Why Airguns? Power! Precision! Fun! What More Do You Want?

Today’s airguns can do a lot more than your grandad’s old BB gun. In fact, they can lob powerful, big-bore projectiles like these .45’s a long way!

By Tom McHale

You know it’s gonna be a great day when the ring of freedom sounds an awful lot like your front doorbell. The other day when mine rang, I answered the call and discovered a big, fat package on my porch. It turns out that bundle of joy was a .45-caliber rifle. Oh, did I mention that it had an integral suppressor?

What? No fuss, no muss, no FFL transfers, no “no knock” raids by the ATF? No, it wasn’t a covert shipment from old kindergarten buddies currently serving a tour in MS-13. In fact, it was 100 percent legal. That’s because I was the fortunate recipient of a brand new airgun. No, we’re most certainly not talking about your daddy’s airguns. While Daisy Red Ryders bring back nostalgic memories of sending tin cans straight back to their maker with extreme prejudice, things have changed somewhat, and arguably for the better.

SIG SAUER makes rifles and pistols that mimic their “internal combustion” counterparts for low-cost training and practice.

Hey, I used to be a snobbish aficionado of guns that make loud noises, spit fire, and create smoke by the metric ton. I still am, but I’ve broadened my horizons to include some of the most technologically advanced “guns” I’ve yet seen. The capabilities of today’s airguns just might surprise you. Let’s take a quick walk through High-Pressure Paradise to see what you can do with modern breeze-powered blasters.

Match this! If you want to improve your rifle skills, modern airguns are up to the task. Here’s a 10-yard group from the Gamo Urban 22 PCP.

Sweet, Discreet, Precise

Some of you are fortunate enough to have land on which you can shoot. Most of us suffer in quiet desperation and live in abject terror under the iron-fisted rule of a homeowners’ association. At least where I live, building a live-fire range in my front yard is seriously frowned upon, regardless of how large a berm I bulldoze next to the sidewalk. But never fear, airguns are here! While not completely quiet (balloons still make noise when you pop them after all), airguns are almost always hearing-safe and far less likely to send the neighbors’ Havanese yapper into therapy. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but if an airgun fires in the confines of an HOA and no board members hear it … .

This handy little from Gamo is appropriately named the Urban 22. It’s perfect for backyard fun and pest control.

Theoretically, that opens up lots of possibilities right at home. Plinking? Sure. Training? Why, yes. Check out the new offerings from companies like SIG SAUER and Umarex. I’ve got a drawer full of P229s, 1911s and P320 air pistols that are shaped  — even weighted — to feel like the real thing. Not only will they fit in your “real gun” holsters for some very realistic “at home” training, many even have nifty realistic features like reciprocating slides. Backyard? Check. Garage? Check. Family room? Only when my wife isn’t home. The best part is that the CO2 canisters, pellets, and BBs to drive them are available at your local sporting goods or big-box store for a fraction of the price of the fiery stuff.

Did somebody say “big bore?” This Umarex Hammer fires .50-caliber lead slugs. Tactical looking, ain’t it?

If you want to step up your precision game, check out the slew of new PCP (pre-charged pneumatic) airguns. With self-contained air tanks packing 3,000 to 4,500 psi of compressed air, these fellas will sling anything from .177- or .22-caliber pellets to .50-caliber slugs with mighty authority and without the sproing of those toy BB guns.

Models like the Gamo Urban 22 and Umarex Gauntlet run about $300 and will shock you with their performance and accuracy. Sure, you’ve got to charge them with compressed air, but local dive shops, paintball centers, and even fire departments can help you with that. If you want to go self-sufficient, you can buy a 4,500 psi hand pump for about $150, and compressor prices are falling faster than Academy Awards TV ratings. They can now be had for less than $800.

The Umarex Gauntlet .25 Caliber gives you a consistent shot string of 50 rounds from one full fill of its 3000 psi tank. Image courtesy of manufacturer.

The Pursuit of Power

Let’s come back to that bundle of heavy lead slug-flinging joy that came in the mail. This particular specimen was a Gamo TC45 pre-charged pneumatic air rifle. Would you be impressed if I told you it’s capable of launching 411-grain lead slugs and delivering over 400-foot-pounds of muzzle energy? That’s exactly what it does. After a quick chat with founder David Williams at Hunters Supply, I stocked up on a wide variety of, umm “pellets” ranging from 138 grainers to 411-grain lead slugs — for an air rifle. Those 138s clocked in at an average of 755 fps. The 147-grain lead round balls hit 859 fps likely owing to their smaller bearing surface. As for the 411-grain heavies, I measured those at 637 fps. That’s not shabby for an “air rifle” now is it.

Yes, I still love my Daisy Red Ryder, but folks, we’re playing a whole new ballgame.

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