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Pak-Rifle Review

My expectation for a small game rifle is to be able to shoot a very small and compact group on a target at 25 yards or less, and the Pak-Rifle makes my heart beat faster.

Hightly Recommended

Overall Rating: Highly Recommended

The Pak-Rifle is a 0.22LR small game rifle that breaks apart to a length of 17 inches, weighs a scant 16 ounces, and shoots accurately enough for close range small game hunting. A carbon-wrapped cromoly barrel, carbon stock, aluminum receiver, and stainless steel wear parts make the Pak-Rifle durable enough for most ultralight aficionados. Only minor modifications would make the Pak-Rifle nothing short of perfect, and thus it well deserves Backpacking Light's Highly Recommended Rating.

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by Ryan Jordan |

Introduction

The Pak-Rifle weighs 16 ounces and shoots 0.22LR shells, which weigh less than 0.11 ounces apiece. If one is trekking through areas where upland birds and small game abounds, then adding 20 ounces of rifle and shells can allow you to spend many more days in the backcountry than what might be possible simply by carrying all of your own food. A similar argument can be made for an ultralight fishing kit. Consequently, equipment that can be used for foraging and hunting deserves some consideration for trekkers undergoing longer journeys in remote locations where food weight might become prohibitive and resupply logistics are challenging.

Pak-Rifle Review - 1
The Pak-Rifle is more than capable of bringing down small game: rabbit, squirrel, turkey, fawn deer, and in the case of this trek in Montana's Bridger Mountains, a blue grouse – arguably the finest tasting of all small game animals.

Disclaimer

I am a hunter. Thus, I make no judgment about the ethical use of firearms in the backcountry, and I support the advance of technologies that allow for their legal and responsible use. I see the ultralight rifle as a tool for the hunting enthusiast that desires to reduce their weight carried in the backcountry, or for the long distance trekker interested in reducing their weight of food carried by improving their foraging, hunting, and fishing options. Use of a rifle may not be permitted in all jurisdictions, and I do not condone the breaking of laws that prohibit their use under any circumstance. Further, the purpose of this review is to provide the reader with an understanding of how the rifle may be used in a hunting context, and I make no judgments about its appropriateness, effectiveness, or utility as a weapon for self-defense. I do not carry the Pak-Rifle for self-defense. It is strictly a tool for hunting small game, and its primary purpose in my kit is to allow me to reduce the amount of food weight I have to carry while on a long distance trek.

Performance

Accuracy

My expectation for a small game rifle is to be able to shoot a very small and compact group on a target at 25 yards or less. To put this in context, 25 yards is about the distance I am able to get in proximity to the “larger” end of small game that can be killed with a 0.22LR bullet (porcupine, fawn deer, sage grouse), while most other small game can easily be approached within 10 yards or less (e.g., blue grouse, squirrel, rabbit). Because most 0.22LR rifles are designed with longer barrels and no small amount of weight distributed throughout the gun, their accurate range is often much greater than 25 yards.

Pak-Rifle Review - 2
The Pak-Rifle's rear peep sight is entirely sufficient for small game hunting at close range. An aftermarket 4 x 20 scope can also be attached and is available from the manufacturer.

Because the Pak-Rifle is so light and subject to movement caused by the user while aiming (unless the rifle is mounted on a bipod, which I deem to be unnecessary for its intended context), its accuracy beyond 25 yards may be less so than a conventional 0.22LR rifle. However, with practice, its accuracy at 25 yards or less appears to be superb (even with its nonadjustable rear peep sight), and I'm easily able to consistently shoot a two-inch grouping in a target while shooting patiently from a sitting position with one elbow braced on my knee. At closer range, that grouping becomes tighter of course (< 1 inch at 10 yards), and affords me the ability to shoot most small game and upland birds in the head to minimize damage to the choicest parts of the animal's meat.

Of course, use my accuracy test with a grain of salt. The only thing it really tells you is how well one particular rifle (my sample), and one particular shooter (me) shoots, from a relatively unstable position (sitting). Maximum accuracy will always be gained on a bipod, or from a bench rest, or from a prone position, and it was outside the scope of this review to provide detailed accuracy data. My experience with the Pak-Rifle is that its light weight makes it a little less accurate (in my hands!) than a conventional .22 rifle at long distances (> 40 yards) when I was standing or sitting, but that at close range (< 25 yards), I found no difference in a Pak-Rifle versus a conventional 0.22 in my ability to shoot accurately (or inaccurately, as the case may be!).

