By B.B. Pelletier

Foot-pounds of energy. Muzzle energy. What does it all mean? Well, it’s a way to express the relative power of an airgun. When I was a kid, the big deal was shooting through one side of a tin can or sticking a pellet in a piece of wood. Both were considered the measure of power for an airgun.


Benjamin’s 3030 BB gun was made for about a decade, starting in 1965.

Benjamin recognized this and advertised their new 3030 CO2 BB gun as being able to shoot through BOTH SIDES of a 5-gallon steel pail! They knew who their customers were and what they wanted! Of course in my day, cans were actually made of steel plate, and common airguns were nowhere near as powerful as they are today.


The 3030 ad speaks for itself

Super penetration from Sheridan
In the 1950s, Sheridan ran an ad showing the penetration of ONE INCH of wood! You think that didn’t freak us out? Those demonstrations meant more to us as kids than foot-pounds would have. We didn’t learn about foot-pounds of energy until eighth-grade science class, and, judging from the confusion among airgunners today, I’d say they haven’t taught it in years.

Velocity is a selling point
Velocity became the big selling point until airgun velocity went so high that it no longer has any real meaning. I remember cars in the 1950s that had speedometers that read up to 120 mph, even though the cars they were in would top out at 95. Besides, where do you drive 120? I don’t mean where CAN you do it – just where DO you do it? It’s better to have a car that always starts and always gets you where you’re going than to have bragging rights based on a speed that may not even be safe in that car. Real fast airguns aren’t accurate at those speeds, SO WHO CARES?!

Foot-pounds make more sense
Foot-pounds bring things back into perspective. A Beeman Sportsman S500 generates about 5 foot-pounds at the muzzle. A Beeman R9 generates in excess of 14 foot-pounds at the muzzle. Which one is the better airgun for hunting? It’s a no-brainer! A pellet from the R9 will still be at 6 foot-pounds (one more than the S500 at the muzzle!) at 45 yards! A REAL no-brainer!

Comparing guns by foot-pounds makes everything clear. If it takes 6 foot-pounds to humanely kill a squirrel, then no one needs to ask which air pistol is suitable for hunting squirrels. They all generate LESS than 6 foot-pounds at the muzzle.

This website has a handy energy calculator for you to make your own foot-pound determinations. Don’t know what weight pellet they used for a gun’s velocity test? Guess! It’s a cinch the Beeman P1 doesn’t get 600 f.p.s. with 25-grain .177 pellets. You can’t even FIND 25-grain .177 pellets!

Try to get on board with energy figures, if you can. They can take you to the next level of airgun enjoyment.