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The .50-caliber Bandit!
A modern big bore air rifle priced for everyone
Part 3
Story and photos by Tom Gaylord
Copyright 2003 Tom Gaylord

Part 1 - Part 2

We are looking at the .50-caliber Bandit air rifle made and sold by Dennis Quackenbush. In Part 1, we looked at the history of the rifle and its general design. Part 2 looked at getting the rifle ready to shoot. In this final part, we'll shoot the gun and see how well it performs.

I found that the smaller .490 balls shot okay, but nothing to get excited about. They produced 1.8-inch groups at 30 yards - good enough to blast a pop can, but not what Dennis had lead me to believe his gun could do. They ranged around 755 to 760 f.p.s. for the first shot on an 84-degree day. Since they weigh about 175 grains, that's about 223 ft.-lbs., which is nothing to sneeze at, but not up to spec for a Bandit.

My friend Earl McDonald and I shot most of these undersized balls at swingers 35 to 50 yards away. The rifle was capable of hitting a four-inch-square swinger about half the time at 50 yards when held offhand. That's pretty fair accuracy for stand-up shooting!

We had the swingers at 35 yards spinning wildly, barely missing a shot on the 3-1/2-inch paddle. The balls made some beautiful big lead splats when they dropped harmlessly to the ground near the base of the swingers.

Clearly, another test was required using the right ammunition. I was able to get to the range with what was needed a week later. The weather was a chilly 48 degrees, and both scuba tanks were operating at a 2,800 psi pressure level. There was no sun to warm them, so I had to use a manual air pump to complete each fill.

The .495 Speer swaged balls worked like a charm! They loaded just as easily as the .490s, so the bolt leverage and rifling taper is obviously right.

Being a trifle larger, these balls weigh an average of 182-and-a-fraction grains. At 3,200 psi, the first shot moved out at 801 f.p.s., for a muzzle energy of 259.35 foot-pounds. Quackenbush rates his Bandit at 250 foot-pounds, but the truth is, with use, the gun loosens up and may well go just a bit faster than advertised. You can help this along with lubrication of the heavy hammer.

Also, owners will have to experiment with their individual rifle to learn the best maximum fill pressure. I have heard of shooters using a top pressure of 3,500 psi and getting even better results than mine, but you have to use a chronograph to determine this for sure. Remember, at some point more pressure will slow the gun rather than speed it up, so if you don't have a chrono, stick to 3,000 psi.

The REAL news with the .495 balls, however, is accuracy! Buckets of it, in fact. No sooner had we settled down to shoot than the first three balls went through the same hole at 30 yards. It was a hole so small a nickel covered it completely. Shot four didn't even disturb the paper as it passed through the group, so naturally shot five had to open it up to almost an inch! Until then, we were working on about 0.20 inches c-t-c.

The next group started out the same way, then another wide shot opened it as well. Fortunately, I happened to notice that the sandbags were creeping forward on the bench, and the wide shot was taken with the rifle resting on its reservoir. By pulling the bags back so they balanced the forearm about four inches from the end, the next ball went into the original ultra-tight group. After that discovery, everything was on autopilot.

As long as we kept the rifle rested with its forearm on the front sandbag about four inches from the end of the wood, the balls went to the same place every time. We filled the rifle after every second shot and then after every third shot, and the hits just kept on coming.

With a solid half-inch group under my belt and several others almost as good, it was time to move the target out to 40 yards. Even at that distance, there was no change in accuracy. The Bandit shot like a natural. Dennis has had reports of sub-one-inch groups at 30 yards from some of his customers, but we were able to achieve the same at 40 yards! And it wasn't hard to do. This utilitarian air rifle shoots as well as a fine Pennsylvania rifle when the right caliber balls are used.

No lubrication of ammunition is required. Neither is there any leading of the bore. The combination of relatively low velocity and pure lead balls make for a maintenance-free gun.

Because of the success of the Bandit and because Dennis also wants to try new things, he has experimented with other calibers in the rifle he calls the Bandit. Currently, he is making a .308 version that shoots conical lead bullets instead of balls. It develops over 200 foot-pounds with a 130-grain bullet. So, the mystique of a powerful air rifle is still present, but with conicals you get much greater range.

The Bandit is a fun airgun to own and shoot. It has enough power to do some serious hunting, yet it is uncomplicated enough for the first-time buyer to use, as long as he understands the general operational and safety issues of any gun. Off-the-shelf ammo means there's no problem feeding the gun - but remember to use only the .495-caliber ball. You have to have a means of refilling the reservoir with air, and we recommend using a scuba tank with this one.

Quackenbush Bandit
.50-caliber single-shot air rifle
Pro - Well-made and designed, extremely accurate, ammo available at gun stores, easy to load, easy to fill, has protective cap for the fill port, each rifle comes with a good pair of scope rings - a very affordable big bore air rifle with lots of potential for hunters and enthusiasts alike.
Con - Trigger has creep. Fill probe not a standard size, though one is provided with every rifle.
Cost - currently rifles are $580. Other versions with finer finish and wood grain available at higher cost.
Availability - Each rifle is handmade by Dennis Quackenbush. Call 417-993-5262, M-F, 9 AM-5 PM, Central.

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A real world comparison of the size of these airguns.  On the left is a Mauser rifle with a 24" barrel in .22/250 cal.  To its right,  is a 25" barrel  .50 Bandit.   I've included a yard stick to give perspective.  I dislike photos with no reference for perspective or such a tight crop that you don't see the whole item.

Click here to go to price schedule

The standard rifle I make is right handed.  I can make left handed rifles (putting the machine cuts on left side or the right side is the same amount of work, so I don't charge extra for it) but you just need to tell me at the time of ordering so I can machine the parts for left hand.

Currently made rifles have Weaver scope bases rather than the 3/8"
    dovetail.  Weaver bases are the type that are used on center fire
    rifles. weaver_base.jpg (149536 bytes)

click on picture to enlarge


Seeing the rings is to understand.  On the left is a 3/8 dovetail mounting ring and on the right is the scope ring for Weaver bases.
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There's been a change to the filler, now in use is a quick disconnect
    for filling.  There's a picture of it at the end of the owner's manual.
    Go to the home page, click on the Outlaw Manual and scroll down.



I am completely booked up for the amount of rifles I will produce in 2005.  I can take no further orders until these orders are filled.

The original thought behind the use of the .50 cal. rifle was to be able to hunt on areas that would be too small for firearms use.  The use of a round ball was selected because it slows down quicker than a conical bullet and doesn't carry as far.  A fellow would be hunt medium size game and not have to worry that his shot would carry very far, as a firearm would.
Shooters always want more performance and many shooters don't require the short range of a round ball.  For them, a conical bullet would perform best for their longer range shooting.  Hunters-Supply is able to supply a .495 diameter conical bullet made especially for the Bandit rifle.
Bullets are available from Hunters-Supply, Inc. 505-289-9432. 
Website at:  hunters-supply.com

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