I think the use of peep sights on a rifle this light is entirely appropriate. Other options include both ghost and open sights. Ghost sights, used on combat guns for rapid sighting, would provide faster time-to-fire (and probably greater accuracy) for large game that is moving, but would be unnecessary for small game that is hunted while still (the most common scenario I've encountered while small game hunting). I prefer peep sights rather than open sights, although admittedly, peep sights require a little bit of research and training to use most effectively.

Carry

In comparison to a conventional 0.22 rifle (which weighs three to five pounds), the act of carrying the 16-ounce Pak-Rifle in one hand while trekking is simply joyous. When I carried my conventional rifle, I first stowed it along the side of my pack in a side pocket, with the compression straps of the pack securing the rifle to the side. Then, upon encountering game, I would have to unsaddle my pack, retrieve the gun, load the gun, get into position, etc. I eventually made a stock holster that allowed the butt of the stock to be seated into a small holster affixed to my hip belt, with a strap on my shoulder strap that secured the gun while I was hiking, so I could use trekking poles.

However, that was a cumbersome solution, more appropriate for hunting big game with heavier rifles than small game. Consequently, when I am actively hunting when trekking, I simply forgo trekking poles and carry my rifle in hand. With a heavy gun, this is a laborious chore. With the Pak-Rifle, carrying the gun all day in one hand is almost inconsequential with respect to trekking comfort, and doing so keeps it ready at all times. The end result: with the Pak-Rifle I am able to shoot more game and be a more effective hunter.

Stowage

Pak-Rifle Review - 3
The Pak-Rifle breaks apart into two pieces that are each about 17 inches in length.

The Pak-Rifle is a breakdown rifle that separates at the chamber by rotating the barrel off the rest of the gun as it disengages a release pin. The result is that the original length of the gun (33 inches) can be collapsed into two parts that are less than 17 inches in length. Consequently, the Pak-Rifle is easily stored inside just about any ultralight pack, which is useful on busy trails where carrying a gun might intimidate others that you encounter on trail. I try to be as sensitive as possible to others while I carry a gun. Many of our local trails close to home are frequented by families with children, and I often find that carrying a gun is a barrier to engaging conversation when I meet them on the trail. Thus, I really like that I can stow the gun and keep it hidden while on the trail, focusing my primary hunting in more remote locations where I don't expect to encounter other folks.

Usability

The Pak-Rifle offers a few neat usability features. My favorite is that the hand grip is actually a hollow chamber with a screw cap closure for storing shells (I can fit about ten or so 0.22LR shells inside the handgrip). The screw cap is removable and weighs 0.16 oz. A few dozen more rounds can be stowed in the butt stock tube, but accessing it requires a flathead screwdriver to remove the aluminum butt.

Pak-Rifle Review - 4
The chamber inside the hand grip is accessed by a screw cap and can accommodate about ten 0.22LR shells.

The other feature worth noting is an LED barrel light that is sufficient to hunt at night at very short range (< 10 yards). I find it immensely useful for rabbit hunting. The LED light is removable and weighs 0.3 oz.

Pak-Rifle Review - 5
The LED barrel light is useful for hunting rabbits at night, but is removable if you're a gram counter.

The processes of loading, cocking, firing, and discharging the empty shell casing are all incredibly simple affairs and review of such can be found in the following video:

Other features sold as aftermarket accessories offered by the manufacturer include a laser sight and a 4 x 20 scope (both include mounts). I haven't had the opportunity to test these accessories, but would be quite interested in equipping the Pak-Rifle with a scope for extending my range a little (although it's important to realize that for a rifle like this, the use of a scope is probably more a matter of personal preference than utility). Then again, there is something to be said about the low bulk, minimal weight, and simplicity of the stock rifle, and therein lies much of its appeal to me as an ultralighter. The laser seems to me to be more of a toy accessory for the non-hunter, or for the weasel hunter interested in attracting the animal to very close range (based on evidence of my use of lasers with my cat). I can't imagine the laser being useful as any sort of aiming device for the backpacking hunter.

