AEA Zeus Review: The Most Powerful Air Rifle
See how the most powerful production air rifle performed in the field
In recent years, many new hunting opportunities have emerged for airgunners, and big bore airguns, like the AEA Zeus, are a central part of that growth. When airguns started to gain traction in the early 2000s, most airgun hunters were using standard caliber guns for small game and pest control. But with time and the introduction of PCP technology, more powerful guns and larger calibers started to turn up. They continued to evolve until we reached the pinnacle of production air gun power in the .72 caliber beast that is the AEA Zeus. For this air rifle review, I tested the Zeus for accuracy at the range and got to see first hand how it performed on animals.
AEA Zeus Specs and Features
- Caliber: .72 caliber
- Barrel lengths: 16, 24, and 32 inches
- Weight: 12 pounds
- Velocity: 870 fps with 850-grain pellet
- Energy: 1500 fpe
- Single shot
- 11mm dovetail rail
A couple years ago, word got out about an ultra-powerful PCP air rifle being manufactured by a company called AEA that was said to reach some very impressive numbers. Later these reports were confirmed by acquaintances that were testing the gun. However, building a few guns to test and going into full production with guns rolling off the assembly line is a different kettle of fish. So, let’s just say I retained a healthy level of skepticism.
Then one day I received an email from an AEA representative (Fox Air Power) asking if I’d like to have a go with one of their new big bore rifles, called the AEA Zeus. This rifle is a .72 caliber, side lever cocking, single-action airgun that is available in three different barrel lengths: 16, 24, and 32 inches. Since I wanted to use this gun on deer and pig hunts in heavy brush this year, I opted for the 24-inch barrel. However, this version was out of stock and not expected to be available for a couple months. I didn’t want to wait, so opted for the 16-inch barrel configuration.
When the box arrived, I eagerly ripped into it, pulling out a very attractive gun. It has a sporter-style stock made of a nicely figured Asian hardwood. The receiver is a well-machined metal of a substantial bulk and is cycled with a side lever action that has a safety release incorporated into the base, providing easy manipulation by the thumb of the cocking hand. Onboard air storage is via an under-barrel reservoir tube that has a fill pressure of 4500 psi. There is a pressure gauge at the muzzle end of the reservoir, with a snap-on dust cover that shields a filling port set up for the company’s proprietary 7mm fill probe.
The barrel is substantial, as you might expect for a .72 caliber, with a threaded muzzle to fit a suppressor. The suppressor designed for the AEA Zeus .72 caliber is currently in the works. A ventilated rubber pad is mounted to the buttstock, which is a nice feature that helps tame a substantial recoil, and a Picatinny mount on the forestock for a sling swivel and/or bipod be mounted. This carbine is chunky. It is short and compact at just under 34 inches and weighs about 9.5 pounds. On the negative side, this is a fair bit of weight to haul about on a long hike, but on the positive side, it is easy to maneuver because of the short length. But that weight on a short gun pulls the weight into the shooter’s body and helps stabilize it, and as mentioned helps to dampen the substantial recoil.
Testing the AEA Zeus
For AEA Zeus ammo, I used slugs developed by my longtime friend Robert Vogel, owner of the airgun ammunition manufacturer Mr. Hollowpoint, weighing in at 630 gr, 440 gr, and 380 gr (which I’ve dubbed the “flying ashtray”). From a full charge of 4500 psi, I obtained three full power shots and a 4th lower velocity (but still usable shot). With the 380 grain slugs, the highest velocity/energy was 955 fps/770 fpe for the first shot, and the average energy level was in the 900 fpe range. I think this is impressive in a carbine length gun, but my friend Robert Vogel told me that in his testing with the 32-inch barrel version, he was getting up to 1600 fpe.
In my initial range session, three sequential shots at 50 yards consistently produced a cloverleaf with the 630-gr slug. The other two projectiles were similar, and the POI shifted a couple inches after three consecutive shots, but all were still easily within the kill zone of a deer. I found these results quite acceptable, and since this early experience, my impression of this gun remains positive. In a powerful big bore, a drop in POI is to be expected. But, just to test the intrinsic first shot accuracy, I printed a few three-shot groups after refilling to 4500 psi between shots and was getting 1-inch groups at 50 yards regularly.
I took the Zeus on a recent deer hunting trip in Texas. I was charging the carbine to 4500 psi and was shooting the 440-grain hollow point, getting approximately 900 fps for 788 fpe. For this hunt, I’d zeroed the rifle at 60 yards and was sticking the first three shots into a 1.5-inch group. After a couple of hours of punching paper, I felt very confident in the rifle and was ready to get this big bore out in the field where it belongs.
I ended up on the last morning of my hunt with an unfilled antlerless tag, so I grabbed the Zeus and headed to the blind. After about a half-hour, a doe walked in at about 80 yards. When she turned broadside, I laid the crosshairs on her. Thinking the shot would drop I held about 2-inches high and squeezed the trigger. The slug hit exactly where I was aiming and punched a hole you could drive a truck through just behind the shoulder. She bolted a few yards before dropping, stone dead.
What It Does Best
The AEA Zeus is a hunting air rifle made for any big game animal that it is legal to hunt. In the more compact versions, with a 16-inch or 24-inch barrel, it will be a very handy gun to carry in the field, even over long hikes through the bush. It is accurate, hits extremely hard, creates a significant wound channel, cycles smoothly and quickly, allowing unhindered access to the loading port, and in my experience to date, is rugged and reliable.
The rifle also seems ammo tolerant, at least with the different slug weights of the Mr. Hollowpoint ammo I obtained and used for testing. The gun provides a respectable shot count from a hunting perspective, and so far, every slug (and the roundball) has provided the accuracy, power, and range I need in the best hunting guns.
What It Does Worst
If you want the maximum power, you’ll have to go with the 32-inch barrel. But, you’ll be penalized with weight (12 pounds) and overall length (52 inches) of the rifle. There are only a few specific applications where I’d be willing to pay for the added power with the extra weight. However, if hunting bear, bison, or larger plains game like wildebeest or kudu, then my priorities might shift.
The Zeus is an air-hungry gun, and between the high-fill pressure and air consumption over three to four shots, it’s probably not the best option for informal plinking or target shooting. However, for long-range target enthusiasts this might be less important than the shooting characteristics of the gun. And concerning air usage, if you have a personal compressor, this is probably a nonissue.
Final Thoughts on the AEA Zeus
So, do you need this much power? A fair question, and I believe the answer is: probably not. At least for a light-bodied doe. But a few species such as feral hogs are big, tough, and possessed of a nasty disposition where a bit more power would not go unappreciated. But deer and even big feral hogs can be dropped with authority using a 400 fpe gun, and I have always believed that accuracy and shootability trump excessive power. However, if a gun is shootable and accurate, more power never hurts and that is especially true when hunting big-bodied game with an attitude.
My impression of the AEA Zeus is that it is a well-made, rugged, shootable, accurate, and very powerful big bore airgun. Only time will tell how it performs as a hunting gun over the long haul, but my initial experience was very promising. A big, heavy, slow moving chunk of lead has a terminal performance that seems disproportionate to the energy level driving it, and it is impressive on game. I think the Zeus is an excellent platform for delivering that chunk of lead, and I’d have no hesitation taking this gun after the largest quarry. It offers everything you want in a serious hunting gun; accuracy, power, reliability, ergonomics, and overall shootability. I’ll be taking this gun out again soon.