The use of airguns for urban and suburban small game hunting and pest control is one of my favorite topics to write about. A key factor for the rise in popularity of these guns in North America is that increasing urbanization has resulted in less land available for traditional hunting pursuits. If you spend time around more built up areas such as industrial complexes, railroad yards, landfills, golf courses, or other scenes from the urban/suburban landscape you’ll have noticed that they often become the home territory and feeding grounds for a variety of pest and small game species. Airgun hunting for small game and especially pest animals provides a service to the property owner while allowing the hunter to get in some fast action hunting, often much closer to home. Where local regulations permit, it is often possible to obtain permission from owners and facility managers to shoot pest animals on their property (check to make sure local laws allow you to shoot an airgun in potential hunting spots). You can often get access to properties by letting the owners know that you will be safe and responsible. Explain that you will remove pest species that cause financial damage or present a health risk, and will use a type of hunting tool that minimizes or negates the risk of damage to people or property. When I am asking permission to shoot on a property, I’ll carry along a couple article reprints that discuss airguns and airgun hunting to share if they seem interested. I also keep a gun stowed in the trunk of my car (don’t walk up with a gun when asking permission!!) that can be demonstrated on request, and this has lead to more than one impromptu plinking session. A frequently encountered obstacle to overcome is concern over liability; carry a form letter which assumes responsibility for any damage that might arise, and releases the owners from liability for any injury that might occur while on their property.
Once you determine that the local ordinances allow you to shoot an airgun and have lined up a property to hunt on, you may feel that everything is set and ready to go. But things can still go wrong! You may find yourself in a legal shooting area with permission to hunt and an eye on legal quarry, only to find you must pass through a populated area where it is preferable not to be seen toting a gun. I had once arranged to shoot at a local lumber yard that was having a problem with pigeons messing all over the place. Walking from a parking lot to the yard, somebody saw me carrying a rifle and called the police. After discussing the situation and ascertaining that I had permission and was breaking no laws, I was allowed to go on my way. But this still cost me an hour of my precious shooting time, and it would have been better not to have been seen at all! This experience gave me pause to consider what constituted the perfect hunting gun for urban hunting/pest control, and I formulated my own set of requirements. The gun must be quiet, compact, generate appropriate power for the intended use, accept various targeting accessories, and if it can be broken down for transport to my hunt site, all the better.
Just about any airgun is quieter than almost any firearm, some more than others. Spring piston airguns tend to be pretty quiet out of the box; most of the noise originates from the piston slamming home and is more of a low level mechanical twang than the sound of a firearm discharge. Pre-charged pneumatic guns tend to be louder, producing a firearm like crack though at a substantially lower volume. While the report of even a high power air rifle is much quieter than a rimfire, there are ways to quiet these guns down further still, a PCP gun with a shrouded barrel can be as quiet as a whisper.
Urban hunting for pest such as pigeons, starlings, rats and smaller species typically occur at closer ranges, say inside of 25 yards. So a great deal of power does not need to be generated to achieve fast clean kills. One could argue that a gun producing 9-10 fpe is more than adequate for most pest control duties, and it certainly will cause less damage in case of a missed shot. I generally use a PCP with adjustable power and a shrouded barrel in these settings. If I intend to shoot something bigger such as a groundhog or raccoon I will opt for a more powerful pcp rifle or dial up the power on guns with adjustable power settings. There are spring piston airguns that have the power and range for larger quarry, but they tend to be big and bulky, so when I want to be discreet these are not my first choice. It is quite possible to find a substantially more powerful pcp in a compact and unobtrusive package, which makes them a better candidate for taking care of larger urban pest.
I mentioned that the gun should provide a means of mounting targeting accessories such as scopes, lasers, and lights. Iron sights are fine with respect to range, but as urban pest control often takes place in darker conditions I prefer a scope. A high power scope is unnecessary for the ranges typically associated with urban hunting. However a lower power or adjustable magnification scope is very useful, especially in settings of low ambient light, such as hunting in a dark factory building or shooting rats at night. There are a couple of other pieces of gear that are of use in these conditions; such as a laser and a flashlight mounted on the gun using a specialized mounting system with remote switches that permit them to be easily set up and quickly deployed.
I have several guns that qualify as urban hunters; probably the best all-around urban hunting guns I am using are the FX Verminator, the AirForce Talon P .25 caliber carbine, and the Benjamin Marauder Pistol in carbine configuration.
The Verminator has everything I want in an urban hunter, it is hard hitting and very accurate magazine fed gun, has a short barrel that is effectively shrouded which in addition has an extra shroud extension that can further reduce the sound to a whisper. The airbottle, which serves as the buttstock, can be dismounted to pack the gun for transport. This Verminator incorporates an adjustable power control which I’ve dialed down to shoot pigeons in a barn, and then set it at full power to drop raccoons raiding a feeder. I’ve also switched to the longer barrel, dialed the power up, and shot prairie dogs with it at over 100 yards. If I had to pick one compact gun that does it all, this would [probably be the one.
Another gun I’ve been shooting recently is the Airforce Talon P, which was built as a pistol but is easily converted into a carbine. As a pistol it is a real handful of gun, but by adding a shoulder rest to the air reservoir/buttstock it becomes one of the smallest and compact carbines to be found, and the ergonomics are quite good. This gun is a single shot and is on the loud side; however it has an adjustable power control, is a hammer when dialed up, has good accuracy and a high shot count. It is also probably the most compact full feature airgun to be found.
The last gun mentioned is the Crosman Benjamin Marauder Pistol, wearing the stock extension that is a standard accessory when you buy the pistol. Where the Talon-P is in my opinion a carbine that you can use as a pistol, the Marauder Pistol is very much a handgun that you can use as a pistol. Of the three guns discussed it is the lowest powered, though it has several great features. An 8 shot magazine, shrouded barrel that effectively suppresses the sound and a high degree of accuracy makes this a fine choice for smaller game and pests as either a pistol or a carbine as the situation warrants.
As I’ve pointed out many times before, one of the most compelling advantages of hunting with airguns is that they open up new hunting grounds closer to home. Often these urban settings don’t occur in the aesthetically pleasing landscapes we all prefer to hunt in, but they do offer target rich environments that can provide a lot of shooting fun and practice for when we can get out to the country. I often hunt small game such as rabbit and squirrel, and even some pest such as prairie dogs, with an airgun rather than a firearm simply because I prefer airguns. However, when hunting small game or doing pest control in the urban or suburban landscape, I use an airgun, because it’s my only option.