Right before SHOT Show 2018, I had the opportunity to travel to North Texas on a hunt. I’m in Texas several times every year, as this is one of my favorite airgunning venues. I hunt hogs, predators, small game, and the occasional exotic, so coming to Texas to hunt is not out of the ordinary for me. However, the objective of this trip was going to be something special!
Umarex intended to release their new .50 caliber Hammer precharged pneumatic air rifle at the SHOT Show and had invited me down to Bowie Texas to hunt with it! Was I available? Oh, heck yeah I was! The fact that this was Umarex’s long anticipated entry into the big bore market segment was exciting enough, but I’d been talking with the developers for over a year and had used the Hammer a couple times while we were filming segments of the American Airgunner. It was Impressive on many levels, and I was itching to get some field time with this rifle!
When talking about big bores, power is always the first topic that floats up, and this rifle generating an honest 700 fpe over three shots was something to talk about. The Hammer uses Umarex’s proprietary Lightspeed Valve system, which on a 4500-psi fill provides three regulated shots at 3000 psi. This is a very important feature: most big bore air rifles are not regulated and utilize a significant volume of air with each shot, reducing the pressure with each successive discharge. As the pressures drop the velocities generated decrease, and the point of impact drops. This drop in POI is often substantial, and along with the more pronounced bullet trajectories obtained with lower velocity air rifle projectiles, can make long range accuracy an effort.
The fact that three shots in a row will be launched at approximately the same velocity, removes some of the complex estimations if a follow up shot is required. This allows the intrinsic accuracy of the Hammer to shine through. A two-shot shuttle magazine leverages this consistency, allowing a very rapid cycling of the accurate second shot. There is not another multi-shot big bore air rifle available with even close to this power output. Yes indeed, I was looking forward to this outing!
I arrived in Dallas, met my buddy and host of American Airgunner Rossi Morealle at the baggage claim, picked up a rental truck, and started the two-hour drive to Bowie Texas. We were hunting the Executive Hunting Ranch and staying at their very comfortable lodge. I’d be there for four days before heading out west to another ranch where I’d be hunting hogs and predators, but on this ranch, I wanted to bag a fallow deer. Over a couple of decades of airgun hunting in Texas, I’d taken my fair share of exotic game, but the fallow deer was one species I’d wanted to hunt but never had the opportunity. These big members of the deer family are originally from Europe, but in the last century have been transplanted to New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa, and Texas.
A fallow buck generally weighs in the 150 – 300 lb range, with large palmated antlers in mature animals. This is one of the most varied colored deer around, from white to black coats with everything in-between, though I personally find the mottled chestnut coloration the most attractive. Along with the aoudad, gemsbok and blackbuck, the fallow is the only exotic in Texas I have a driving urge to hunt, so you could say my excitement levels were on overdrive!
Getting to the lodge in daylight was perfect timing, as it allowed us an opportunity to shoot the rifle on paper to re-acclimate before heading into the field. However, the rifles being shipped to us were delayed in transit, and we went to bed that night not knowing if they would arrive the following morning. I was scheduled to head out with my guide in search of my first fallow at daybreak and drifted off to sleep with the hope the rifles would get there before I had to leave. You can imagine my relief when I awoke and stumbling out to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, almost immediately tripped over the shipping crates containing two new Hammers! The rifles had been delivered by courier sometime in the middle of the night, and I was a happy camper! We hit the range and proceeded to sight in the rifle, setting zero at 75 yards. The 550 grain cast lead bullets were printing three shot groups inside of 2” at 50, 75, and 100 yards, and though we didn’t have time to fine tune the gun, I felt confident to take it hunting!
When we came off the range, our guide was in an ATV waiting on us. Clay (our cameraman) and I loaded up our gear and started out to the far side of the ranch. We got some elevation and started glassing the terrain; seeing a few whitetail, a small herd of blackbuck, but no fallow. After about an hour of glassing, we’d seen a few fallow and axis deer, with only the glance of a decent buck in the distance heading away from us. Seeing the direction he was heading, we jumped in the ATV and drove to the far side of the ranch which put us down wind, and started a stalk in the direction we’d seen the buck moving.
Coming over a rise, I saw three bucks moving parallel to us on a diagonal line along a creek bottom. Dropping down behind the ridge, we quickly and quietly moved ahead to intercept the bucks. I sat at the base of a tree and pulled my camo pack and shooting sticks in front of me to provide a stable shooting platform and a little extra camouflage. Then we waited ……. and waited…….but nothing! After about 20 minutes I was thinking that if the deer were moving in the same direction at the same pace, they should have already come into view. Deciding to wait a little longer, I readjusted my position, and in doing so glanced around a tree directly in front of me. There I saw, not more than 70 yards away, the bucks in a line marching towards us. The buck I wanted was in the middle of the three, so trying to shift back into a shooting position, I slowly settled in for the wait. The first deer went down a shallow gulley to my left, and though we had the wind in our favor, I was sure we were going to get busted. But that buck moved on to my left at maybe forty yards. Shortly after the second buck, the one I wanted, came in on the same line.
Assuming this buck would continue following the first, I didn’t think I’d have a good broadside until he passed, and then if I tried to shift into position, the last buck would spook. So, I dropped the crosshairs on the front shoulder for a forward-facing quartering shot, pulled in a breath and stroked the trigger. The trigger on the Hammer breaks crisply at about 3lb, and when it broke the gun barked and pushed back into my shoulder. Even with the weight of the rifle, it has a noticeable recoil, but still I was able to watch as the 550-grain bullet impacted the shoulder and tossed the buck backwards into the little gully he was just topping. The buck kicked a couple times but was down for the count and dead by the time I walked the forty-five yards a couple minutes later.
After getting a couple of pictures with my first fallow, we dragged the heavy buck through the woods to the road, hiked back to fetch the ATV, and loaded him up for the drive back to the processing shed. When we were dressing the buck, we found that the bullet had smashed the left shoulder, passed diagonally through the body, and come to rest just under the skin at the right hind quarter after doing some collateral damage.
The Umarex Hammer lived up to the promise; a consistent multishot big bore hunting rifle, easily the most powerful production airgun in the world. With accuracy, fast cycling action, and three full powered shots on tap, the Hammer will certainly resonate with the airgun hunting community after big game! But another aspect of this rifle that I think is very impressive, is that Umarex has managed to provide this feature rich shooting platform at a price point well below almost anything else on the market. As more states allow Airguns to be used for hunting larger game, having an affordable rifle that is powerful, accurate, and feature rich will go a long way in growing the sport. Whether you are just starting or have been shooting big bores for a long time, you’ll want to take a close look at this rifle.