Deciding on my perfect airgun has plagued me on 2 occasions thus far. The first time, it took me a month to make up my mind. The second time- three months. So now, I have came up with an easy two-step solution to assist in choosing the right air gun.
You must first ask yourself “What am I going to do with this rifle?” There are only 3 answers. Target shooting, hunting, or both. If you are targetshooting only, pick a .177 rifle. If you are hunting only, go with a .25. If you are target shooting and hunting, get a .22. Below are my thoughts on each.
.177- For a plinker/target gun it is hands down the best. There are more available quality pellets and more variety as it the most popular air rifle caliber. Many people successfully hunt with a .177, but I feel it’s too small for ethical hunting. I had one bad experience with a .177. I read that it only takes about 4 foot pounds of energy to kill a squirrel with a head shot. I zeroed my Daisy 880 at 12 yards only a few minutes before I lined up the shot on a bushytail. He was about 12 yards away and waited patiently for me to take careful aim before firing. The pellet struck with more than necessary force, and appeared to hit perfectly between the eye and the ear. This was far from a clean kill. He got away leaving me regretting even shooting. That’s hunting. Sometimes its ugly. I made up my mind that a .177 just doesn’t have enough punch to get the job done. Getting back on track, a tin of pellets will essentially cost about the same for each caliber. The difference is quantity. For instance in a .177 you may get a tin of 500. In .22 you may get 250. In .25 you may only get 125. The same can be said for air consumption in precharged pneumatic rifles. A .177 will use about half the air of a .25, so more time to shoot and less time filling the rifle. If you just want put lead downrange, the .177 is hands down the best. Its also great for getting English sparrows out of the purple martin houses.
.25- I’m not a huge fan of a .25. As I said earlier, you get fewer pellets per tin compared to other calibers and uses more air. Lets compare it to a .22LR. A CCI minimag .22LR hits with about 130 foot pounds of energy while most .25’s shoot around 50FPE. Just to give you an idea a tin of 150 .25 JSB Exact King will run you about $10 bucks before shipping. So they cost about the same to operate as a more powerful .22LR. The only advantage the .25 has over the .22LR is it can be suppressed without any extra paperwork, and if you’re hunting you’ll want a suppressor.
.22- This is my favorite caliber simply because of its versatility. Its fairly economical to shoot at tin cans yet powerful enough to hunt. I have a Crosman 2400 in .22 shooting at 520 Feet per second (11 FPE). 500 FPS may seem on the slow side, but it’s more than enough for ethical hunting. Truth be told, most .22 airguns are going to shoot faster than 500 FPS, so its a safe bet that any .22 you pick up will be suitable for hunting as long as its accurate. There is a vast assortment of quality pellets available for any purpose.
The next question you must ask yourself is “How serious am I about owning an airgun?” On a scale of 1-10 pick a number that indicates your obsession. “1- Meh, I had one when I was a young” to “10-Let’s sell the farm and shoot ’til we die” Let it sink in and pick a number. Then multiply it by 100 and put a dollar sign ($) in front of it. That should be your price range. Don’t cheat yourself by trying to save money if you’re serious. Once you have these two major questions answered, you can refine your search.
There are 4 major power plants. All have advantages and disadvantages that need to be examined before throwing down your hard earned cash.
These are the break barrel rifles you see at WallyWorld. While they seem like a sound purchase there are a few things you need to be aware of. The box may say 1600 feet per second, but in reality, the speed is manipulated by using ultralight pellets with diesel fuel in the skirt. Secondly, the standard pellet design performs best below the speed of sound. My next complaint is the spring causes a strong vibration as the pellet is traveling down the barrel. This leads to poor accuracy. Lastly, the rifle has both forward and rearward recoil, causing the scope to quickly loose its zero. The only real advantage is they produce power efficiently. Some people claim to have great success with these rifles. I am not one of them. I have owned 2. I have given 2 away. If I were to purchase a spring piston, I would get a RWS 48.
Co2’s performance is directly proportional to ambient temperature. If it is colder, it will shoot slower. If it’s hotter it’ll shoot faster. Sounds simple until you sight in on a 95 degree day and hunt on a 70 day. CO2 is best used above 65 degrees. While CO2 gives you the convenience of several shots on a fill, it is low powered. Still a great option for early fall hunts and general plinking. The Crosman 2400 and the Walther 850 Air Mag get honorable mentions here.
Everyone grew up on these rifles. They are simple to operate, are not temperature regulated, and can be surprisingly accurate. With the exception of a slight few, they are low powered. The Benjamin 392/397 and the old Sheriden rifle are the best made with this powerplant. I’m currently searching pawn shops/yard sales for a Sheriden to rebuild (another hobby is rebuilding old worn out airguns).
PCP for short. The worst part about PCP rifles is the cost. The rifles themselves are high… then you have to put a nice scope on it… then you have to get a high pressure hand pump or scuba tank to fill it. For example: Airforce Condor SS- $719, Leapers Accushot- $199, Hill Mk 4 Hand Pump- $289. As you can see, not exactly pocket change. Once upon a time, I could never justify spending over $1000 on a BB gun. Now I wish I had the money to get a couple more. Trying to explain this to my friends is impossible. You’d just have to shoot one to understand. They are insanely accurate. With the right shot correction pellets will fall right behind the crosshair every single time. What got me interested is long range shooting. I don’t have 1000 yards to shoot my .308. 100 yards with my Condor is a fun substitute. If you are interested in PCP rifles, the Benjamin Discovery can be purchased with all necessary equipment for around $500. Or if you have more expensive taste, you can pick up a FX Independence for a little over $1800.