On the Road to Texas!
Getting ready for the trip from Indianapolis to Midland Odessa I confronted the perennial challenge,
how to get all my gear onsite without spending more in excess baggage than the cost of the airfare. I
wanted to take three guns on this trip, but outside of the massive safari case used for long overseas
trips, none of my cases would conveniently fit three full sized rifles. I finally settled on disassembling the
guns removing the actions from stocks and demounting the scopes so that theyâ€™d fit into a standard
two rifle case.
Iâ€™d originally planned to carry a couple of small tanks and a hand pump for keeping the guns
charged. But while doing some advanced ground work, I went online to look for a paintball shop
where I could get the tanks filled, and lo and behold found a dive shopâ€¦. In the middle of Texas, go
figure! Calling to see if they could fill my tanks, the owner asked if I just wanted to rent tanks instead
of hauling my own cross country. He arranged to have three bottles filled and ready, so all I had to
carry along was the yoke and fill probes. I was a bit apprehensive without the safety net of even a
handpump, but the shop owner had done business with airgunners in the past and assured me they
would have everything Iâ€™d need. So in the end I got all the gear required packed into my duffle
and a standard rifle case.
I had found a good deal on airfare online, but did encounter some hidden charges. I had to pay
additional fees for my checked baggage and excess weight, if youâ€™re watching your budget
consider these costs before buying your ticket. Checking my gun case was trouble free; I filled out the
forms, confirmed the guns were unloaded, and stood by while it went through TSA. Getting your guns
squared away is always hit or miss, and depends on whose working at the airline check-in and security
counters, as the only consistency to be expected these days is inconsistency. Airguns are viewed and
handled as firearms, and as a rule I donâ€™t even mention that they are airguns as this seems to totally
confuse most airline representatives. But it was my day and after a few minutes wait for the gun case to
clear, I was in my seat and on my way!
Flying into Midland a few hours later, I looked out the window to see an expanse of open land that
looked like a giant game board with green vegetation and red earth checkering the landscape. This
looked like endless hunting opportunity and I could not wait to get in the field. I was keeping my
fingers crossed that the guns had made the transfer on my Dallas stop over, as I ran through a mental
check list of what needed to be done on arrival (get gear, pick up tanks, drop off bags and put guns
together, etc.). The approach was bumpy, and as it turned out the winds bouncing our little commuter
plane around as the girl behind me sat retching would be my unwelcome companion for the next few
On the ground, my bags came rolling out quickly and seemed in good condition with no visible dents. I
wheeled my gear outside and called Cody on my cell phone, and waited until I saw his full sized hunt-
mobile pull up to the curb. I threw my kit in the back and we headed over to collect the scuba tanks.
There were three tanks filled to 3400 psi waiting for me as promised, and all my connectors fit
perfectlyâ€¦. Off to a good start! I was dropped by my hotel to get checked in and sorted out,
grabbed a fast bite to eat, and then headed out for an afternoon prairie dog shoot.
I wasnâ€™t sure if Iâ€™d need optics (outside of my scope that is) on this trip or not. I always bring
a spotting scope when heading out for a varmint shoot with my centerfires, but around a hundred and
twenty five yards was going to be as far as Iâ€™d be stretching it with an air rifle. I packed binoculars
and a spotting scope to be safe, but in the end only used the binocs. And they did come in handy for
viewing the area between shots and picking out my rodent targets from the cow patties.
Guns and Gear
The gun Iâ€™d chosen to take along for smaller quarry was the AirArms S410 FAC. This superbly
crafted rifle is an affirmation of excellence in British gun design. Every component of this gun is
flawlessly executed; from the ergonomic stock, to the rugged and reliable action, to the overall fit and
finish. The .22 caliber rifle Iâ€™ve been shooting is spitting out pellets at velocities in the mid 900 fps
range, packing a walloping 31 fpe. This gun is cocked using a side lever action which I find to be a
marked improvement over the traditional bolt action, and makes it fast to cycle the 10 shot rotary
magazine. The magazine is quick and easy to fill, and digests a wide range of pellet styles, though I
opted for Crosman Premiers as the best all around hunting load.
I like the CP pellets for a couple reasons, weighing in at 14.3 grains these round nose pellets are
particularly accurate in the rifle I was going to use, and I know from past experience they perform well
on small game. These pellets are purchased in bulk, and come packed in a box of 650 pellets per box.
I transfer a couple hundred pellets into small fishing lure storage boxes for carry in the field. It is a
smart practice to shoot the same pellets used for plinking and target practice as those that will be used
for hunting, reduce the variables in your field gun wherever you can.
The accuracy obtained with this gun is really impressive, facilitated by the 12 grove Lothar Walther
barrel and two stage adjustable trigger. Checking my guns zero after remounting the scope, I was
getting Â¼â€� fifty yard groups that opened up to Â¾â€� at 100 yards. I donâ€™t often reach out
this far with my small bore airguns, but Iâ€™d been tasked with aggressively thinning out the varmints
and would take long shots when presented. I knew this gun would be up to it! The other aspect of
S410 I really like is the beautifully checkered walnut thumbhole stock. It is a dream to shoot standing,
sitting, prone, or anything in between.
The optics mounted on my rifle was the Niko Stirling 3-9x50mm scope with adjustable objective,
which can be optimized from 5 yards to infinity. The optical quality is clear, sharp, and offers excellent
low light characteristics, the perfect compliment to this gun.
Varmint Hunting with the AA s410
Prairie Dogs and Jackrabbits â€¦â€¦ everywhere!
