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Education / Training What type of game is appropriate for a big bore airgun? – Part 1

What type of game is appropriate for a big bore airgun? – Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I begin, a reader named max_power176 emailed Pyramyd AIR requesting a report on the Marksman 1010 pistol. Pyramyd contacted me, and I want that person to know that I will do a report on the gun. For future reference, the best way to contact me is by leaving a comment on any one of the postings. I read them all and respond to those that require it.

Second announcement – I will soon report on the Crosman C11 that shoots steel BBs! We have at least one reader who is excited about this new pistol, and I had the chance to shoot one last week, so I’ll get right on it for you.

Crosman’s new C11 BB pistol joins their lineup with the other “4 horsemen of the AIRpocalypse.” I will cover it for you soon.

Today’s post is at the request of Joshua Ungier, the owner of Pyramyd AIR. He gets questions from customers all the time about appropriate game for the big bore air rifles he sells. I am going to do this once, but I do not want to get into a long discussion about hunting and what gun is appropriate for which game.

There’s game…and then there’s GAME!
Game varies a lot from region to region. Whitetail deer, for instance, can vary in weight from a stunted 65 lbs. to around 300 lbs. (live weight). That’s a huge spread, and the larger animal requires more energy than the smaller one for a humane kill. The difference in energy required isn’t great, but it does take more to put bigger game down. The common North American black bear weighs 200 to 600 lbs., but there is a runt variation I call a honey bear (not supposed to live in North America, but they do) that seldom weighs more than 145 lbs. When these small bears are fully mature they look like black bear cubs. The energy needed to take the smaller bears would be significantly less than that needed for a 600-lb. black bear.

The difference between subsistence hunting and hunting for sport
We know that Eskimos have been harvesting seals for more than a century with .22 rimfire rifles. They also hunt polar bear with the .22 Hornet. These cartridges are not recommended for game larger than woodchucks or coyotes when sport hunters use them, but in the hands of a skilled subsistence hunter, one who is willing to die when things go bad, they will do the job. I have personally killed a whitetail doe that probably weighed 100-120 pounds, using a .22 long rifle. The deer had been gut-shot by a neighboring Bubba using a 12-gauge shotgun (with birdshot!!!), and had to be put out of her misery. The head shot was taken at less than five feet and was instantly effective.

The REAL problem
The problem with hunting big game with airguns is that not all hunters are responsible sportsmen. Whenever the wrong person reads information like I’m putting in this post, they selectively filter out what they don’t want to think about and start creating a fantasy about what is possible. They read, for instance, that Philippine farmers kill water buffalo with Farco air shotguns and immediately start planning a safari. The fact that those farmers shoot a spear tipped with dynamite escapes their comprehension! If they do get out into the woods with an airgun, the chances are good they are hopelessly under-gunned and poised to do something very stupid. Fifty years ago, these people were called “arm-chair hunters” because all of their expertise came from reading, not from actual experience.

There have been some SERIOUS mistakes made by airgunners!
In the 1970s, there was a fellow who wrote about killing wild goats on California’s Catalina island with a .177 FWB 124 spring rifle. That’s correct, a sub-12 foot-pound air rifle used to kill goats. They are small goats, to be sure, but it’s still not right. There is a DVD being sold that shows an 800-pound elk shot with an air rifle! It took three shots and too many long minutes for the animal to succumb, and it was all recorded on video that anyone can see. WORST OF ALL was that the video Gamo showed at the 2006 SHOT Show where a Gamo Hunter 1250 killed a reported 180-lb. boar with a Gamo Raptor pellet!

Ladies and gentlemen, these incidents are going to give legitimate airgunners a black eye if they become well-known. They are unsportsmanlike and have no business being allowed to happen. However, there ARE legitimate uses for big bore airguns!

Tomorrow, I’ll finish this report with detailed information about what big game can be taken with a big bore air rifle.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

46 thoughts on “What type of game is appropriate for a big bore airgun? – Part 1”

  1. Before you start with your professional oppinion. I’d like to state the only people I feel are qualified to hunt larger game with airguns are people who are proficient bow hunters already.

