Are you getting ready to buy your first air rifle? Check out this article to get an idea of what you should be looking for before making your purchase.
Buying your first air gun is a lot like buying a new pair of shoes. You’ve got plenty of options but you only need to get the ones that fit you best. But sometimes the process is not as easy as we all want it to be.
For example, let’s say you’ve found a good looking pair of hunting boots but the store may not have it in your size or the color that you want. Perhaps the price isn’t right. Or maybe the fit’s just off.
Of course, it’s possible you’re one of the lucky ones who will end up really liking the first air rifle you’ve bought. But if you’d rather not leave it to chance, I’d say you better read on. When you know the things to consider when buying an airgun, there’s less chance you’re going to regret your decision.
Four main types
While you’re checking air rifle reviews, you may have come across terms such as spring-piston, pneumatic (PCP), gas ram, and CO2. These are the four main types of airguns based on propulsion method or how the pellet is propelled out of the barrel.
The most common type is the spring-piston. As the name implies, it uses a spring and air piston to push a pellet down range. The great thing about spring-piston airguns is that you don’t need to worry about pumping or cartridges.
Plus, with enough practice, you’ll be able to take advantage of the consistency, accuracy, and power of a spring-piston gun. As for the cocking mechanism, a springer uses an underlever or top-lever or side-lever.
Pneumatic rifles, on the other hand, are pump rifles. These guns propel a pellet using compressed air. Pneumatics can be further classified into pump-up and pre-charged (PCP).
Pump-up air rifles are cheaper than CO2 varieties but they need to be primed or charged for every shot. PCPs operate in the same manner but because they draw upon a steady supply of highly pressurized air, you don’t have to recharge as often.
The only disadvantage to PCPs is their cost. Aside from the rifle itself, you also need to invest in a good hand pump or SCUBA tank.
And then you have gas ram guns, which are similar to spring-piston rifles. By similar, I mean they are both cocked using a lever. The only difference is how the pellet is propelled down the barrel. In terms of advantages, gas ram air rifles have a long shelf life and deliver smooth shots.
Last but not the least are CO2 rifles. These are powered by CO2 cartridges or canisters. Unlike pneumatics, you don’t need to worry about pumping and they are relatively easy to use. Take note, however that CO2 powered guns are expensive.
CO2 cartridges don’t come cheap and when you’re hunting, differences in temperature can affect the power of a shot.
I need it for…
Target shooting? Pest control? Plinking? Hunting?
You can pore over all the gun reviews you can find online but until you’re clear on how you’re going to use your air rifle, all you’re doing is give yourself a headache from information overload.
Now I know some would argue that it doesn’t have to be so complicated. Just pick an air rifle and use it however you want. And while it’s true to a certain degree, you’re still better off with a gun that has been designed for its intended use. There are just some rifles that are better for hunting and some that are ideal for competition target shooting.
As someone who has tested a lot of air rifles and an avid hunter, I personally like to draw a distinction between guns that are great for medium to large game and those that are perfect for target shooting and killing pests or small game.
Caliber or calibre means “the (standard) diameter of the bore, excluding the depth of the rifling grooves.”
Take the Hatsan air rifle, specifically the Hatsan 95 (a personal favorite) for example. It comes in three common calibers: .177, .22, and .25. Another common caliber is the .20, but you’ll probably have a hard time getting pellets.
Of the four, you’ll most likely come across the .177, which is great for target shooting. Some .177s can fire both BBs and pellets – ideal for plinking and pest control.
The .22 uses heavier pellets, which makes it excellent for hunting. If you’re a beginner and want a clean kill, go for .22.
For close range hunting, I recommend the .25. Its trajectory has been described as very loopy or rainbow-like but experts consider it a perfect choice for those who mostly hunt small game.
The price is right
As with most things, you get what you pay for. But it’s also true that the diligent shopper gets the best deals. So if you’ve set a budget for your first air rifle, don’t think you’ll be limited by your options.
There are affordable air rifles with good build quality that can last you for many years. I’ve mentioned the Hatsan 95 earlier and it’s worth mentioning again because it’s under $200 and is impressive both in power and accuracy.
Though it’s a bit on the heavy side, recoil is minimal and is just a joy to use. I recommend the .22 and the .25 for hunting or pest control and the .177 for plinking and shooting down small pests.
There are others such as the Crosman Optimus, Gamo Big Cat, Ruger Air Magnum, and Crosman Nitro Venom that are also worth checking out. Like the Hatsan, these options are under $200 and offer accuracy, power, and durability.
The more you shoot, the more you’ll get a feel for what you want from an air rifle. When you’re ready to upgrade, perhaps you’ll give more weight to the fit and finish of a gun, trigger sensitivity, adjustable power (for some PCPs), and so on.
But these are a matter of personal preference. If you just narrow down the type you want, usage, and budget, the selection process will be easier. In no time, you’ll be able to buy your first airgun without any regrets.