How many shots will an airgun get over its life?

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

This report covers:

  • Action airguns
  • Materials failure
  • Dielectric welding
  • Airguns with regulators
  • CO2 guns
  • Pneumatic airguns
  • Spring piston airguns
  • The lowly BB gun
  • But what is the number?
  • The point

This report is written at the request of reader redrafter. I made the title long, because it contains some things we need to think about. If an airgun is overhauled and gets new seals and springs, is that the end of its life? I don’t think so. What I am calling the end of an airgun’s life is when it no longer works and cannot be repaired with parts that are available. I say that because a careful worker can often extend the life of something beyond even that end. So, my definition of an airgun’s life is when there are no longer any repair parts that are easily available.

Action airguns

Let’s get these out of the way up front. Action airguns include the action pistols, submachine guns, revolvers and rifles that allow rapid fire like the Crosman 1077. As a class of airgun, these are the most likely guns to fail, and that is because of how they are intended to be used — i.e. rapid-fire most of the time. Within this group some guns have a reputation for early failure, while others, like the 1077, seem to last much longer than their synthetic materials would imply.

My advice for this class of airgun is don’t get too attached. Sooner or later, the rapid firing they are subjected to will wear their synthetic parts past their serviceable limits. And outright abuse, which this class of airgun gets more than any other, will speed that up.

Materials failure

When the wrong materials are used, they will fail. One textbook example of that is the Schimel GP22 air pistol that has a number of materials defects. First, the cocking arm is made of diecast metal that can do the job as long as it is in good shape, but if the casting has an unseen flaw such as a void in the metal, it will corrode over time and eventually fail at that point. Diecast is not the best material for strain. On the other hand, Daisy uses a plastic pump arm on their 853 target rifle. It seems flimsy, but they are not known to break easily. Sometimes the material that seems flimsy will surprise you.

Schimel cock
The cocking arm of a Schimel pistol is diecast metal that sometimnes breaks.

Dielectric welding

The Schimel pistol also has problems with some of its parts welding themselves to others over long periods of time. The climate has a lot to do with this.

Schimel
Different metals in contact in the Schimel sometimes cause dielectric welding over time.

The Schimel is a study in materials shortcomings. Its plastic grips shrink and warp over time and its o-rings are made from incorrect material for use with CO2. They absorb the gas and swell to many times their size, preventing the removal of an expended CO2 cartridge for hours after it is exhausted.  Most problems are because the Schimel was built at a time when modern synthetic materials were still in their infancy. The makers used what was available.

The synthetic piston seals in FWB 124s, all Walther spring rifles and all Diana spring rifles that were made in the 1960s and into the 1970s will fail through dry rot. Whether used or stored, they all fail with time. The replacements are made from the correct materials and the problem no longer exists.

Now, by my definition, the guns made from steel whose seals fail can be repaired and live on. By my definition, their lives are not over when they need a rebuild. On the other hand, guns like Schimels often fail in ways that make them non-repairable.

Airguns with regulators

It isn’t a question of “if” a reg will fail; it’s when it will happen. They all fail over time, so your best bet is to buy a gun whose reg is easily repaired by the user.

On the other hand, regulators are repairable, so they don’t end the gun’s life when they fail. They just cause a momentary stoppage until they are either repaired or removed.

CO2 guns

This class of airguns contains all the single shots like the Crosman 180s and the Sheridan 2260s. These guns last longer than the action airguns that are also CO2-powered, plus they are very rebuildable. Some of them can be built entirely from parts! As long as the parts are available, these guns can be restored and renewed. Their life is pretty much indefinite.

On the other hand, there are more complex CO2 airguns with proprietary parts. These guns will continue to function only as long as those parts are available. The Crosman 600 pistol is one such example. There is a cam and a feed arm the cam operates that feeds pellets from the inline magazine to the barrel. If either of these parts breaks, there are no replacements — aside from parts guns. But since these parts are usually the first to go, you never find them.

Crosman 600
Crosman’s 600 pistol is like an action pistol, but its great trigger and accuracy boost it into the ranks of a serious shooter. When proprietary parts break, there are no replacements.

