As an 8-year Marine Corps veteran, when I think of Korea, I think of Pusan, Osan, the Chosin Reservoir, the kind of sweat-inducing kimchi Marines in the know warn you about. I think of the DMZ and the constant, downright oppressive threat from what is possibly the world’s worst neighbor, North Korea.
What I don’t think about is the manufacturing — Samyang Industries Gyeonggi-do province surrounding Seoul. To be honest, I haven’t thought of Seoul since the 1988 Olympics. Well, maybe I did when I served in the Pacific theater; if so, it was a blip on my radar only put there by North Korea’s constant infringement on the DMZ. Whatever came to mind about Korea, it was never airguns. But, there it is, the elephant in the room.
In an industry packed with every level of air rifle — from Daisy’s Red Ryder to $2,000 world-class competition FX Airguns — Korea really wasn’t on any radar, at least until Samyang Industries was founded in 1990. The Gyeonggi-do province corporation received permission from the Police Bureau in June 1994, and the quest for quality airgun production began.
Today, Samyang produces seriously respectable, high-quality air rifles, including my personal favorites. Those are the kind with big bores like the Sam Yang Dragon Claw 500cc PCP Air Rifle and we have Air Venturi to thank for importing and distributing Samyang’s phenomenal air rifle offerings. There’s also industry-leading dealers like Pyramyd Air, which recognize great quality isn’t necessary exclusive to America and Europe. Of course, once you get your hands on a Dragon Claw you understand the draw of big-bore airguns. And, that’s where we arrive. Samyang Industries has been busy producing the kind of heirloom-quality air rifles that truly pay homage to airgun history as a whole, especially as such rifles related to historic big-bore systems.
Last year, I wrote a comprehensive article on “the real gun that won the West” – the .46-Cal. Girandoni Air Rifle most experts believe Captain Meriwether Lewis carried on the famed Corps of Discovery expedition between 1804 and 1806.
“My airgun also astonishes them very much, they cannot comprehend it’s shooting so often and without powder; and think that it is great medicine which comprehends everything that is to them incomprehensible.”
— Captain Meriwether Lewis
Jan. 24, 1806
Even before Lewis and William Clark set out on the expedition that ultimately charted the Northwest and paved the way for western expansion, the Austrian Army had already employed big-bore air rifles for 20 years and continued until around 1815. In fact, airguns have been around since the late 16th century, and a variant was even built for King Henry IV, of France, around 1600. And so it goes, the history surrounding big-bore air rifles is both rich and vast. Korea’s installment of the Dragon Claw only adds honorably to air rifle history yet to be written.
Stating The Obvious
Asia actually produces good-quality air rifles, especially Samyang Precision. The Dragon Claw 500cc .50 caliber itself is a pure example of a single-shot, breech-loaded, pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air rifle. The air gun is a combination of what appears to be three blued barrels, a brilliantly polished and engraved receiver, beautiful hardwood Monte Carlo style stock complete with a raised comb, laser-checkered stock and forearm and grip and quality open sights; although the Dragon Claw features a 11mm dovetail for easy optic installation.
During my shooting experience with the Dragon Claw, as discussed below, I employed the included open sights and two optics, a Sightmark Core TX 1-4×24 DCR Riflescope and a Sightmark Wolverine 1×28 FSR red-dot sight with 2-MOA dot reticle. The two sights performed flawlessly.
Of special interest to me and undoubtedly to customers with an interest in the diverse uses associated with big-bore air rifles, the Dragon Claw demonstrates a premium, heirloom-quality build and game-changing hybrid innovation considering those “three barrels” are actually one 21.6-inch barrel and two air chambers. While the dual-chamber design permits more shots between charges, the Dragon Claw’s real head-turning feature is its ability to shoot arrows, also known as air bolts, consistently accurately at jaw-dropping speed of up to 500 fps.
The overall look of the Dragon Claw is sleek yet long, at just a hair over 42 inch. It closely resembles a shotgun, including a rising, curved receiver coming from the stock and proceeding forward in line with the breech and barrel. The airgun features what appear to be high-quality, adjustable open sights mounted atop the receiver and front of the barrel. If looks meant everything, and admittedly for some of your customers it may come down to that, the Dragon Claw .50-Caliber Air Rifle would be a homerun.
