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Skinner Sights Bush Pilot: Leveraged for Survival

Getting stranded by a broken plane in the rugged wilds of the North American backcountry can leave a person feeling a bit unprepared. “I spend a lot of time in Canada and Alaska flying in bush planes, and at one time, not long ago, Canada required bush pilots to carry a firearm in their plane,” says Andy Larsson, an avid backcountry hunter and owner of Skinner Sights. “I’ve been set down in the backcountry with a storm coming, tied up not where we intended to be, for the better part of 24 hours.” Larsson says. Experiencing that feeling of unpreparedness led him to develop his carbine-based Skinner Sights Bush Pilot Survival Kit.

Skinner Sights Bush Pilot Kit

The kit unfolds to reveal sleeves for the takedown gun and ammo on one side and access to the included survival equipment on the other.

THE KIT

The kit is based around a specially made Winchester Model 1892 Takedown Carbine clone, with a 16.5-inch barrel chambered in 44 Remington Magnum. It includes a large survival/camp knife, a magnesium fire starter, storm-proof matches, 50 feet of paracord, an ultralight tent made from space blanket material, a robust and useful compass, and a small emergency stove with a few fuel tablets. All this, including the rifle and a box of 50 cartridges, conveniently stows in a folding nylon slipcase custom made for the kit by Skinner. The whole thing takes up about as much space as a couple loaves of bread and weighs less than 12 pounds, including ammo.

Skinner Sights Carbine Bush Pilot

THE PROBLEM

When Larsson set out to make a survival kit for bush pilots, he had his work cut out for him. Unlike a pickup truck, high-winged bush planes can’t be loaded with thousands of pounds of cargo. With a full load of fuel and perfect weather, the planes have enough power to lift about 550 pounds of passenger and cargo weight. Carrying a couple adults leaves perhaps 200 pounds of cargo capacity … and everything needs to fit in a space smaller than a Toyota Camry.

bush pilot kit closed

The complete Bush Pilot kit stowed for travel.

These constraints led Larsson to the space-saving design of a takedown rifle as the basis of his kit. Takedown actions allow the forend and barrel assembly to detach from and reattach to the receiver assembly without tools. Typically, survival takedowns are chambered in rimfire calibers, such as the popular semi-auto 22 Long Rifle AR-7 survival setup, though there are examples of more powerful chamberings.

WHY A LEVER GUN?

Lever guns are less complex than gas-operated, semi-automatic rifles and faster to run than bolt-action rifles. Their tubular magazines make for a slimmer silhouette that’s easy to handle and stow. Best of all, for Larsson’s efforts, none of these advantages go away when adding the ability to split the gun in half with a takedown mechanism.

skinner sights chiappa broken down

The lever gun at hand is a clone of the Winchester 1892 takedown, made by Italian gunmaker Chiappa for Skinner Sights. The original was made by Winchester in its New Haven, Connecticut, factory from 1892 through 1941, chambered in pistol calibers so that users could carry a single type of ammunition for both their single-action pistol and a carbine.

Winchester produced more than a million of them before shutting the line down when it retooled for World War II production. The ’92 was never made in the U.S. again, but the company did later produce Winchester-branded versions in Japan.

You can’t pin the ’92’s continuing popularity to just one factor. Certainly, the overbuilt action, with its signature twin locking blocks, have something to do with it. Plus, the patent timed out on its century-old design, allowing companies such as Chiappa to clone and even make improvements upon it without a license. Lastly, there’s just something about lever guns, and the ’92 in particular, since it was iconicized by John Wayne’s characters throughout his film career from Stagecoach through True Grit and beyond.

bush pilot threading

The split threads line up and provide the barrel with solid lock up in a quarter turn.

RINO AND THE BUSH PILOT

The rifle’s enduring popularity, and perhaps the expiration of its patent, led several companies to make ’92 clones. But none on the market had the features Larsson wanted for his project. So, he asked Rino Chiappa, president of Chiappa Firearms, for a run of custom carbines. There’s no mystery to the Bush Pilot’s century-old takedown mechanism. The entire barrel and sighting system is contained in and on the forend of the gun, so the point of impact won’t change when taken down and reassembled.  Open the action, insert the interrupted threads of the forend, twist it a quarter-turn to line everything up, spin the threaded magazine tube and tighten it into the receiver, flick the lever to close the bolt, and you’re off and shooting. The whole process takes about 20 seconds. What separates the Skinner Bush Pilot from a standard ’92 takedown is the shortened 16.5-inch barrel, a crescent buttplate, the anti-corrosion hard chrome finish, and Skinner’s rear aperture and fiber-optic front sight combo. All other operational features are unchanged, including the distinctive octagonal barrel and half-cock hammer system.

MAGNUM OPTIONS

The original ’92s were made for black powder cartridges, but the design can handle today’s high-pressure pistol rounds by using stronger metal in the action than was available in 1892. Skinner chose the 44 Mag chambering for its versatility. The most popular load for the 44 Mag is a 240-grain bullet, and the rifle’s 1:20 twist rate is optimized for these heavy projectiles. But it can be loaded with bullets as light as 160 grain and as heavy as 405 grains, with an array of custom and factory formulations, to suit shooters who want a soft shooter for practice and a heavy hitter for hunting. In fact, for guys who want even lighter recoil, it’ll run 44 Special ammo just fine.

 

 

chiappa model 92 receiver

There’s plenty of meat in the mating surfaces when assembling the Bush Pilot.

