The Talon by Tom Gaylord
This is the first section of a three-part look at AirForce rifles. We broke it down like this to make it easier to read on the Internet. In this part, we look at the basic rifle that got things started. Part Two covers the Talon SS and Part Three covers the Condor. It is probably best to read all three parts, as certain technical things will only be presented once.
|The Talon, tricked out with scope, laser, sling swivels, bipod and tactical flashlight.|
DESIGNED FOR MANUFACTURE
From the start, the Talon air rifle was designed for ease of manufacture and reliability. That sounds catchy, but it is so rare in the airgun business that it’s worth a closer look. Most airgun manufacturers will hand-build a prototype gun, then design production machinery and tooling to fabricate the special parts they can’t purchase off the shelf. What AirForce did was just the reverse. They looked at the most efficient manufacturing methods and materials, plus what parts he could buy off the shelf, and, using them, they designed the gun. Of course there were styling and performance considerations, too, so they had to play every design aspect against each of the others before they could lock down a design detail. When possible, parts were simplified and even removed from the design. The barrel can be changed in minutes, allowing owners to not only change barrel length but caliber, as well! With every American rifle sold, AirForce includes a one-hour instructional video (the only one of its kind in the airgun industry) describing all the operations, maintenance steps (including barrel swapping) and even how to install a scope and sight it in — in 10 minutes. To date, most of the improvements except the addition of the power adjustment wheel have been made available as upgrades to earlier guns. AirForce knows thier customers don’t want to be left behind when the product advances, so they takes pains to ensure full retrofit capability of all improvements. The power adjustment wheel is an exception to this because it requires a machined slot in the frame for installation. Now, let’s look at the rifle.
The Talon is a single-shot precharged air rifle that uses a detachable reservoir as the butt of the gun. It is highly modular, as we shall discover.
|This profile of the Talon with fewer accessories shows the style of the rifle best.|
The rifle has an 18-inch barrel that sticks out of its short frame. Because the muzzle is outside the frame of the gun, it is loud when adjusted to high power. The gun’s frame is made from an aircraft aluminum extrusion and lots of the other parts are either aluminum or engineering synthetics. Where necessary, such as in the trigger mechanism and the valve, steel is used. A Talon weighs about 5.5 pounds and can accept more accessories on its three integral rails than any other air rifle today. A Lothar Walther airgun barrel completes this precision air rifle. The valve is part of the reservoir. It allows the compressed air to flow directly forward behind the pellet -- something no other popular airgun can boast. This makes for better efficiency. AirForce sells the only precharged rifles on the market with a safety burst disk built into the air reservoir to prevent dangerous over-pressurization. Look for that feature on other guns in the future, but Talons have had it for many years. Today’s Talon is a huge advance from other air rifles. One major advance was the power adjustment wheel on the left side of the barrel jacket. Now, other air rifle makers are scrambling to offer power adjustment, but, once again, AirForce was years ahead of the crowd. The rifle delivers a large number of shots within a very tight velocity spread.
|The 18" Talon barrel is shown above a 12" Talon SS barrel for comparison. The frame at the top is the Talon SS. Note the two different muzzle caps. The larger one is for the Talon.|
Power is instantly adjustable via a thumbwheel on the left side of the barrel jacket. A marker indicates the major power divisions while numbers on the wheel indicate the minor steps. But don’t think that the power actually increases and decreases by these exact and discrete amounts. Instead, these are actually reference points so favorite settings can be developed and repeated.
|The power adjust wheel is on the left side of the frame. The Allen cap screw head in the oval window indicates what power level has been set.|
Similarly, there is an upper limit to every gun. It may happen at the number 11 or 12 or wherever the pointer happens to be when the pellet exits the barrel at its maximum velocity. Dialing the power to numbers above that limit simply exhausts more air without generating additional velocity. You’re just wasting air. Within the band of power adjustability, the Talon has a broad and useful range. We have had .22s shoot pellets reliably as slow as 450 feet per second (f.p.s.) and as fast as 950 f.p.s. With very light pellets, the maximum is above 1,000 f.p.s. in .22 and 1,100 f.p.s. in .177. Extreme consistency at the lower power range has always been harder for this rifle to achieve because it was designed with power as a guiding principal.
The Talon shoots most consistently at the higher end of the power range. You will see that in the following results. We have used a .22-caliber rifle for the test, as that is the most popular caliber, by a large margin.
.22-caliber Talon PCP rifle • 18-inch barrel length Muzzle 1' from the start screen • 72°F • All velocities in feet per second (f.p.s.) Oehler 35P chronograph • All strings were 10 shots Talon set to the highest power .22-caliber Shark hollowpoint • 20.5 grains
High 844 f.p.s. Low 827 f.p.s. Average 835 f.p.s. Extreme spread 17 f.p.s. Standard deviation 5 f.p.s. Muzzle energy 31.75 ft.-lbs.
Talon set to the highest power .22-caliber Crosman Premier • 14.3 grains
High 956 f.p.s. Low 931 f.p.s. Average 950 f.p.s. Extreme spread 25 f.p.s. Standard deviation 7 f.p.s. Muzzle energy 28.66 ft.-lbs.
