, the head lead-projectile guru there. It took several tries because he was always on the test range. I figured that was a good omen. David quickly sent a variety of lead “pellets” ranging from 138 to 411 grains, including jumbo pellets, round balls and solid lead slugs. Hunters Supply makes these projectiles with a .457″ diameter, but there’s nothing wrong with trying your rifle with projectiles a bit smaller. Any airgun will have distinct preferences for ammo types and this one was no exception. The best 50-yard groups came from the 150-gr. jumbo pellet (0.87″) and 310-gr. FP slugs (1.22″).
A sense of scale: The little ones are standard .22 caliber pellets. The big ones are Hunters Supply 138 grainers.
Tom tested the Gamo TC-45 with an assortment of lead projectiles from Hunters Supply.
He feels strange calling them “pellets.”
Ft.-Lbs. — Coin Of The Realm
In the airgun world, foot pounds are the language currency, not velocity or pellet weight. By this yardstick, the TC-45 shoots with similar power as a broad range of centerfire handguns. At the lower end was the 138-gr. “Pellet-Zilla” clocking in at 882 fps and generating 238.4 ft.-lbs. of energy — significantly more than the average .380 ACP. Moving on up, the 147-gr. round balls left the not-very-fiery end at 859 fps, yielding 240.9 ft.-lbs.
Things started to get interesting with the 310-gr. HP pellets. Those moved at 723 fps and delivered 359.8 ft.-lbs. As a reference, that’s more than a 115-gr. 9mm zipping at 1,150 fps and just a hair shy of a .45 ACP 230-gr. FMJ at 850 fps. On my test day, however, the big energy winner was the 411-gr. lead brick, which cranked out 370 ft.-lbs. Under the right conditions — and with the right pellet — this “BB gun” will deliver more than 400 ft.-lbs.
So, there you have it. With this kind of power level and using nothing but a bottle of not-very-hot air, you can nail steel, hunt sizeable game, or destroy those old electronic appliances that once frustrated you to no end.
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