An Airgun Industry Crystal Ball

Friday, January 11, 2019

The 2019 SHOT Show will be with us very soon now. So, before it happens, I’ll take a risk and make some predictions for what I think we may see there…

THE FUTURE FOR PCP AIR RIFLES.

At the 2017 SHOT Show, everyone was talking about the Umarex Gauntlet, a revolutionary $300, magazine-fed, regulated PCP air rifle with a great shot count. The announcement of this gun created a huge buzz among airgunners and airgun companies across the US and beyond.

An Airgun Industry Crystal Ball

What the Umarex Gauntlet established was the $300 price floor for a “good enough” quality, regulated PCP air rifle. During 2017, we saw Gamo, Benjamin and others reducing the prices of their PCPs to get close to that magic $300 number. And at the 2018 SHOT Show, there were more $300 magazine-fed PCPs launched – the Benjamin Fortitude and Hatsan Flash among them. I expect to see more this year.

Furthermore, just about every new $300+ PCP launched since the Gauntlet has been regulated.

Currently, these guns have bolt actions. But semi-autos will become more common in future, I believe. In a few years time, the typical $300 regulated, magazine-fed PCP air rifle will also be semi-automatic. Will that start to happen at the 2019 SHOT Show? We’ll see…

WHAT ABOUT BREAK BARRELS?

As HPA compressors become smaller, lighter and cheaper, the barriers to PCP ownership will clearly be reduced. In fact, I believe that they will cause the traditional, single shot break barrel air rifle – to become an endangered species.

Now I do not think that break barrel, single shot springers (or gas rams) will ever disappear. But I do predict that there will be fewer of them sold in future. Mostly, they will retreat slowly back down to the lowest reaches of the US airgun market at prices of $150 or less. Even there, they will be challenged by multi-shot CO2-powered guns.

I also predict that a few, specialist, break barrel (or underlever) single shot springers will survive at the top end of the market, say $500 and above. But these will be the choice of real enthusiasts and a few diehard traditionalists, those “real men” who want to experience “airguns as they used to be”. Think Weihrauch and SIG SAUER ASP20 (below).

An Airgun Industry Crystal Ball

So I predict the current huge range of springers in the $150 – $300 range will fade away and die out over the next few years. They will be steadily squeezed out by increasingly easy-to-use (and cheap) rapid-firing PCP and CO2 guns.

CO2 STRIKES BACK.

CO2-powered airguns are making a big comeback! Many, many airgunners are falling for the charms of rapid-firing firearms replica airguns. Yes, many of these are BB guns and most of them are pistols.

CO2-powered airguns offer “realism” and they offer rapid fire capability. The SIG SAUER MPX and MCX models are a prime example of this trend. They’re hugely successful because they really look the part, fire semi-auto and do not require expensive HPA charging kit. That’s the MPX below.

An Airgun Industry Crystal Ball

This interest in CO2 power is driven, I believe, by a new type of airgunner. They don’t want single shot, hard-recoiling, hard-cocking, Zillion FPS, tough-to-shoot break barrel springers. They want a different type of shooting experience that’s closer to that of firearms (or airsoft, for that matter), but at a lower cost, with shorter range potential and less noise.

I expect to see more CO2-powered firearms replica airguns appear in 2019.

BIG BORE. BIG OPPORTUNITY?

My real question is: “How big is that big bore airgun market”?

Big bore airguns – .30 caliber and above – have been big news in the past few years.

Of course, big bore air rifles use air at a huge rate. This means that you’ll certainly need your own HPA compressor and a very large intermediate tank. In money terms, a big bore requires a $800+ tank and $1,000+ home compressor. Oh, and add-in a $400+ scope. That total rapidly climbs North of $4,000 for a functioning big bore hunting air rifle.

Walking around the SHOT Show, it’s very clear that $4,000 will buy any one of a large number of superb firearm hunting rifles. They’re more powerful, less complicated and require just a box of cartridges to shoot.

So, my prediction is that very high power – say over 200 Ft/Lbs Muzzle Energy – big bore air rifles will remain a niche market.

I believe the cost/complexity/performance envelope of big bore airguns will remain a rarified “enthusiast only” world with a very limited number of users. Unless you already have a tank and compressor for your smallbore PCPs.

Such very high power big bore airguns will continue to attract attention. But the economics probably favor smaller, specialist manufacturers than the biggest players. Look no further than the Western Big Bore Bushbuck, for example.

An Airgun Industry Crystal Ball

So, there’s my predictions for the future of the airgun market…

Overall I believe that, in the next few years, more people will make more shots, firing faster with airguns. Single-shot airguns will become either very cheap, a specialist’s choice or history. Large volume airgun sales in the future belong to magazine-fed, HPA and CO2 airguns with calibers of about .30 and below. Especially those which look like military firearms.

But there again, I could be wrong. According to my wife, I usually am! What do you think?

One Comment

  1. RidgeRunner says:

    Hey Stephen,

    I think some of your predictions are bordering on being correct, though I do not think the sproinger is going away in the very near future. There is still a considerable market that wants to do more than plink with their airguns, but are not ready for the serious investment for PCPs. It the cost of PCPs, compressors and tanks continue to come down though, you will see more of a market migration there.

    As for the big bore, I think you will see a very slow increase in the niche market as more PCP people equip themselves with the equipment to feed them. After all, it was really not too long ago that a .25 airgun was rare. More and more are wanting to shoot farther, bigger, faster.

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