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.

About This Rating

M Find other top product reviews »

Print Jump to Reader Comments

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.

Print

Reader Comments

You must login to post comments.

New Visitors: Create a new account
Username:
Password:
Remember my login info.

Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Pak-Rifle Review


Display Avatars
Sort By:
Josh Leavitt
(Joshleavitt) - F

Locale: Ruta Locura
17 HMR on 12/02/2009 09:15:22 MST Print View

We have chambered test rifles in 17 HMR, and 17 mach 2, neither round works well with the pivot action of the Pak-Rifle. The cases are borderline for the preasures that are generated. This has caused several fire arms manufactures to drop the 17s from thier line ups, and in at least one case, trigger a recall. The preasures are not exactly unsafe, but they can interfere with proper function of firearms origionaly designed to fire 22LR and 22mag. Additionaly both of the before mentioned 17 rimfires are not well suited to small game hunting, if you want eat what you shot any way. There is another 17 rimfire, the 17 aguila, that may become an option in the future.

Jake Engel
(jakeismoney) - F
.17 HMR on 12/02/2009 09:23:01 MST Print View

A 17 might be interesting in this. My Marlin 917 is one of my favorite rifles. I do wonder, however, if something like this would benefit from the longer range and flatter trajectory of the .17 HMR. After all, Ryan seems to feel that he's mostly using it within 25 yards. Sure, the ability to reach out to 150-200 yards is great, but on such a light frame with very little gripping surface is it really going to be possible to steady the gun enough to make the shot accurately in the first place?

John Young
(johnyinlv) - F

Locale: SouthWest
Pak-Rifle on 12/02/2009 09:28:38 MST Print View

The 17HMR Might be overkill for game you want to put in the pot. the 17 MKII would be interesting. I am not a fan of the .22 LR because they tend to ricochet around in the tember. The posabilty of putting a grouse in the pot would be worth carying the extra weight.
John in LV

Roger Homrich
(rogerhomrich)

Locale: California/Michigan
17HMR on 12/02/2009 09:33:09 MST Print View

Thanks for chiming in, Josh. Great Job! I assumed the 17HMR would be a little too ‘hot’.

Even though you would be able to benefit from the flatter trajectory, I’m not sure it matters under 25 yards with this particular firearm, given its intended use. Both rounds (17HMR/22LR) are more accurate than most shooters while in field conditions.

Also, the velocity and expansion of the 17HMR can be great for, say, a coyote, but is devastating (ruins more edible meat) to a squirrel or rabbit-sized animal… especially if point of impact is in the body.

In practical use, I would assume one would focus on the smallest of game for eating afield in order to not waste meat (hard to eat or preserve larger animals afield) and the 22LR is a round that is suited well for this purpose.

If you were focusing on the larger end of smaller game, the 17HMR would really be much more effective for the above reasons, but you would need a heavier gun.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: pak-rifle while hiking on 12/02/2009 09:50:38 MST Print View

Ahh yes, you have to cock a gun before you can fire it...forgot about that part :)

Anyway, nice review and great job on the rifle.

Josh Leavitt
(Joshleavitt) - F

Locale: Ruta Locura
17 vs 22 on 12/02/2009 09:51:40 MST Print View

The 17 may not really be "better" for larger game, the heavier bullet of the 22 more than makes up for not shooting as flat as a 17. Moose have been taken with a 22, and I dont see this happening with a 17.

Robert Allen
(quicksilver) - F
Minor safety point on 12/02/2009 10:07:33 MST Print View

The photo shows the young man shooting at the water bottle on top of a stump. I've done stuff like this myself. What is not clear from the photo is if there's a hill immediately behind the trees/stump? If not, the idea of a .22 whizzing down range where you can't see if someone is hiking is problematic. Just an FYI for all concerned: know your backstop when shooting.

Regards,

Robert

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Pak-Rifle Review on 12/02/2009 10:25:25 MST Print View

Robert, thank you for pointing out the safety elements necessary when shooting. Ryan and his son both take the safety of shooting very seriously and had chosen a spot for this target practice that would not put others into harms way.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Pak-Rifle Review on 12/02/2009 10:55:00 MST Print View

Can't carry this type of firearm in Canadian National or Provincial parks anyway. Interesting read but not on my radar screen.

David Olsen
(oware)

Locale: Steptoe Butte
357 mag on 12/02/2009 10:58:48 MST Print View

Have you looked into 357 mag? They are offered on other
low pressure breakopen shotgun actions and would then be capable of taking larger
game and still be quiet, light and inexpensive to shoot.

You could shoot 38 special cowboy action cast bullets
for even gentler loads for grouse etc.

Edited by oware on 12/02/2009 11:02:28 MST.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
safety point on 12/02/2009 11:08:37 MST Print View

Good observation - there actually was a tiny ravine just beyond the target, with a big hill just beyond that. It's close - probably only 30 yards beyond the target. We scouted the area really well, and were off trail and remote.

Justin Gunn
(biggunn) - F
Fishing pole option??? on 12/02/2009 11:43:21 MST Print View

I noticed on the the pakrifle.com site that they are experimenting with a fishing pole extension complete with mini reel. Do we know if this is a viable alternative to carrying, say, a Tenkara rod? Seems like the weight of the extension/reel combo might tip the scales over a separate Tenkara rig, but curious to hear any thoughts on the subject.