Talon set to the lowest power .22-caliber Shark hollowpoint • 20.5 grains
High 506 f.p.s. Low 376 f.p.s. Average 433 f.p.s. Extreme spread 130 f.p.s. Standard deviation 40 f.p.s. Muzzle energy 8.54 ft.-lbs.
Talon set to the lowest power .22-caliber Crosman Premier • 14.3 grains
High 732 f.p.s. Low 600 f.p.s. Average 671 f.p.s. Extreme spread 132 f.p.s. Standard deviation 37 f.p.s. Muzzle energy 14.30 ft.-lbs.
UNDERSTANDING THE VELOCITY TABLES FOR THE TALON
At the lowest setting the pellet is using up the air before it reaches the end of the barrel. It then starts coasting, and friction with the bore begins to slow it down. So this rifle needs to be set higher than the lowest power wheel setting. As power increases, the Talon becomes much more consistent. This can be seen by the results of the chronographed pellets. The Talon can be pretty loud, especially at high power. If you are looking for power over quiet operation, this is the way to go. If reduced noise is more important, look at the Talon SS.
The Talon comes in either .177 or .22, but .22 is more popular. A good strategy might be to initially buy a .22, then add a .177 barrel at some time. Or, if you want the .177 first, at least you know that .22 is always an option. Whatever you decide, changing barrels in the Talon is about as hard as installing a license plate on a car.
SETTING UP THE TALON
After unpacking your rifle, you’ll want to get it into operation right away. This is the time to watch the video that is included with every new gun. It covers everything you need to know to get started. I’ll address the most important subjects here.
First, you need to put air into the reservoir. It’s empty when you buy a new rifle. The most convenient way to fill the tank is from a scuba tank, which you will also need to get. If you decide to fill this way, an AirForce refill clamp with gauge is required. A scuba tank can be bought at a dive shop. There are many specifications, but the basic scuba tank we recommend to fill all our rifles is the aluminum 80 cubic foot tank because it is the largest commonly available. You may wish to read the article about buying scuba tanks and purchasing air from dive shops, also on this web site. Many owners will want to get the optional AirForce hand pump. While it seems incredible, it actually is possible to put 3,000 psi into an air tank with a manual pump, but it has to be a very special pump. Filling the huge air tank that come on all our rifles takes around 375 full pump strokes when you start from zero. That takes three or four sessions of pumping five minutes at a time, with a 15-minute break in between each session. Once the tank is full, though, you will only shoot it down to around 2,000 psi and a refill takes one five-minute session of about 120-140 pump strokes. Once the air tank is filled it never goes completely empty again. The gun is normally used until the air pressure drops to approximately 2,000 psi. It can also be kept fully charged to 3,000 psi all the time with no problems. That means your Talon is ready to go at a moment’s notice, even though it may not have been shot for a full year! shipping it. Once your gun is filled, attach the reservoir to the rifle. Now, it’s time to shoot.
THE FEEL OF THE RIFLE
The straight line of the butt and receiver takes some getting used to. Some shooters have difficulty getting their eyes down low enough to acquire the scope, but the solution for that is a higher mount. The new AirForce high mounts should raise the scope up enough for almost anyone.
A trick for Talon shooters is to rest the lower tip of the buttplate about an inch below the top of your shoulder. There is a natural pocket there that holds the tip of the butt nicely. This brings the air tank up high, which makes it easier to align with the scope. The complete lack of recoil makes this hold the one the experts use. The trigger is not adjustable, but it’s pretty nice as it comes from the factory. AirForce has made it a multi-lever unit that has a two-stage pull with a nice, crisp let-off of around two pounds.
Talons have pleased thousands of shooters at four NRA Annual Meetings and the Hollywood Celebrity Shoot. It always amazing to watch so many shooters approach the rifle as though it were some kind of futuristic toy, only to see them mesmerized by its accuracy. One conversion came at the 2002 Hollywood Celebrity Shoot, when a man walked up and said he doubted such a rifle could do very much in the accuracy department. Forty-five minutes later, his wife had to pry him from the gun, and he actually came back twice to shoot it again saying, “I can’t believe this thing shoots so well!” The gun was dialed down as far as it would go to conserve air, yet the man was hitting a half-inch kill zone in a special British practice action target placed at about 40 yards! The Talon does not feel like a conventional air rifle sporting a wood stock, and indeed it does not. Putting your cheek on the foam pad surrounding the round air tank is a very different feel and the straight lines of the gun make you take notice. But if you settle down and concentrate on what you’re doing, you will see that nothing has been compromised for accuracy. For a look at some representative targets, read the Talon SS report on this website. All precharged rifles with pedigreed German or British barrels are extremely accurate, so it comes as no surprise that the Talon shoots as well as it does. What is nice is that such an American-made air rifle with such a degree of accuracy can be purchased for hundreds of dollars less than competing European airguns.
IS THE TALON FOR YOU?
You have to decide which AirForce rifle is for you, but there are some guidelines to help you make your decision. The Talon is the gun to get if sound is not a problem where you shoot. It is the lowest-priced rifle AirForce Airguns makes, yet it is as accurate as the rest of them, plus it has a bit more power than the quieter SS model. Get the Talon if you want a simple, rugged field rifle that’s also great for hunting and plinking. And remember, you can always change the barrel, so the caliber can be changed in minutes, if you desire.
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