Getting started in airguns
by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier
Today’s report goes out to all those readers who are just getting into airguns, as well as those who have been in airguns awhile but feel there are many things they’re either missing or don’t fully understand.
We have a new blog reader who goes by the name Essbee. For the past week, he’s been asking the kind of specific questions that tell me he doesn’t understand something as well as he would like to. Then yesterday, he sent in this set of questions:
Thanks. How does The Benjamin Marauder compare with German guns (RWS & Weihrauch) in terms of quality and durability and ease too. No doubt the Germans are pricey in PCP hence ruled out but their quality is no problem. Could I have a report for or against on the quality of Benjamin Marauder as compared to German technology and craftsmanship.
What are the chances the gas will leak on PCP guns. If it does how will it be fixed and at what cost? In contrast the air springers have no such problem. What do you say on this? What is the record at your end of PCP repairs vs air springers?
Hence I was comparing an RWS 34, RWS 350 Magnum and RWS Air King 54. Considering the cocking effort, weight and velocity it seems RWS 34 stands up very well in .22 with longer barrel. Am I correct? For hunting which is the best?
How do I answer this?
If you read the questions, you’ll see they’re a combination of technical questions and requests for my subjective opinions. I find it very difficult to answer questions like these because they require more time and space than we have available. So, what I do is try to guess about who’s asking the question, then answer from that standpoint as best I can.
New airgunners come from a variety of backgrounds. They can be youngsters who have never really sampled the shooting sports at all. Everything is a mystery to them. Or they can be adults who may know about the shooting sports but have never really participated in them. You might think that would make them the same as the youngsters, but it doesn’t. Adults do have some life experience to relate to, so they can understand things that youngsters haven’t experienced yet. My answers to adults have to be slightly different than the same answers to youngsters.
The questions can also come from adults with lots of shooting experience but who are just getting into airguns. When that’s the case, we have a common basis of shooting upon which to build, but they still won’t be familiar with things like the artillery hold or with canting issues at close range.
Some of these adults may have served in the armed forces and may be even more familiar with firearms than most people. That makes my answers even more difficult because there are things about airguns that the military never thought of.
Some of the questions come from law enforcement officers, both retired and active duty. They’ll have an even different viewpoint, and my answers will have to be presented differently.
So — how do you get into airguns?
I obviously can’t answer everyone in the same way. But I do think there are fundamental things that ALL new airgunners need to think about. So here we go.
1. Start small
Don’t buy that super-duper ultra-magnum that you see advertised. Forget the advertising hype, unless all you want is something to brag about. If that’s what drives you, go somewhere else because I can’t help you. I’m in this for the enjoyment of the hobby — not for posturing, looking good or counting coup.
Get a weak but accurate airgun as your first gun, and then learn to shoot it. Forget scopes unless you’re almost legally blind. Learn to shoot with open sights. Learn to follow-through on every shot. Learn to call your shots, which is to state where they went before you look through the spotting scope.
I would tell you to get a Diana model 27, but they don’t make them anymore; and many of you would rather purchase a new gun. Okay, get an Air Venturi Bronco. That rifle was created to be the modern equivalent of the Diana 27. Is it? Probably not, because there are too many things that aren’t the same. But the Bronco is accurate, it has a good trigger, it’s both light and easy to cock, and it comes in .177 caliber so the pellets are cheap. And the rifle, itself, is a great bargain.
Want a different choice? Okay, consider a Stoeger X5. For around $90, you get everything the Bronco has except the great trigger and some of the accuracy. But it’s very good and is a wonderful way to break into airgunning. Find something like that.
Want an air pistol? How about a Beeman P17? Oh, you can find bad reports about this pistol if you look, but they number in the dozens, while thousands of pistols have been sold. I have had 2 and both were quite reliable. One was a test gun from Pyramyd Air and I bought the other one after returning the test gun. The one I have now has many shots on the clock, as well as many years on it, and still performs as good as it did when it was new.
Want a spring pistol? Try the Ruger Mark 1 pellet pistol. It’s inexpensive, accurate, easy to cock, and the trigger–while heavy–is manageable.
I said to start small with a low-powered pellet gun and learn how to shoot it. That’s the best advice I can give anyone who wants to get into this hobby. Yes, the powerful guns are neat and the super-accurate guns are a ball to shoot, but they also require some understanding that only comes with practice. I want you to get as much trigger time as possible, and a lightweight, inexpensive, accurate gun is the way to do that.
2. Buy good pellets
I know that saving money is a good thing, but I don’t want you to miss out on the thrill of a lifetime just so you can save a dollar a tin on bargain pellets. Stop kidding yourself that you can buy good pellets at a discount store. That was never the case, and today it’s quite far from the truth. You might be able to buy some adequate pellets at a discount store, but where does that leave you? With a Bronco that shoots 1.5-inch groups at 25 yards instead of one that shoots 3/4-inch groups. Is that what you want? You know the best way to save money is to never shoot at all. If you’re going to shoot, give yourself a chance of hitting.
3. Stop fighting the trends and start applying yourself
A popular definition of a crazy person is one who keeps doing the same things and hopes for different results. I see shooters who aren’t using the artillery hold because they say it’s too hard. Well, of course it’s hard, but all the best shots do it. Don’t you want to see what kind of shot you can be? If you try to buck the trend and avoid things like the artillery hold, you’re acting like a NASCAR wannabe who doesn’t like cars that are set up for the racetrack. Sure they’re hard to drive, but they’re also the only kind of cars that win the races!
You want to shoot groups at 100 yards, but you don’t want to use a scope level. Great. That’s like an ice-skater who wants to be in Hush Puppies all day because the skates hurt his ankles. You can’t shoot tight groups at 100 yards without leveling your rifle for every shot. So, if you don’t use a scope level, you’ll have to find some other way of doing it.
I know it sounds simple, but just shoot. That’s why you decided to get into airgunning in the first place. It’s so easy to shoot at home. I fire from 100 to 1,000 rounds each and every week.
The more you shoot, the more chances you have to improve. Not that all people do improve, mind you, but at least you have the chance.
I’ve found that 20 shots on your own is worth a lot more than 20 conversations about shooting on the internet. Go on and have the conversations — but do the shooting, too.
This is what I would tell a new airgunner. Too often — always, in fact — they come to me with their eyes sparkling with thoughts of buying this or that mega-magnum rifle, I know they’re heading for disaster. I cringe when I see this because I know the conversations we’re going to have much later when all they’ve done finally sinks in and they realize this wasn’t the way to go.
Here’s a little story to illustrate what I’ve been saying. I watch certain internet gun sales websites and from time to time certain guns are listed. Let’s single out the Smith & Wesson 500 Magnum for this story. When I see the ad, I can guess what it will say. This fine gun is almost new in the box. It’s only been fired a few times. Comes with a fresh box of ammunition and only 6 cartridges have been fired. Now, why do you suppose that is?