The first afternoon Cody and Chris picked me up and we drove about an hour out of Midland. We
were going to a prairie dog town on a ranch where the guys hunted predators, but theyâ€™d not
been there for a while. Pulling off the highway we started down a dirt ranch road bouncing along the
washboard ruts. There was sparse mesquite brush as far as the eye could see, and in just about every
other shady spot I could see a jackrabbit or two trying to escape the intense mid day sun. And it was
hot, the high that day eventually reaching 103 degrees. After a thirty minute drive we pulled off the
road onto a trail that led out to a barren flat of about thirty acres, spotted with a few mesquites and a
light cover of low grass and barren earth. Prairie dog mounds and cow patties dotted the landscape,
each with a prairie dog set back on his haunches staring at us as much smaller and faster ground
squirrels darted about. Some of the dogs dropped down their holes and out of sight, while a few
brave souls stayed above ground to watch us.
I jumped out of the truck and sat down shooting off of my knee, and squeezed two rapid shots
dropping two dogs quickly. The AA S410 has a shrouded barrel and the gun is very quiet, I donâ
€™t think they could hear anything, and were confused as one after another a neighbor back flipped
away to the big prairie dog town in the sky. The outstanding accuracy of the rifle coupled with an
effective pellet enabled me to reach out with a couple shots paced off at over a 110 yards. I dropped
many more prairie dogs and a few ground squirrels, most in the 60 to 80 yard range. Eventually the
wind started kicking up, and I had to start making some significant adjustment for windage, a 14 grain
pellet moving at around 900 fps can be moved several inches in a 30 mph crosswind. Having Cody
call my shots for me was a big help, but the wind remained a factor for the rest of my trip.
The next day we decided to focus on jackrabbits and headed to another ranch where the landowner
had way too many of these desert hares. The previous year they had been a real nuisance as they
raided his winter wheat crop. Iâ€™ve been an outdoorsman all my life and have traveled far and
wide, but outside of a couple areas in Australia have never seen so many rabbits in my life. It is not an
exaggeration to say that on some areas of the ranch I could walk for hours in any direction and never
loose sight of at least one set of the antennae like ears perked up and listening for trouble. As with the
prairie dogs, the gun and pellet combo did the trick. I shot a pile of jacks at ranges between 25 and
120 yards. The pellets hit with a thud that was more audible than the gun, and whether lung shot or
head shot would tend to anchor the rabbit. I have always liked multi-shot guns, but unless hunting in
very cold climates where loading with numb fingers was a problem, was just as happy with a single
shot. But simply based on the large number of targets and how quickly they presented, found the ten
shot rotary magazine an asset.
A rather odd thing occurred when taking a shot at a rabbit around a hundred yards out. A strong gust
of wind blew my shot a little off course and I cycled the gun getting ready to shoot again. But looking
through my scope I was surprised to see a covey of quail surround the rabbit and feed, with a couple
actually stepping on his back! I had to wait about five minutes for the quail to finish and get on their
way before I could shoot.
Prairie dogs, ground squirrels, and jackrabbits are the perfect quarry for airgun hunters. They take
precision shooting, are the right size, and can be found in quantity. A rifle such as the one I used on
this hunt, that generates thirty or so fpe and sub minute of angle accuracy, will do the job and provide
a lot of shooting opportunity.
Gun and Ammo Performance
I think that the AA S410 FAC is one of the finest hunting PCPs available at this time; it offers superb
accuracy along with an excellent trigger and ergonomic (as well as beautiful) thumbhole stock. The
side-lever cocking mechanism is one of the smoothest and fastest cycling Iâ€™ve used, and the
rotary magazine has fed flawlessly after extensive use. The shrouded barrel is very efficient, and I
donâ€™t have any other guns producing this level of power that are as quiet. There are many fine
guns available today, and while acknowledging individual opinions are influenced by individual taste,
canâ€™t find anything lacking or wanting for improvement with this gun.
My trip out to Texas with Cody and Chris was a lot of fun, but in fact it was the wrong time of the
year for serious predator hunting, which the guys had warned me of up front. As hard as we worked,
hunting all night and systematically making more than a dozen sets over large areas on each outing the
coyote and bobcats wouldnâ€™t come in. Or I should say that we couldnâ€™t see them through the
thick vegetation if they did. But having my air rifle along for varmint provided all the field shooting I
could ask for during down time, and really made the trip! Hunting small quarry with air, due to the
need for precise shot placement at closer range, was a different and much more â€œhuntingâ€�
oriented challenge than the typical long range varmint shooting with a small caliber centerfire.
Regardless of whether you are backing up your firearm hunt with an airgun, or specifically out to hunt
with air, there is a lot of fun to be had with this mode of shooting!
I was recently invited on a predator hunt
in West Texas, to help thin out the
coyotes and bobcats causing some
headaches for a local rancher. The land
was being converted to a wildlife /
hunting preserve, but after years of a no
hunting policy by the past owner,
predators had gotten out of control.
Predator hunting experts Cody Brunette
and Chris Keys had been asked to come
in and control their numbers, and asked
if Iâ€™d like to come with them.
Knowing my fondness for airguns, they
mentioned I should bring one along to
take a side trip for prairie dogs and
jackrabbits. They told me there was a
population explosion on another of the
ranches they take care of. Well, this
sounded like a winning deal to me;
predators all night and varmint in the
The AA S410 FAC is
hunting rifle that has
it all .... accurate,
has become on of my
favorite all around
small game guns.