    The effective ranges, stalking and concealment required, the inportance of shot placment…it’s all far more similar to bowhunting than rifle huting.

    So alas, my Mac1 tuned ultra 9mm is being sold. It was indeed my dream to take a deer with it. But I’ve decided against it, so pending the cash arriving she’s going out.

    • I can see your point i bow hunt and my friends that use rifles are hunting with ranges where it does not matter what you wear or smell like. Deer, boar, bear cant even see or smell that fare as a bow hunter we have to get up close and personal and are shoots have to ethical and clean. If you want hunting to have acceptance to are perspective communities

  2. Tony,

    If you have a .177 air rifle, it’s a Benjamin, not a Sheridan. They are .20 caliber only.

    Since I can’t see your photo, please describe your unknown gun in detail. Start with all the markings. Then tell me the caliber, if you know it. Will a .177 pellet drop through the barrel? That will tell me what it isn’t.

    Can you please describe the gun more thoroughly?


  3. OK Here goes,

    Same charecteristics as the benji 397, but appears to be larger in caliber. guessing .22.
    pump style with same type of legth in both barrel and resevoir.

    Shorter stock and pump handle in a lighter shade of stain, but beefier in size. meaning barrel and resevoir length hangs over front 6.5″ instead of 2″.
    It has a rear peep sight. similar but larger front blade sight.
    Barrel extends 1″ past resevoir with threads and a finger screw ring. This gun appears to be very old and unscrewed out of rear stock. pumping doesn’t hold air. I want to restore it if its worth doing. any ideas??

  4. Tony,

    Good description. Let’s talk about that finger screw ring at the front of the gun. When it is unscrewed, can the tall front sight be pulled forward and laid down to the right, revealing a shorter front post? If so, I know what you have.

    If not, are there ANY markings on the gun?


  5. Just noticed back of stock says:

    Crossman Arms Co. Rochester NY, in a circle with a pellet in the center.

    Also trigger is a bent to concave, small piece of steel, with an elongated circle of steel protecting it. very basic in appearance.

  6. Tony,

    Your rifle is a Crosman Town & Country, model 108. It was made in 1949. At the time it was an expensive airgun and today it is a valuable collectible. It’s worth $175 to 450, depending on condition.

    Pyramyd AIR can fix it for you (ask for Boris) or try


  7. Tony,

    Just make it shoot again. From time to time there are people who restore old guns like yours. I expect you would be looking at $350-500 for a job like that. Right now I don’t know of anyone doing that kind of work. Be careful not to send it to a butcher shop or you’ll end up with a hot-rodded piece of worthless crap.


  8. H.B.

    This is a direct quote from the 392 manual

    The rear sight may be adjusted to shoot higher or lower (elevation). Turn the elevation screw clockwise to make the pellet hit higher on the target. Turn the elevation screw counterclockwise to make the pellet hit lower on the target. (Fig 6.)

    The rear sight may aslo be adjusted to shoot right or left (windage). To make the pellet hit further to the left on the target, loosen the windage screw on the right side of the sight and tighten the windage screw on the left side of the sight. To make the pellet hit further to the right on the target, loosen the windage screw on the left side of the sight and tighten the windage screw on the left side of the sight and tighten the windage screw on the right side of the sight (Fig. 6).

    Those are the complete instructions from the manual. They seem pretty good to me.

    To oil, flip the gun on its back and open the pump handle. Drop two or three drops of Crosman Pelgunoil on the dark pump head at the end of the pump slot.


  9. I’ve tried that. the windige screws don’t seem to want to move. I don’t want to force them, should I try harder?
    Thanks for the oil help. Maybe I don’t have the full manual.

