With the great number of models and powerplants plus the huge price spread in airguns today, picking one specific gun is a challenging task. It's even more difficult for someone new to airgunning who has to learn the technology before making a choice.
You want to get something right away, but how do you know whether it's the right gun? If there were airgun stores in most big cities the problem would be somewhat easier to solve, but even then how would you know whether you had found exactly what you wanted?
To narrow the field, you need to answer some questions:
- How will you use the gun? General shooting? Hunting? Competition? For each of these, there are a host of other questions, like...What will you be hunting or what kind of competition will you be involved in? Sometimes the answer also provides much of your decision criteria, such as the rules for target shooting that govern the few models that exist.
- How strong are you and how much work are you willing to do? Spring-powered guns require a cocking effort measured in pounds.
Some of these guns, such as the Webley Patriot
or the Gamo 1250 Hunter, are much more difficult to cock and only a strong adult male and very few strong women will be able to operate it.
You may be very strong, but you may not want to work that hard to shoot. If so, choose a spring gun that's easy to cock, or better yet, get a precharged pneumatic or CO2 gun.
- Do you want to hunt or kill pests? If so, an air rifle is almost certainly mandated. There are very few air pistols powerful enough to kill animals reliably. Between .25 and .22, the best hunting caliber is probably .22 because there are a greater number of pellets available in that caliber, and the .22 hits game with more authority than the smaller calibers. The .25-caliber is also good for hunting, but there are far fewer pellets in that size and they cost much more than .22 pellets.
Though the Beeman P1(also known as Weihrauch HW45) is considered to be a powerful air pistol, it really doesn't have the power needed to dispatch game other than the smallest varmints such as mice and rats at close range. If you want to hunt with an air pistol, it will have to be a precharged pneumatic generating at least 12 foot-pounds at the muzzle more than twice what the P1 delivers.
- Do you want a repeater? If so, your choices are automatically narrowed. Most "semiautomatic" air pistols are really revolvers, which means their triggers are usually not as light as the trigger on a true semiautomatic gun. Repeating rifles used to be scarce but they are starting to take over the market among the precharged models.
- Will you need to mount an optical sight or can you use open sights? The answer will steer your choice, as many airguns are either set up to accept scopes or else they have no provisions for mounting them at all.
A TX 200 gives nearly the same accuracy as the Whiscombe but the TX has about half the power, recoils and comes in a single caliber per rifle. At less than $500, though, it's a heck of a bargain!
- How much quality do you want? This is a legitimate question where airguns are concerned. A handmade Whiscombe recoilless spring air rifle may be no more accurate than an Air Arms TX 200 costing one-fifth the price, but the Whiscombe offers features like caliber interchangeability, recoilless operation, magnum power and exclusivity.
- How much power do you expect? Don't just say, "As much as I can get," because that will land you in a region you probably don't want. Be reasonable.
A Sheridan Blue Streak produces about 14 foot-pounds of energy, which is a 15-grain pellet moving around 675 f.p.s.
That's good enough for plinking and pest elimination, not to mention cottontail rabbits. You will have to pump the gun eight times for this level of power.
A BSA Supersport Magnum, which is a breakbarrel spring rifle will produce about the same energy, but only requires that the barrel be broken open one time.
Some precharged rifles now feature adjustable power.
Both the Korean-made Career 707 (formerly known as the RWS CA 707 -- PyramydAir remark)
and the Talon from Air Force are quickly adjustable by the owner without resorting to tools.
They can range in power from as low at 6 foot-pounds to over 60 for the Career.
This gives you a rifle you can shoot quietly in the basement and also hunt larger airgun game at longer ranges.
There are many other questions to ask, but these are the most important ones. The obvious question not yet addressed is, "How much do you want to pay?" It was left off the list because it is either a non-issue or else it is so important that it defines the answers to all the other questions. You can avoid most of the price pitfalls by doing some research of your own. This magazine is the best place to begin, but printed catalogs offer a lot of information as well. Listen to what people say about the guns you are interested in, but be skeptical of individual opinions. When you hear that 90 percent of the shooters like a certain model, though, there's a pretty good chance they agree for a reason.
The bottom line is this: what you buy should be close enough to what you initially want to determine if airgunning is the sport for you. If it is, you haven't bought the last gun you'll ever own.