Airguns for Survival: AirForce Escape Pellet Guns Tom Gaylord - May 29, 2014 You awoke this morning to the sound of a truck backing into the side of your house, which is odd, because your house is under construction and doesn't have sides yet! You're living in a Class A motorhome on the lot where your dream house is being built. In less than a minute you knew what that prolonged scraping and rumbling really was — an earthquake! And it was close, too! Shook your big RV like it was driving fast down a corduroy road.You're building your retirement nest in the hills that surround Tehachapi, Calif. You're close enough to Bakersfield to be civilized but still not affected by the urban sprawl that creeps farther into the high desert every year.Unfortunately for you, the quake that awakened you wasn't that close. But it was big. Not just big — major! It was a mind-blowing 8.2 on the Richter scale and very widespread. It destroyed a lot of the major infrastructure around Bakersfield, all the way south to Los Angeles. Major highways are cut, bridges are down, water mains are broken and nobody has power from Fresno to Long Beach — unless they make it themselves.You do have a nice 4.2 Kw generator onboard the RV, but how long will your diesel last? In fact — how long will you last? You calculate the near-term effects of this disaster, and it becomes clear that you and your family are in for an adventure. Not only will the power be off for weeks (or months!), more basic things like food, fresh water and fuel deliveries will not be made because of the transportation pitfalls. And guess what? When things are fixed, they aren't going to start in Tehachapi. Los Angeles will be first, and so on down the line. This is a real crisis, and you're at the epicenter. Survival is Real! If you've watched the movies, you know what Hollywood thinks survival means. The comet strikes and bombs civilization back to the Stone Age, or everybody turns into a zombie, pitting you against the world. Time to pick up your crossbow and head out to the boondocks. Well, that scenario hasn't happened once in all of recorded history, but every year there are earthquakes, fires, floods, tornados, tsunamis, blizzards and hurricanes that thrust millions of people into real-life survival situations.Survival means you have the ability to hold out (eat, drink, and stay warm and safe) for at least three days until the emergency services can get organized. And you know that it can often be much longer than three days — just ask anyone from New Orleans. We're talking about government services here — the same government that can't get a website — well, you know the rest.In a real survival situation, you aren't going up against lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!) unless you live in a zoo or in places like the Pacific Northwest. But you may have a chance to hunt deer, feral hogs (especially in the South and Southwest!) and other food animals. Or you may face a different problem. Your lush little Fern Gully may have flooded and transformed overnight into the Cottonmouth Bowl, with you and your family on the 50-yard line. I don't care what the herpetologists say — water moccasins will attack you when you enter their territory, and they are aggressive! When the flood waters rise, your territory becomes their territory right now.Hunting licenses won't matter in this situation because it'll be you against the world. The D.C.-based Oompa-Loompas who want to tell you how to live your life will be posturing for the cameras in their warm, dry offices while you struggle to keep your family alive, safe and fed. Only much later when the floodwaters subside will they venture forth to prosecute the survivors.At a time like this, you'll extend the abilities of your weapons to their maximum. In other words, you'll make them do things they aren't normally considered capable of doing. You probably aren't going to need a repeater, either, because real survival is not a matter of holding off the last attack at the Alamo. It's a one-shot, one-kill situation. You need power, accuracy and dependability to get the job done. A .22 rimfire rifle would be ideal in such situations. Given the current ammunition shortages, though, can you always count on having what you need? Maybe not with a rimfire, but perhaps there's hope in a trio of new survival air rifles being offered by AirForce Airguns.The EscapeThe basic rifle of the three is called the Escape. It produces about 82% of the power of a standard speed .22 long rifle cartridge. At 98 foot-pounds, a .25 cal. pellet from this rifle can drop much more than just rabbits and squirrels. It's up to the task of hunting serious game, which is anything that might be taken with a .22 long rifle.But more than that, there are no ammunition problems associated with this gun. A tin of pellets is both affordable and available right now. Once you have them, they'll last a good half-century with no special care beyond keeping them in their original container. The air that propels them is free, and a reliable modern high-pressure hand pump gives you all the shots you'll need.The other two rifles in this offering are the EscapeUL (Ultra Light) and the EscapeSS (sound suppressed). They're specialized variations on the main theme of the Escape, and I'll address each of them in turn.These three air rifles have an interesting back story. AirForce was already building one of the most powerful smallbore pre-charged air rifles — the Condor.When it hit the market in 2004, it was the most powerful production smallbore air rifle generally available. It produces 65 foot-pounds of muzzle energy in .22 cal. with standard pellets, which is more energy than you get from a standard speed .22 Short cartridge. At the time of its inception, everyone thought