THE FIRST MODERN AMERICAN BIG BORE AIRGUN, A HISTORICAL VIEW;
FIRST AMERICAN BIG GAME TAKEN WITH THIS MODERN PNEUMATIC
by Jack Sullivan
"Modern American big-bore airguns were first made by Mr. Gary Barnes,
followed by Dennis Quackenbush," most air gunners will tell you. WRONG!
Airgun Revue #3, page 30: Gary Barnes "made his first big bore airgun in
1996." Dennis Quackenbush followed. A little known fact is that the first
big bore airgun was made in the early 1980s, or earlier, by an Arizona man,
Mr. Allen Dicke, who didn't seek public attention. An article was written
about this man and his big bore airgun developments, in the 1990 Guns and
Ammo Annual, I am told, though I haven't seen the article. In the mid
1980s, getting to know Mr. Dicke, I learned a lot about what this man had
learned about big bore airguns, through his extensive testing and
development. He made at least five rifles, learning and improving as he
went along. Let me share my notebook notes, data from letters he wrote me,
etc. with you, as, from a historical standpoint alone, it is worthy of
attention, especially this year, the bicentennial year of the Lewis and
Clark Expedition in which Meriwether Lewis carried along his .31 caliber air
rifle, mentioned 21 times in their journals.
Mr. Allen Dicke told me that his personal interest in big bore
pneumatic rifles started when he discovered the historical existence of
them. He was rather surprised, "always having assumed that pneumatics was
only for tires and balloons." "The eventual realization that deer rifles
could be---and literally had been---and hundreds of years ago too--operated
purely on compressed air, and hand generatable too, intrigued, baffled and
fascinated me no end," he said. "I have always been a rifle enthusiast, and
thinking customarily in terms of 50,000 plus psi pressures, wo this all
struck me several ways at once. It was obvious that we today are not as
modern, nor they back then as 'backward' as we commonly assume."
With that starting motivation, Mr. Dicke began his first big bore rifle
development, leading eventually to his .44 caliber. He said that he "chased
claims of 1000 fps velocity by Mr. Beeman and others, for years, and while
it helped keep me stimulated, I finally learned I was not going to get that
1000 fps, at least not with respectable weight bullets, rather than with
just balls, and in a practical field rifle." "But then further study and
experience revealed that 1000 fps is not the actual limit for a .44 bulleted
deer rifle, though close to it." The .44 he developed was the .429"
caliber. He later developed a .50 caliber, .510 bore size, a true .50
caliber. He called it a .510 Express air. He used 180 grain hollow point
drilled cast bullets in his .44, getting 860 fps with 2425 psi, and 850 fps
with a 240 grain H.P. cast bullet over 2600 psi in his .510. He could get
over 900 fps with 3000 psi. As for accuracy, he got between one and three
minutes of angle groups at 100 yards.
ABOUT HIS GUNS (SEE PICTURES):
PNEUMATIC RESERVOIR, SINGLE CHARGE, SINGLE SHOT ON FULL EXHAUST
RESERVOIR, WITH BUILT IN AIR PRESSURE GAUGE, INTEGRAL PUMP, STRAIGHT-LINE
DRIVE TYPE BENEATH BARREL. ACTION: ALL ALUMINUM, LATERAL CYLINDRICAL
SLIDING BREECH BLOCK, FOR SAFETY. BUTT STOCK WITH CENTRAL BUILT-IN
HAMMER/SPRING TUBE, COCKED BY LEVER.
BIG-GAME TAKEN WITH HIS RIFLES (SEE PICTURES):
Mr. Allen Dicke, with the first North American Deer taken with modern
air rifle. A one shot kill on 160+ pound whitetail buck, Powder River,
Montana, .510 rifle used, 250 grain bullet over 2400 psi, for 820 fps. 88
yards ahead, it grazed top of heart and exited opposite side. Animal
dropped after only a few steps.
Second picture shows Mr. Allen Dicke with his .428 caliber air rifle,
183 grain Keith H.P. bullet over 2400 psi, drove bullet through animal,
Corsican Ram, at 65 yards.
NOTE: A wonderful little booklet, showing good color pictures of the Lewis
& Clark rifle, explaining its functioning, and telling about the history
behind this Meriwether Lewis' Philadelphia Isaiah Lukens airgun is available for $8.50 from its author and researcher/historian, Mr. Ray
Nelson, 18523 N. Nelson Rd., Ironton, MN 56455