by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Gauntlet dropped!
- For Hank
- For the manufacturers
- What is a PPP?
- Required features
- Nice features to have
- ALL BOATS ARE FLOATED!
- Other PCPs
- AirForce Airguns
- On and on
When Umarex announced the new Gauntlet air rifle the savvy airgunning world was stunned. A precharged pneumatic (PCP) that was a repeater, was shrouded with an active silencer, had an adjustable trigger and stock, was accurate and came with a regulator — all for less than $300. They named it appropriately, because it was a huge gauntlet to drop on the airgun community. I’m sure this is exactly what Umarex had in mind, though the particulars of how it has and still is unfolding I’m sure have been as much of a surprise to them as they have been to others.
This report is written for reader Vana2 (Hank) who asked me some time ago to report on the impact the price point PCP (PPP) has had on the airgun market. He was wise to ask for such a report, because the impact on the market has been even greater than I think those who started it even imagined it would be. It has literally kick-started PCP sales — taking them to a point that was never before thought possible. The rising tide that floats all boats is impacting airgun sales everywhere, and not just the guns.
For the manufacturers
Every so often I address the airgun manufacturers, and I believe today’s topic is one that applies. As you shall soon see, this trend goes way beyond just a type of airgun!
I coined the phrase price-point-PCP at this year’s SHOT Show, where I saw several new offerings from different companies. It was like the industry had a meeting and everyone decided to go in the same direction — only no meeting was held and these guys would never reveal their plans to each other. But the Gauntlet was announced in 2017, and that announcement green-lighted the drag race that ensued. Umarex ended up being just one of many to come to a party they had created.
What is a PPP?
Let’s get this out right now, because there are companies out there that are off the airgun grid — so to speak. They are selling airguns without having a clue about the business they are in. And ironically, those same airguns are capable of bringing them much greater profit than the firearms many are also selling, but they haven’t clicked to that yet. So, for those who are riding in the back of the bus, or just standing on the side of the road with their thumbs out — here are the rules.
A PPP is priced at less than $300. Go even one dollar over that number and there will be talk that you won’t care to hear. Will that ever change? Of course it will. But, when chef is serving filet mignon, it’s not the time to ask for a hamburger. Get with the program or start wearing bib overalls without a shirt, so we can tell who you are.
Repeater with a single-shot capability getting extra credit
Nice features to have
Good adjustable trigger
Fill no higher than 3,000 with 2,000 scoring extra credit
Filling above 3,000 psi is a big negative.
Anything else a designer can think of will be nice. Sling swivel anchors, M1913 rails and so on are always a plus. As long as you are spending $40,000 for the special synthetic stock mold, just add the rail — or at least design the mold with inserts so it can be added later.
Okay, this is for those who really have no clue about the airgun market. Airguns come in 4 smallbore calibers — .177, .20. .22 and .25. Today the .20 caliber is not that popular — build them and die. BUT — if you make an airgun that supports caliber swapping, by all means offer a .20. Just don’t build a gun dedicated to that caliber.
The other three calibers are a must. In the world of airguns the .177 caliber is the most popular, by far, but in the PPP line, where power is greater, the .22 and .25 are just as important. Don’t fail to offer a .177, but offer the other two as well.
ALL BOATS ARE FLOATED!
Okay, set the PPP aside for now. Let’s talk the rest of the airgun industry. And, where better to begin than with the compressor? PPPs need compressed air, and the age of going to the dive shop has ended.
Ten years ago only rich kids had high pressure air compressors — the same kids who owned ponies in their youth. Back then compressors were more than $3,000, and less than reliable. The rest of us schlepped our tanks to the dive shop or paintball store and cursed the dark side. Not no more!
You plan to get a PCP, figure that at some point you will also get a way to keep it filled. You may start with a hand pump, which is where the guns that take a 2,000 psi fill come in. But if you go with 3,000 psi, you’ll probably be interested in a compressor.
Like June, cheap compressors are busting out all over! The Air Venturi Nomad II is capable of filling a rifle to 4,500 psi (not a tank) and it’s under $650. I have one — just haven’t tested it yet. The Benjamin Traveler compressor now appears to be coming out at under $700, too. I am also eagerly awaiting the chance to test the new AirForce E-Pump that has already started shipping. This one is pre-sold to many buyers, probably because it has been tested for the past 5 years and everyone knows how robust it must be. And it’s under $850!
I use my Air Venturi Compressor all the time. You may remember that I bought the one Pyramyd had been using in-house, so it had some time on it when I got it. It’s still strong and fast, and it’s just $1,300. The days of paying over $3,000 for a compressor that was not that reliable are over.
Nova Vista is an airgun company based in Macau, China. They are the ones who invented the Air Venturi Seneca Aspen that I’m testing for you. I’m also testing a straight PCP called the Liberty that they make for a firearms company. This will be a feature article in Firearms News, but won’t be in this blog. That rifle is priced just $30 above the PPP limit, yet it has most of the features and quality of a Benjamin Marauder! The firearms company doesn’t seem to know what a good thing they have. Crosman should be pleased, because if Pyramyd were to carry it, the Marauder would have a serious competitor.
My point is — here is a Chinese manufacturer striking out on their own. No buyers to steer them to what people “want” means they get to play with the big boys and reap the benefits of making their own good decisions. That hasn’t happened before, but I see the era of the PPP is making it possible today.
And then there is Sig Sauer — a 500 lb. gorilla in the firearms world that decided to play the airgun game the right way — by hiring people from the industry who actually know something about airguns. The ASP20 is their first clean sheet of paper, and I know the other companies are wondering if they will play in the PPP game. When I was up touring their factory in July they said they were exploring PCPs. I sort of doubt they will play in the PPP side, because they want room to innovate and the PPP market doesn’t have a lot of room. But, boy howdy, after seeing the ASP20, is there anything they can’t do?
Whaaaat? BB — AirForce doesn’t make a PPP.
I know they don’t, but remember that rising tide? AirForce is working overtime to build and ship their lines of sporting airguns just as fast as they can. June really is busting out all over!
On top of that, they are like a python who has swallowed a telephone pole, with regards to the RAW rifle line! By that I mean they have been going full bore all year to get the RAW rifles ready for production (they were made in batches previously) while keeping the quality at the same high level. I have been watching from the sidelines, which they generously let me do — sometimes.
On and on
I could go on and on at this point, talking about this and that. Because the whole market has awoken. You’ve got new scopes, new lookalike airguns, new big bores, new pellets, ad nauseum. And I think it was the PPP that made a lot of it happen.
The point is, the PPP has been like a spark that has kindled a fire that was just waiting to start. The airgun market is hot and it’s getting hotter all the time. And this time it isn’t politics that’s pulling the carriage — it’s new toys. That can’t be bad for anyone — I don’t care who you are. I’m glad you asked this question, Hank!