First things first: my heartfelt thanks to the folks who read this blog. If you didn’t read it, then the good folks at www.airgunsofarizona.com would have no reason to sponsor it. In addition, although you probably don’t realize it, the readers have frequently come to my rescue with interesting questions that would be fun and informative to write about in this blog. For example, recently, I received this email:
Dear Mr. Elliott:
I am new to airguns and think they would be a great asset to have for putting food on the table for my family in case the electricity ever went out for any period of time.
- In your experience, what would you recommend as the best gun (top 3 in order) and caliber to purchase in order to maintain a regular food supply? I live in Georgia in a suburban area with woods all around. (squirrels, turkey & smaller deer) I don’t plan on being a collector of numerous airguns however, price is not a limiting factor.
- What are your preferred scopes and range finders?
- Since, in theory, the electricity may be out, I will need to hand pump the rifle. What is the best (most efficient, easiest to use and reliable) pump available?
Thanks for your time.
Well, Blair, the questions that you pose are interesting and ones that I have thought about from time to time over the years. In addition, my answer to the question of an airgun for reliable game getting has changed recently.
We’ll get to that in a little while, but since you said you are new to airguns, first let’s take a brief survey of airgun powerplants to see which types are available.
Multi-stroke pneumatic (MSP) airguns –require multiple strokes (usually 2-10) of a lever to store compressed air in an on-board cylinder. These guns are virtually recoilless, are relatively easy to shoot well, are completely self-contained, and are suitable to taking small game. In addition, the velocity and power of the shot can be varied with the number of pumping strokes (from, say, 300 fps to 800 fps, depending upon the gun). Once it is fired, a multi-stroke pneumatic must be pumped up again.
Single-stroke pneumatic (SSP) airguns require just a single stroke to charge the gun. Single stroke pneumatics are self-contained, easy to cock, and highly consistent. They are often very accurate over distances up to 20 meters. The power of SSP rifles is usually low, shooting relatively light match-grade .177 pellets at 500-600 fps. SSP pistols are even less powerful.
Pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) airguns use air from a SCUBA tank or a high-pressure hand pump that is stored a high-pressure reservoir on the gun. Many long-range varmint air rifles use this powerplant. These guns are powerful, virtually recoil-free, very consistent, highly accurate and, in some cases, offer on-the-fly adjustable power. They are not, however, self-contained. When the compressed air in the on-board reservoir runs out, you need a SCUBA tank or high-pressure hand pump to charge the gun again.
Spring-piston airguns use a lever (sometimes the barrel, sometimes a lever under the barrel or on the side of the receiver) to cock a spring. When the trigger is pulled, the spring is released, propelling a piston forward and pushing a powerful blast of air behind the pellet. This is the same operating principle behind the beloved Red Ryder. Spring-piston guns are self-contained, often powerful, and can be very accurate as well as relatively quiet. The cocking effort – sometimes as high as 60 lbs — can be challenging in more powerful guns. In addition, the movement of the action when released can make these guns difficult to shoot with consistent accuracy. There are also gas spring guns which use a gas strut instead of a spring to store energy. In my experience, the more powerful a spring-piston air rifle, the more difficult it will be to shoot it with high accuracy.
CO2 airguns use either 12-gram cartridges or transferred from a bulk tank into the gun’s on-board reservoir. They are recoilless, convenient, and (in high quality models) very accurate, and CO2 cartridges are easy to carry in a pocket. But these guns are not self-contained and velocities can sag at lower temperatures.
Okay, Blair, that’s the background information you need to make a sensible choice of an airgun to meet your needs. Next time, we’ll get to the specific answers to your questions.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott