Pause to reflect
by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- Blue Book coming
- Price-point PCP
- The value compressor
- Gun compressors
- Repeating spring guns
- Big Bores
- Special things
- Over to you
Blue Book coming
I have been writing my next Blue Book of Airguns report. My section is called Gaylord Reports, and I try to summarize all that has happened since the last Blue Book was published. The new book should be released in May or early June.
The last Blue Book was published in 2016. While that sounds like just three years ago, since the book was actually written the year before, it’s a full 3-plus years and going on four. More has happened in this time than at anytime in the history of airguns!
There is so much information that I cannot get it into one report. I’m having to consolidate all of the exciting things into categories. And doing that has caused me to pause for reflection. There is more going on with airguns today than I have ever seen. I would like to share my view with you right now, and then give you the opportunity to comment.
Several of the categories of things that have happened since the last Blue Book deal with the subject of pre-charged pneumatics (PCP). Let’s begin there. The price-point PCP, or as I like to call it the PPP has been the number one-game changer in this time frame. These are air rifles that are pre-charged pneumatics with a lot of desirable features, yet they sell for under $300. Until I wrote the section for the Blue Book, I did not fully appreciate their impact. You see, not only are there PPP guns, there are also guns that sell for even less money that I’m now calling sub-PPP guns. The Beeman QB Chief is a perfect example of one.
The PPP guns do not stand alone. They have spawned an interest in the field of pre-charged pneumatics that is driving other areas. A rising tide lifts all boats. Perhaps the most important area is that of the compressor. In 2016 there were a few compressors that would fill large carbon-fiber tanks to 4500 psi. Today there are many that will do it! And some of them cost about half as much as they did several years ago.
The value compressor
The era of the giant $3000 air compressor is coming to a close — at least for individual shooters. They will continue to exist because there are many other needs for them, but individual airgunners can do the same things more conveniently with compressors costing less than half as much. The Air Venturi Compressor is a perfect example of this.
And compressors, like pneumatic guns, are also starting to coagulate into groups. Below what I am now calling the value compressors ($1,000 to $1,600) are a group of smaller machines that can do nearly as much — they just take longer.
One unique feature most of the new compressors have is they can stand alone — not needing to be attended. The $3000 compressors require an operator at their side while they are running. But the compressors that cost $1,000 to $1,600 have set-and-forget features. They shut off when the set pressure is reached and several of them self-bleed during operation. You still have to be aware of them, but you don’t have to stand over them. You can be in another room and just listen for them to stop.
This set-and-forget feature has migrated down to the lower-priced units, as well. The Air Force E-pump is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. That compressor can also fill a large carbon-fiber tank — it just takes longer than a larger compressor.
If you want to save even more money there are now compressors that are not made to fill tanks but individual guns. They have most of the same features of the higher-cost units, but they are less money. The Air Venturi Nomad II is one of these and not only does it have a set-and-forget feature, it also runs on both house current and a car battery.
Repeating spring guns
Another new category is the repeating springer. We had them back when I was a kid 60 years ago, but they didn’t work very well. They had problems feeding the pellets through their complex mechanisms. Today they use rotary magazines, and the feeding problem has been solved!
When they first started coming to the market several years ago, I thought they were just gimmicks. But more and more companies are bringing them out, and they’re being received well by the air gun community.
Look around and you’ll see that this field is blossoming rapidly. I guess its time has come.
The look-alike airgun is also not a new idea. We had them prior to World War II. The Haenel model 28 that looks like a German Luger is a perfect example from the 1930s.
When I was a kid in the 1960s, Crosman’s 38 C and 38T were considered brilliant, and everybody knows how successful their M1 Carbine BB gun was. Today these guns all look like museum artifacts, which I sadly guess they are, since they are a half-century old. They were great for their time but we are now living in the age of the lookalike. Yesterday’s report on the new Ruger 10/22 Air Rifle should be proof of that!
We have guns like the new Sig M17 P320 pellet pistol and any number of 1911s from a variety of companies. And, perhaps the best replica of all is the Umarex MP40 Submachine Gun. It is so realistic!
And don’t forget the K98 Mauser from Diana. Not only is it a great look-alike airgun, it’s also wonderful shooter!
Another category that is booming is the big bore airgun — pardon the pun. These were already hot in 2016, but the increase since then has overwhelmed me. The big bore is probably where our pneumatic technology will be affected the most. Some companies who thought they could develop big bores and get in on the action suddenly realized the physics of pneumatics for the first time. There are things that cannot be overlooked. A longer barrel means higher velocity — period! High pressure does not guarantee great power. An airgun’s valve has to be designed to be efficient with air and to take the probable projectiles into account. You don’t notice this in a 177 pneumatic as much as you do in a 45. The big bore really pushes your nose into the science!
And, let’s not forget arrow launchers. They are a little older than 2016, but since that time some remarkable things have happened. Air Venturi, for example, did away with the special airgun and made their Air Bolts launchable from any appropriate barrel. Pretty nice when $100 will save you $1,000!
Since 2016 there have also been a few special things happen. They are so outstanding that they need to be addressed individually. Perhaps the most significant of these is the new Sig ASP20 breakbarrel rifle. Sig has reduced the cocking effort of a powerful gas spring by 30 percent, eliminated vibration, lowered the muzzle blast, gotten accuracy that has never been seen in a gas spring gun before and coupled all that with a dedicated optic that was designed expressly for the rifle. What Sig has done is take the careful work of a serious field target shooter and render it down into a package that can be bought over the counter.
Another significant change during this period has been the acquisition of RAW by AirForce airguns. RAW rifles are at the pinnacle of pneumatic superiority. They may have a few equals, but none are better. However, until recently they have been made in small batches, with many operations being done by hand. AirForce has turned that wonderful design into something producible at a reasonable rate. They won’t make thousands of them because there isn’t a demand for that many airguns at that price. But, by making hundreds at a time, they can significantly decrease the time it takes to get one. And, they are looking at other things that will improve this even more, like building several of the most popular models to have in stock.
Over to you
That is what I have been thinking about for the past month. As I put my chapter together for the Blue Book I was overwhelmed by how far we have come in such a short time. A couple readers have asked where does it all end? If we’re lucky, I don’t think it does. What do you think?