Benjamin Pioneer Airbow In Depth Review

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The Benjamin Pioneer Airbow

Every now and then a product hits the Australian Market that causes a frenzy. Recently the Adler Shotgun has received more press than the typically revealing Kim Kardashian photos or the fact that Donald Trump wiped the Democrats clean in the US Election.

Now we arrive at the Benjamin Pioneer Airbow. It has already featured in a few local newspapers and has caused a bit of stir on social media platforms. So what is an Airbow? It’s really unlike anything you have ever seen before. Let’s take a closer look

Well the good people at Benjamin have somehow managed to build an air rifle that shoots arrows. And it shoots them well, very well in fact. At a glance you could be forgiven for thinking that the airbow is actually a Benjamin Bulldog .357 airgun. That’s because the Airbow is built upon the Bulldog platform, creating the first ever hybrid airgun/bow weapon.

The Airbow

I first came across the airbow at the Melbourne SHOT Show. I was having an interesting conversation with Josh Raymond at Raytrade and after handling the demo model, Josh was kind enough to loan me an Airbow so I could sling some arrows at an unsuspecting 3D target. The airbow came nicely packaged in a Jim Shockey endorsed box. Upon opening the box I was surprised at the included items. The airbow is supplied with a 6x40mm airbow scope, a 20 MOA rail, a quick detachable quiver, a very comfortable sling and 3 custom arrows with field tips. You will also find a variety of Realtree camo decals if you want to dress up the Airbow for some serious stalking.

The airbow has no traditional archery features at all, with the exception of the arrows which can only be fired from the Benjamin. There are no strings, cams or even limbs. So how does this thing fire an arrow?

Shooting the Airbow

The airbow houses a Pre-charged Pneumatic (PCP) air tank in the front end of a slim line synthetic stock. This reservoir can be pre-charged to 3300 psi which will fire a 375grain arrow at a sizzling 450 fps, making it the fastest arrow on the planet. A fully charged tank will fire 8 arrows at full speed before it requires refilling.

The reservoir can be filled with compressed air via 3 options.

  1.        The airbow comes with an adaptor which allows you to fill the reservoir using a scuba tank
  2.        Benjamin offer a high pressure hand pump
  3.        Benjamin also offer a 4500 PSI charging system.

The hand pump is a laborious task and gives most gym workouts a run for their money.

The charging system is basically a high capacity air tank which allows 1 refill and easily fits into a small backpack. The airbow features a gauge at the front of its reservoir that shows the user the amount of air pressure remaining inside the tank.

The arrows are unique to the airbow in that they are made with a totally hollow, carbon fibre shaft. The arrows are nano ceramic coated for increased resistance and penetration. There are no nocks and the arrow is loaded by sliding it over a metal tube at the end of the barrel. As you click the arrow into place it creates a seal that upon firing, allows the arrow to be shot from the unit.

The airbow looks like an almost futuristic, tactical weapon that may feel a little clumsy at first. Its 33.5” long (84 cms) and only 2” wide (5cm), making it unlike anything I’ve ever fired before.

Now let’s get down to business.

How does it fire?

After fully charging the reservoir the arrow must be loaded and the airbow can then be cocked. A 60lb compound bow or crossbow requires some serious upper body strength to get that arrow ready to fly. Not the airbow. A simple lever sits atop the butt acting as a cheek piece which also doubles as a cocking lever. A simple 2 finger operation is all that’s needed to raise the lever. A smooth release back down and airbow is cocked and ready to fire. 

A standard trigger and lever type safety sits in front of the pistol grip. Squeeze the trigger like you would any other gun and the arrow is released with an unmatched accuracy. A 2” group is easily achievable at 50 meters for a competent shooter. Couple that with a 450fps carbon arrow (hitting at 160fpe foot pounds of energy) and you have a recipe that is capable of dropping most Australian big game ethically. It’s wise to note that a 60lb compound bow shooting a 375gr arrow at 300fps generates 75fpe.

The airbow propels the arrow by delivering a massive burst of air from behind the arrows tip and not by pushing the arrow from the rear of the shaft. I am told that this concept, coupled with the increased speed and power allows the arrow to stabilise much quicker than an arrow fired out of a traditional string powered bow.

Sights

Almost along the entire length of the airbow you will find a picatinny rail. The Centrepoint 6x40mm scope that is supplied with the airbow has been specifically constructed to withstand the counter recoil found in all airguns. The scope also features a custom MTAG reticle etched with aiming points out to 75 yards and an objective parallax adjustment. A 20 MOA base attaches the scope to the picatinny rail providing a little extra adjustment for a hunter who has just had a boost of confidence and wants to stretch the ranges beyond that of a compound bow.

