There’s been a lot going on with the new year; the SHOT Show has come and gone, I’ve had a lot of writing work to get caught up on as well as picking up some new publications, and getting ready for more hunts this year than I’ve ever had in a 12 month period. Also had some great new guns that I’ve been working up, and also have spent a lot of time improving my indoor testing range and studio for photo and video production. So while I know my blogging has been a bit erratic, I think I’m now in a good place to get caught up. I will work on answering all the posts and emails, and thank you for sticking with me. But with all this activity and new stuff, this week I want to talk about an old favorite …… again. I know it seems that every year I write something about my Beeman C1 springer, but then it seems that at some point every year I fall in love with this gun again….. so here we go!
My Favorite Springer
I was recently speaking with a firend in the airgunning trade, and he remarked that there has been a sustained growth in the North American airgun market over the last few years. He attributed this to the growing popularity of airguns for small game hunting and pest control. Many North American hunters are beginning to appreciate that airguns are quiet, inexpensive to shoot, ammunition is available and that they are capable of delivering tack driving accuracy with enough power to be very effective in the field.
Everybody that reads this column knows that the airgun hunter has a couple options when considering an airgun; either a spring piston or a pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) power plant being the most widely used. Pre-charged pneumatics are gaining a lot of traction with the enthusiast and hunting intelligentsia, and the fact is that I use PCPs a lot more than any other type of airgun. The other power plant is of course the spring piston airgun; the advantages being that they are fully self-contained, can be quite powerful and accurate, and as a rule cost a lot less than PCPs. The disadvantages are that they tend to be larger and heavier (not always the case though), have more recoil so take a bit more practice to shoot well, and require more effort to cock as a strong spring must be compressed to ready the gun for shooting.
A compelling argument can be made for either of these power plants, and there are strong proponents for both. I think that it depends on your intended use, your specific hunting requirements, personal preferences, and how deep you want to go into your wallet. Admittedly the cost of entry level PCPs is coming down, but even a high quality springer will get you into the game for quite a bit less. But outside of financial factors, my personal view is both are worthwhile and valid hunting tools. I have both and use both for hunting a variety of quarry, but in this post I want to take a look at the spring piston power plant, and more specifically I’ll talk about one of my all-time favorites.. I find the idea of a fully self-contained gun very appealing, and will often take a springer with me when heading out fishing or camping, anywhere that I don’t want to carry along a lot of extra gear or can’t be reliant on the availability of an external air source to keep the gun shooting.
Spring Piston Performance
The spring piston airgun generates power using a powerful spring-loaded piston that is housed within a compression chamber. Cocking the gun causes the piston assembly to compress the spring. When the spring is released it pushes the piston forward compressing a column of air in the chamber behind the pellet. The spring piston power plant is capable of developing sufficient energy to get a projectile moving at supersonic velocities, though effectiveness as a hunting tool is not solely a function of muzzle velocity. All discussions of terminal performance aside, very powerful airrifles tend to be large and heavy guns. If I need this power I will put up with the bulk, however, for a lot of small game, and especially when I want to keep inside of 35 yards, I’d rather have a compact gun. To get a compact springer generally means giving up some power and I’m OK with that. I have owned many spring piston Airguns over the years, most have stayed with me a short while, a few for quite long periods, and some have been superseded with more recent versions of the same model. But one that has been in my collection for well over 20 years is my Beeman C1. And even though it is a .177,and I have few .177’s having gravitated towards larger calibers, I love this gun. It meets virtually every requirement I have; it is accurate, it has the right power for squirrels, rabbits, etc, it’s very compact and light, easy cocking effort, great ergonomics (for me, shooters tend to love or hate the stock), and it digests a large variety of pellets.
There are a lot of very powerful springers, some in the 30-40 fpe range, being produced today, but these guns are all huge and none (that I’ve shot) are particularly comfortable to shoot, especially for extended target or plinking sessions. But my little C1 is a blast to shoot all day long; I’ve been testing a cool new .30 caliber springer that I actually like, but after a couple dozen shots you have been rattled and shaken! But I’ve gone through a tin of pellets with my C1 in a session and feel none the worse for the experience..
In the United Kingdom, where airgun hunting has a huge following, hunters are limited to 12 fpe guns without afirearms certificate (FAC). They have taken untold numbers of rabbits, squirrels, pigeons, and crows with these guns over the years. The whole objective of airgun hunting is achieving optimal accuracy from both the gun and the hunter. This is the overriding criteria; once a gun is doing 12 fpe any small game animal it connects with is going down cleanly so long as the shot placement is correct. However, once pinpoint accuracy is achieved, more power never hurts, and it will permit the hunter to reach out a bit further! As mentioned I’ve been using this Beeman C1 (built by Webley & Scott) for well over two decades, and this mid 800 fps carbine in .177 has put more game in the bag than just about any springer I’ve ever owned. If you’ll be going after larger quarry such as raccoon, a gun producing over 20 fpe or more is a good idea.
If you will be doing a lot of plinking or are a smaller shooter, another consideration when choosing a hunting springer is the cocking effort. It only takes a single cocking motion to prepare the gun for shooting, but the effort can be substantial. As a rule of thumb, the more powerful the gun the more effort will go into cocking it. That’s why my 30 fpe .25 caliber Webley Patriot is not the first choice when plinking. The 40 lb cocking effort is very manageable for a days hunting, but is less ideal if the intention is to shoot a couple tins of pellets during a range session! I think finding the right balance of accuracy, power, cocking effort, and field attributes (size, weight, fit) is key to selecting the right gun.
There are many options available when it comes to the selection of a spring piston air rifle for hunting. The one that is best suited for you depends on what you want to hunt, where you will hunt, what ranges you’ll shoot at, and of course, which rifle appeals to your sense of aesthetics. Many of the newer spring piston airgun designs are capable of supersonic velocities. But as discussed, there is more to it than simply getting the highest muzzle velocity; it’s picking a gun that yields adequate power and exceptional accuracy. When you hit a small game animal with a head shot at 35 yards, it doesn’t really matter if the muzzle velocity was 900 fps or 1130 fps. It’s all about shot placement! When making your rifle and pellet selection, keep in mind that once the pellet goes supersonic there may be some degradation in accuracy depending on pellet design, and it will be louder. With the right gun and pellet combination, a spring piston airgun provides more than enough power to cleanly and efficiently kill just about any small game or pest species found in North America. And because they are quiet and have limited range, they are practical for use in more built up areas. This can result in more hunting opportunities closer to home, and opens up otherwise inaccessible areas where even a rimfire is too loud and carries too far be practical.
People will have their favorite guns, and as mentioned there are a lot of good ones and quite a few great ones out there. I’ve told you about my favorite springer, and why it has made the grade in my eyes. Do your homework, understand what you are going to use it for, how much you can spend, etc. These days when I am going to buy a gun for my hunting use, I ask myself “do I think I’ll still want to use this gun a few years down the line”? I won’t tell you which gun you should buy, but I would suggest you get the best quality gun you can afford. If you walk into a big box store and buy a gun off the shelf, odds are it will do the job for you, but odds are a year two down the line you will have probably moved to something else. But get a quality European gun, you may find that like my C1, it stays with you for many years.