by B.B. Pelletier

This question keeps coming up for me. How do I tell a new airgunner what he or she should buy as a first airgun? They come to me with their questions, and they don’t always ask them the same way; but they do all want to know the same thing. What gun should I buy?

It was easier for me. When I was growing up, we didn’t have the internet. As far as airguns are concerned, if they didn’t advertise in the backs of comic books and Boy’s Life and maybe Popular Mechanics, I didn’t know they existed. I went more on what my friends had than on anything else, and I certainly didn’t ask the advice of an adult.

That latter remark is probably still very true today, though the internet has blurred identities to the point that a teenager and an octagenarian can converse without knowing it.

Back to the question. What do you tell a prospective new airgunner when one comes to you looking for advice? Do you steer him toward your favorite airgun, regardless of everything else (money, intended purpose, availability of places to shoot, physical size of the person, etc)? Or do you have some pre-recorded tape you put on that goes through many questions in hopes of discovering what he wants to do with the airgun? Perhaps you play the roll of the non-directive therapist and let him talk about his desires until you both have a clear idea of what he wants.

The challenge
This website attracts airgunners from around the world. It also attracts those who think they may have an interest in airgunning but aren’t sure. A couple dozen of them work up the courage to make a comment on some blog report, but 99.99 percent never say anything. They just watch, read the reports and the comments people make about them. They probably also visit several of the airgun forums and do pretty much the same thing; except that over there they may feel more threatened by the jargon and slang everyone seems to use. What’s a P-rod, and if you tell me that it’s a Benjamin Marauder pistol, why do they call it that? What’s dieseling, valve bounce, ballistic coefficient, lock time, etc.?

They also run into a crowd of discontents who have plenty to say about airguns they don’t own. The person who lingers long enough will get a bead on whose remarks can be trusted and whose should be ignored. But that still doesn’t answer his fundamental question about which airgun he should get.

If you could talk to these budding new airgunners, what would you tell them? Would you want their first airgunning experiences to be positive or should they be forced to earn their stripes the same way you did? If you vote for the positive experience, how do you ensure they get that through your writings on the internet?

Are we all the same?
I guess it boils down to this question, “Do we all want the same thing?” Is the primary goal of an airgun to hit its intended target, or is it something else? Should it be the most powerful gun in its class, regardless of the potential for accuracy? Or do you believe that just because a tester wasn’t able to get the best accuracy out of a gun doesn’t mean that you can’t?

If power is supreme over everything else, should you buy the fastest advertised airgun and spend the time to learn how to shoot it accurately? Or are there such things as inaccurate airguns that cannot hit what they’re aimed at, no matter what you do? Or is there a good aftermarket tune that can be done to improve the accuracy of almost anything?

Or maybe cost is the most important thing. Can you calculate the relative power of all guns and compare them to one another to find the least expensive airgun that has the greatest power? And, if you toss accuracy into that mix, what does that do to the results?

Or are you looking for something much better and more refined than the average airgunner? Are the finish of the metal and the grade of wood on the gun of paramount importance to you? If they are, do the photos of airguns online look like the guns that are actually shipped, or do the dealers cherry-pick a gun from all the guns in their warehouse to use as the example? Should you wait to buy a gun because you have to see it and hold it before you can know for sure that it’s as beautiful as you hope?

Who can you trust?
Do airgun testers tell the truth about the guns they test, or are they all sold out to the industry? Can you trust someone who’s given a gun to test and doesn’t have to pay for it?

Can you trust a dealer who has test reports on his website? Why would he ever show you a bad report?

Or do owners lie about their own guns because they bought them and now cannot face the reality that the gun they bought is no good? Is it like The Emperor’s New Clothes, where everyone walks around knowing the emperor is naked but nobody wants to admit it publicly?

What do YOU tell a new airgunner?
I’m asking you again. What do you tell a new airgunner? How do you lead him into this hobby in the best possible way?

I met a man…
I met a man who bought the most powerful car he could afford. He was walking because the car cost too much to keep running and he had no money for fuel and maintenance.

I met a man who calculated the cost of everything and bought the cheapest car he could find that met his minimum performance requirements. He was walking because the car he bought was a Yugo.

I met a man who bought the finest car he could afford. It had lustrous paint, a rich leather interior and a finely crafted motor that ran in absolute silence. He was walking because he didn’t want to risk damaging his fine car.

I met a man who bought a car that everyone else said was a dog. He got it at a great price because the store was blowing them out in a fantastic sale. He was walking because his car broke and there were no parts to repair it.

I met a man who didn’t buy a car. He was walking because he was worried that he wouldn’t buy the right car or that he might buy the right car but get a lemon.

I met a man who had watched all the other men. He was driving a taxicab.