 

Another benefit of the straight-walled 44 Mag cartridge is that it can be used to hunt deer in more densely populated areas that outlaw longer range, bottleneck cartridges. It’s no tyrannosaurus hunter like the 45-70, but it’ll definitely take down medium-sized game at 200 yards. When using a pistol caliber in a carbine, note that while you’ll get more muzzle velocity and power, the bullets are heavy and aerodynamically challenged, with rainbow trajectories that keep them from striking out further than a few hundred yards. 

SIGHTS AND SUCH

In place of the standard buckhorn sights found on period Winchesters, the Bush Pilot features a set of Skinner’s aperture and fiber-optic sights. They’re a little less precise when reaching past 150 yards but are far faster and easier to use than a tang-and-notch setup. The rear sight adjusts for windage and elevation, plus the aperture ring is easily replaceable with larger or smaller apertures for faster or finer aiming. The fiber-optic-tipped front sight post is fast and easy to find in varying light. Lining up the round rear aperture with the rounded front sight is intuitive and quick, but they’ll cover most of your target for anything smaller than 18 inches at a couple hundred yards. It’s no problem lining up deer vitals, but woodchucks will flee, and squirrels will just taunt you at that range.

skinner sights front

With eight rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber, you have enough ammo to make a strong play in most situations that need to be resolved with violence, whether feeding the camp or defending it. Loading the Bush Pilot is like loading any side-loading lever gun. The loading port’s leaf spring will grab skin occasionally until you figure out how to English the last round into the chute with the base of the thumb instead of the tip. Top loading is a good way to keep the party going if the mag runs dry. Rounds drop in, self-align on the lifter, and ride into the chamber with a slap of the lever.

PERFORMANCE

The only misfeeds we experienced with the Bush Pilot happened while we were using Hornady’s plastic-tipped LeverRevolution ammo. It seemed the longer tips on these bullets sometimes hung up on the forward end of the action as the lifter presented the round to the chamber. All other ammunition fed and fired without issue. In all, we probably put 350 rounds through the Bush Pilot, spread over several ammo types and weights.

44 magnum ammunition model 1892

44 Mag isn’t regarded for low BCs, so keep range expectations realistic. But there’s a wide range of ammo to run in the Bush Pilot, including 44 Special.

The Bush Pilot performed well. Accuracy was on-par with or better than its lever action peers. We measured the trigger pull weight at a very smooth 3 pounds, 2 ounces. The break is shockingly crisp and clean for a production gun. And cocking the hammer feels as smooth as turning a bank vault’s door hinge.

Recoil with the heavier 240-plus-grain bullets is sharp and, no doubt, exaggerated by the rifle’s crescent-shaped, steel buttplate. There’s a pronounced difference in felt recoil depending on your shooting stance. Proned-out, the stock delivers its payload painfully into a shoulder that has no place to go. Standing, the body rocks back a bit, absorbing and redistributing the shock for a much milder shooting experience. 

THE PACKAGE

The Bush Pilot is more than a rifle, though. It’s a survival kit. And survival means it needs to be durable and ready. So, the gun’s warm-toned hard chrome finish had better do something other than look sharp — it should keep the gun in working order, even if neglected.

We didn’t leave the carbine in the rain to test the finish, but Larsson tells us he used his on a spring bear hunt in coastal Alaska. “We were in skiffs running on the saltwater, living onboard a big boat and hunting the shoreline out of skiffs,” he says. “I packed mine all over, wiping it down every once in a while, and saw no rust at all.”

Skinner Sights Field Shot

The Bush Pilot is light, fast, easy to handle, and up to any task within a few hundred yards.

Taken down, the rifle slips into its bespoke case along with all the survival gear listed below. The whole thing is 20.75 inches long, 7.5 inches wide, and 5.5 inches thick, including the top sleeve that holds a 50-round box of ammo. Two buckles secure the two sleeved compartments for the carbine halves, with two more keeping the kit folded in half. It’s amazing how much emergency gear Skinner packed around this gun. It’s a spartan collection of gear that’ll ride unnoticed in a car or plane until it’s needed to provide safety, shelter, and security while you ride out a storm. Plus, everything is small and light enough that you can take it all with you if you decide to move, using the supplied compass as a guide.

With the included items, you can bivvy in the space blanket/tent, hunt, clean, and cook anything you can shoot and build a more durable shelter from found wood. The only thing we’d add to the kit is some kind of mirror or visual signaling device to attract attention.

The Bush Pilot carbine alone is a heck of a handy firearm. Combine it with a tightly focused selection of high-quality survival gear, and you’ve got a slick setup perfectly geared for use in a hunkered-down, come-and-get-me situation. 


Skinner Sights Bush Pilot

Caliber: 44 Magnum
Barrel Length: 16.5 inches
Overal Length: 34.5 inches
Magazine Capacity: 8+1
Rifle Weight Unloaded: 5.7 pounds
Kit with Ammo: 12 pounds
MSRP: $1,799
URL: skinnersights.com

Kit Includes

  • Ontario Knife Company RAT-7 Knife
  • DOAN Magnesium Firestarter
  • 50 feet Mil-Spec Paracord
  • Titan Stormproof Flare Matches in waterproof case
  • Brunton Tru-Arc 3 Compass
  • UCO Space Blanket 2-person Tube Tent
  • Esbit Emergency folding stove
  • Skinner Folding Nylon Kit Case

More Field and Survival Gear

 




One response to “Skinner Sights Bush Pilot: Leveraged for Survival”

  1. Tee says:

    Nice!

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