by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- What the new year holds
- Big bores
- High-tech projectiles
- Price point PCPs (PPP)
- Basic features of a PPP
- Things that are good to have
- Kiss of death for a PPP
- Horsepower wars over?
- Electronics in scopes
- Scope mounts
- Air compressors
- Replica airguns
- A dual-power spring-piston breakbarrel
- M16 replica
- M1 Garand replica
Happy New Year! May 2020 be a year of vision for all of you!
What the new year holds
I know a lot of you are trying to peek behind the curtain, to see what’s coming down the line. Some writers will divulge things, but I won’t. I would rather wait and see how something is presented before I announce it to the world.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t know some of the things that are coming. Today I would like to share a glimpse into the coming year with some things I know and also the trends I see unfolding. Let’s go!
The coming year will be a hot one for big bore airguns. Expect to see muzzle energy over 800 foot-pounds, and this year it will be in actual production guns — not those that have been held up for scrutiny but have never quite made it to production.
Look for the outsider manufacturers — the ones not known for making big bores — to either increase their presence in the big bore arena or to enter it for the first time.
Along with the big bore guns, I see an increase in projectiles that are designed to give greater performance. There is a lot of room for innovation here and the smaller big bore calibers (.257-.357) are where the largest potential benefits lie.
Look at self defense pistol calibers. Years ago the .45 caliber was highly touted, but when specialized .40-caliber and 9mm defense projectiles began hitting the market, calibers as small as .380 rose to credibility. The same could happen in the airgun world. Certainly the smaller projectiles travel much faster and speed is often a critical component of performance with high-tech projectiles.
Price point PCPs (PPP)
The price-point PCP (precharged pneumatic) took the world by storm a few years ago and quickly became the hottest sector of the smallbore market. Look for more new models, plus gen II and perhaps even gen IIIs that correct errors made at the initial launch.
Basic features of a PPP
At or under $300
Foster fill coupling (at some place in the fill line)
Things that are good to have
Regulator (user adjustable from the outside of the gun)
Fill to 2,000, or to somewhere below 3,000 psi
Better adjustable trigger (Marauder grade)
Reasonable power and number of shots
.177 — 18 foot-pounds and 20 shots
.22 — 22 foot-pounds and 20 shots
.25 — 25 foot-pounds and 18-20 shots
Kiss of death for a PPP
Fill higher than 3,000 psi
Proprietary fill coupling
Too much weight
Horsepower wars over?
Yes and no. For spring-piston airguns the horsepower wars are pretty much a thing of the past. Oh, there will still be some rattletrap breakbarrels at the discount stores, because their buyers haven’t watched the market as closely as mainstream airgun retailers, but the days of the “1,600 f.p.s. breakbarrel” have come to an end. But the horsepower wars are not over. They have just shifted to PCPs and especially to big bores.
Today’s airgunners seem enraptured with 80 foot-pound .25-caliber smallbores and 700 foot-pound big bores. Where does it end? Well, here is a little secret. A 100-pound anvil traveling 100 f.p.s. generates 15,547 foot pounds of energy. The secret to muzzle energy in airguns (because velocity is restricted by physics) is the weight of the projectile. But a heavy projectile may not be accurate or even stable in a given airgun. In other words, the heaviest projectile may just be for bragging rights.
Nevertheless, high numbers sell airguns. And muzzle energy is what many buyers are focused on today. So expect airguns with more muzzle energy this year.
I do know some specific new scopes that we will see this year. I’m sworn to secrecy but there are some things coming that you readers have specifically asked for.
Airgun scopes have lead the field of optics for years. The side focus parallax adjustment was on airgun scopes two decades ago, and firearms scopes only got it 5-7 years ago. Scopes with internal bubble levels are still not in the mainstream for firearms, yet they are so necessary for long-range accuracy.
Electronics in scopes
Look for more affordable thermal imaging devices and videocamera recorders in scopes of the future. And look for the prices to fall as they proliferate.
Adjustable scope mounts that compensate for barrel droop are another airgun innovation. Though the AR-15-class rifles are notorious droopers, many of their users are not aware of this and adjust the droop out with elevation adjustment, alone. Then they wonder why they can’t hold a zero, when we airgunners have known why for decades.
Look for prices to drop this year as companies rebrand the Chinese compressors with upgraded parts and design. And, with the price drop, look for more people to enter the world of precharged airguns.
Also, look for more small compressors that are made to top off guns and not tanks. In the past these had to be connected to shop compressors, but now they stand alone and fill to 4,500 psi readily.
Spring rifle repeaters
Repeating spring-piston air rifle are another hot topic of the past few years. Look for more of them to surface this year and look for the focus to be on a lower profile, now that Gamo has set the bar with the Swarm Fusion 10X.
This market has always been hot and could be called a perennial favorite. Do it right and succeed in a big way. But there are two parts to success. First the gun you copy has to already be well known. And second, your copy has to be perfect.
The M1 Carbine is a favorite of service members and shooters, in general. It’s small, light and handy to carry and use. And its replica airgun copies start with the Crosman BB gun of 1966 and are still going today with the Springfield Armory M1 Carbine. I look for a pellet-firing version of the carbine soon and eventually a precharged version.
The M14 was a not-so-popular transition that followed the Garand in the 1950s and ’60s. Service members who used it liked it, but the government wanted to move to a smaller cartridge in a lighter platform so the M16 replaced it. Look for an accurate replica of the M14, as the M1A (the civilian semiautomatic version) that first shoots BBs and eventually pellets.
Places where the market is open for innovation
A dual-power spring-piston breakbarrel
This is something people have long been asking for — an air rifle with two power levels. It already exists in air pistols. The HW 45 or Beeman P1 has been around for decades with two power settings. I have always thought that a rifle that develops 5-8 foot-pounds on the first cocking stroke and 15-20 foot-pounds on the second stroke would be nice.
There is no good copy of the M16/AR-15 in a pellet rifle. Crosman had the MAR177, a single-shot target upper that worked on an AR-15 lower. I actually built a lower to be able to test the MAR177. I wish I could have afforded one at the time, because it is no longer made.
Anschütz made a good airgun copy of the M16 years ago, but it was special order and not many people ever saw one. And my point is — there is no accurate copy of the M16/AR-15 on the market today. The Crosman AIR17 wasn’t that close and while there are many airguns that resemble the AR today, there is no accurate copy.
M1 Garand replica
There was a replica of the 8mm Egyptian Hakim (the poor-man’s Garand) in 1954. But 66 years later there is no airgun replica of the rifle General Patton said was the “…greatest battle implement ever devised.” Oh, there are WONDERFUL airsoft replicas of it, but there have been accurate airsoft replicas of BARs and M60 machineguns since the 1990s! The airgunning world wants a Garand!
I believe 2020 will be a year when we see many new products. There will also be some refinement of existing products — the gen III guns I referred to earlier.
What I would like to see is more solid and innovative new designs like the Sig ASP20. When a company puts everything on the line and then nails the outcome, we all benefit — whether we buy their rifle or not. Because innovations like these set the standard for the entire market.