Durability

The Pak-Rifle is manufactured from aluminum, carbon fiber, stainless steel, and cromoly.

The receiver and most accessory parts are manufactured from aluminum, while most fasteners and parts subject to high wear are manufactured from stainless steel. The barrel is made of carbon fiber and has a cromoly liner (that part of the barrel through which the bullet travels). Carbon fiber is also used for the tube that comprises the butt stock of the rifle. The end result is a rifle that is as light as possible, with durable components (stainless steel and cromoly) in the most essential areas. The only reservation I have about durability is the use of a thin-walled carbon fiber tube for the butt stock. The rifle will require some care in handling and stowage to prevent the stock from cracking or breaking. I do not see this as a significant limitation or design flaw, however. The tube can easily be replaced if needed, and the stock weight (which comprises only a remarkable 1.26 oz of the rifle's weight!) is too appealing to consider heavier materials, given the target context for the Pak-Rifle.

Modification

As is, the Pak-Rifle is a simple, ultralight, and thus rather remarkable incarnation of a small game rifle. However, I can foresee the temptation to make a few modifications to achieve the absolute lightest possible 0.22LR shooter available: removal of the butt stock, shortening the barrel, eliminating the breakapart option, and eliminating the light. The result would be a 0.22LR gun that would be 13 inches in length and quite probably, less than 12 ounces. However, such modification might be illegal in some countries or states, since the gun as modified might then be classified as a pistol. Further, making these changes would reduce its accuracy and possibly limit its most useful range to 15 yards or less.

What's Good / What's Not

The advantages of a small game rifle in general are many in terms of its philosophical ability to allow a trekker to extend the length of their expedition by minimizing food carried and hunting game en route. The unique advantages of the Pak-Rifle relative to other small game rifles, and especially, other 0.22LR rifles, include:

  • Extremely light weight – 16.0 oz;
  • Breakapart ability for stowage length of 17 inches;
  • Simple design with few moving parts;
  • Useful and accurate peep sights;
  • $425 MSRP. It sounds a bit expensive at first glance, but consider that (a) there's nothing quite like it, and (b) it's the equivalent of less than 100 freeze dried pre-packaged meals and the long term value of the Pak-Rifle may become more clear.

The limitations of the Pak-Rifle are few. In fact, I think the short list below is a bit of a stretch since these items address issues that would not necessarily be unique to an ultralight rifle:

  • Carbon butt stock tube is fragile;
  • Aluminum butt cap at the end of the butt stock tube is small and thus, difficult to brace against your shoulder for stability.

Recommendations and Conclusion

I have few recommendations to improve the design of the Pak-Rifle. I do believe that no more than 0.5 oz could be spent on increasing the durability of the carbon butt stock tube, reengineering the shape and size of the aluminum butt stock tube cap, and making the cavity inside the butt stock tube accessible without using a screwdriver. As is, however, the Pak-Rifle is far and away the leading option for the ultralight aficionado interested in hunting small game while trekking.

Pak-Rifle Review - 6
In addition to being a competent small game gun, the Pak-Rifle is a terrific introduction for the child learning to shoot. The Pak-Rifle doesn't have a safety, so it requires more rigorous safety protocols when handling and, of course, adult supervision. Here, my son Chase practices on a water bottle target in the Uinta mountains of Utah.


Citation

"Pak-Rifle Review," by Ryan Jordan. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/pak_rifle_review.html, 2009-12-01 00:00:00-07.

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Pak-Rifle Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Pak-Rifle Review on 12/01/2009 18:06:18 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Pak-Rifle Review

Ed Tyanich
(runsmtns) - F - M
Great Review on 12/01/2009 19:27:44 MST Print View

Ryan,

Great review. Very interesting "Game Getter"

I still think I will stick with my Smith & Wesson Model 317 22 long rifle revolver.

It weighs in at 11.9 ounces (with an empty cylinder) and holds 8 rounds.

