We don’t review many air guns here at TTAG, but it’s a segment of the American gun industry that’s growing right alongside traditional firearms. Thanks to modern enhancements in compressed air technology the guns are getting more powerful and more accurate every year. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where hunting medium sized game with an air rifle is actually a feasible option. Sam Yang Industries have come out with a series of air rifles designed to fill that specific niche — air rifles for hunting — and their “top of the line” model is the Dragon Claw. Air Venturi is the US importer and they were nice enough to send me one to review . . .
The last time I fired an air rifle was when I was with the Penn State rifle team back in college. We had a few Walther air rifles that we used for 50-foot 3-position shooting, and those were some amazing guns. But they still looked like your typical air rifle — mechanical, austere, and using the kind of styling that only a mechanical engineering student could appreciate. So when Air Venturi said they were sending me an air rifle, that’s the image I had in mind. What I got was something much more beautiful.
The Dragon Claw is a compressed air rifle that fires a 1/2-inch diameter 210 grain slug at about 650 feet per second. For those doing the math, that’s roughly the same muzzle energy as a 9mm round, but with a ton more mass and surface area. The gun is a single shot affair, meaning that each round needs to be loaded into the chamber before the gun can once again be cocked and fired. The charging handle on the right side of the gun clicks into place at a rearward position and is released by the trigger to fire the gun, so you also have to yank that thing back every time you fire. It’s quite the to-do compared to chemical propellants, but it gets the job done.
The trigger is actually not that bad on this rifle. It feels almost exactly like an ALG Defense QMS trigger — just a touch heavy with a fairly clean break. For this price point it’s actually one of the best triggers I’ve felt, which was a pleasant surprise. There’s also a cross-bar safety on the trigger guard which works very well, and I actually prefer that over the tang safety of the Mossberg ilk for hunting rifles.
The only caveat I have about safety is that you need to make sure that it’s engaged before you take it out to the range. I forgot to flip the safety on before I tucked it with a full tank into my range bag, and it snagged the charging handle on something in the bag and accidentally discharged a bit of air in the parking lot of the range. No harm and no foul, but something to be aware of.
The chamber is covered by a small movable metal covering which allows you to load the slugs into the gun for firing. Word to the wise: shove them as far into the front of the pipe as you can before pulling the trigger. I let one of the RSOs at the local range give it a try and he just plopped the round in there, and when he pulled the trigger the slug jammed against the side of the chamber. It wasn’t a disaster since they’re easy to remove (I get the feeling that this problem is common enough to warrant some time in the engineer’s designs) but when I properly loaded it the gun functioned every time without fail.
The propellant for this gun is compressed air, and is stored in an on-board air tank located underneath the barrel. The tank comes in the box fully loaded, and you can re-fill it conveniently from a standard SCUBA tank using a small adapter. Or you could just take it to the local dive shop and tell them to “fill ‘er up” as I did, and they’ll usually happily comply. Then again, the local dive shop is roughly 500 feet from my doorstep.
Can I just take a minute here to talk about the blued steel on this gun? It’s a very nice satin-like finish on both the barrel and the air tank, and it looks and feels almost like a collector grade firearm rather than a cheap air rifle. It’s something that no only is functional, but looks damn good at the same time. Even the wood furniture on this gun is amazing, with a beautiful grain and well formed cheek piece. It’s a stunning work of art, especially for an air rifle and especially at this price point.
The gun ships with a set of iron sights installed, but there’s also space for an accessory rail on top of the receiver. So if you think a scope or a red dot is necessary you can add it yourself.
With a full tank, you get right around 10 shots before the gun starts running low. The air rifle doesn’t automatically adjust to maintain a constant velocity, so as the tank starts to run dry you’ll see your shots start to lose velocity and dip low on the target. Even running the thing on empty I was able to consistently hit about a fist sized target at 50 yards though, which is the stated effective range of the air rifle. It’s not exactly the most accurate thing I’ve ever tested, but it performs well enough to meet the design specifications and be effective in the field.
While the gun doesn’t automatically meter the air flow, the user can. The charging handle has two “stops” built into the travel, the first one being “low” power and the second being “high” power. It allows you to switch from targeting that rabbit to aiming at a deer and adjust your muzzle energy accordingly for the larger quarry. It’s an intuitive system that doesn’t require any tools to change between the two settings.
I fully admit that I was blown away by this air rifle (har har). But there are still some minor nits I’d like to pick. The forend, for example, is way too short to be able to get a good offhand grip on the gun for shooting. And the mechanical bits look and feel a bit… cheap. But other than those two complaints, it’s a fine gun that will indeed work as a hunting rifle. Especially given the price, it’s not a bad option for those looking for a touch more beauty in their lives.
Chamber: .50 inches diameter
Barrel: 21.6 inches
Weight: 7.65 pounds
Capacity: Single shot
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
All ratings are relative compared to the other weapons in the gun’s category. Overall rating is not mathematically derived from the previous component ratings and encompasses all aspects of the firearm including those not discussed.
Accuracy: * * *
The more you fire, the lower the shots drop. But they all stay within the size of my fist at 50 yards, which is good enough.
Ergonomics: * * * *
The rifle feels pretty good, but the forend isn’t long enough for me to be comfortable.
Customization: * *
There’s a scope rail… and that’s about it. Still, what else would you want?
Overall Rating: * * * *
For the price, it’s a damn fine gun. Sufficiently accurate, beautiful, and reliable to boot. Not a single malfunction in the entire time I shot it, with the exception of user-induced error. If you can’t get your hands on a real firearm for whatever reason, or you just want something different, this is an excellent choice for hunting season.