The advantages of hunting with an airgun

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Today’s report is a guest blog about the advantages of airgun hunting by Pyramyd Air employee Derek Goins.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me. Now, over to you, Derek.

This report covers:

  • Introduction
  • Space
  • Noise level
  • Cost
  • Versatility
  • Some things to consider…

Introduction

Like a Carhartt-clad stone I sat motionless against a large oak tree, a rifle braced on my knees. The reluctant morning sun was just peeking into the horizon, bringing relief from the swirling fall winds biting at the back of my neck. A rain the night before left the ground soggy, the moist air heavy with the smell of earthworms and rotting leaves. Earwigs and tiny beetles fled through the humid dirt as I shifted my feet in an attempt to thaw my toes.

As a branch rustled a few feet away from me on the fence line, I looked to see a cardinal, feathers ruffled in loathing for the chilly morning. Begrudgingly he pecked and hopped about on the crisp ground for his breakfast making an awful ruckus in the dead leaves all the while.

I shifted my rifle and figured if the birds were crashing through the leaves, the squirrels were sure to be up soon. I took to scanning the pecan and oak trees that stood around me and in a few minutes a fox squirrel materialized on a leaf-barren oak branch about thirty yards in front of me. Blending right into the tree bark, the flicking of her bushy tail was the only giveaway. My hand grasped an ice cold barrel as I methodically cocked the RWS 94 air rifle in my lap.

Setting the rifle on my knee, I quickly found the squirrel in my scope. She was working on an acorn as I lined up the scope’s crosshairs. Gently sliding the safety forward I moved my finger to the trigger and nearly jerked it as the angry cardinal exploded from the ground in a huff, giving up his hunt. Seeing the elusive squirrel was as startled as I was, I settled into a steady trigger squeeze. The rifle jumped in my hands as a .22 caliber pellet snapped out of the barrel.

The squirrel tumbled out of the tree at the sound of the pellet impacting flesh. I stood up, after giving the animal a few minutes, stretching my cold limbs and walked to retrieve my squirrel. It was a clean shot behind the eye, an ethical respect any game animal deserves. The lazy morning rays finally warmed me as I stretched again and started to a large stand of pecans; relishing a good start to a dreary morning.

For many years I hunted with that airgun and not initially by choice. My family had moved to a semi-rural town in Texas and as a young man I was infected with the love of hunting. A 22 rimfire was not safe to shoot in the area and I soon discovered air rifles. The half acre property had a half dozen nut and fruit trees, to the delight of the squirrels. To this day airguns are my primary hunting arm, as there are several advantages of airguns over firearms.

Let’s begin with the very reasons most folks will get into airguns for hunting:

Space

Airguns fill a niche nicely where the 22 caliber rimfire or small bore shotgun is too much gun for the area. Simply put, airguns do not require very much space to shoot safely. The huge variety of airguns on the market right now can fit almost any space needs. The lead pellets that air rifles shoot flatten upon impact and typically do not ricochet. Additionally the moderate power levels produced by airguns let them shine over firearms for hunting or taking care of pest critters in enclosed spaces like barns or feed silos.

Air rifles like the Air Arms S510 FAC Sidelever Carbine have adjustable power, allowing the hunter a wide range of power levels for different scenarios. I have found many opportunities for hunting simply because an air rifle was a better and safer tool. Airguns have allowed me to be effective on small game from as close as 7 yards and as far as 120 yards. Under 100 yards is where the modern air rifle really earns its keep.

Noise level

With few exceptions, airguns are significantly quieter than firearms. The primary reason for this is that airgun velocities are typically sub-sonic, meaning the pellets are not breaking the sound barrier. In addition to not disturbing your neighbors, the decibel levels are low enough that the rifle report won’t cause hearing damage. Spring piston breakbarrel rifles like the Diana RWS 34 produce a dull slamming report similar to a nail gun.