With the HiViz sight, I have no problem grouping 6 or 7 out of 8 rounds in 2" off hand. A trekking pole can be used as a stabilizer as well.

Drawback to the Smith is it is over $800 at retail.

I, like you have found by using a Tenkara rod and a .22, many meals can be harvested when in the backcountry.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Ear plugs on 12/01/2009 21:25:57 MST Print View

Great review. I wonder if they'll come out with a big game version some day.
By the way Ryan it doesn't look like Chase is wearing ear plugs. Technically a .22 can still damage hearing over time even though its not as loud as others. You want to us ear plugs or muuffs as much as possible.
Happy hunting (and eating)

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Pak-Rifle Review on 12/01/2009 22:24:55 MST Print View

Very cool- I really enjoyed this review. Fishing and hunting aren't part of my backpacking experience or skills, but I certainly appreciate and respect these approaches. I've really enjoyed learning about how these activities fit into ultralight backpacking through the Pak-Rifle and Tenkara fishing pole. Thanks for opening my eyes and mind!

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Nice review! on 12/01/2009 22:30:32 MST Print View

Nice review, Ryan! I'm going to have to look into one of these!

Josh Leavitt
(Joshleavitt) - F

Locale: Ruta Locura
Hearing protection on 12/01/2009 22:46:55 MST Print View

Luke has a good point about ear plugs. Personaly I shoot allot of match grade, sub-sonic ammo, for this and other reasons.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Pak-Rifle Review on 12/02/2009 00:01:48 MST Print View

Ouch, pretty expensive. But kind of cool.

Daryl Hawkins
(dlh62c)
Review on 12/02/2009 03:22:33 MST Print View

Ryan

Great review.

I enjoy carrying just a simple sling shot. You never run out of ammo. Keep your eyes open....Saunders Archery is supposed to come out with a Sling Bow sometime next year which they say can be used as a sling shot and for bow fishing.

daryl

Bill Armstrong
(barmstrong) - F
Pak Rifle on 12/02/2009 04:51:22 MST Print View

Great Review! Hiking, fishing and hunting are all part of the great heritage of the Western States. Keep up the good work.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Hunting Comments on 12/02/2009 06:41:33 MST Print View

Hi All,

I just wanted to give a headsup that this forum will be moderated to eliminate the hunting vs. anti-hunting while backpacking debate.

Please keep this particular discussion on track and related to the review of the Pak-Rifle.

If you would like to engage in a debate on the ethics of hunting while backpacking, I fully support that and just ask that you open a new thread in a more appropriate forum, perhaps in the Philosophy Forum.

If you would like to engage in a debate on guns vs. no-guns as unrelated to backpacking, please do so in Chaff.

Thanks,
Ryan

Jonathan DeYoung
(jdeyoung81) - F

Locale: New England
Pak Rifle on 12/02/2009 06:52:33 MST Print View

I was looking forward to this review after seeing it on Ryans website.


Great read and fascinating little product. Just have to get the wife on board with letting me spend more money on gear!

Edited by jdeyoung81 on 12/02/2009 06:54:51 MST.

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Re: Review on 12/02/2009 07:05:23 MST Print View

Appreciate the review. I would be interested in hearing comparisons to other options like the S&W Ed mentioned. I've also been looking at the North American Arms mini revolvers which are lighter and cheaper. Any experience with those?

Daryl, what's the weight of your sling shot kit? Are there significant differences in terms of accuracy and weight between models? This seems like another good option.

I just plopped the money down for a Tenkara rod, but at least I can fish all year round. 500 bucks for a gun seems high for my first entry into the sport especially when limited to the fall hunting season. So I'm looking for a cheaper option.

I've been looking for a light weight hunting option after walking past numerous tasty looking grouse, turkey along the PCT this summer. And I was hungry enough that eating a squirrel seemed reasonable.

Just like fishing in many of the high mountain streams and lakes there seems to be little pressure on these small game animals. Most hunters don't hike 10s or 100s of miles into the backcountry to hunt squirrel or small birds so it seems like these populations can sustain a small amount of hunting by a few backpackers. The animals also seem very willing to sit a short distance from me so it seems like they would be easy to hit.

I'd also enjoy seeing an article on collecting edible plants.

