Jim Chap­man tells us why he has a new favourite hunt­ing cal­i­bre

Air Gunner - - Contents -

Long-range hunt­ing in the States. Jim tells us why he prefers high-pow­ered guns when hunt­ing for larger quarry, or small game at dis­tance

Be­cause of the wide- open spa­ces found in much of the USA, from the West­ern deserts to the Mid-west­ern plains, longer shots are of­ten re­quired. It is also fair to say that there is a broader se­lec­tion of game avail­able to hunt, some of which, even lim­it­ing the dis­cus­sion to small game, can be quite a bit larger than that en­coun­tered in the UK. An Amer­i­can cot­ton­tail rab­bit is about the same size as the rab­bits on your side of the pond, and a crow is a crow, but a jackrab­bit may weigh in at 12lbs and the av­er­age adult turkey is around 16lbs. With no lim­i­ta­tion on cal­i­bre or power in most of the coun­try, the .25 has be­come quite pop­u­lar over the last few years, with a grow­ing num­ber of airgun hun­ters mi­grat­ing to the quar­ter bore.

If you try to keep a .25 pel­let un­der 12 ft.lbs., the re­sul­tant tra­jec­tory is akin to throw­ing a brick down­range with an un­der­hand toss. This lim­its the util­ity of the cal­i­bre in le­gal-limit guns, but get it blaz­ing down­range at 900 fps and it’s quite a dif­fer­ent story! If both a .22 and a .25 are pro­pelled at the same ve­loc­ity, the .25 cal­i­bre has a tra­jec­tory roughly equiv­a­lent to the .22, per­haps a bit flat­ter be­cause it re­tains en­ergy more ef­fi­ciently as it trav­els fur­ther from the muz­zle. Some will ar­gue that the .25 is less in­flu­enced by wind, although I per­son­ally feel it’s a mat­ter of de­grees. This might be the case in light winds, but if the wind is howl­ing I either move the shots in closer, or put my ri­fle away un­til the weather mod­er­ates. There is un­doubt­edly a dif­fer­ence in ter­mi­nal per­for­mance; the larger sur­face area of the .25 in con­junc­tion with the higher en­ergy de­liv­ered on im­pact can make a sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ence in knock­down power, es­pe­cially on body shots when com­pared to the .22.

Long-range per­for­mance

If hunt­ing prairie dogs, where the range may ex­ceed 100 yards, the knowl­edge that a body shot will an­chor the quarry makes it a vi­able shot place­ment and in­creases the ef­fec­tive kill zone sub­stan­tially. To those who would ar­gue that the joy of airgun hunt­ing is get­ting up close and per­sonal to one’s quarry, I agree, but I would also re­mind them that firearm hun­ters of­ten shoot prairie dogs at 700 yards or more be­cause they are so dif­fi­cult to get close to, and in this con­text 75-100 yards is a fairly short range.

So, the .25 has gained pop­u­lar­ity in the Amer­i­can mar­ket be­cause it is ef­fi­cient out of high-pow­ered PCP ri­fles, of­fer­ing both a rel­a­tively flat tra­jec­tory and im­proved ve­loc­ity re­ten­tion. Fur­ther­more, it of­fers ex­cel­lent re­sults on game be­cause of the in­creased en­ergy de­liv­ered on tar­get, and the in­creased size of the wound chan­nel cre­ated. This re­sults in an ef­fec­tive longer­range hunt­ing tool for small game, but also al­lows larger game to be taken at closer ranges.

Same ad­van­tages

Now, if you take the same set of fac­tors into con­sid­er­a­tion and ap­ply them to a com­par­i­son of the .25 and .30 cal­i­bres, I be­lieve the same re­sults will be noted. If the .30 cal­i­bre pel­let, which in the con­text of this dis­cus­sion is lim­ited to the con­ven­tional Di­abolo pel­let de­sign, is pro­pelled at 900 ft.lbs. the same re­sults are noted; the tra­jec­tory is flat, ve­loc­ity re­ten­tion is im­proved, the larger sur­face area de­liv­ers greater en­ergy on tar­get and cre­ates a larger wound chan­nel than noted with the .25.

I don’t re­ally need a .30 to hunt squir­rels or most small game be­cause I can invariably close the dis­tance to my prey, but some smaller pest species, such as prairie dogs, crows, and ground squir­rels, may re­quire longer shots in some ter­rains. If a varmint with greater mass, such as a ground hog, rac­coon, or nu­tria pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for a shot, the same gun can be used with con­fi­dence, and for quarry of any size, the body shot be­comes a much more at­trac­tive op­tion as a re­sult. The gist of this is that a hunter can buy a sin­gle ri­fle, and use it for a wider va­ri­ety of game. In the ar­eas where I hunt, there are more than 20 species that can be har­vested with an airgun, which range in weight from a half a pound to 20lbs. There is an ad­van­tage to one gun that can do it all well!

