By Tom Holzel and Robert D. Beeman, Phd.
What can explain the rapid growth of precision airgun shooting? Why are so many new shooters suddenly buying precision airguns? People from all walks of life are discovering that airgun shooting can be a relaxing hobby–or a rewarding, highly competitive sport.
Target Shooting:It is not surprising that target shooting with airguns is so popular around the world. The top-grade precision airguns are now considered to be the world’s most accurate guns, bar none. In many countries such as Germany and England, target shooting at the local clubhouse is mixed with good fellowship and, after the contest, good beer! Americans also target shoot in clubs, albeit in a bit drier surroundings than their European counterparts. While Americans often think of airgun shooting as primarily a youth program leading to adult firearm events, they are now recognizing that serious airgun competition is an end in itself and something in which members of all ages can participate.
Airgun shooting in America is actively promoted by the National Rifle Association. In fact, airgun shooting is one of only three competitive shooting events that have grown in the US during the last decade (combat pistol and silhouette are the other two). The NRA has established 15 levels of marksmanship awards in their 25-ft airgun shooting programs, awards which you can obtain by shooting right in your own home. Target shooters can also compete with each other via postal matches, and in-person at hundreds of airgun matches at the local, state, national and international levels. Airgun competition is also an official Olympic event for both men and women.
In addition to target shooting, many US shooting clubs have started hunting style metallic silhouette and “running target” programs for air rifles and pistols.
Pest Control: With a proper high-powered airgun you can reduce harmful pests in areas where a firearm would be unsafe or not permitted. (Please be sure to select an airgun with sufficient power to do the job humanely.) Suburbanites, farmers, and gardeners appreciate the adult use of airguns in the selective control of crop predators such as woodchucks, opossum and even raccoons. Airguns may be used to control destructive rodents and birds such as Norway rats, English sparrows, crows, European starlings, and feral Old World pigeons.
Hunting: Shooters enjoy adding to the larder using the new breed of “magnum” hunting air rifles with 30 to 50-yard range. Hunting for food is especially popular for such delicate game as pigeon, squirrel, and rabbit. And, believe it or not, even eating crow can be quite delicious–if it’s not too old. Many suburban air gunners are able to hunt on local farms where firearms simply can’t be used!
The more proficient you become with adult precision airguns– whether to plink, pot pests, or punch paper targets–the more you will appreciate how exquisitely these elegant rifles and pistols are scaled to human sensibilities. Airguns are quiet, modestly powered, extraordinarily accurate mechanical works of art. Learning to master the discipline of superior marksmanship, and training yourself to approach the performance of which these tools are capable can be an enduringly satisfying avocation. One which you might gladly spend a lifetime attempting to master.
You can safely and economically fire thousands of rounds of Ammo a year from an airgun right in your own home. A suitable range can be set up in minutes in a basement, garage, or even in the living room of a small apartment.
Adult precision Airguns may also be used to target shoot outdoors in a variety of social situations where firearms would be out of place. On vacation, while visiting relatives, during a picnic or an outing with friends, you’ll discover many opportunities where the near-silent, pleasure of airgun target shooting adds an activity of high interest. And what unexpected pleasure to set up an impromptu target match among old friends. Shooting at home allows you to practice often, without having to travel to distant firearms ranges or hunting grounds. You can shoot indoors or out*, day or night, during any weather, all year ’round. The low discharge sound, low power and negligible recoil (except with certain magnum airguns) make airgun shooting pleasant and “flinch-free.” The soft discharge sound means no earplugs are needed!
Shooting Skill Improvement: All skill sports require frequent practice. The benign airgun can be used to teach the elements of marksmanship which carry over nearly perfectly to firearms shooting. The safe, sheer handiness of airguns means practice can be impromptu, informal and frequent.
Airgun Regulations: Airguns are not subject to the US Gun Control Act of 1968 and many other firearm laws. There are little or no purchase or ownership problems in most areas. However, some cities and communities treat airguns as firearms. It’s always a good idea to check with your police department for the local regulations. Normally, you can ship, mail, and take target airguns across state and even international borders when traveling and vacationing, although magnum hunting air rifles above 12 ft-lbs of muzzle energy may be treated as firearms in some countries.
Air Rifle Safety: Even the lowliest .22 caliber rimfire bullet has lethal potential and can carry for well over a mile (2+ km) or even pass through a house wall. Most target airguns have a maximum range of about 400 yards (366 m), and the pellets are so light and their energy so low that the only precaution that need be taken is simple eye protection. Neighbors of airgun shooter need never feel uneasy about your quiet, short-range target practice–indoor or out. Indeed, they may never realize how passionate you are about the sport–unless you tell them!
Airguns in the home don’t pose nearly the same hazard as firearms (however, all guns should be kept locked-up). Airgun ammunition is a simple pellet posing no fire or explosive hazard. Nor are airguns target for break-in and theft as they have virtually no criminal value. Airguns are the perfect way to teach your family marksmanship and correct gun handling, training that neatly carries over to firearms use. The low cost and safety of airgun shooting, along with the ability to set up a safe range almost anywhere, has also led to the use of airguns for hunter safety programs. High-quality, single-shot spring-piston airguns are ideal for these purposes, because they look and feel just like modern firearms. All in all, modern precision airguns offer sporting enjoyment that can be relaxing or taxing, a way to wind down, or a competitive challenge that will get you keyed up. Try precision airgun shooting yourself–a great sport where you call the shots!
* Outdoor shooting may not be permitted in some localities. Check with police for outdoor shooting regulations.