by B.B. Pelletier

Today’s report is an answer to a question I received a couple days ago. It’s such a typical question that I thought I would spend a little more time on the answer for everyone. It also dovetails nicely into my holiday gift recommendations.

The question came from a reader calling himself ccobbster. Here’s the question, exactly as he wrote it:

Am interested in buying (soon) a .22 Cal. pellet rifle for practice shooting and small game (pest) hunting (rabbits, squirrel, armadillo, possum). Am drawn to the Nitro Piston power plant for performance and ease of use concerns. Have been looking at six air rifles and was wondering if you had any recommendations or preferences amongst these. Am trying to stay around the $300 range. Would appreciate any advice/recommendations, or other preferred rifles. Have found alot of useful information on your blog site and am inclined towards the Crosman NPSS. Also, it’s made in the US. Here are the rifles:

He also asked for pellet recommendations later on.

Here’s the reason I wanted to answer this in the blog. This kind of question comes up a lot in this blog. The list of guns is very typical and shows that the reader has been looking at the different models. Many times the question will include the phrase “.. and will you please explain your reasons for what you choose?” or words to that effect. That’s harder to do and becomes many blogs-worth of additional information. But I think I can take a stab at answering the basic question because I see the answer embedded in the question. Do you see it?

“…am inclined towards the Crosman NPSS.” That’s what the asker really wants and if I’m smart I will say that it is an okay choice–unless I think that it isn’t.

I don’t know anything about ccobbster. I’m guessing he’s male, but I can’t really tell the age except generally that he’s between 16 and 50. He didn’t lay any macho credentials on me (ex-SEAL, police training, etc., so I think he’s perhaps a little older or perhaps wiser, or maybe both.

But I won’t try to guess who ccobbster is. Instead, I’ll think of him as my friend. That way, my answer gets easier.

First, I want to clear something up. ALL the rifles he listed are springers. Some have gas springs and others have steel springs, but they are all spring-piston air rifles. Crosman uses the brand name Nitro Piston for their gas spring, but it’s still just a gas spring. Ccobbster probably knows this, but I mention it because I don’t want to confuse any new readers.

He’s listed six air rifles and five of them come with a gas spring and one is an air shotgun and a smoothbore. So, I think he’s interested in a gas spring. I could just cut to the chase and say to get the NPSS right now, but that isn’t the entire answer.

Ccobbster, to me your list of rifles are all the hyper-velocity, magnum-class airguns. And I see a subtle price barrier besides the $300 there, as well. If you’re going to pay more than that, you want a LOT of power with it!

May I wave you off your line of thought? Isn’t the important thing to hit the target first, and then be concerned with how much power landed on target? A miss does nothing for anyone.

Let’s talk about armadillos for a moment. They have tough shells that even a .22 rimfire cannot penetrate in certain situations, so to dispatch them with an air rifle takes a real accurate shot.

The Gamo Viper is an air shotgun that has a smooth bore. It’s not at all suited for what you want. So, let’s drop it off the list.

Let’s forget the Whisper with Nitro Piston because you want a .22 and it’s really best in .177 caliber. The .22 caliber Whispers seem to run out of air. I know what the numbers in the descriptions say, but they’re for the fastest possible pellet in that gun–not one that you are likely to use.

We can rule out the TF99, because my living room couch says it can throw a pellet 4 inches wide of its mark at 21 yards. That’s an inside joke–I actually shot my couch while testing a Tech Force 99 in my house.

While we’re at it, the Benjamin Super Streak can go, too. And, no, there’s no Nitro Piston for it, yet. Oh, it’s more accurate than the TF99, but it requires BUCKETS of technique to extract the accuracy. How’s your artillery hold?

Ccobbster, “My what?”

Exactly. Let’s get you into something a little more forgiving than a Super Streak. It’s also quite a bear to cock, as is the Walther Talon Magnum. Not that you can’t cock them. I’m sure you can. But you won’t want to shoot them more than 25-30 times before giving up. I’d like to see you with a rifle you can shoot all day and still do the things you mentioned.

You like the NPSS, but did you read my report about its need for a dead hold? If not, please read it because the NPSS requires a lot of technique to shoot accurately. It’s easy enough to cock, but you have to have the hold to group.

You can look at this two ways. One, you don’t want to be bothered, in which case I will tell you to save up for a precharged pneumatic, because all spring rifles need some amount of hold technique. Or you can choose to learn how to hold a springer, in which case I say the NPSS is a good choice for you.

However, if you had just come to me and asked for a good starter spring rifle I might have steered you toward the RWS 34P that Vince mentioned yesterday. No, it doesn’t have a gas spring option anymore. But it’s less sensitive to hold and groups like a champion. Power-wise, it’s pretty much of a wash between it and the NPSS.

I would learn to shoot the 34 with Crosman Premier pellets and JSB Exact pellets until I was able to group 10 shots inside one inch at 25 yards. Then, I would start thinking about a a scope.

However, if a scope is what you want, I’m sure there are several that will work well with the gun. Just remember to get the Leapers Diana scope base to mount it.

If you’re still up for the NPSS, get it. It’s a fine airgun. Just practice your artillery hold, and you’ll soon find that you shoot everything better.

Ccobbster, that’s my answer to you for a spring rifle under $300. I’m sure this blog will now erupt with other answers and things I forgot to mention.