Shooting The Dragon Claw
Even more important than aesthetics, in a world where looks can be deceiving, the Dragon Claw’s action delivers. While the two-stage side-lever bolt action has two settings, medium and high, the pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) Dragon Claw’s 3,000 psi dual air chambers and rifled barrel performed perfectly and provided exceedingly accurate grouping out to 50 yards with hard-hitting energy and enough deep driving momentum to drop larger game animals in their tracks. Although the trigger is a bit stiff, it certainly boasts a crisp break.
The combination of raised comb, crisp trigger and rifled barrel resulted in exceptional accuracy. I shot the Dragon Claw with open sights, then mounted a Sightmark Wolverine red dot, followed by a Sightmark Core TX 1-4×24 riflescope. The open sights were fun and reminiscent of the airgun shooting I enjoyed as a kid. I was exponentially more accurate with both the Wolverine and the Core TX, which is worth mentioning because customer shooting experiences would definitely be enhanced with mounted optics.
Depending on whether your customers are planning to shoot pellets, arrows or both, the Dragon Claw can be loaded two ways, breech (pellets) or muzzle (arrows). The breech is exposed by sliding a tube-style access door forward and placing a pellet at the forward end of the breech. Much like a rifle, placing the pellet forward in the breech essentially sets the slug up in a pre-bore position. Overlooking this fundamental step and placing pellets rear in the breech caused the pellets to contact the forward edge of the breech and lodge in the chamber area. After digging the pellets out on two different occasions, I wised up and never made the mistake again. Fortunately, the errors did not result in any damage to the chamber. From that point on the Dragon Claw fired breech-loaded pellets flawlessly.
Shooting 230-grain .50-caliber Air Venturi pellets through the rifled barrel resulted in consistently high velocity for the first 10 rounds or so. Velocity through the first six shots actually increased from 661 to 670 fps before leveling off there through four more shots.
Shooting arrows from an air rifle was a different, exciting experience! Per the Dragon Claw manual’s instructions, I applied a light coat of silicone-based lubricant to the vanes of Air Venturi’s 330-grain 300-spined Air Bolts, capped with 100-grain field tips (total setup 430 grain). To load the Air Bolts into the air rifle’s muzzle, I removed the thread-protecting collar from the end of the barrel, curled the vanes (fletching) and inserted the arrow into the barrel until the front insert rested against the muzzle. The arrow launched with blazing efficiency, blowing effortlessly through the high-density foam target. I set up my chronograph and shot again. The second arrow left with a muzzle velocity of 493 fps.
Before continuing with testing I replaced the target with a BIGshot Targets Extreme 500 IRON MAN, the industry first and only 500-fps-rated target. I shot again, this time at 497 fps, and the target stopped the arrow with ease. Three more shots registered pretty consistently in the high 480s before velocity began trailing off. While my fastest arrow velocity was 497 fps, as an avid archer with years of seasoned bowhunting experience under my belt, I have never seen arrows fly at that velocity.
Like the pellets, perhaps even more so considering arrow weight, velocity, razor-sharp broadheads and the values for both kinetic energy and momentum, the Air Venturi’s Air Bolts provide more than enough of the right stuff to drop any big-game animal in North America. With the repeatable accuracy and straight shooting velocity the Dragon Claw delivers, confident shooters should have no problem taking their prey at much longer distances than most bowhunters ever attempt. That said, in the world of hunting with arrows, getting closer is the name of the game, so shot-noise could pose a challenge. The Dragon Claw is a louder than some other airguns I have tested. Ear protection wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Like many air rifles, the overwhelming attribute worth noting, beyond the Dragon Claw’s heirloom looks, obvious attention to build quality and ultra-reliable performance is the pure and simple fun factor!
Whether air rifle shooting takes your customers back to those childhood summer days, provides a perfect introduction to shooting or makes hunting just a little more challenging, the Dragon Claw should be taken seriously. And, if you have those occasional visitors leery of government regulations, they should be happy to learn air rifles are not considered firearms, thus not regulated by the ATF. As a disclaimer, however, make sure you remind your patrons to check air-rifle hunting and shooting regulations.