Guns and the outdoors go together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s a sad fact though that, more and more, it’s getting harder to find places to shoot and hunt. One of the ways around that can be through the use of air rifles. Air rifles are generally quieter, shorter range, and often not as restricted as conventional firearms and can make great tools for plinking, pest control, and even small game hunting.
Now if you’re thinking of that old Daisy Red Ryder that you grew up with shooting pop cans, and playing BB gun wars with in the woods, think again. There’s a whole new generation of airguns out there geared towards adults that are quality built, sized for adults, and offer impressive levels of power and accuracy. Folks in Europe have been using high power airguns for quite a while now but it seems that its something that American’s are still discovering. For the Woods Monkey first ever airgun test we had the opportunity to try out a Walther Talon Magnum air rifle with custom Nitro Piston installed. If you aren’t an avid airgunner, and aren’t familiar with some of the high powered air rifles out there, read on and prepare to be enlightened.
While many Americans consider airguns to be basically kids toys, suitable only for use in the backyard for plinking at cans and sparrows (when you’re parents aren’t looking), the folks in countries with more restrictive firearms laws than us know better. Air rifles see some pretty serious use for target shooting and even hunting in other parts of the world. Thanks to companies like Pyramyd Air, we’re starting to see many of these adult class air rifles being offered here in the States as well. Pyramyd Air has a huge selection of airguns ranging from your pedestrian low powered single pump BB guns, up to massive .50 caliber Precharged Pneumatic guns. Yep, you read that right. Pyramyd carries a few .50 cal guns that spit out a 225gr lead bullet with enough muzzle energy to take down medium game. If you take a look back at history you’ll see that big bore airguns like that are nothing new and that early versions were used as far back as the 17th Century for taking deer and wild boar; by snipers during American Revolution; and were even carried as part of the gear that Lewis and Clark took on their famous coast to coast expedition. Point being, if you think that airguns are just for kids, think again.
The Walther Talon Magnum air rifle that we received for review is a pretty serious piece of hardware. The Talon is made for Walther by Umarex in Turkey. While it isn’t a .50 caliber model, it is a .22 caliber pellet rifle capable of spitting lead pellets out at up to 1010 Feet Per Second (fps). That’s approaching the velocity of a standard .22 Long Rifle loading out of a rifle! You know as soon as you take a look at the Talon that this isn’t a gun for kids. With a 19.75 inch rifled steel barrel, and an overall length of 49 inches, this is a big gun. It weighs in at a hefty 8.25 pounds too. Just for comparison, that’s bigger and heavier than my .30’06 hunting rifle!
The Talon is a single shot, break barrel, spring piston gun. That means the barrel is hinged at the breach and you actually pull down on the barrel to cock the rifle. You’ll be overcoming the force of the spring piston while doing this, so it takes some effort. This charges the rifle and exposes the breach so you can drop a pellet directly into the chamber. Raising the barrel back up into position locks the breach into place and you’re ready to fire. Like many quality airguns, and some hammerless double shotguns, the Talon has an automatic safety. When you cock the rifle, the safety engages automatically. The safety is conveniently position at the very rear of the receiver in a handy position for the thumb, regardless of whether you’re a right or left hander.
The Talon package we received for testing had two different sighting options. The iron sights consisted of front and rear TruGlo fiber optic units adjustable for windage and elevation. The Talon also features an 11mm scope rail with Weaver cutouts. Included in the package was an unmounted 3-9×32 scope & mount. Also included was an installed shock absorber system (SAS), which helps prevent scope mounts from loosening due to vibration, and reduces the vibration transmitted to the shooter. The Talon features a gray synthetic stock with a Monte Carlo buttstock and raised cheekpiece. It has a checkered forearm and grip, and comes with a rubber buttpad and three inserts to adjust the length of pull. Topping out the barrel is a muzzlebrake which adds stability to the rifle and acts as a grasping point and additional point of leverage when cocking the Talon.
The single stage trigger on the Talon is set at 5.56 pounds at the factory. In addition to the basic specifications of the rifle, Pyramyd Air offers an upgrade to the Talon, as well as other break barrel rifles that the sell, in the form of the Crosman Nitro Piston. The Nitro Piston is a conversion unit that swaps out an air rifles regular spring piston with an improved model from Crosman. The new piston gives you the following benefits over a standard model: smoother cocking and shooting, no spring torque or fatigue, even if you leave it cocked for hours (something that isn’t generally recommended for air rifles), improved function in cold weather (an area where many airguns are adversely affected), and increased durability over a metal spring. The Nitro Piston comes installed by Pyramyd Air’s own expert gunsmiths and they provide a one year warranty on their work.