the limit had been reached for smallbore pellet guns. But apparently not everyone got that memo!The Genesis of EscapeLast year, AirForce owner John McCaslin and Ton Jones, star of television's Auction Hunters reality series, were on a hunting trip in North Central Texas. As they drove toward their destination, they were discussing Ton's experiences with survival training.Ton grew up in California's Mojave Desert, where hostile conditions and rapid changes in the weather are commonplace. His early conditioning taught him to become self-reliant and always be ready to operate for many days without outside help. This evolved into a passion for the realistic survival training that he now conducts around the country at various sporting goods venues. Ton selects equipment he has tested and includes it in his presentations. And now he has what he considers to be the ideal survival airgun.What you may not know is that Ton is also an airgunner. In fact, he wears the title "Airgun Evangelist" on his back! He invites the children in his neighborhood and their parents to his home to learn the proper way to shoot, and airguns are the tools he uses. He stays out of the spotlight in this training. To quote him, "I don't want to be anyone's hero. What I want is for the parents to become the heroes, and shooting together is the perfect vehicle for doing it."He told John that he'd never found an air rifle he could truly trust for a survival role. The Condor was good, but he wanted more power. He wanted a gun powerful enough to be serious, yet light enough for older kids and small adults to handle easily and be able to cock.So, he wondered aloud what would happen if a longer barrel were placed on a TalonP air pistol. In .25 cal., that air pistol already generates 55 foot-pounds of muzzle energy through its 12-inch barrel. And longer barrels on precharged airguns are known to dramatically increase the velocity and power.Ton told me John got silent after he asked that. Nothing was said for about 10 minutes. Then a smile broke out on his face as he turned to Jones and said, "You know, I think that might work!"The EscapeSo what is an Escape? In the simplest terms, the Escape is a single-shot pre-charged pneumatic air rifle. You fill it once from either a hand pump or a compressed air tank and fire it many times before filling again. It comes in either .22 or .25 calibers, which classifies it as a smallbore, but the rifle generates even more power than the AirForce Condor. How much power?In a test done during development, the Escape developed as much as 98 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle with a .25 cal. pellet weighing slightly over 43 grains. That puts the rifle into the same class as the .22 Long Rifle cartridge.Ton got just what he asked for! And after many days of prolonged testing, he was proud to call the Escape the rifle he had been searching for.The obvious question is why not just use a .22 Long Rifle? There are a couple of good answers for that. The first is in the form of a question: Have you tried to buy .22 ammunition recently? There's a shortage of rimfire ammunition right now, which every shooter in the United States realizes. It's not always easy to get your hands on the ammo you need.But it is very easy to buy premium .25 cal. pellets. Besides pellets, all you need with the Escape is a source of air, and that can be provided free of charge by a high-pressure hand pump.Externally, the Escape is very similar to other AirForce air rifles. It has the look of a black rifle, and the buttstock also serves as the air reservoir. The Escape offers the user a choice of two calibers, which may be changed in the field in as little as five minutes. The Escape barrel is 24 inches long. Although AirForce Airguns does supply shorter rifle barrels that fit the Escape's frame, only the 24-inch length delivers this stunning power.All AirForce sporting rifles offer adjustable power, and the Escape is no exception. A power wheel on the left side of the frame allows the user to dial the power up and down. You might think that because the Escape's power is so great that only high power would be useful, but that's not the case!During testing, I discovered that the Escape has sweet spots within bands of power where it achieves amazing accuracy with certain pellets. These bands are not necessarily at the top power level.This rifle is filled with air from an external source such as a scuba tank or a hand pump. In the past, the air tank unscrewed from the rifle, but the new Spin-Loc tank remains in place and is filled through a Foster male quick-disconnect fitting located on the tank. On the other side of the tank from the air filling nipple is a pressure gauge that tells you the status of the fill at a glance.Because the user fills the rifle, he also controls the pressure inside. Sometimes, the ideal fill pressure is not the maximum, but something below the maximum. You may get fewer shots, but those shots will all be very accurate. This is the kind of thing an owner has to test on his particular rifle, and it's what I did to evaluate these rifles. Putting it bluntly, it's better to connect with 100 foot-pounds than to miss with a thousand.The EscapeUL is shorter than the Escape and comes with a thinner barrel. Gaylord says you give up relatively little to get the reduced weight.Three high-tech baffles in the frame divert the compressed air after it leaves the barrel, quieting the report. A Belleville washer keeps tension on the baffles.The .25 cal. Predator Polymags are accurate and have dynamic effect on game. Eun Jin pointed pellets are heavier than a .22 Long Rifle bullet.The new Spin-Loc air tank has a built-in pressure gauge so the status of the fill pressure can always be checked. It can be topped up with a hand pump.