Pneumatic airguns

I could break this class down to the less expensive multi-pumps and the more expensive PCPs, but in general these also have an indefinite life. But there are a couple of known issues. The guns with barrels soldered to the pump tubes can separate at that juncture. Scoping them often causes this. Once separated, no one has yet successfully devised a commercial method of resoldering them. Perhaps one or two clever workmen have done it, but no repair center I know of offers this repair.

The other major failure happens when the pump mechanisms are overstressed and the pivot pins hog out their pin holes in brass tubes. Repairing this failure is a thankless task that is possible but not economically feasible. In other words it can be done if you have the money and find the right repairman.

Spring piston airguns

This class of airgun lasts for hundreds of thousands to millions of rounds. The uber-powerful sporters will be the first to wear out from parts strain, but the milder shooters can last and last. Many BSA rifles built before 1910 are still going strong, with no signs of failure. There are club target rifles whose lives have passed the one million-shot mark and they are still going strong. They will occasionally need seals and springs, but everything else just keeps working.

After an overhaul (new spring, piston seal, breech seal) a spring piston airgun can be expected to get 10,000 to 75,000 shots — all depending on the power and construction of the gun.

The lowly BB gun

And the longevity winner is — the common Daisy-style lever action BB gun. The U.S. Army had guns they documented shooting over 20 million shots in the Army’s Quick Kill training program! Sure, parts were replaced, but the guns themselves kept going and going. In fact, Daisy’s former marketing VP, Joe Murfin, once lamented to me jokingly that Daisy made those guns too well! At least I think he was joking.

The barrel of a centerfire firearm wears rapidly and may get 1,000 to 5,000 useful shots in its lifetime. It is difficult to replace when needed. A BB gun shot tube, by contrast, is an inexpensive part that any owner can replace.

But what is the number?

I’ve told you about the relative longevity of different types of airguns, but that doesn’t answer the specific question that was asked. How many shots will an airgun get over its lifetime? It is impossible to be specific, but I can give you a relative scale to consider.

An action airgun will get from thousands to tens of thousands of shots.

Airguns made from improper materials may get from thousands to tens of thousands of shots. The more they are shot when new, the more shots they will get.

The life of many CO2 guns cannot be estimated, because it is possible to replace all of their parts. As long as good parts are available, their shot count is unlimited. I’m talking about the simpler guns when I say this. The complex designs will still contain proprietary parts that, once they fail, they bring down the entire airgun.

Spring piston guns may get millions of shots over their life, providing they are maintained and not abused. The lower-powered guns will last the longest.

The point

The point of all this is, in most cases, an airgun is built to outlive its original owner. There are some exceptions that I noted, but in most cases, there is no practical end to an airgun’s life.

27 thoughts on “How many shots will an airgun get over its life?


  1. Hi BB
    What a great report!
    You have just about answered all my questions and given me enough information to let me answer the rest by myself.
    I guess I don’t have to start babying my old IZH61 as I thought I would with its high shot count and to think I still have the bag of original seals and mainspring that came with the gun – unused! I might never have to use them! Same with the AK Style Bam B3. Both guns are no way close to being magnum springers and this is the reason for their longevity. A little maintenance and lube every now and then and they’ll even outlast the Energizer Bunny.
    A few years ago I went over to the other Dark side (airsoft) and picked up a couple of guns.We have this silly law here that stipulates airsoft replicas must have an MV of between 366fps to 500fps w/.20g bb’s in order to not require any licensing requirements. Any gun shooting less than 366fps w/.20g bb’s is considered an illegal replica unless made of 80% clear plastic. Any gun shooting more than 500fps w/.20g bb’s is considered a firearm and requires a PAL. In fact now, by law, all airguns are now considered to be firearms!
    Pardon me for the rant, but with these laws, in order to bring a lot of the lower velocity airsoft guns into the country they had to be upgraded from green gas to co2 in order to get an MV within the legal limits. Even with increasing the valve scantlings to handle co2 (the red valves) the lifetime of some of these guns was considerably less than 1000 shots before breakdown, sometimes catastrophic!
    One of the guns I have is a KJW KP06 HI CAPA pistol. It is a wonder to shoot, a large frame .45, accurate with heavy blowback and puts .25g bb’s down the tube at just over 400fps. This fine gun has one serious drawback in that it has never seen more than about 600 shots without a serious breakdown! The gun was never designed for and just cannot handle the co2 overpressure!
    After nearly two and a half years local parts availability is starting to dry up. North American availability is starting to get very iffy if at all and the cost here is sometimes outta sight. I have found a parts supplier in France that seems to have all the parts at a super reasonable price and will ship to me in Western Canada for just $6.00 per large package of multiple items for anything I need.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is that when the parts supplier in France drys up, as you say, the lifetime of the gun is over. Depending on how long I can stretch its lifetime, which I think will only be for another year or so, and considering initial costs and maintenance it will have been a very expensive gun to shoot.
    But still a wonderful gun!! Worth every dime!!
    And that makes up for a lot of the hassle keeping this gun shooting.
    Cheers
    Dave


