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You may already be familiar with pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) airguns—the ones powered by high-pressure air (HPA) stored in an on-board reservoir to launch a pellet or soft lead bullet. If you consider such things “kids toys,” let me bring you up to speed. It may surprise you that large-caliber airguns have been around for at least a couple hundred years. Lewis and Clark carried a .54-caliber repeating PCP air rifle on their expedition to open the West.

But what if your interest leans more toward bowhunting as a way to put meat on the table? Or you have a physical limitation that hinders lugging a heavy firearm into hunting areas. Perhaps the latest offering from Crosman’s Benjamin Airguns has the solution, combining the power of HPA with the effective and efficient use of a carbon-fiber arrow in a compact package.

The Pioneer Airbow joins the best of both worlds, launching a full-length arrow at close to 450 feet per second (fps). It is lightweight, easy to load and cock, flat shooting, powerful but with little recoil, and lethal. Oh, and it’s accurate to boot. I managed to drive an arrow into the back of one already in the target. Very cool, but with these arrows being carbon fiber, both were ruined, so my “Robin Hood” was an expensive shot!

Bullpup Package

Crosman Benjamin Pioneer Airbow right profile
Futuristic in styling, the Airbow is all business when it comes to shooting arrows flat and hard. The Mossy Oak trim decals are included for those who want to apply them. Note the front sling attachment point where an aftermarket bipod could be attached.

The Pioneer Airbow derives from a .357-caliber repeating bullpup air rifle, called the Benjamin Bulldog, released by Crosman/Benjamin a few years ago. A bullpup design incorporates a full-length barrel in a shorter package. But Benjamin used polymers to form a lightweight bullpup with futuristic styling. The Bulldog and Airbow appear very similar; design engineers knew they had a great platform to adapt for the arrow-firing gun.

The trigger is approximately midway on the bullpup and the valve controlling the release of the HPA is at the rear, so mechanical issues had to be resolved to smooth out the firing sequence and trigger pull. Obviously, because the two projectile launchers have different missions and capabilities, they differ somewhat in internal mechanics. For the Airbow this includes moving the pressure gauge to the front of the air reservoir and the addition of an internal regulator to release an identical amount of air each time the valve opens for consistent results as the pressure drops.

The Airbow is also built here in the U.S. The sample I received came well packaged with everything to get started except the air source. In the package was the black Airbow along with a CenterPoint 6x40mm adjustable objective (AO) scope with steel mounting rings, and 6-inch Picatinny extension rail compensating for 20 minute of angle (MOA) when mounting the scope. The AO bell provides parallax correction, important when considering the effective range of the Airbow. Other items included a padded sling, Bohning arrow quiver and mount, three special carbon-fiber arrows and an instruction manual. Benjamin also included some full-length camouflage decals that allow the user to apply some Realtree brand camo to the Airbow.

Easy to Use Pioneer Airbow

Crosman Benjamin Pioneer Airbow aiming
Lightweight and easy to field, the Airbow gives a hunter the advantage of shooting angles not conducive to drawing a bow. Plus, muscle fatigue sets in pretty quickly when holding a bow at full draw for any length of time; this isn’t a problem with an Airbow.

For air sources, Benjamin carries a line of HPA tanks and a special manual pump. From the survivalist point of view, the pump is a must-have item because it is self-contained and doesn’t require any electricity or batteries—just good old-fashioned elbow grease. But that’s the drawback because it takes a bunch of pumping to fill an empty air reservoir on the Pioneer Airbow. But, once the reservoir reaches its maximum of 3,000 psi, topping it off is easier. And, with PCP air rifles, it doesn’t hurt them to leave their air reservoirs charged for long periods of time (except if you leave one under the back window of a car parked in the sun—extreme heat and HPA tanks don’t mix).

Loading and firing the Pioneer Airbow is simple. After filling the reservoir to 3,000 psi, place the carbon-fiber arrow over the arrow rest/launch tube, which is, essentially, an unrifled barrel. Each arrow, traditionally fletched with three vanes, also comes with a “cock feather” in lime green; point it up while loading the arrow. Next, the shooter pulls up and back on the cocking lever and then returns it to its starting position. At this point, engage the safety by pulling it toward the trigger. The shooter then shoulders the Airbow, lines up the shot, disengages the safety and squeezes the trigger. Because it takes a lot of air pressure to launch the arrow, the report is loud, although not uncomfortably so when firing outdoors. But since ear damage from loud noise is cumulative, hearing protection is a good idea.