Josh Leavitt
(Joshleavitt) - F

Locale: Ruta Locura
357/38 on 12/02/2009 11:44:24 MST Print View

357/38 was looked at years ago, but I never tried it. I did chamber one of the very first rifles for .410 shotshells, which was very cool, but ultimatly did not work out. The issue lies in the way the action "pivots" open vs breaking like more conventional "hinge" type break actions. Also it would easily double the wieght.

Josh Leavitt
(Joshleavitt) - F

Locale: Ruta Locura
Fishing pole on 12/02/2009 11:49:20 MST Print View

The fishing pole option will in no way replace a good Tenkara setup. Earlier this year in the wind rivers, I had both with me, and caught fish on both, the Tenkara setup out fished the rifle about 7:1. The Pak-rifle pole is meant as a sort of "back up" swiss army knife sort of add on.

Chris Wood
(crwood) - M

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
Excellent review of a practical lightweight backpacking tool! on 12/02/2009 13:24:57 MST Print View

This is an excellent review of a very practical piece of lightweight and innovative backpacking equipment. Those with open minds will see this. The Others may not.

I definitely have one of these on my wish list, as up here in Alaska the free protien that nature supplies for you is nearly endless.

Thanks again for an excellent review of a very practical and innovative piece of lighweight backpacking gear.

Gustav Bostrom
(gusbo) - MLife

Locale: Scandinavia
Compared to Henry Survival Rifle? on 12/02/2009 14:29:54 MST Print View

I hunt Ptarmigan during winter and summer and I'm thinking of taking up Hazel grouse hunting in the backcountry as well. This is a very interesting alternative. However I think that the limited range and robustness of the Pak-rifle makes it a bit limited. It is often difficult to get that close to the Ptarmigans in winter. For hazel grouse in the forest it should probably be fine though. How much of rifle accuracy and range you are willing to sacrifice for weight savings is of course a matter of taste. I appreciate that Ryan makes it clear that this kind of rifle has a more limited range than a normal .22LR. If the main purpose of my trip would be hunting I would probably go for something heavier, like the Henry rifle:
http://www.henryrepeating.com/h002_survival.cfm
It would be interesting to hear if anyone has any experience of this rifle and how you could compare it to the Pak-rifle.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Compared to Henry Survival Rifle? on 12/02/2009 14:39:19 MST Print View

I'm getting better at shooting the rifle since this review was completed, and have been able to shoot inside a 2" target at 50 yards with the peep sight easily, with the gun resting on my pack in the prone position. I'd be pretty comfortable using it for Ptarmigan in open country.

Josh Leavitt
(Joshleavitt) - F

Locale: Ruta Locura
AR-7 vs Pak-Rifle on 12/02/2009 16:58:54 MST Print View

The Pak-rifle is just as accurate as any full size 22 rifle, the limitation comes in the learning curve of shooting a light weight, unconventional rifle, this is easily overcome with practice.

The Pak-rifle is more "accurate" than an AR-7. The AR-7s front sight is mounted on the front of the barrel, and the rear sight is mounted at the back of the reciever. Normaly this would not cause too much of an accuracy issue, but the AR-7 is a take down rifle, by means of removing the barrel. When you take the barrel on and off this changes how the front and rear sights relate to each other, causing the point of impact to change. Also with the barrel being the take down point, with no fore arm, preasure applied to the barrel of an AR-7, when aiming, also changes the relationship of the front and rear sights, changing the point of impact. Same goes for mounting a scope on an AR-7, the scope mounts to the recieve, independent of the barrel. All of these conditions are additionally agravated on Henry's AR-7s that have plastic barrels, with steel liners.

The Pak-Rifle's sights and/or scope mount stay with the barrel, and maintain alignment to the barrel, wether taken down or assembled.

Also you can pack 2, higher quality, more accurate, scoped Pak-Rifles for the same weight of an unscoped, AR-7.

I've taken marmots at 100yds with a scoped Pak-Rifle many times.

Dwn Ptrl
(dwnptrl_777) - F

Locale: Midwest
Great article/review! on 12/02/2009 17:19:30 MST Print View

Re: moderation. Makes sense, so no worries on my end about removing the earlier posts (including mine). Lord knows that 'debate' would spiral out of control.

Back to the gun/review: Really excited to see this product! Also nice to hear Josh's thoughts, especially in comparison to the AR-7 and the sights issue with each weapon.

I'll agree it's pricey, and also share the concerns about the carbon fiber (sorry, Josh...I ride steel bicycles only. Can't get me on that carbon fiber train yet!). Would accept increased weight if those CF parts were swapped for metal...or testing was shown regarding this particular CF's strength.

All that aside, I'm highly interested in this weapon. Especially as a lifelong hunter who subscribes to the idea of not owning more weapons than I can carry at one time...dang! This little monster is going to be hard to resist!

Josh Leavitt
(Joshleavitt) - F

Locale: Ruta Locura
Carbon fiber on 12/02/2009 20:55:28 MST Print View

When I built the first PR ~12 yrs ago, the barrel was carbon fiber over steel, with a rear stock that was aluminum. Over the years the rear stock has been aluminum tube of various ODs and IDs, as well as carbon fiber, I have broke them all. One of the most dramatic being when I dropped my pack, with PR attached, ~15' off a ledge. The first pack we dropped, stopped on the ledge below, but my pack continued down another 100'+.

The barrel has been through several revisions, with both aluminum and CF outer tubes, non of these have ever broke, even when the scope was sheared off the rifle. The first reason the rear stock is CF is that it matches the barrel, but more importantly, it doesnt freeze your cheek in the cold weather like aluminum does. Oh and it sounds cool ;-)