Day In The Field With
The DAQ Exile .308
The DAQ Exile .308 is one of the semi-custom large bore air rifles
designed and manufactured by master airgun designer Dennis
Quackenbush. I had finally acquired one for my collection, and a
fortuitous business trip out west gave me the venue to run it through
its paces in the field.

The gun built for me has a 20"  barrel and an overall length of 37,
weighing in at about 7 lbs. The gun is prepared for firing using a bolt
action to load the .308 bullet and is cocked using the knurled cocking
lever situated right below the bolt. Note that this airgun fires swaged
bullets, not the conventional pellets one associates with air guns. I
had obtained my ammunition as a gift from Eric Henderson at MDR,
and was grateful to him as I wouldnÂ’t have made the schedule for
this hunt otherwise. The air reservoir houses the charging port at the
distal portion of the barrel. The port is protected by a rotating band
which covers it when not in use. DAQ recommends that the gun be
charged to a pressure of 205 BAR (3000 psi), and yields four full
power shots after which there are a couple more useful shots which
demonstrate vertical stringing resulting from the rapidly reduced
pressure / velocity. The fill probe Dennis uses in his design is
included with the rifle, which I had coupled with a male Foster fitting
allowing me to use it with my standard rig. When I take my guns on
traveling hunts, I use a manual pump to charge them as the logistics
of carrying a SCUBA tank and getting it filled is just too much hassle.
With a full charge the gun puts out about 225 fpe; and is plenty of gun
for anything from jackrabbits to coyote, which in fact was my intended
game on this trip. Due to a tight schedule before departing for my first
hunt with the Exile, I had been unable to set up the scope and
therefore had to zero the gun on arrival. I had mounted a shotgun
scope and decided to zero in at forty yards. As this was a down and
dirty sighting done over the hood of a rented SUV, and as I had to
manually charge the gun every four shots, once I grouped three shots
into a 1" target two times in a row I decided good enough! The long
eye relief on this scope let me bring the gun into play quickly, while
still being able to observe my surrounds. I thought it would serve my
intended hunting application well.

Right from the start I quite enjoyed shooting this rifle. It has sort of a
damped recoil that took me a few shots to become acclimated to, not
because it was unpleasant or hard to handle, just different. I liked the
fit of the stock, finding that the cheek piece was just the right height
when lining up my shot through the scope, and carried well in the
field. On receiving the gun, I'd been surprised to find such a niece
piece of wood used in a standard stock, but then with the obvious
pride and attention Dennis puts into his product I guess I shouldn't
have been.

Arriving on site I loaded my rifle, slipped four extra bullets into my
pocket, and headed off into the desert brush. The landscape was
dotted with Joshua trees, various cactus, and creosote bushes that
provided a dense ground cover. This is always a limiting factor when
hunting the desert in the winter season, and really increases the
challenge of both spotting ones quarry and stalking into shooting
range. Hiking up the side of a hill strewn with volcanic rock
punctuated by the occasional barrel cactus, I gained a good vantage
over the desert spread out below. Breaking out my binoculars I
started to methodically glass the immediate area. I paid special
attention to scrapes under the occasional Cholla cactus as I have
found this to be a favored cover of the big desert jackrabbits. I think
this is because it gives them some degree of protection from the rear;
it would have to be a mighty hungry coyote to dive head first through
this fiendish plant. After a few minutes of glassing, I spotted the
telltale amber glow of the sunlight passing through the ears of a
rabbit tucked away under a Cholla about a hundred yards off. I picked
a line that would bring me to a small stand of Joshua trees within 50
yards of the scrape, with the added advantage of keeping me covered
along the way. Crouching low and walking in as quietly as I could to
the Joshuas, I poked my head around until I could see through the
branches, only to find the rabbit sitting bolt upright with ears held
erect. As quiet as I thought IÂ’d been, heÂ’d obviously picked up my
steps softly crunching the sand. There were some twigs that
interfered with a headshot, however his position offered me a clean
line to a profile chest shot. Bracing against the trunk of the Joshua
tree, and simultaneously feeling a sharp spine poking me in the shin,
I readjusted my leg and lined up the shot. Placing the crosshair high
on the big desert hares shoulder, I slowly stroked the trigger. The
muffled thud of the pellet impacting right on target drifted back to me
as the hare jumped once and hit the deck without a twitch. I paced off
the distance as I crossed the sandy expanse between my hide and
the downed quarry, and found the shot to have been about 55 yards.
The bullet had penetrated all the way through the rabbit, providing a
bit of anecdotal fuel for the penetration / expansion debate; put a big
hole through the right place and it doesnÂ’t matter if it expands and
stops or penetrates all the way though .. it does the job

In the four days I was out west on business, I was able to get out on
one hunt Sunday afternoon and another one on the next to last
afternoon before heading home. I took a total of four rabbits, two on
each outing. The DAQ was the most decisive airgun I've ever hunted
jackrabbits with, every one of the rabbits went down hard. With one
exception I took chest shots, and as mentioned, all were very effective.
The one I hit with a headshot was not a pretty picture. It goes without
further comment that the gun is a powerhouse, but I also found it very
accurate even considering my limited time for target practice and less
than optimal sight in. The fact that I need to recharge the gun after
every four shots would not be an issue when using the gun for large
game, where my expectation is to fire one, maybe two shots on an
outing. It might present a limitation on some of my longer hunts for
small game where I will usually take more shots, but I'm looking for a
small buddy tank that I can slip into my daypack so the gun can be
recharged and used on all day prairie dog or ground squirrel hunts
next spring. IÂ’ve never made a claim to be a technical airgunning
guru, but I do know what I like and what works for me in the field. My
first experience hints that the Exile could become one of my favorite
air arms, and I'm already thinking that I need the bandit as well.

My next hunt with this gun will be for larger game, though I'm not yet
sure if it will be exotics, boar, or song dogs. Oh, by the way - I did see
one coyote on this trip and missed the opportunity ... but that's another
story for another time.
Fig. 1 Showing off the DAQ Exile, in front of the Joshua trees used
as cover during a successful stalk with my new gun. The Joshua
trees only occurred at the higher elevations
Fig. 2; Close up of the gun and the game. This was a 55 yard
shot that was a clean kill. I'd held a little high expecting the
bullet to drop, but it went right where I'daimed.
Fig. 3 ; On day two I hunted the lower elevations, surrounded by
creosote and Cholla. There was a moderate wind blowing, which I
think helped mask my movement and caused the rabbits to hold
a bit longer.
Fig. 4; A couple more for the game bag. I used the shotgun
scope as I really intend to use this gun for coyote, ram, and
boar at 40 - 50 yards. I want fast target acquisition and don't
need much magnification on the larger game, I think this will be
an effective rig.