For true silence, the shrouded Benjamin Marauder is so quiet that the pellet impacting the target is louder than the gunshot. The low noise levels air rifles produce will not spook animals quite as much as firearms, which is great if you want to take multiple shots. Typically a firearm rifle shot thundering through the woods will silence all the wildlife for quite a long time. It is an eerie quiet that lets you know that you’re the one who isΒ out of place. Activity resumes much more quickly after an air rifle shot, and, though animals still react, the life in the woods remain calm. I’ve nabbed a lot of small game by bringing an air rifle on a deer hunt. More often than not I found myself putting squirrels and rabbits in the freezer in addition to venison.

Benjamin Marauder
The Benajmin Marauder is one of the quietest airguns on the market, allowing most people to shoot safely in their backyard without the ear-splitting crack of a firearm.

Cost

It’s no secret that with the turbulent firearm climate both centerfire and rimfire ammunition have had spotty availability. Long gone is the $20 brick of 500 .22 LR rounds. The same brick is over double the price now! Besides the increased cost you’d be lucky to find more than a box or two, but here I am singing to the song birds. Y’all may be nodding your heads saying, “Everybody knows that son.”

What you may not know is that you can shoot and hunt with airguns for a fraction of the cost. I shoot thousands of pellets per year hunting and stay on a trigger year-round. A tin of match-quality domed pellets may cost me $12-17 for 500, depending on the caliber — even less if I order in bulk, using the buy 3 get 1 free deal offered by Pyramyd Air. While most centerfire cartridges can be economically reloaded with the right equipment, I still can’t reload cheaper than I can shoot airguns. The cost savings is significant in an economy that’s forcing us to keep our wallets closed.

JSB pellets
JSB Exact Jumbo domed pellets are premium ammo at an affordible price.

ammunition
As much as I like shooting firearms, the drastic price increase in ammo over recent years has made shooting high quality airgun pellets the economical choice.

Versatility

Perhaps my favorite quality of airguns in general is the amazing versatility they posses. The market in the US has exploded! We’re seeing rifles capable of ethically taking down deer, coyote, fox, hog and other medium-sized animals. Rifles like the Sam Yang Dragon Claw .50 caliber can kill deer with 175 foot pounds of energy, while the Sumatra 2500 .25 caliber is ideal for coyotes with a bone-crushing 60 foot pounds of muzzle energy. These energy levels may sound low, but shot placement is the equalizer. A properly placed airgun pellet will kill an animal just as effectively as a firearm, and with less tissue damage.

pellets
Here are (from the left) .177, .20, .22, .25, .30, .357, .45 and .50 caliber pellets. The huge variety of airgun calibers now on the market allow not only small game hunting but medium and large game as well!

Some things to consider…

While I view the airgun as the ultimate hunting tool, there are a few things you’ll want to consider before making the jump yourself. The first thing I would do is check hunting legislation in your state or county. In many states airguns are not yet legal for hunting small game. Other states have caliber restrictions without regard to actual muzzle energy. To confuse things further some states consider certain animals to be game animals while others are not. For example, when I last lived in Texas, squirrels were considered game animals and thus not legal for airguns, however cottontails you could take year-round.

The power and low noise is great but it does come at the cost of reduced range. Airguns have similar ranges to archery, and you will simply need to keep this in perspective for your skill level. The challenges that come with stalking animals in airgun ranges can be quite rewarding. Most of my shots on animals are under 50 yards. While longer shots can be taken, you’ll want a well-tuned rifle and some experience with it before considering those.

I know that airguns will never fully replace firearms, but they do make a fantastic alternative when the situation dictates. As always, take my word with a grain of salt and do a bit of research. You may find that you have an open space in your gun safe for a well-built air rifle!

Semper Fi,

Derek Goins

77 thoughts on “The advantages of hunting with an airgun





  1. I to have found that I am turning more to my airguns for small game hunting in confined areas since they serve the exact purpose you state in the report as less area required to shoot and far less chance of stray pellets causing unwanted damage or injury to nearby homesteads and populations.

    I am lucky in that my state has passed laws allowing for the taking of deer or predators and Hogs with a .30 cal or larger air gun and taking small game with .20 cal airguns or larger.