Edited by nschmald on 12/02/2009 07:26:35 MST.

Larry Tullis
(Larrytullis) - F - M

Locale: Wasatch Mountains
Tullis on firearms on 12/02/2009 07:26:25 MST Print View

Great piece on a new product. I don't currently own a gun but that is one I might someday. I respect others rights tp voice opposition to guns but am big on our birth-right in this country to responsibly own guns. I commend you on keeping this site well rounded in the ultralight realm.

Also, the idea of hunting "only" in a survival situation is silly and probably ineffective if you have no hunting training. Hunting is an outdoor art, as is fly fishing and ultralight packing and requires lots of practice, learning, mentors, proper gear and strategies. Ultralight gear and strategies of any genre is appropriately discussed here if used responsibly in the outdoors.

In keeping with that idea, I'd like to suggest experts on living off the land to contribute more ideas on this site for foraging and preparing, roots, nuts, seeds, leaves, berries, birds, animals, fish etc. that can be found in ultralight backpacking areas.

I had a watercress salad once with smashed wild raspberry dressing that was amazing! I once shot a ptarmigan during an Alaskan packraft trip and it made a great meal on a bed of Rice-A-Roni. I made willow bark tea once to help calm a toothache. I love any and all self-sufficient skills that can add flair, skill and dimension to an otherwise average outing.

I'm all for learning the modern versions of aboriginal skills and gear, not just how to get from A-B as light and quick as possible. Keep up the great work!

Edited by ksawchuk on 12/02/2009 22:25:50 MST.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Pak-Rifle Review on 12/02/2009 07:50:58 MST Print View

I don't own a gun and know very little about them, but I appreciate the design and manufacturing that went into this rifle. But, I have some basic questions, so maybe anyone can answer them.

If this gun has no safety and it doesn't have the trigger protector (not sure what it is called, but the piece of metal that usualy surrounds the trigger so you don't hit it by accident) then I'm guessing that you wouldn't load it and walk around with it? Or I guess you could but you would have to be really careful? Or do you find the target first and then load the gun just before firing?

Only asking because Ryan says he hikes with it in his hand...is it loaded all day?

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
pak-rifle while hiking on 12/02/2009 08:19:45 MST Print View

Stephen, I do hike with it loaded, but not cocked. The force required to cock it is very high, so the risk of firing accidentally, say during a fall, is nearly zero.

Jake Engel
(jakeismoney) - F
Re: Pak-Rifle Review on 12/02/2009 08:24:19 MST Print View

The lack of a trigger guard *shouldn't* be too much of a concern with this rifle for a few reasons. First, never rely on the safety. Always assume the gun could go off at any time. That's one of the first things I learned about firearms safety. YOU are the safety. In this rifle, you chamber the load manually, so the safety mechanism essentially becomes the cocker. You don't cock until you're ready to fire.

My question is this:

What is the protocol for safely disengaging the cocker without firing? Do you simply break the action back open or is it more of about finessing the bolt carefully back into its resting position while pulling the trigger?

Josh Leavitt
(Joshleavitt) - F

Locale: Ruta Locura
Safety on 12/02/2009 08:27:01 MST Print View

The Pak-Rifle does have a safety, just not a conventional trigger safety. The cocking handle and firing pin can be taken out of "battery" position, by rotating the handle into the slot at the top of the reciever. This renders the action completing inoperable, making it safe to carry with a round in the chamber. It should never be carried with a round in the chamber, and the cocking handle in battery position. Trigger guards are just that, trigger guards, not safety devices.

Josh Leavitt
(Joshleavitt) - F

Locale: Ruta Locura
Safety on 12/02/2009 08:34:51 MST Print View

Jake

Good question, breaking the action would seem the safest, yet jostling the rifle around to break the action while loaded seems unsafe. So I would say either method works, its a judgement call, and muzzle control is of course very important when doing this.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Pak-Rifle Review on 12/02/2009 08:53:23 MST Print View

Wonder if they'll ever make this in 17 HMR?

Shawn Bennett
(shawnbennett) - F

Locale: Western Montana
wow on 12/02/2009 09:10:03 MST Print View

amazing toy, thanks Ryan :)