Monday, December 31, 2012


Ruger’s High-Velocity Break-Action Air Hawk is a Natural Born Hunter

By James E. House

My association with Ruger products goes back almost 60 years, and I must say, it’s been a darned good ride.

Air Hawk
   The Ruger Air Hawk is an entry-level break-action air rifle that can be
used for hunting small game and pests.

My first Ruger was the initial model that Ruger produced: the .22 auto standard model pistol. My second was one of the early Single Six models that had the flat loading gate with a curved thumbnail notch. That was followed by a Single Six in 1958. I’ve owned a considerable number of other Rugers over the years, but my most recent gun from Ruger is not a firearm; rather, it is an economical high-velocity break-action air rifle called the Air Hawk, and the subject of this month’s Air gunning evaluation.


Like many other companies, Ruger has diversified the product line to include air guns made elsewhere but carrying the firearm label that is used under license. This is now common for Remington, Winchester and others, as well as Ruger. In this case, the importer is Umarex USA.

I recently bought a Ruger Air Hawk, which is a .177-caliber break action that is advertised to give velocities up to 1,000 fps. This “1,000 fps” category describes numerous break-action rifles, but pellet velocity depends on several factors, such as pellet weight and altitude. Yes, /altitude/, because just as it is harder for you to breathe at high altitude, cocking a break-action rifle at high altitude draws in less air in an analogous way. Less air in the compression chamber means less air compressed at the time of firing, and that means lower velocity.

Not having had firsthand experience with any of the Ruger airguns, I decided to remedy that situation by going to one of the big box stores and buying one. Of the Ruger models offered, the one that interested me most was the Air Hawk, because it is the most powerful, making it suitable for hunting small game and pests. The Air Hawk comes bundled with a 4x32 scope and mount and sells for slightly more than $100. So, what do you get for your money?

When I opened the box, I was impressed with how carefully the air gun was packed. Not all airguns are fully supported, so if the box is dropped on end, damage to the front sight can occur. The Ruger was fully supported on each end and in the middle by sturdy foam inserts. Moreover, the scope was neatly packed in a box that fit in recesses in the foam supports.

The rifle comes enclosed in a plastic sleeve. When I removed this, I was impressed with the hardwood stock. Although not beautifully grained, the stock is nicely shaped, with a raised Monte Carlo section to support the cheek. Also pleasing to me was the fact that the stock was of a conventional design, with no cutouts, thumb holes or a bulbous forearm. Compared to some of the modern break actions, this is a sleek air rifle of stylish design.

The Air Hawk measures 44.8 inches in length, weighs 7.9 pounds and has a cocking effort of 30 pounds. In summary, it is an air gun for an adult shooter.

NOTE: This was excerpted from a recent issue of Gun World magazine.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Kel-Tec’s Radical RFB Is Loaded with Power, Accuracy

Kel-Tec is not your normal gun manufacturer.

If anything, they are the polar opposite, with some of the most creative and singular designs in the marketplace. I had a chance to field test and review one of their most creative, “out-of-the-box-thinking” designs to date: the RFB, or “Rifle, Forward ejecting, Bullpup.” This extremely portable 7.62x51mm NATO rifle is one of the most interesting and intriguing weapons I have ever taken to the range or afield. Let’s lock and load and take a closer look at what makes the RFB such a show stopper!

History Lesson

Kel-Tec’s owner and founder George Kellgren is no stranger to the bullpup design. The RFB traces its roots back to the late 70’s at Interdynamic AB of Stockholm, Sweden, where George was involved with the design of two MKR bullpup rifles. Although neither MKR rifle ever reached the production stage, the “spine” concept, where all components were mounted around a long and rigid barrel, eventually carried over to the RFB.

Kellgren’s work on a bullpup design resumed in the early ‘90s after he founded Kel-Tec. His next bullpup design was the SUB-16, which used 5.56x45mm NATO ammo and standard M-16 magazines. The SUB-16 had dual pivoting extractors actuated by cam surfaces in the receiver and a forward eject feature. The project was suspended with the adoption of the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994.

Kel-Tec’s bullpup work resumed in 2003 with the SRT-6, a dedicated sniper rifle firing a special 5.56x45mm load. In mid-2005, they decided to have another try at the “Holy Grail” of bullpup rifle design, with forward ejecting operation, so the SRT-8 began development in the larger 7.62x51mm NATO caliber. Metric FAL magazines were chosen for the new rifle because of their availability. The design also featured a unique tilting bolt design. A stationary, curved sheet metal forward-chute solved some of the earlier expended case ejection problems and the early prototypes had 18” barrels for convenience of handling.

After the sunset of the assault weapons ban in 2004, they decided to rename the SRT to Rifle Forward ejection Bullpup and the RFB was born. Consequently, the names of the three main models were changed from Sniper (32” barrel), Hunter (24” barrel), and Battle (18” barrel), to the less menacing names Target, Sporter, and Carbine. The RFB was perfected during pre-production trial runs in 2008; Gen2 models were introduced in 2012, and include this RFB I’m reviewing.

Style Points

 The Kel-Tec RFB is unlike anything that you have ever pulled out of a case. The cool-factor is totally off the charts.

 The barrel of the RFB is made from 4140 Chrome-Molybdenum ordnance-grade steel. Recent models (mid-2012 production and later) employ a Salt Bath Nitride-QPQ (quench, polish, quench) finish. According to Kel-Tec engineer Ryan Williams, this process is superior to chrome-plating with a better overall (black) finish that offers superior corrosion and heat resistance and lasts longer.

The bolt, receiver and gas system are also made of 4140 steel, with the bolt receiving a special Titanium Nitride (yellow) finish that was chosen for its protective ability and its resistance to wear and flaking. Ryan also mentioned that the RFB was recently upgraded with a thicker CNC-machined piston plate that is welded onto the front side of the carrier that comes into contact with the gas piston during operation. The gas system was also redesigned to keep the parts simpler and to provide a larger adjustable gas setting range to accommodate different types of ammunition. Additionally, the new gas piston is a ring-less design and can be easily removed for cleaning. Lastly, the carrier channel has a longer internal spring that keeps some tension on the piston post for more reliable functioning.

Both the bolt carrier and upper cover are manufactured from stamped 4130 grade sheet steel that overlaps to offer excellent user protection in case of a catastrophic failure in the breech. A durable parkerized finish coats all external metal parts. The pistol grip and forward handguard are made from a high-tech polymer material. Each is textured to provide operators with positive purchase, plus the handguard features an integral slope or bump at the lower front end to prevent the user’s support hand from sliding forward and coming in contact with a potentially hot barrel.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was excerpted from the January 2013 issue.