    BD



  2. No doubt that an air rifle is great for hunting squirrels. Another fun way is with a .36 or.32 cal. flintlock rifle. All you need is a little bit of black powder and a home cast ball with patch. It’s not quiet but the noise and smoke are half the fun.

    Mike


    • Mike, while I love air guns, I took love the smoke and boom of black powder. I’ve had/shot .45, .50 and .54 cal bp rifles. But, I’ve never had a .32 cal. From all I’ve read, they sound like fun.




      • Reb
        Until somebody has a problem with starlings or regular sparrows or sqerrials they don’t realize how much damage they can do to a house or barn.

        A airgun is a perfect tool for that job. Especially a multi pump because you can control the power level you need to make the kill but not tear up the surroundings.


        • I wanted a 760 in the worst way and tried to make trade with my friends but they wouldn’t give em up. I really don’t think my parents wanted me to have any more power.
          Learned a valuable tuning lesson on that 102 model66 today, after messing with it all day yesterday without much success I pulled the stock off and lived it from the backside, it’s now punching through the cardboard target backer @ 10yds and my strongest 102! πŸ™‚



            • I couldn’t find anything on it specifically but it’s one of the small Daisy BB guns that morphed into the Buck only this one has a relief on it’s cocking lever with 3 stars , 2 holes in the right side receiver and a lotta surface rust on the receiver and the return spring for the trigger mounted in the stock.
              It cocks and shoots like stock only really hot for such a little BB gun, now that I oiled it behind the plunger before you could hear rusty scraping sounds


              • Reb
                Sounds like a cool little gun.

                I hope I get to the Texas show next year. You’ll have to show me some the guns you got if you bring them.

                Oh and make sure if you talk about them guns and what you do to them give a little description of what it is. Then you’ll be teaching some of us that don’t know about the older stuff.

                By the way do you now what year that 102 is?



  3. You hit right-on Derek – excellent blog!

    The cooler weather is calling me to watch the sunrise in the woods – can’t beat this time of year!

    I have exclusive hunting access to a number of farms because I hunt with a pellet rifle or a (home-made) bow and arrow. Farmers are often skittish about firearms around their livestock. Most are extremely impressed on how effective/accurate a modern air rifle is.


  4. Derek, thanks for the good read. Looking at the pic of the pellets, it looks like the .20 cal is bigger than the .22 cal. I know it’s just an Illusion. That said, I’ve never owned a .20 cal. Dr. Beeman seemed to think it was the best. Yet there aren’t near as many pellet/gun choices in this cal.


    • Doc,

      .20 without a doubt is my favorite caliber. They shoot like lasers and they seem to hit animals as hard as .22 even though the chrony paper tells me it’s not as much energy. I’ve always been fascinated in the oddball calibers. Even though the .20 is the best middle ground between the endless .177 vs .22 debate, the caliber remains largely untapped an unnoticed. It’d be hard to beat a .20 cal Beeman R9 for an all around performer. I’m glad you enjoyed the article! All the best.





    • The appraiser at the pawn shop said they’re setting up a show in Abilene while I was telling him how I came about this fine vintage collectible.
      If you don’t already know about it I’ll find out more tomorrow. Have you heard anything about this yet?



        • I’ll get by there again tomorrow some time and get as much info on it as is possible, I’ll also offer him the opportunity to post it himself through my name and see where that goes?
          I do recall an airgun shop name he mentioned I’ll see if I can find anything on a website or two.
          That would cut my commute down to 80 miles and a free bed as well as a family visit,


  5. Another advantage to pellet guns for hunting squirrels is that they don’t shoot a mile and a quarter when you miss a squirrel up in the trees though I wouldn’t recommend shooting up in the trees with a pellet gun near a populated area.


  6. What’s a Carhartt-clad stone? Yes, indeed, the cheap price of airgun shooting is one of its great advantages which I think most of the firearms community does not appreciate. Rimfire rounds which used to be an approximation of airgunning are expensive and hard to get. There is some truth to the fact that 9mm is the new rimfire. At 20 cents a round, the price is comparable to .22 magnums, but it still doesn’t compare to the penny a round for RWS Hobbys or even the 2.5 cents for my H&N Terminators! I really can’t justify all of my time and expense on firearms; airguns do everything that I want.