  2. Nice article, good info., good reminders and some reality tossed in. Hat’s off to the makers that continue to supply parts and support. To have a gun that someone can not repair,.. I think leaves a bit of a bad taste. A taste that might sour someone from continuing in air guns = no more sales of (anything). Support = sales of parts and more, new air guns.

    The 1,000 – 5,000 shot count for a center fire barrel surprised me. Then again, who has the resources and a range to do that? Not many.

    Good Day all,… Chris



      • Yes, .22 rimfire firearms can have a very long life. More times than not, the rifling in them is damaged by over-cleaning (especially from the muzzle!). I have a Geco Carbiner, an inexpensive single shot .22 made back in 1919 (Germany cranked out a ton of these things after WWI as part of their efforts at economic recovery). It’s nearly 100 years old, and God alone knows how many rounds have been fired through it; thousands have been fired by me in the 37 years I have had it. One gunsmith was able to build up weld material on it to fix a safety issue; years later, another gunsmith friend of mine was able to hammer the firing pin (and re-heat treat it) to elongate it for more reliable ignition, and I am still shooting this gun today. I think the worker who made it a century ago would be proud to see it still in use. =)


      • Michael,

        Rimfires can last for 100,000 shots if they aren’t cleaned too often. They used to rust in their bore due to corrosive priming (Lesmoke was a contributor), but today they are very clean. Of course the faster .17s won’t last as long.

        B.B.


  3. BB,

    It is my intent to hand my 1906 BSA down to my grandson. Hopefully he will learn how to care for it and pass it down to his grandson when the time comes.

    By the way, you do realize you posted two articles today, don’t you?


  4. B.B.

    Interesting article! Sounds like everybody should buy a parts gun…..
    Maybe at some point you could do an article on the different types of corrosion and how they effect air guns.
    I’m off to store my air guns in prepare bags(they sit in a “harsh marine environment” unloved for 6 months.

    -Y



  5. Hi B.B.

    Would you please expand on your comments about regulators. You seem to have had (very) negative experience(s)with them and I would like to understand what the concerns are.

    I have four (FX, Walther, Weihrauch) regulated PCP rifles and my research doesn’t find them to be troublesome or particularly inclined to failure.

    Agreed, a regulator does add a bit of complexity to a rifle which could be a possible point of failure but IMHO, they provide a great convenience relative to any potential risk.

    I kinda think of regulators like transmissions on cars – you can chose a standard if you like but I prefer an automatic. Its nice to be able to “fill and forget” knowing that as long as I am in the green area of the gauge my shots are going to be at a consistent velocity.

    Hank


  6. B.B.,

    An excellent report on an important but often overlooked topic. Years ago you mentioned wear and tear of airguns in a report on a different subject, and that brief mention altered how I purchase and collect airguns.

    First, I bought more of them! Seriously, when it came to CO2 airguns, especially blowback action shooters and wear-prone revolvers, I decided that spreading the wear around would perhaps lead to greater longevity of each individual airgun. Furthermore, putting a CO2 airgun down in the sun for five or ten minutes after shooting a full magazine lets it warm up for a second round of shooting, so I will sometimes rotate three or four CO2 airguns around in a plinking session.

