by B.B. Pelletier

I hear this a lot from people outside the airgun community. They’ve gone all their lives thinking airguns were inexpensive copies of firearms, fit only for children, when suddenly they come face-to-face with a Logun Gladi8tor or a Weihrauch 100S, two rifles that retail for over $1,100. The shock of the encounter blows them away, and the ironic thing is – they aren’t one-quarter of the way up the big-ticket airgun ladder. They are gawking at Pontiac Firebirds, and no one has told them about Ferraris yet!

These stunned shooters then ask the title question, because how could a BB gun be worth as much as a Kimber (or more!)? We overlook the BB gun insult, though many of them do know better, but perhaps the limit of their exposure has been to the stacks of cheap Chinese springers that still show up at gun shows. They once saw a Diana RWS 34 (ooooooh!) and they were amazed how much it resembled a “real gun.” Surely, that must be the pinnacle of modern airguns!

Let’s be reasonable
As a veteran airgunner, I try to put our hobby into perspective for them. They know Rock Island makes a good, inexpensive variation of the M1911A1 pistol, and they also know that Wilson Combat makes a better one for a lot more money. If you put the same development into the Rock Island gun as is in the Wilson, it will probably be just as nice. So it shouldn’t be much of a stretch to grasp that if an AirForce Talon selling for under $500 can shoot as well as their Ruger 10/22 Target that costs about the same, it’s worth it. But can it – really? Yes and no, and I am not waffling on this answer. This is the key element that makes expensive airguns so wonderful and the main reason why those who know what they can do are willing to pay the price. The Ruger 10/22 is limited by ammunition. If you get a bad round – and they happen more often than rimfire shooters like to admit these days – your accuracy goes down the drain. The bad news is that YOU have little control over the ammo, other than buying the best stuff in large lots. The ammo maker is still largely responsible for how well your Ruger shoots.

Airgunners are like handloaders!
Same thing with the Talon, only, like a handloader, YOU control the ammunition! The Talon takes a pellet – one that you have selected from the best lot of pellets you have found for the gun. If you are fastidious, you’ve weighed all your pellets and sorted them into lots that vary in one-tenth grain increments. It isn’t the weight you are concerned with; it’s the uniformity. And like a bullet caster, you have learned that small weight variations also mean small dynamic variations that affect ballistics. I won’t bore you with the other preparations because we’ve covered them many times in this blog. For the benefit of first-time readers (and perhaps doubters), they include optically centering your scope, using a scope level, shooting inside the optimum pressure curve for your gun and – ABOVE ALL – shooting on as calm a day as you can find! That’s where the real precision comes in. Moving air affects pellets more than it does bullets. Also, no experienced long-range airgunner will shoot a pellet above about 900 f.p.s., in spite of all the hype they see. Yes, 1,600 f.p.s. is possible with the new Gamo Raptor pellet, and, no, you can’t expect to hit anything with it at that speed. I addressed that in my CF-X review. In Gamo’s video of the pellet in the field, the shots were taken at only 10 meters, or so.

Let’s set some parameters before we continue. I am talking about the ability to group 10 shots at 50 yards. Beyond 50 yards, an airgun is a special challenge that I can discuss, but not in this post. Don’t let our firearms friends get away with claiming their 10/22 Target can group 10 shots in 3/8″ at 50 yards. Yes, it CAN happen, and it does happen about as often as there is a Powerball winner. A Ruger 10/22 shooting the best target ammo is doing well to keep 10 shots inside a half-inch at 50 yards, when all the measurements are real. An AirForce Talon can do the same UNDER IDEAL CONDITIONS. Please read on to learn what those conditions are.

Airgun scale
A good long-range airgunner learns to “dope” (figure out) the wind. Just like a buffalo hunter with a .45/70 has to dope the wind to make a 500-yard shot because his 500-grain bullet is going to be airborn a very long time. Therefore, a 50-yard bullseye shooter shooting a $1,000 air rifle has to do the same thing for the same reason. Ah, but the difference is that he’s only shooting 50 yards, yet it is as challenging as a 500-yard shot with a lead bullet from a blackpowder rifle. There are a heck of a lot more opportunities to shoot 50 yards in America than there are opportunities to shoot 500 yards! You shooters in Wyoming and Montana know how good you have it; but, with a precision adult air rifle, a fellow in Syracuse, New York, can shoot with the same challenges, except for the noise, recoil and expense.

Ah, yes – THE EXPENSE!
A firearm shooter can pay $2,800 for a Shiloh Sharps (or $1,200 for a Pedersoli lookalike) and still be faced with 40-cents-a-round ammo costs. Forgetting travel to the range (and, if your 1,000-yard range really IS in your backyard, I hate you!) and cleanup of the rifle and cases after each excursion, the cost of doing business with a powder-burner goes right on happening with every pull of the trigger. The long-range airgunner pays under $9 for 500 .177 caliber hand-sorted JSB Exact pellets (and still bitches about the cost!). The last time I checked, air was free – or, at the worst, very reasonably priced. So, he can save up for his next toy even sooner.

Have I answered the question?
It’s in the third paragraph and also in the one above. The answer is this – is a Wilson Combat .45 that much better than a Rock Island? Is a Shiloh Sharps that much better than a Pedersoli? To some they are and to others they aren’t. And, so it is with expensive airguns. Think of the AirForce Talon as the Pedersoli and the Gladi8tor as the Shiloh. Both are expensive, all right, but one is considerably more than the other. Both will get you into the game. And, YES, airguns can be worth $1,000, and even a whole lot more!