Okay, that’s the basic factory specs and numbers. From a hands on perspective some things are readily apparent. First off, you can tell as soon as you pick the rifle up that it’s a serious piece of hardware. Its a large, heavy gun. Definitely classed for adults. As noted earlier, I have centerfire hunting rifles that are smaller and lighter than the Talon. You absolutely have the feel of handling a high powered rifle when you shoulder the Talon. The rifle shoulders solidly and the stock is sized for an adult. The TruGlo sights are a nice touch and line up easily. Even in dimmer light they still stand out well against most backdrops.
Controls are intuitive. If you’ve never used a break barrel airgun, it will take you a minute to accustom yourself to the system but once you do, its simple and the Talon is easy to operate. Breaking the barrel does take some effort. You pretty much need to be an adult, or an older teen to do so easily I’d say. Considering the scale of this rifle though, I think that’s fine. This isn’t intended to be a youth gun. It’s a full sized rifle designed for hunting and target work. While plastics are used the rifle, there is still a sense of solidity to the piece. The polymer stock is rugged and sturdy and the other component parts seem well thought out. The receiver and barrel are steel and contribute greatly to the mass of the Talon. If you’ve used a typical discount-mart multi pump rifle and are used to the sometimes cheesy plastic and stamped sheet metal you see on those rifles, you’re in for a much different experience here. The safety is well positioned for use with either hand. Think Mossberg 500 series. Its positioning at the rear of the receiver means that you don’t have to shift your firing grip to disengage the safety when you’re ready.
Our review Talon came with an unmounted 3-9x32mm variable power scope and mounts. I initially shot the rifle casually with the fiber optic sights and later added the scope for bench rest shooting. The scope went on easily with a minimum of tools (I used a coin to tighten down the mount and a screwdriver to adjust the scope in the rings), and was quickly sighted in. In addition to the scope, Pyramyd air also provided a set of shooting glasses, and three weights of pellets for testing. Just a note here on eye protection: just like with conventional firearms, its always important to wear eye protection! Maybe even more so since airguns will often be fired at closer ranges and for plinking purposes so the chances of needing eye protection may even be greater. Just use common sense and treat these rifles with the same sort of respect you would any firearm.
My field testing consisted of two parts. Initially I shot the rifle with the TruGlo open sights, and mainly did informal plinking in a woods setting. I have to admit, I really like the TruGlo sights, especially in the woods. The red front sight is easy to line up with the rear green dots and tends to stand out against the browns and greens of the forest. They line up fast and offer a much better contrast than basic matte black sights do. Sight in was fairly quick using Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C targets. Once the gun was sighted in it was used for informal shooting on paper targets from the offhand position as well as targets of opportunity such as shotgun shell hulls, plastic bottles etc. I let a number of folks fire it on our annual Practice What You Preach campout in North Carolina and spent some more time with the rifle back home. During this sort of casual practice I found that the Talon’s weight was both a blessing and a curse. The weight and length of the rifle aided in stability when firing, but I also found that it tired out my bum arm after a bit. I have a rotator cuff problem on my left shoulder and I found the Talon’s hefty mass would weigh on me unless I shot using a tree or post as a rest. Other folks did not have this issue, but all were surprised at the weight of the rifle. Power level of the Talon was impressive. Despite being an airgun, there is still a fairly substantial crack when the rifle is fired. You don’t need earplugs, and it isn’t on par with a .22 Long Rifle, but you can certainly tell the rifle has gone off. It’s a sharp sound that you get with that relatively heavy .22 pellet approaching the speed of sound.
Impact is impressive as well. Pop cans would come away holed through both sides with some decent dents to boot. Plastic water bottle were also easily punctured and both items got tossed around a good deal. Even impacts on cardboard and other target backers could be heard when the pellet smacked through them. I use a foam core poster board on my target stands and it was spraying foam out with each hit. I didn’t do any live pest control tests with the Talon but, based upon the raw numbers and the reaction I got from plinking targets, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it on small game or garden and campsite pests where legal to do so. I think you’d be fine on rabbits and even garden groundhogs with well placed shots done at reasonable ranges.
After doing the basic field work, my father in law and I took the Talon up to my local gun club for some bench rest shooting. We used an MTM shooting rest for our test and more of the Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C targets. We mounted the scope at the range and did a quick sight in before settling down to shoot some groups. The scope provides a wide range of adjustment and we had no problems dialing it in at a range of 10 meters. We chose 10 meters since that’s a typical range used in Olympic airgun competitions. I was pleased with how the Talon shot and we were able to get good, consistent groups from it. It was interesting to see the change of point of impact at that range with the various pellet weights. We sighted in with a 14.3 grain Benjamin Discovery load and had it hitting at 12:00 on the bullseye’s center dot. Moving to the heavier 18.21 grain and 21.14 grain H&N loads we witnessed a drop of almost 2 inches, although our windage remained consistent. Here’s a summary of our groups:
