As we continue our quest into airguns today, let’s talk about what model to get. There are three popular models of airguns. Let’s cover those and try to decide which one would best meet your needs.
They are broken into three groups depending on their power source.
CO2s derive their power from a CO2 canister that you insert into the gun. The bad deal with CO2s is that as the pressure drops, so do your pellets/BBs.
Most CO2s only spit out pellets at 600 to 800 feet per second, so not really a viable option for hunting. I assume so as to conserve power, most of them are .177s. So why even buy a CO2? Well, they do serve two purposes that I can think of.
1. If you want to run pests out of your garden such as deer but don’t want to kill them, CO2 BB guns are great for that. Plus as far as I know most all of them are semi autos so you can scatter a whole herd of deer.
2. If you have small children that you are wanting to get into hunting and shooting they are the best choice. It takes someone strong to work a break barrel and PCPs are expensive.
Sig Sauer makes CO2s that mimic their real firearms, which makes them great for training (smart idea). I teach a lot of Airgun 101 seminars. I was conducting one last year in Reno at the Safari Club International convention. A lot of grandads and dads who want to get their kids into hunting and shooting bring the kids to my seminars. I had the Sig MCX on my demo table. It looks, feels and has the same features as the real SIG AR. As you can imagine, all of the kids were telling grandad to buy them an MCX.
CO2s are great for getting kids into shooting. Sig makes a lot of cool targets. Spinners, flippers, shooting galleries, etc. So if your kid doesn’t want to hunt but wants to shoot or plink tin cans, CO2s are the ticket.
BREAK BARRELS (BB)
BBs are the most popular model and for good reason. Some boast speeds of 1,450 fps; remember, a .22 only flies along at 1,250 fps. So they’re a good choice for hunting. They’re also the cheapest to operate. Break the barrel, insert a pellet and you’re good to go. Preppers like these.
BBs get their power by compressing a spring or a cylinder usually filled with nitrogen. They have a unique recoil. They kick backward and then forward. To get any degree of accuracy, you need to use the “artillery hold.” Hold it tight as normal with your strong hand but only cup your off hand and set the forestock in it. Let it slide backward and forward when you shoot. Hold your off hand in the exact same spot every time or it will affect your point of impact.
With a BB you can shoot pellets with polymer tips. PCPs and CO2s use magazines and the polymer tips jam up in them.
The major pain with hunting with a BB is that every shot you have to dig in your pocket, open a can, pull out a pellet and load it. I have a small canvas pouch that I can dump pellets into which does speed up the process immensely. But, a few companies have come out with air rifles that utilize a rotary magazine. This is great. Buy two to three extra mags and you can hunt and shoot high speed.
PRE-CHARGED PNEUMATICS (PCPs)
These are my most favorite air rifles because they’re the most accurate. I get 3/16-inch groups with some of mine. So they are the ultimate hunting airgun. They don’t travel as fast as a BB, most of them probably 900-1,100 fps but accuracy trumps speed.
They are powered by compressed air, which is stored in a tank on the gun. Most of them will hold 3,000 pounds per square inch. Yes, I said 3,000 psi, not 30 psi like your truck tires. That’s some serious air pressure. The PCP regulates the air for each shot so whether your tank has 3,000 or 1,800 psi it shouldn’t affect the trajectory of your pellet.
PCPs are also the most complicated of the airgun family. To charge one you must have an external air tank. These cost about $350. Not that it is expensive but to fill the tank you have to run to a skindiving shop and pay them $6-$8. This can be inconvenient as you have to work around their schedule. Plus, on a busy day of shooting I’ll go through two tanks in two-thirds of the day. So if you’re hunting with one, you’ll want two tanks.
You can buy hand pumps that resemble a bicycle pump but they’re major pain to operate. Let’s just say — if you go this route, you can cancel your gym membership!
But, have no fear. Umarex saved the day. They have a compressor called the Umarex Ready Air which you can plug into a 110 outlet or to your truck battery out in the field.
Well, once again we are out of space before I am out of words, but we had better knock off or the editor will have to cut the obituaries for this week.
Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop.