Got a chance to tote the new hunting airgun on a quick hike today, representing its first real field trip. The purpose of the hike was not hunting, and no shots were fired, but I'll still document a couple of useful notes here nonetheless.
Sling. A good sling is going to be essentially necessary, but which one is still up in the air. What I'm most familiar and competent with is the magnificent Ching Sling for rifles, but it may be that a variation on the Giles sling is the way to go. (I'm still learning the -fu of both hunting airguns and carbines in general, and each of these seems to be distinctly different than with full-house rifles.) With a gloriously short carbine like this, the concept of "wearing" the gun seems distinctly possible, whereas you are always "carrying" a rifle, even when slung for walking. If it turns out that you can get a really solid shooting lockup with a Giles sling, its carry flexibility would seem to rank it above the Ching Sling for this application. But if you can't...well, airgun hunting is all about precision, and the TalonP is known for being a tack-driver, and I know how much more precise I can be with a good shooting sling... I will have to cogitate on this more.
Short. I wanted short, and I got it. Carried in the cradle position on either side, you really notice how little muzzle there is past the elbow. I got plenty of chances to switch sides as the trail wrapped around itself (we were a column of 6, and I mostly trailed caboose), and "the short" does rather assert itself. With this gun there are several possible means of hand-carry, including by the forend (unusual balance, but not necessarily bad), by the glass' ocular bell with the fingers through the frame-top window (well-balanced, but a bit strange to have the fingers right on the bolt handle), and of course simply carried by the pistol grip, pointed down (very secure in one sense, but different than you're used to with all that weight forward). In general it's easy to tote, but the dimensions are different enough from a traditional rifle that I always had to think for just a second about how to set it down when necessary. (Keep in mind that Dad is often the one who totes the drinks and snacks, and who in the rear notices when a little person inadvertently walks out of her stretch-over-soles ice studs. I got quite a lot of set-down, pick-up practice over the course of little over a mile.)
Optic. Stipulating that it's big and heavy, this Leapers is a very nice glass. I took a few looks through it at various safe backstops in various light, both at low and high magnification. Light transmission is really excellent, with that 44mm objective and 30mm tube. The illuminated reticle options are kinda nice, if you have the time to use them. The lens caps are easily accessible as mounted.
I will still have to see how it looks when tracking a real game animal, but somewhat to my surprise thus far, I simply do not notice the increased field of view when sighting--at any magnification. This has been stated as the real raison d'etre of the Leapers unit, but it may be that field of view is simply a lesser concern with a longer eye relief, true binocular tracking, and the technique of a good field mount. Again, the jury is still at least a bit out, but I think I can now say with increasing confidence that any functional improvement (over a traditional "scout scope" like the Leupold M8 2.5x) is minimal, and probably does not outweigh the weight and size disadvantage, for fidelity to the scout concept. (The light-gathering, on the other hand, for a dedicated hunting arm, yet might.)
Low-light shots at home. We arrived back at home after the hike as light was truly running out, and I decided to take a couple of shots off the porch at the steel rimfire spinners, using the lowest illumination level on the reticle. At 10m, the speed was nearly at the snapshot level--I was impressed. And just to test it out, I thought I'd try engaging my 25yd "through-the-trees" spinner, using the first holdover dot on the mil-dot reticle (as it is currently zeroed), using a lovely new flashlight from the in-laws. Held alongside the forearm, I mounted the gun, hit the light switch, and got a very satisfying clank right off the bat. The light's rating says 960 lumens, and based on this experiment I believe it--wow! A good way to end the excursion. (Incidentally, the three shots took me from a full 3000psi down to about 2700.)
I do notice the limitations of the single-shot mechanism. The potential for fumbling, in the cold with gloves, is not a trivial consideration. The .25 caliber pellets are far easier to manipulate than the bitty little .177s, but they're tiny compared to any centerfire firearm cartridge, and you do need to seat properly. I'll want to put some more thought into this as well.
Top hat. I noticed that the air tank had started to loosen during the walk (I hadn't checked it since first bolt-up) and took the time to locate not just that wrench, but the tiny little one that secures the top hat. Everything is now nice and tight, and ready for some serious testing. Some day, I may mess with actually adjusting the top hat, but I expect I've got a good while in front of me just trying out the power wheel, and I might as well get the top hat screwed down to stay put while I do it! :-)
Next up: actual velocity testing with the power wheel, and accuracy testing with a few different pellets. And of course a little more thought behind sling and field practices.
Very well then!
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