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Big Bore Airguns- The Korean Connection

By Jim Chapman written exclusively for Airgun Depot

The vast majority of airguns available today are chambered in either the .177 or .22 caliber, there are also a few guns that are chambered for the hybrid .20 that combines many of the positive attributes of the two aforementioned calibers bracketing it, and the .25 which has long been considered the major caliber when it comes to production air rifles. It is a historical fact that larger bore airguns have been around for a couple hundred years, and more recently custom builders and small manufacturing concerns in this country have been producing larger bore guns. Interest in these guns grew as a small group of hunters started hunting predators and larger game with air power. And soon, the ability of the small producers to keep up with demand was strained and the waiting period to buy a gun stretched into months or even years.

But over the last couple of years two of the big airgun manufacturers out of Korea, ShinSung and Sam Yang, entered the North American market offering a range of big bore airguns. Korea is one of those countries in which private ownership of firearms is a difficult if not impossible undertaking, and the airgun industry has stepped in to fill the void by offering hunters an array of quality hunting arms. I have been using the Career and Sumatra guns in .22 and .25 for several years, and have come to appreciate the feature rich designs, impressive power, and sturdy construction. But for my big game needs, I have a fairly extensive collection of custom and semi-custom air rifles that I’ve used in North America and Africa. About two years ago I was approached to evaluate the Shin Sung Dragonslayer, and that started a love affair! While the gun was not quite as powerful as my custom rigs, the accuracy was really outstanding and I thought worth a closer look. Because I write about airguns, I am frequently asked to recommend guns for those wishing to enter the sport of big bore airgun hunting, that don’t want to wait a year or two for a custom gun. So I took it upon myself to learn about these interesting rifles and get extensive field experience so that I could give an informed opinion.

The ShinSung Dragon Slayer

The first Korean big bore gun I used in the field was the Dragonslayer, a .50 caliber production air rifle manufactured by Shin Sung. This rifle has evolved from the company’s Dragon model, based on input and direction from their US distributors. The Dragonslayer is a fairly large gun weighing in at 8.8 lbs, 40.3 inches in over all length with a 20.6 inch barrel. The barrels on the Korean guns warrant mention, they are very well made and inherently accurate, as a matter of fact they are OEM’d to some of the premium airgun manufacturers in Europe. This rifle has a single air reservoir (unlike the Dragons twin tube reservoir) that fills to 3000 psi and yields up to 10 full power shots per charge. A handy feature is the built-in pressure gauge which allows one to monitor the drop in air pressure as you shoot. I like this feature a lot, as sometimes during a day of hunting it is easy to loose count of how many shots have been taken, and an on-board gauge give you advance notice to refill. The trigger is a two stage adjustable and has a good tactile response, though the trigger blade is a bit too short for my taste. This does not adversely affect the shootability of the gun and the pull is light and crisp. The side-lever cocking mechanism, which also opens the loading port is ergonomic and is fast and easy to bring into action under field conditions. The Dragonslayer is not as powerful as some of the custom guns, however I’ve taken feral hogs inside of 50 yards, and smaller antelope in Africa at 70 yards. I have also used it to take jackrabbits at long distances (out to 100 yards), and coyote, raccoons and other hard to kill quarry at 60 – 70 yards. The Dragonslayer is on the light side for large feral hogs, but for service as an all around 60-70 yard predator rifle, I would recommend it without reservation.

The ShinSung Career 707 9mm

The other Shin Sung big bore rifles are the Career 707 9mm Ultra and the Career Fire 201 9mm. The Career 707 9mm Ultra is a multishot, magazine fed airgun, which makes it unique amongst the big bores. The advantage of this feature is obvious, multiple shots on tap can be a big plus when a fast follow up is required, the down side is that the recommended ammo for this gun is limited to the 77 grain eu jin pellets. The six shot magazine is advanced and the pellets chambered via a lever action, which makes for a very fast cycling rifle. This gun has a dual reservoir with an integrated pressure gauge, and unlike the Dragonslayer and the 909, the power is adjustable. One of the features I like about the 707 is that the prospective owner can order it with a variety of stock designs and in a nicely figured Asian hardwood or a laminate stock. I like the Monte Carlo stock with the straight cocking lever, finding the laminate stock too heavy for a hunting gun that will be carried over long distances…. but to each his own.  The second of the 9mm rifles is the Career Fire 201S which is a single-shot rifle. This gun is tolerant of a wide variety of ammunition, and even though it’s a single shot, can be quickly loaded and brought into play. This gun can be shot in either low or high power mode (100 – 180 fpe), which is convenient when the gun will be used for both small and large game as the low power setting conserves air when you’ll be getting in a lot of shooting, and the high power reduces the number of shots but produces heavy impact on larger game!

The Sam Yang Big Bore 909

The Sam Yang Big Bore 909 is currently available in .45. This is one of the earliest production large bore airguns on the market and still going strong. The Big Bore 909 is a single shot rifle loaded via a port in the receiver that is accessed by a sliding cover and a separate bolt action which cocks the rifle. This setup works fine but is not as fast cycling as the Dragonslayers side cocking mechanism. The 909 is a bit lighter than the Dragonslayer weighing in at a bit over seven pounds with an overall Length of 42 inches. It has a double tube reservoir that fills to 3000 PSI, yielding 7 full power shots and a power output of around 200 fpe. The gun is filled via a loading port as the muzzle end of the rifle, using a fill probe that comes with the gun. Even though aesthetically this gun does not appeal to me as much as the Dragonslayer, it is well balanced and comes to the shoulder quickly and naturally. The Bigbore 909 also offers a few significant advantages which should be considered; it is more powerful than the Dragonslayer out of the box, there are a few airgun smiths around that can modify it to further increase power, and it is the least expensive of the big bore rifles on the market. This gun is probably the better selection if the primary use will be hogs or deer sized game. I shot a large bodied whitetail buck with this gun at almost 50 yards, and the 200 grain bullet penetrated to the off shoulder. This gun has proven effective on feral hogs, and predators, and is a great way to get into big bore hunting on a budget.

Ammunition

Airguns are a lot more finicky about ammunition than firearms as a rule, so it makes sense to try a few different bullets to find the one that works the best in your specific gun. There are a variety of bullet weights and shapes available to the big bore airgun hunter. You can use pellets that are made to order for these guns; I shoot the 170, 200, and 220 grain versions through the 909.  You can use bullets that are made for muzzle loaders, which opens many options, or if so inclined you can also caste your own bullets. As mentioned, for the Career 707 the bullets are limited to the 77 grain Eu Jin, but the Fire 201 can shoot a much wider range of bullets, including cast bullets made for automatic pistols. For the Dragonslayer, the TC and Hornaday 190 grain roundball works very well, as it does everything I want with respect to accuracy and terminal performance.

Big Bore Hunting

So now you have your big bore airgun, what are you going to do with it? Actually, these guns are quite versatile and can be used for small, medium and large game. Depending on where you live, hunting for feral hogs, exotics, deer, and turkey is often legal (check your states game laws). And in many more venues coyote, bobcats, fox, raccoons, woodchucks, nutria, and crows are fair game. The reason I like to use these guns to hunt is that they maximize the challenge, necessitating that the hunter hones their field craft and close the range with his quarry, it is very similar to bow hunting in this respect. Then there are practical reasons related to the relatively limited carrying range and low noise generated by these airarms. A big bore airgun can be used in areas where a firearm would be too loud or carry too far. The other aspect that can’t be denied, these guns are a blast to shoot!


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