    Always nice to see the Marauder excelling. And quite right that another of the great virtues of airguns is that they can operate in small spaces.

    Matt61


  7. Here in the UK airguns were popular for hunting even when there was no licensing whatsoever…and the stone bow before it, and this can be put down to a couple of things, firstly are the pest species over here, rabbits are about the size of it


  8. The secondary reason being how populous we are, so there’s always been a gap in the market for a limited range, less lethal hunting tool than a firearm.
    Also, most land is “owned” (a slightly bizarre concept really) by various Lords….even now…whose great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was gifted it at Agincourt or some similar event.
    And Stonebows and airguns made great poaching tools for quietly taking a few Hare’s off his lordships land by moonlight πŸ™‚


  9. Reb, there’s a lot of parallels between the Stonebows and airguns, both quiet, both cheap ammunition….especially in the case of a crossbow bolt….the stonebows were pretty underpowered even by airgun standards…but if all you wanted to do was knock a few fat woodpigeons out of a tree and into the pot they were ideal and, in fact, were still in rural use well into the 1860’s
    In a way I bemoan the high power, big bore airguns, it kinda misses the point, and brings little or nothing to hunting larger game, which is perfectly addressed by firearms, not to mention risking firearm like legislation to match the firearm like ballistics.
    I’ve always loved the surreptitious, stealthy effectiveness of airguns






            • But I remember Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Didn’t look like much fun!
              I had a neighbor living across the street as a kid that had a dent in his forehead about the size of a pingpong ball and swore he got shot in the head. His wife had foils and armor from her fencing career mounted in the living room.


              • Aah, swords on the wall, I have a three inch sword scar on my left cheek from being an idiot with a pair of crossed Claymores on my grandparents wall when I was 14….don’t ask, knocked a tooth out and pierced my tongue…and not in any punky decorative way either lol…broke at the (300 year old) hilt while I was hacking at a Hawthorn in the garden and stuck in my chops πŸ™‚



                  • Oh, I’d been told, many times, took me a good six months until the stars aligned and I could be alone with them lol, Had I not ended up with 11 stitches in my face and 7 on my tongue I think the value of a 1720 Claymore would have had me grounded for years πŸ™‚


  10. I forgot to add that I recently did a bit of hunting on my own. On the Cabelas’ website, I unerringly put some wild boar sausage into my shopping cart and purchased it. I’ve read plenty about the savory taste of wild boar which seems to have been enough of a reason for people to repeatedly brave death for it. I’m not in any position to hunt wild pigs for real, so I thought I would try them this way.

    The question is what exactly are you supposed to eat this with? Crackers, eggs, pasta? Kevin mentioned quite a savory recipe for venison medallions that he made as a professional guide. No doubt there must be something similar for boar. Incidentally, if camp food tastes good (which I’ve found that it does), eating your own game must taste even better out in the field. Anyway, I want to do the best I can for the wild boar.

    Matt61


    • If it comes in a link I smoke em on the grill like a brat and wrap with flatbread,cheese and mustard if it’s just ground it’ll make excellent sausage gravy or anything else that it’s not too spicy for.
      Enjoy! πŸ™‚


    • Matt61,

      Links or ground? If links, I would go for a 1/4″ slice with a very sharp knife, as not to break the casings, and brown each side. Pasta is fine, go with butter and salt and pepper to keep it simple and appreciate the taste.
      Add to pizza, on broil to get the light char. Olive oil will speed the char if the meat is lean. Is it lean, or really fatty?… and is it mixed with other meats or fats, or do you know? Natural casings?,…intestines?

      Yeah,…I have made some home made stuffed sausage links….. πŸ˜‰ Chris


      • I see we have some chefs here. This sounds great. And thanks to my correspondence with blog reader FrankB., I have plenty of sharp knives available.

        I don’t know the contents and intestines kind of makes me lose my appetite. I guess I’m sort of resigned to that with hotdogs, but I was hoping for the quality sausage that it would all be edible meat.