    Also, what’s up with the new “bull” barrels on gamo rifles. I liked thier open sight on mine. Is the barrel shouding acualaly attached well, or will it dent and loosen?

    thanks H.B.
    Keep up the good work

  10. H.B.,

    The windage screws may be at the end of their travel. Remember that youy want to move the rear sight in the same direction that you want the pellet to move.

    As for Gamo’s “bull” barrels, I think they’re just for looks. They should be attached securely, but I’ve just had two such devices loosen during testing, so there you go!


  11. BB,

    Well said about “armchair hunters”. I think it applies to airgunning in general. With the advent of the internet and millions of forums and chat rooms, many would “learn” shooting by reading. I pity my chosen hobby if it is learned this way by the modern shooter rather than the old fashioned way I have enjoyed over the years.


  12. B.B.:
    Taking game that large with
    airguns with so few foot-pounds
    is not only unethical it is immoral
    and if it isn’t in violation of game laws, it will be fairly soon.
    Probably with a blanket ban on all
    airgun hunting and possibly use on
    public lands and confiscatory licencing schemes. Idiots who misuse tools ruin it for us all.
    Just look at what has happened to
    firearms in California. Airguns can leap onto the political agenda
    faster than we can imagine.If politicos see easy votes by picking on a defensless hobby they
    can legislate it out of existance
    without a single qualm, quick as the stroke of a pen.Good topic,looking forward to your conclusions,as always.

  13. Turtle you wouldn’t be from TOG would you cause I am buying an ultra pending my check on saturday. And BB good post and as always can’t wait to tune in tomarrow.

  14. Dave,

    Each manufacturer has dimensions, but as far as I know, there are no official sizes for bull barrels.

    Back in the 19th century when bull barrels were first used, barrelmakers had different standard profiles that included dimensions. But there never was an industry standard.

    So any barrel that looks fat can be called a bull barrel. The term is loose.

    Bull barrels are more heat resistant (their mass makes them heat slower) and they vibrate in more uniform patterns, so they tend to be more accurate than lighter barrels. But that assumes a lot of things like chamber size, rifling twist, bore uniformity, throat length, headspace, leade, if any, and so on.


  15. B.B. wrote, “…the video Gamo showed at the 2006 SHOT Show…”

    Yikes! I just saw that video, a portion of it, or something similar to it, in the “Videos” section of the Gamo USA Web site. The video is titled “Hunting Experience.”

    Another video titled “Performance Ballistic Alloy (PBA)” shows a collage of single-shot kills on ‘varmints’ but includes what appears to be either a Bobcat or Lynx which is a predator.

    I personally don’t see anything inhumane in what Gamo shows in these videos. On the other hand, I believe that a list of the number of skilled/experienced hunters who could make such humane single-shot kills on a 180 lb Hog or an average 20 to 30 lb Bobcat/Lynx, as depicted in these two videos, is a very short list indeed.

    IMO, this kind of marketing/promotion of hunting anything other than small game with a .177 caliber air rifle is irresponsible because of the important information that is left out, as you went to such great length to explain.

    It’s sort of like if some airsoft BB gun company put together a promo video, to sell it’s products, by showing children making one-shot kills ‘hunting’ toads, lizards, and snakes with their products.

    Thanks for the blog article, B.B.


  16. Hi B.B.,

    Yeah, there are numerous video examples of ‘inspiring’ uses for airguns on YouTube. [Tongue-in-Cheek]

    Just go to the web site and search for “airgun” to see some fine examples of common sense airgun uses. [I think I bit my tongue that time.]


  17. Lessee, Lewis and Clark carried an airgun to use against Indians, if needed – it wasn’t. Austrians equiped several hundred soldiers with airguns to use against Napolean. The US Navy had a ship equipped with a couple of air canons. Tubes were 40 feet long. There are air canons today that can launch a pumpkin several hundred yards! Go back and read W.H.B. Smith’s “Gas, Air & Spring Guns.” Look at Quackenbush’s and Barnes’ stuff. Then get rid of your stinkin’ thinkin’!

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