Over travel

The big­gest dis­ad­van­tage of the .30 is that it will carry fur­ther than either a .22 or .25 pro­pelled with the same muz­zle ve­loc­ity. Note that I am lim­it­ing this dis­cus­sion to Di­abolo-style pel­lets, which have an in­trin­si­cally poor bal­lis­tic co­ef­fi­cient. The .30 pel­let still sheds en­ergy rel­a­tively quickly, when com­pared to even a stan­dard .22 LR rim­fire bul­let. You might ask, ‘ Why not just use a .35?’ jus­ti­fy­ing it with the same ar­gu­ments. The short an­swer is that it doesn’t fit the ap­pli­ca­tion. There is a point of di­min­ish­ing re­turns; shoot­ing a squir­rel or rab­bit with a .30 is not over the top, but a .35 is be­cause it tends to carry too far, over-pen­e­trates, and will tear up small­bod­ied game at close range. To my way of think­ing, the .35 is a bet­ter shared-ser­vice cal­i­bre bridg­ing medium and big­ger quarry, as op­posed to the .30 for small to medi­um­sized game.

An­other dis­ad­van­tage that has been cited in the past, is the lim­ited avail­abil­ity of guns cham­bered in .30 cal­i­bre, and dif­fi­culty in find­ing am­mu­ni­tion. How­ever, in my gun room I cur­rently have an Evanix Rain­storm, an Evanix Sniper, an FX Boss, a Daystate Wolver­ine, the Hat­san BT Car­ni­vore, the Evanix Max Bullpup, the Hat­san Her­cules, the MROD Ve­loci­rap­tor and the Ata­man M2R Car­bine – all in .30 cal­i­bre, and there are more ri­fles com­ing to mar­ket! Ob­vi­ously, when it comes to shoot­ing plat­forms we are not starved for .30 cal­i­bre op­tions.

The ri­fles I’ve men­tioned are de­signed to shoot stan­dard pel­lets, and tend to gen­er­ate around 70 – 95 ft.lbs. though some will do a bit more. A cou­ple of these ri­fles can han­dle shorter light­weight cast bul­lets, and I have ri­fles in my col­lec­tion that will ex­ceed 200 ft.lbs, such as my Quack­en­bush and Pro Big Bore .308s, but this is ac­com­plished with cast bul­lets us­ing higher fill pres­sures, more air per shot, and a re­sult­ing re­duc­tion in shot count. I be­lieve these com­prise a dif­fer­ent cat­e­gory of air ri­fle that ad­dresses a com­pletely dif­fer­ent use case, and for this rea­son have ex­cluded them from this dis­cus­sion.

Pel­let avail­abil­ity

As far as pel­lets, there has been a lim­ited se­lec­tion, pri­mar­ily the JSB Ex­acts and pri­vate la­bel vari­a­tions thereof. This does not trou­ble me greatly, be­cause these pel­lets tend to work well in ev­ery .30 cal­i­bre ri­fle I have, and pro­vide ex­cel­lent ter­mi­nal per­for­mance on game, to boot. There are also new pel­lets com­ing to mar­ket; at the SHOT Show in Las Ve­gas last month, both H& N and Hat­san had re­leased new .30 cal­i­bre pel­lets, and the Preda­tor Poly­mag pel­lets are now avail­able in this cal­i­bre as well.

Hav­ing made my case for the .30 cal­i­bre, I will now qual­ify my po­si­tion. If I were liv­ing in a re­gion where there were power re­stric­tions in place, where there was not a need to reach out over longer dis­tances, or if there was not le­gal game avail­able that re­quired more en­ergy or a larger wound chan­nel to har­vest eth­i­cally, there would be less rea­son to opt for this cal­i­bre. How­ever, in those places where higher-pow­ered ri­fles are per­mit­ted, where there is no lim­i­ta­tion on cal­i­bre, and there is either larger quarry or a need to reach out fur­ther, I would ex­pect to see in­ter­est in the cal­i­bre grow. There may also be a small sub­set of tar­get shoot­ers who are in­ter­ested in long-range, bench rest com­pe­ti­tion whomight grav­i­tate to­wards the cal­i­bre, but I would ex­pect it to gain the most pop­u­lar­ity with hun­ters. So, if you see com­pa­nies pro­mot­ing yet an­other cal­i­bre and ask your­self why? I hope this pro­vides some in­sight from a ‘for­eign’ shooter’s point of view.

Brack­eted by a JSB .22 to the left and a JSB .35 to the right for com­par­i­son are the JSB 44.75 gr, Hat­san Vor­tex Supreme 44.75 gr, Daystate Em­peror 50.15 gr, and the FX Boss 46.3 gr Shoot­ing Ex­treme Benchrest is an­other place where a .30 shines: ev­ery year more .30s show up!

Big­ger quarry, longer range, and im­proved re­sults on body shots are achieved with a high- pow­ered .30

There’s a grow­ing se­lec­tion of pel­lets avail­able to shoot­ers, and be­sides the ubiq­ui­tous JSB Di­abo­los, Hat­san, FX, and Daystate, all have skin in the game

You don’t need a .30 for crows, but it does al­low the hunter to reach out much fur­ther when nec­es­sary, and ef­fec­tively use body shots PBBA (above) and the Quack­en­bush Out­law (lower), both thrive on 120 grain hol­low­points and gen­er­ate about 190 ft. lbs. This pre- re­lease FX Boss let me reach out to 100 yards and roll this big desert jackrab­bit with a body shot

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