    Second, I decided I really ought to have at least one classic steel air pistol, a Webley Senior in my case, perhaps to remind me that its stablemates are much more frail but also so that when I hold it and shoot it, I will appreciate the craftsmanship that went into it.

    Finally, I have come to appreciate most the very best springer air rifles that I am fortunate to have. I have single stroke and multi-pump pneumatics, a couple PCPs, and a few CO2 air rifles, but my German springers are the elite in every respect.

    Michael


  7. B.B.
    Great report, as usual! My old Sheridan C-model is still going strong after more than 10,000 pellets through her; I’m sure she could do ten times that, I just don’t know if I could handle all the pumping, but I love that old gun. =)

    On another note, getting back to your article on long-range-Keith-style-shooting, what I was trying to say is that it would be nice to see you do a report on that type of shooting with air pistols. For example, a Crosman 357 shooting at about 450 fps and sighted in at 10 yards would have a drop of over two feet at 50 yards. It would be cool if you could shoot something like that (or a Beeman P3) at a coffee can in a field at 50 yards and see how much front sight you had to hold up to hit it. *shrugs* Just my 2 cents; I don’t have enough room to find out. =>

    Keep up the good work!
    take care & God bless,
    dave


  8. B.B.
    Nice report. Funny reading about the die cast metal cocking arm fail on the Schimel. Well I guess plastic can have voids or bad places in them too. One of my boy’s new Ryder Ryder cocking levers broke on me. I was cocking it when it snapped off. now it’s just a trigger guard left. It does still work though, it’s just the cocking effort is much more now (only an adult can do it). I was going to use it for a parts gun, but my son in law wanted it just because a kid can’t cock it unless he was around.
    Doc


  9. Hm, I feel somewhat vindicated with my 1077. Maybe I got unlucky with two of them breaking on me, but it sounds like they are not meant to last forever. And it’s important that they are cheap enough to replace easily. For my IZH 61, I’m going with the original estimate of centuries. Duskwight has supplied me with enough parts for my lifetime anyway.

    On the subject of longevity, my old airsoft guns have resurrected themselves from the dead. I had written off my automatic M4 whose battery had been unused for years. But my young protege got it working. I also gave him my spring piston sniper rifle that was the very first gun I bought in my latter day renaissance and the one I learned to shoot with. Initially, I forgot where I had stored the magazine, but I finally found and delivered it. At our next meeting, my protege was beaming with a grin that reminded me of my own feelings with that gun. Time was when the arrival of my first airgun was all that mattered. And ever since, I don’t think any of my guns has surpassed that initial rush. The IZH 61 and my M1 Garand might have equaled but not surpassed it. My original scope for the rifle is long gone, but the prices have come down dramatically in the 12 years since. So, I expect that PA will have a new customer.

    Matt61



  10. I have several action pistols, both semi automatics and revolvers. It seems to me the harsh blow back on the semi automatics will guarantee a short life span of the weapon. On the revolvers, the seal failing where the C02 valve is hidden in the frame. What kind of a tool does it take to replace them ? When the novelty of rapid fire wears off, I can always go back to my Turkish made Webley Tempest 22 . I may forego all the hype of the modern action pistols and get another Tempest in .177 . Hopefully it will be a bit easier to cock. Thanks for the report BB.
    Harvey


  11. General comment on air rifles
    I have an assortment of air rifles and have come to the conclusion that most of the manufactures are stupid!
    #1 aside from the QB79 why has no one come out with a CO2 rifle that is ready for a paintball or HPA tank without an offset adapter or ANT adapter or some other expensive device
    #2 the Umarex Gauntlet seems an ideal product yet they make potential buyers wait 7 months
    #3 Why can’t manufacturers come up with an alternative cheap ammo that doesn’t require fiddling with a bunch of expensive little magazines? At least the the 1066 magazines are cheap.
    #4 The manufacturers insist on selling decent rifles with useless cheap scopes. They detract from some good products. First time buyers will not enjoy using them and they give up.
    #5 No creative thinking in this industry. How about a PCP pump powered by a stationary bicycle
    #6 Industry has achieved very good accuracy, now its time to focus on ease of use


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