1. Benjamin Discovery 14.3gr .22 pellet @ 10M: 1 inch overall for 5 shot group, best 3 grouped in 9/16th inches
2. H&N Sport Crow Magnum 18.21gr .22 Pellet @ 10M: 15/16 inch overall for a 5 shot group, best 3 grouped in 1/2 inch
3. H&N Barracuda Match 21.14gr .22 Pellet @ 10M: 13/16th inch for a 5 shot group, best 3 grouped in 7/16th inch.
I dropped an extra 5 rounds on the Crow Magnum group and even with me throwing a couple fliers I still kept the 10 round group under 1 1/2 inches. Not bad for my middle aged eyes, especially as I haven’t done any serious bench rest shooting in years. I think its pretty safe to say that the Talon is probably more accurate than I am. I saw some comments on Pyramyd Air’s website about the trigger pull weight on the Talon. While it wasn’t the lightest pull I’ve ever used, I didn’t have any issues with it either. It was lighter and crisper than a couple of .22 Long Rifle chambered rifles that I using that day and the 5 pound weight seemed like a good compromise for a rifle that would be used for hunting, not just bench rest shooting. After the formal bench rest shooting we moved on to targets of opportunity at longer distances. This ended up being empty shotgun hulls at 25 yards and eventually bits of clay pigeons on the backstop out at 50 yards. The shotgun shell hulls weren’t much issue at all from the bench so we moved on from those to the clay birds pretty quickly. I have to say, I’ve never shot an airgun at 50 yards before. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. As I found out, not only could we hit clay birds, but we could hit pieces of broken bird until the point we couldn’t make out the pieces any more, even through the scope. I was doing as well with the Walther as I was with the rimfire rifle I was shooting that day. I left the range with a good deal of confidence in the Talon Magnum rifle and wouldn’t hesitate to use it on small game out to those ranges depending on what I was shooting at.
So, overall we have a fairly impressive package in the Talon Magnum with the Nitro Piston. A solid, adult size airgun of impressive power. The addition of the Nitro Piston ads in some nice perks like improved longevity, and improved all around performance. I was impressed with the rifles accuracy and range, and I didn’t have any sort of issues during my testing with the three loads tested above as a well as a couple other random pellet loads I had on hand. The TruGlo sights were excellent and the addition of the variable power scope was nice as well, especially when shooting for groups and when taking those 50 yard shots at bits of clay bird. With that said, I did have a couple minor issues with the Talon. The fact that this is a big, adult sized airgun is a mixed blessing. For me, it may have been a bit too much of a good thing. With my bum arm, I tired out from using it fairly quickly, especially when trying to keep things steady with the scope. I realize this probably isn’t going to be an issue for most folks, but it’s something to keep in mind if you have issues with heavier long arms.
The bigger folks I had try the rifle didn’t seem fazed by it at all. The other thing I had some issue with was the eye relief on the scope. My father and law and I found that you had to be in just the right position to get a clear view through the scope. If you were off even slightly, you lost a full, clear picture and had to keep adjusting your head to compensate. When I shouldered the rifle, with a good stock to cheek weld, I was right on for the iron sights. For the scope, though, I had to lift my head with my chin contacting the stock, more so than my cheek. It wasn’t an easily repeatable position so it required some positioning even time I went to shoot. It wasn’t much of an issue from the bench but it would definitely slow you down from taking a fast shot in the field. Neither one of those issues as a deal breaker for me, but they are something to be aware of.
Whether you’re looking at a quiet small game gun, a gun for pest control around the camp or garden, or even a survival foraging piece, I think the Walther Talon Magnum has got a lot of potential to it, especially with the added upgrade of the Crosman Nitro Piston. You’ve got a quiet, powerful rifle, that’s cheap to shoot, won’t bother the neighbors, and that you can shoot practically anywhere you have a safe backstop. With the way ammunition costs are today the low cost of shooting an airgun, even with top quality pellets, makes a lot of sense. It’s also easy to store a lot of ammo in a compact space. It makes a great addition to your outdoors tool kit. The Walther Talon Magnum sells for $209.99 at Pyramyd air and the upgrade to the Nitro Piston tacks on another $90 for a cost of $299.99. Considering the advantages gained with the Nitro Piston, especially in long term use, I think that’s probably a pretty good deal for most folks. If a .177 caliber airgun is more your speed, the Talon is offered in that caliber as well and can put out an astounding 1400fps with hyper velocity pellets! Whichever version you’re interested in Pyramyd Air can hook you up. Be careful while you’re on their website though, you might find yourself stumbling onto a lot fo other stuff you’ll find yourself wanting or needing as well!