by B.B. Pelletier

This question comes up all the time. Most people who ask it think that if only all the airguns they were interested in were reviewed side-by-side, it would be easy to make a decision. I disagree. I think there are some very subtle cues that we each follow when making a big decision, and all the input in the world will not dissuade us unless we discover that something we thought was true…turns out not to be.

Listen to yourself!
You know what you want better than anyone. Most of you are not ruled by money as much as you believe. You simply use the cost of something as a substitute for some really important piece of information that you lack or perhaps don’t even know exists. Let me give some examples.

Example #1: When buying exercise equipment, I used to shop for what I wanted within my price range. Then one day I happened to try out an expensive piece of equipment that was very similar to one I already had. It was so much better that I found myself scheming how to raise the money for this thing that did exactly what I was already doing – but cost more than three times as much! There was so much more performance in that equipment that I wanted it at almost any price!

Example #2: I’d been using an FWB 124 for field target for more than a year when I happened to try a TX 200 underlever spring-piston rifle. With the experience of many matches behind me, I immediately understood why everyone was proclaiming the TX 200 as the finest spring rifle in the world. Money was no longer the issue. I had to get a TX 200 – and I did!

Example #3: About two years after I bought the TX200, a new type of TX came out. It had the underlever hidden in the stock and looked like a sleeker gun. Then, I tried one! The cocking linkage was much harsher and the rifle recoiled like a Chinese springer, which is to say it was jerky and it buzzed a lot. Apologists all around me were buying this new gun and having it tuned down to 12 foot-pounds to make it smoother and easier to cock, but I refused to say the emperor had his clothes on. A few more years passed and I noticed that this new model had disappeared from the scene. It never was a nice air rifle and no amount of hype and wishing could make it one.

Ask the right question!
I sometimes get suckered into written conversations like this:

ewok: BB, what’s the most powerful air rifle in the world?

BB: ewok, Dennis Quackenbush makes a .79-caliber rifle that puts out more than 1,000 foot-pounds.

ewok: BB, I don’t know much about foot-pounds. Can you tell me how many fps that would be in .177?

BB: ewok, it isn’t a .177 caliber gun. It’s a .790 caliber gun. It shoots a 2.5-oz. bullet. It’s used to hunt elk and bison.

ewok: BB, where do I get those .790 pellets? My Wal-Mart doesn’t have them, and the guy at the register didn’t know what I was talking about.

BB: ewok, the rifle we are talking about is custom built and costs about $1,500.

ewok: Good heavens! I don’t need to spend $1,500 just to kill a few squirrels in my attic, do I?

BB: No, and with the rifle we have been discussing, you would shoot through the squirrel, then through your roof and through several walls in your neighbor’s house! You asked me what the most powerful air rifle was and I told you.

ewok: All I want to do is get rid of a few squirrels, and I don’t want to see them suffer.

BB: Get a Sheridan Blue Streak and pump it six times for each shot.

Ask the right question, No. 2
ewok: I want the best air rifle I can get for $400.

BB: At that price I like the RWS 48, the RWS 46, the BSA Tech Star and the HW 95.

ewok: Which one can my 11-year-old daughter use for Pony Club matches?

BB: A Daisy model 853 target rifle.

ewok: Why didn’t you list that the first time?

BB: I didn’t know you had a daughter or that she’s 11!

What is important to YOU?
The reason people ask the opinion of others when there’s a difficult choice to be made is because they don’t know what they want. They haven’t figured out what’s important to them, so they haven’t a clue where to begin looking. I once was asked if the RWS 34 is a nice breakbarrel air rifle. I said it was (it is!) and the fellow thanked me. About two weeks later he called me up and jumped all over me for not telling him about the Beeman Crow Magnum! We had been talking about a $100 rifle (this was many years ago), and he was angry that I didn’t also mention a $1,200 rifle in the same breath! So, when he finished I told him about the hand-made Whiscombe breakbarrel that cost $2,000. He said he wasn’t interested in spending that kind of money. But I learned that he’d just bought a Crow Magnum and didn’t want to hear about any other airguns! Find out what is important to YOU!

You know, I like this column! I’m going to do this again.