Now back to this 3D target………………………..

Testing the Airbow

I was interested to see just how fast the airbow could propel these arrows and if it lived up to the hype. Setting up my chronograph I fired 5 arrows through the unit and averaged out the speeds. 426 fps was the average result, right up there with what’s printed on the box. I dare say some user error was responsible for the loss of 24fps. 

I managed to procure the services of a good friend from the University of Western Sydney who happens to own a sound meter. I was curious to measure the sound that the airbow generates and its effect on human hearing. We conducted testing at the point of fire and at a 50 meter distance from the shooter.

For comparison, an ordinary conversation between 2 people is approximately 60 decibels. This could be louder when you tell your better half how much you’re planning on spending.

Upon firing the Airbow, the shooter is subjected to 104 decibels of sound pressure. At a 50 meter distance the airbow produces 86 decibels of sound.

Upon firing a 60 lb compound bow, the shooter feels 89 decibels of sound pressure and at a distance of 50 meters, it records a negligible 64 decibels.

Most modern air rifles such as a .177 calibre firing a pellet at 1250 fps records a sound pressure reading of 112 decibels. The results show that the Airbow is very comparable to modern air rifles. Hearing protection should be worn whenever appropriate. I did find that the sound generated by firing the airbow dissipates very rapidly. The sound an air rifle generates travels much further than the airbow. This is due to the fact that an air rifles pellet is subjected to drag as it pushes through the air and many air rifles do break the sound barrier, which for the trivia nuts is 1125 fps. (Or 340m/s)

Sound generated

Airbow

.177 air rifle

60lb compound

At shooter

104db

112db

89db

At 50 meters

86bd

96db

64db

 

The next test conducted was to record the kinetic energy produced by the airbow. Kinetic Energy is the determining factor when predicting arrow penetration. There is a simple calculation you can do to work out kinetic energy.

Ke =       mass of the arrow in grains

                       Velocity squared

The tests we ran were extremely simple and as unscientific as you can get. We fired 4 x airbow arrows into a wet phone book at 20 meters and at 40 meters and measured the average arrow penetration in inches.

We then repeated the same test using the 60lb compound bow and 4 x 375 grain arrows.

All the arrows were fitted with a 125 gr field tip.

 

Arrow Penetration

20 meters

40 meters

Airbow Ke 160lbs

12.9 inch

10.8 inch

Compound Ke 60lbs

4.9 inch

4.2 inch

 

Arrows fired from the airbow showed significantly more penetration than the conventional compound bow, 8 inches more at 20 meters to be exact. The arrows shot out of the airbow almost completely penetaThis is due to the extra speed generated by the airbow.

The airbow is extremely user friendly. Benjamin found a design where very little can go wrong. Minimal maintenance is also required compared to that of compound bows. There are no cams that need lubrication, no strings that need waxing and no cables that need replacing.

The airbow comes packaged with a variety of O rings and seals that look simple enough to replace.

Conclusion

Before you go out and buy an airbow, make sure you do your homework. The Airbow is considered as a Category A firearm in all Australian states. In NSW you require a NSW Firearms License endorsed for Category A and a Permit to Acquire. At this point the airbow can only be used on private land in NSW and Victoria. Its prohibited on all public land.

It simple and easy to use and probably a great choice for people who still want to fling an arrow but may suffer from neck and shoulder pain. No upper body strength is required to operate the airbow so its suitable for almost any licensed shooter to use.

Safety hasn’t been compromised either. The mechanical safety locks the trigger and the cocking lever easily allows you to uncock the airbow if you fail to take a shot. It probably has more safety features than most air rifles.

The airbow generates much higher killing power and accuracy than any other bow on the market. In saying that it should deliver a more ethical kill shot than a modern compound bow.

The only negatives that I came across during my short time with the airbow are the extra costs associated with charging the air tank and the decals are merely cheap stickers which won’t last much longer than an ordinary tea bag.

This new innovation will be a hot topic around the camp fire, where the archery buffs denounce the airbow as a bow due to the fact that it doesn’t have a string and the rifle shooters won’t accept it as a rifle because it shoots an arrow. Either way it was loads of fun to shoot and its definitely earned its place in the hunting world.

The Airbow is available from most Gun shops and Hunting stores and the package retails for about $1499. The hand pump is an extra $360 and the charging system will set you back $799. 6 extra arrows are around $175.

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