by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Airguns cost less to shoot. A tin of pellets costs less than any firearm ammunition I can buy or reload. Even the premium pellets cost less than the run-of-the-mill .22 rimfire ammo that I don’t buy because it isn’t worth the money. I don’t shoot for the recoil, the smell or for the sound. I shoot to hit what I aim at. With a pellet gun, I can afford to do that as often as I like.
9. Human scale
Dr. Beeman coined this term. It means the gun is scaled to contemporary life and can be used without major disruption. A .50-caliber Browning Machine Gun (BMG) round is accurate and reliable — but try finding a place to shoot one! I can shoot a pellet rifle or pistol in my house. Indeed, 90 percent of my airgun shooting is inside my home.
8. Airguns can be gunsmithed by their owners
Not many of us can exchange barrels on a 98 Mauser, or headspace a Sako Vixen. But with the right training, anyone can safely tune a spring rifle in their home. Or reseal a CO2 gun. Or modify a precharged pneumatic! Indeed, many airguns are designed with those goals in mind. You can change barrels and calibers in an AirForce Talon SS in 5 minutes. A few firearms are designed for barrel and cartridge swaps; but compared to airguns, the choices are limited.
7. I can shoot more
Besides cost, the fact that many airguns are quiet and relatively safe allows me to shoot in my home. I get to the rifle range about 4 times a month. On the average trip, I fire between 40 and 200 rounds of ammo. I do that in my house about every two or three days. So, I shoot from 5 to 10 times more often with an airgun than I do a firearm.
Airguns are safer than firearms. They don’t have internal pressures that are nearly as high, their projectiles don’t go as fast and they certainly don’t go as far. When a bullet ricochets, it can go a long way. When a pellet ricochets, its range is very limited. I’m not saying that airguns aren’t dangerous, but they’re far less so than firearms. When there’s an incident, it has fewer and less catastrophic consequences.
5. I can afford to own the best
The best spring rifle available today is the Air Arms TX200, and it costs $600. You can argue about what the best firearm rifle is, but whether you go for a Blaser, a Steyr, a Sako or a Dakota, you’ll be shelling out anywhere from $1,100 to $6,000 for the entry-level model. A TX200 might be a stretch, but the firearms represent such a leap that they impact the budget for a long time. The TX200 is hands-down the best of its kind. One of the rifles I mentioned is still arguably no more accurate or powerful than a more common gun costing a fraction as much.
4. I can collect more
An FWB 124 in pristine condition in the box can still be bought for $600. A pre-’64 Winchester model 70 in the same shape will cost you thousands. My Falke 90 is one of fewer than 200 such guns known to exist. A Winchester One-of-One-Thousand that exists in greater numbers costs six figures every time! Yes, my comparisons are lopsided, but think about what they mean. You probably can’t afford to buy a Colt first generation single-action in 90 percent condition, but you can afford a Sheridan Model A (Supergrade) in the same shape. Airguns that are vintage and rare simply do not command the money that firearms do. Colt Pythons are bringing $1,500 these days, while Hakims that are far rarer will fetch $400.
3. Range requirements
Even a lowly .22 rimfire needs at least enough distance that the lead doesn’t splatter back on the shooter. But in World War II, a German submarine captain had a BB pistol in his cabin. I don’t know if you’ve ever been aboard a World War II submarine, but it doesn’t offer a lot of room to shoot. A Class A motorhome is a mansion by comparison. Airguns can be shot with very limited range conditions.
When I go to the rifle range, I have to wear hearing protection all the time. Maybe I’m only shooting a .22 rimfire — that doesn’t stop the guy next to me from shooting his .300 Win. Mag! But any smallbore airgun, even the really loud ones like the Condor or the Evanix Windy City, still aren’t as loud as my .22. So, if I shoot alone with my smallbore airguns, I don’t need hearing protection.
I have to pay a lot to get an accurate firearm, but an accurate airgun can be very cheap. The $35 cost of a Beeman P17 is a trifling compared to what it costs to get an accurate M1911A1 pistol. And then I can shoot the air pistol for a lot less money than the firearm, which means a lot more shooting. Sure, airguns don’t shoot accurately at the far distances firearms do, but that gets us back to human scale.