        Thanks for the advice.

        Matt61


        • Matt61,

          It is all edible. Very lean meat will not taste as good as meat that has some fat in it. That’s why the 80/20 and 85/15 gound beef taste better. Even 75/25. Sausage is typically near 65/35. Poaching is the best with brats and then throw on a grill for the final char/marks. The intestines are what has been used “forever” and makes that “snap” that you often hear about. Poach=no boiling,…just below. With most meat,…slow and low is best,….Mmmmm,…maybe ol’ Grandma knew something after all… πŸ˜‰


        • Matt61,

          Also,… a local butcher told me that 80/20 (for example) is made from hand trimmed meat= the lean, and the fat bits are added back at a weight/weight to ratio. 80#’s trimmed lean to 20#’s pure trimmed fat. Mixed and ground….= 80/20 ground beef. Chris


    • Making medallions is advanced butchery, not too difficult but it involves separating the individual muscles and trimming out connective tissue before cutting across the grain into sections to be tenderized by pounding



    • Hi Chris USA.

      I finally saw your reply to my last comment on that other thread. I have the TX200 in .22 as well. It’s a newer purchase, so I just got it scoped within the past few days. I put the Leapers 2-16 x 44 on it. I’m shooting JBS Jumbo Exact 15.89 gr. right now. They seem to do well, but I’m only shooting at 10m in my basement. I also haven’t run it over the chronograph yet. I’m anxious to get out and see how they do at 20 yds plus. What pellets are your favorites in your TX?

      Jim M.


      • Jim M,

        πŸ˜‰ ,…..15.89’s also,….but after some extensive data collecting,…other’s show some promise as well. I do 41′ in the winter and 25yds. in summer with it. 1/2″ is my best,…but I am a new shooter. Did some Vortek tunes and had it all the way “down” a couple of times. Learned a lot. It is stupid easy to tear down. I can share what I have learned,…just a bit busy now. Hit me up on a weekend for the best response. I do not remember what all you shoot, but the TX is a sweet one for sure.

        And, if not familiar with Vortek,…it’s a drop in kit that keeps the same power, or more,…and smooths out the shot cycle by reducing the spring vibrations. About 70$. Chris (mine is the left, walnut)



          • David,

            Not inside yet. Ohio. I guess I did leave out fall (my favorite) and spring. So really only 3-4 months inside. The 41′ has not seen any action for quite sometime. The 24′ bb gun range is open 365. I do the chrony inside with pellets. Both traps can a 5′ pellet hits and keep it all contained.


        • Chris USA,

          I have read mention of the Vortek several times on this blog. Although I have a couple rifles I wouldn’t mind having tuned, I don’t really have the time and energy right now to get into modifying things. Three active little boys keep us hopping! My office is at home, so when I can I will take a quick break during the day now and then to get in a few shots in my basement range. Sometimes it’s only 5 or 10.

          I started off shooting at targets hung on a cardboard box full of old phone books, but after shooting that to pieces I bought one of the traps rated for .22 LR, and that works really well. I found that hanging a piece of heavy cardboard on it keeps the pellet splatter to a minimum, and also lets me shoot BB guns without ricochet problems.

          If you would, please post about which .22 pellets you test. I’m building a small store of pellets to try, but haven’t had time to chrony them or try them at longer distances yet, so would be interested to hear what works for you.

          Jim M.


          • Jim M.,

            Consider it done. (Lot’s) of info. , but I keep records pretty well. I will “boil it down” on a note pad first. Then I will reply. Keep checkin’ back. Look out Sunday. If I see a post from you , I will jump on. If not, I will just post one to you. Pretty much, the heavier the pellet, the slower the fps. I will include my best 25yds. with each. Note “to self” will be made,…now if I can just remember where I sat my notepad and pen….. πŸ˜‰ Chris



  11. B.B.
    I wasn’t having any luck finding anyone in Abilene that knew of an airgun show so I called the guy I talked to earlier, he said he said there was a airgun SHOP in Abilene so I unintentionally contrived a show much closer to home.
    Sorry for the heart attack.
    πŸ™‚


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