Why are some PCPs so darned expensive?
by B.B. Pelletier
Don’t worry. I wrote this post last Friday. I’m enjoying the day with my family.
Glen asked a question that comes up all the time. I have tried to answer it individually before, so now I’ll just blog it to everyone.
I read your articles and had decided on which springer to buy when I found your article addressing springers at altitude. Whoops! I’ll be shooting at about 8500 feet. Guess I need to look for a PCP instead.
I’ll be exclusively target/FT shooting and refilling from my scuba tanks. But which rifle? I’ve never shot pellets before but have shot skeet/trap and rifles/pistols at targets. A shrouded Logun Solo sounds like a fine rifle, but what improves as one spends up to say $1200? Do you have a favorite rifle or manufacturer? You haven’t devoted much space to PCPs and I could sure use some additional, independent advice.
Modern production methods
When I was a kid in the early 1950s, the term Made in Japan meant crappy goods that wouldn’t last. That changed in the 1960s, when the teachings of W. Edwards Demming and Joseph Juran were embraced by the nation of Japan as the best and only way to manufacture things. Those two gentlemen, who streamlined the U.S. war production effort during WWII, taught the rebuilding Japanese nation how to best make and move things, and the Japanese exported it to the world in the 1980s as “Japanese Management.”
There was once a time when U.S.-manufactured goods were too expensive for most of the world. That’s not true today. The European Union, despite some taxation problems, has built the euro into a strong world currency. The British pound is equally strong against our dollar, with the result that American-made PCPs, which just one company makes at present (AirForce), are significantly cheaper than guns coming from Europe. So Glen, this is part of my answer. If it comes from Europe or the UK, it has to cost more. If it’s made in a place where labor, utilities, and materials are even cheaper than they are here in the U.S., say China, then it will cost less.
PCPs can be made by automated machinery (U.S., England, Sweden, Germany, Bosnia, China to an extent and Korea to an extent), or they can be made by slower processes that require more labor. HOWEVER, once the parts are made, the guns can be assembled rapidly (U.S., Sweden, Germany, Bosnia, China and Korea) or they can be assembled by expensive labor that fine-tunes them (England, to a large but decreasing extent). In the case of several companies, the guns are actually made by others (Air Arms buys the S200 from the Czech Republic, Logan buys the S16 from Bosnia) and sold by the company whose name is on the gun. If that company is located in a country that has high overhead (England, Sweden, Germany), the cost of passing the gun through the books of the named company is high. So, the Bosnian-made S16 that should be relatively cheap costs a lot more because it’s run through the books of a company whose operating costs are high.
Glen wants to buy a shrouded Logun Solo, but wonders what he’ll be giving up. Well, I think the Solo is a remarkable bargain! It’s noteworthy that a company based in the UK (Logun) can get a PCP to market for $525 unshrouded and $575 shrouded. These are fantastic bargains! If you are looking for a traditionally stocked PCP, why wouldn’t you want this one? Ah, it’s a single-shot and you want a repeater.
If you want a repeater, prepare to spend money. Except for the Korean guns, most repeaters are quite expensive. In fact, the repeating function is perhaps the most costly feature you can add to a PCP.
Fancy wood used to be the big-ticket item, and is still very costly, but manufacturers are aware of that problem and are fighting to keep the costs low with synthetics and laminated stocks. Funny thing about laminates…they’re expensive, too, but not in Europe, where figured walnut is off the wall. In the U.S., we have a cheaper source of figured wood, as does Asia. But any wood you can PAINT will be MUCH CHEAPER, because the wood underneath can look horrible and no one is the wiser.
Ten years ago, Korea was the only country making PCPs with power adjustability. In 2000, AirForce Airguns brought out the adjustable Talon. A year later they brought out the quiet SS with an integral shroud. Now you can’t find an airgun maker that DOESN’T offer those features! They all have to offer the features shooters want.
Power and accuracy
This is what I think lies at the back of most people’s mind. How can a $580 PCP be as powerful and accurate as a $1,000 PCP? They can and they often are! Not always, but more often than the big price differential would seem to imply. The AirForce Condor is more powerful than any of the thousand-dollar air rifle, and it has a Lothar Walther barrel, same as most of them. I’ve even heard reports that the $350 Chinese-made B50 is very accurate, too! How can it be?
Here is a firearms analogy. Savage makes inexpensive centerfire rifles (110-112 series), but their action is so well-designed that a number of long-range shooters prefer it. Weatherby also makes accurate rifles, but they sell for 2-3 times as much as the Savage rifles. Are they 2-3 times “better” (more accurate, easier to shoot)? No! Why do they still sell well? Style and advertising. Same for airguns.
The real exception to what I’m saying here is in the ranks of the 10-meter target rifle, where things like superior ergonomics, anti-recoil mechanisms and better sights really DO offer a tangible advantage. The Beeman FWB P700 may retail for $2,900; but if I were competing in 10-meter rifle competition, I’d buy it.
So, Glen, get that shrouded Solo if it appeals to you. I’m sure it will be a wonderful rifle.