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Clayton: Ammo scarce? Try air as a propellant

Luke Clayton
Drew Clayton taking aim with his Texan big bore air rifle.
Luke Clayton

As a lifelong hunter/shooter I’ve been purchasing ammo since I was a teenager. I’ve never seen the need to stockpile ammo. Through the years, I’ve usually bought no more than six or eight boxes of centerfire rounds and maybe twice as many shotgun shells. This has always sufficed for my target practice and hunting.

Because of several factors, ammo in this country has become very difficult if not impossible to obtain. Blame the pandemic and overall unrest and insecurity for the scarcity. The fact remains that the shelves are usually bare when I go to purchase a box of .223 shells that I use for much of my night hog hunting. Try to find ammo for some of the less popular calibers and you are out of luck. Granted, the venerable old 30/30 round, the 30/06 and .270 are a bit more available but even these "standard" rounds can be difficulty to purchase.

The primary reason for the shortage is stockpiling. Hunters no longer wish to purchase a couple boxes of shells to sight in their deer rifle and to hunt with. No, they are looking to buy cases and cases are no longer available. Take a good look at this stock piling and it can be likened to the shortage of toilet paper. In truth, there was no shortage until people started mass purchasing and stocking their closets with enough toilet paper to serve a battalion of Marines for a six-month deployment. But the situation is what it is. Personally, I have a few boxes of the rounds I will be using for my hunting but no longer will I burn a box at the range in target practice. My rifles are sighted in and the precious few rounds I do have will be used for hunting.

As a veteran outdoors writer, I have learned that I am much more versatile if I shoot/hunt with various sporting arms. I regularly hunt with and write about everything from crossbows to big-bore air rifles. If I suddenly found myself without ammo for powder burning weapons, I feel completely comfortable hunting with my bows and big-bore air rifles. With the uncertainty of purchasing ammo in upcoming months/years, many shooters are taking a hard look at the PCP airguns that are charged with high pressures of air from a fill tank or compressor.

Let’s take a look at using air as an alternate propellant for our hunting rifles. First, of course, one will need to purchase an air rifle. For shooting and cleanly harvesting game with bullets, I have for years been hunting with my .45-caliber Texan manufactured here in Texas by Airforce Airguns. I’ve taken countless hogs, several exotics and a couple of whitetail bucks with my Texan shooting heavy lead bullets. My Texan is capable of cleanly harvesting any big game on the continent at reasonable yardage. I keep my shots at game less than 100 yards with a big bore airgun and to date have cleanly harvested everything I’ve shot.

Another very good "game getter" is the .50-caliber Seneca Dragon Claw. This rifle develops less power than the Texan and shoots bullets as well as arrows or "bolts" as they are called. I use my Dragon Claw for shooting Airbolts tipped with fixed broad heads and found it to be absolutely lethal on everything I’ve hunted with it. This rifle has cleanly taken Cape Buffalo in Africa and bison here in the U.S. The Texan sells for a tad over $1,000 and the Dragon Claw has a price tag of around $700.

Cost is always a factor and hunting with air-powered rifles obviously comes with the need of some manner of supplying 3,000 psi. of compressed air. This can be done via carbon air tank, scuba tank or, even better a compact compressor that runs on either AC or DC power.

I used to carry air tanks on my big bore air rifle hunts and they have their advantages but when I purchased my Nomad portable compressor, my air supply problems were solved. With a full charge, I get three shots more than powerful enough to cleanly harvest deer size game. In a hunting situation, seldom are more than two shots ever necessary. In most instances when hunting deer or hogs, I never have to recharge the rifle on a one day hunt.

Say for instance, I harvest a deer on a morning with one shot, there is no need to recharge during mid-day for the afternoon hunt. But if for some reason I fire two or three shots on a morning hunt, a few minutes with the Nomad compressor connected to a power source — either AC plug at the camp house or the battery of my truck — my rifle is recharged and I’m again ready to hunt.

I’m planning a hog hunt this coming weekend with a couple of good friends. I plan to use the .45-caliber Texan and my buddy will be hunting with the .50-caliber Dragon Claw loaded with a broadhead tipped Air Bolt. I’m planning on giving an account of our hunt in next week’s column.

I never plan to stop hunting with my center fire rifles, but in past years, I have also learned to enjoy hunting with the power of air. It is a good feeling to know during these tumultuous times that even with bare shelves on the ammo racks, I can continue to put meat in the freezer with the power of compressed air.

My friends at the airgun companies say they are working overtime cranking out their airguns to keep up with demand. To learn more about airguns, visit www.pyramydair.com, a one stop shop for everything airgun related or www.airforceairguns.com.

Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton at www.catfishradio.org.