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.