Crosman Benjamin Pioneer Airbow arrow
”Robin Hooding” one arrow into the back of another—a source of pride on one hand, an expensive trophy on the other. However, it does show the accuracy potential of the Airbow.

Decocking the Airbow is simple and well covered in the owner’s manual; thoroughly study it before using the Airbow. Please note that all firearm safety rules apply while firing this device.

Chronograph results showed the Airbow firing slightly under the rated velocity at 6,000 feet above sea level at an average of 437 fps—still much faster than almost all of the crossbows available on the market. Plus there are no ropes or pulleys to deal with that require a good amount of upper body strength. A 200-pound draw weight is common to cock a modern crossbow, but the cocking force needed with the Airbow is a measly 11 pounds.

Accuracy was impressive with arrows placed in a 2-inch circle with monotonous regularity at 30 yards, including the aforementioned “Robin Hood” of one arrow into the back of another. The supplied scope was specially designed to work with the Airbow and sports a custom MTAG reticle, which provides aiming points out to 75 yards with the scope centered for 30 yards. Of course, using heavier broadhead tips or allowing the reservoir to go below 2,000 psi will affect the aiming points.

She’s A Shooter!

Crosman Benjamin Pioneer Airbow rear angle

The trigger pull of slightly over 2 pounds, 10 ounces also helped accuracy. Even though the trigger is nonadjustable (because of the bullpup design), Benjamin provided a nice trigger for the Pioneer Airbow. It is a two-stage affair with a scant take-up in the first stage in which the shooter feels a slight hang. Next, comes that “surprise” as you squeeze the trigger and complete the second stage that “breaks” to release the arrow. Many trainers want you to strive for this to avoid anticipating or flinching. There is a minor recoil impulse while firing the Airbow and you’ll want to be mindful of developing bad shooting habits or carrying them over from rifle shooting.

The safety lever sits in front of the trigger and is a long, sliding bar that is easy to operate, even with gloved hands. If you are familiar with airguns, you know that many of them automatically engage the safety when cocked. Not so with the Airbow, and some will appreciate that feature. I got in the habit of engaging the safety after my shot to block the trigger while I loaded an arrow or cocked the mechanism. When to engage a mechanical safety is a personal choice as long as safety is uppermost in your mind while handling any weapon.

This Bullpup Will Hunt

Crosman Benjamin Pioneer Airbow left profile
Capable of launching a full size arrow at speeds up to 450 feet per second, the Airbow is a new tool in the quiver of the hunter (pun intended).

Without the three-arrow quiver mounted to the Pioneer Airbow, it will fit nicely into a soft gun case made for the AR platform. The user can quickly attach the quiver when needed by using the ample space on the full-length Picatinny rail. An arm attaches to the rail, which then connects to the quiver using a quick-detach feature, leaving enough of the rail for lights or night vision equipment. That is if local laws allow night hunting of predators and hogs.

Check with your state’s department of wildlife to determine if the Pioneer Airbow is legal to take game. It may not yet qualify as archery equipment in your state. And it may not come under air rifle hunting rules, assuming hunting with airguns is legal in your state. However, states with an overabundance of feral hogs or coyotes most likely do not dictate how to take them—perfect hunting opportunities for the Airbow. Again, check with your state authorities, preferably via email, so you have their replies in writing.

  • OA Length: 33.5 inches
  • Weight: 6.9 pounds with no accessories
  • Trigger: Nonadjustable
  • Stock: Black polymer with Realtree decals
  • Sights: CenterPoint 6x40mm scope
  • Action: Cocking lever, requiring about 2 pounds pressure
  • Reservoir: Male probe intake; 350 cc, 3,000 psi or 200 bar max fill pressure
  • Capacity: About 8 shots at full power before top off needed
  • Warranty: One year for Airbow, one year limited for arrow shafts, scope
  • MSRP: $999.99 (military discounts offered by some retailers)

For more information, visit crosman.com.

This article originally appeared in ‘Survivor’s Edge’ Summer 2017. To order a copy, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.

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