Small Bore Bruisers, Anyone?

Small Bore Bruisers, Anyone?

by Joe Iturralde

So, anyone who knows me, the real me, knows I have been really heavy into small bore air rifles for the past 2 years or so. So much lately that I’ve only been shooting .177, .20 and (occasionally) .22… oh yeah, I did shoot my .30 Flex for a few weeks—nasty rifle, too. I must confess, I love shooting the small bores. There is just something about picking up a small bore rifle and taking it the extremes. For me that’s doing a complete build or adding a few choice mods. I have a few rifles that are just MONSTERS from the factory. So when Tim, the guy who runs this great magazine, said that the October issue is FPE themed (that’s foot pounds of energy) I was completely cool with it. Because for me, FPE translates into longer distances. I love to shoot past 100 yards religiously. I live in Colorado, the “Mountain High” state. I don’t partake in the legal leaf, but I do get a rush from shooting long distances, especially with my smaller caliber rifles.

Joe’s heavy hitters, the .177 Disco and M-Rod, with his .20 Escapee.

To really understand the small bores one has to understand the ammo. We are lucky enough to be in a time when not only do we have a great selection of pellets, but also a really great selection of slugs. With manufacturers such as JSB releasing redesigned pellets that have a longer profile better suited to longer ranges, H&N and their huge selection…to Nielsen Specialty Ammo and the new kid Varmint Knocker slugs. I have great success with the 21gr H&N Piledrivers in .177. They are great performers at 100+ yard, it’s just that they punch right through. So shot placement is key. Same goes with the .177 JSB 16.2gr Exact Beast. What I haven’t mentioned is that I am shooting these rounds from the mid 900’s to the low 1000’s—yes that is fps (feet per second). My .177 Marauder has some mods to the valve and barrel, a slightly stronger hammer spring. My .177 Discovery has some barrel work and a vinyl tubing transfer port, but it is powered by a Don Cothran Powerhouse valve. That’s the one pushing over 1000fps with 21gr ammo, and the accuracy is very good. So it can be done. Both rifles have taken many long range prairie dogs (P-Dawgs). Now my .20 Escapee is a mid range master out to 100yds. It’s fed a steady diet of Exact Heavy 15.89gr pellets. This rifle is based on the AirForce Talon and the Escape valve, hence the name. Whenever I am asked why the .20, I simply say — “.177 flat, .22 thwack!” I have the older style tophat backed down a half turn and at 2500psi it throws the .20 pellets at 960fps for 33fpe, I may end up regulating the Escapee in the future. For .22 I have 4 different rifles that can push lead really hard. The first is my first pcp, my Discovery. It has a Disco Power Valve (DPV) that use to be made by Discos R Us. It loves the 18.13gr JSB’s and pushes them around 935fps on its present tune. But for real power, my .22 Sumatra carbine and SPA M10 are all out FREAKS! They are easily 60fpe rifles with heavy JSB pellets and heavy slugs, and with some tuning to the Sumatra and spring mod with the M10 they both can hit 70fpe or more. My fourth rifle is an older AR6 that is 60fpe out the box, but it needs a leak fixed. All of my Asian monsters are completely stock. So if you have contemplated tons of FPE you can buy a stock rifle like the Sumatras or go Made in the USA with the AirForce rifles.

A few of the authors’ favorite pellets.

With my particular setups I need the FPE to help reach out and touch P-Dawgs in different zip codes. I also prefer the heavier ammo for more weight retention out to range which means more energy dump on target. Tofazfou has shown us that his .17 HMaiR is a real Small Bore Bruiser even out to 200 yards. Heck, even I have a .17 HMaiR in the works… but that’s another story. What I’m wanting to get across to you all is that power can be achieved in small bore rifles very easily. You can buy a powerful stock rifle or if you have it within you and it’s far more rewarding, build one. It all comes down to properly tuning the rifle and picking the right ammo. I use slugs and pellets that have a longer profile for successful shots at long distance. I use hollow point pellets like the JSB UltraShocks and Predator Polymags for up close and personal. It can get real expensive really fast with all the ammo testing and modifications, but don’t let that scare you. No one ever said that this sport is cheap. I say get out there with your Small Bore Bruiser and let the lead rip. Are you still sitting there reading this? GO—GET OUT THERE AND SHOOT! Take the family with you, too.

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This article was originally published in the October 2019 issue of Airgun Hobbyist Magazine.