You may have noticed a lot of articles written about airguns by grown men recently. And if you’re like me, your first thought was that you had outgrown airguns when you were 9 or 10 years old and had graduated to the real gun club.
That’s the boat that I was in. When my brother-in-law proudly whipped out a break-action pellet gun, I thought that he’d lost it. Why would a grown man digress back to his early grade school days?
Then I got into them. Let me cover that process. I was at a Professional Outdoor Media Association Convention in Columbia, South Carolina, years ago and met Susan, the marketing guru for Winchester airguns. I’d been hearing a lot about airguns and thought that it’d be a good topic to cover. I publish about 325 articles a year, so I’m always scrambling for new topics.
But I had a rocky start with airguns. With my first one, I could only get a 1 ½-inch group at 15 yards. Since we hunt small game with airguns that have a small kill zone, it’s imperative that they be accurate. So it’s a miracle that I even stuck with them. But for some reason I did.
Then in 2014, I got invited to the first GAMO Squirrel Master Classic. I didn’t have much better results there or in their 2015 event. Then I started testing other airguns. Walthers, Ruger, Springfield, Umarex, Benjamin, Crosman and a plethora of other manufacturers.
Because of their inaccuracies I about gave up on airguns numerous times. Then I went on Prostaff with Crosman. I got introduced to some decent break actions and some super accurate PCPs. By now I was all in.
Since then I’ve tested most of the new Sig Sauer airguns. More to come on Sigs later. For this first airgun article I want to cover the basics. So let’s start at the beginning. There are various models available but here are the top three designs.
Sig Sauer makes the coolest CO2 airguns. I think they were smart in that they made airguns that mimic their real guns. They have the same features and are the same weight as their real guns so they’re great training tools. I think this was ingenious.
The Sig airguns are also super cool looking. They have pistols and ARs that your kids would love. I had two “Hunting Small Game with Airguns” seminars in Reno the other day and the young people loved the AR replicas that Sig makes.
If you’re wanting to get your kids into hunting, airguns are a great avenue. I say that they’re great because there is no recoil and they aren’t loud. They are especially great for introducing little girls into hunting. The downside of CO2s is that they aren’t very powerful so they are not really good for hunting small game.
But Sig makes some super cool targets — spinners, box flippers, etc. — which further enhance a kid’s enjoyment in shooting airguns. Or it is fun to shoot the old tried and true tin cans. And CO2s are semi-automatic, so that’s fun. The CO2 pistols are great if you want to run off pest and not kill them.
These are the most popular models. Some of the manufacturers boast speeds of up to 1,450 feet per second. Remember, your trusty ole .22 only spits out bullets at 1,250 feet per second, so they’re powerful enough to hunt small game with.
Break actions get their power by compressing a spring or a gas chamber, usually nitrogen. While these may spit out pellets fast, some of the cheaper ones aren’t very accurate. And to me, accuracy trumps all. We’re hunting small game with pellet guns with small kill zones so it is super important to be accurate.
Break actions have a unique recoil system. They kick forward and backwards. Because of their unique recoil, they will destroy a normal rifle scope so you only want to use scopes that are airgun compatible.
Because of their unique recoil, you need to use the artillery hold. Here’s how that works. Hold your right hand tight but with your left hand, cup the forestock loosely and let it slide back/forwards. It’s important to hold the forestock in the exact same spot or it will change the point of impact. Trust me, shoot it in this manner and your groups will tighten.
PRECHARGE PNEUMATICS (PCP)
These are my most favorite because they are the most accurate. These operate by using a charge of air. The rifle will have a tank that will hold 3,000 PSI — that’s right, 3,000 PSI, not 30 PSI like your car tires. The bad deal is, you’ll need an air tank to re-charge your rifle.
So where can you fill your air tanks? You’ll have to go to a skin-diving shop. Or Air Venturi came out with two compressors. One is a plug-in model or recently they came out with a portable model that hooks onto your truck battery so you can fill your tank while out in the field.
Ugh, I can’t believe it but we’re out of room and have hardly gotten started. Standby; there’ll be more upcoming articles on airguns.
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.