Let’s go ahead and finish up this series on the various categories and general airgun purposes. In this article we will look at CO2 powered airguns and PCP powered airguns. I’ve classed these together because both can allow for multiple shots from a single charge, and both require some sort of supporting equipment. This separates them from the previous two classes that were essentially self-contained and only required ammunition and elbow grease to operate.
CO2 powered airguns have been around a very long time and come in all shapes and sizes as well as single, multishot, and even fully automatic varieties. They are able to get multiple shots from their CO2 reservoir, be it bulk fill or a self-contained in a cartridge. CO2 is a reliable, safe, and affordable propellant that, under the right circumstances, provides a consistent velocity over the course of many shots. CO2 powered airguns range in price from under $100 to well over $2000. Obviously, the higher end CO2 guns are purpose built for extreme competition accuracy, while the lower end CO2 guns are built for more general uses such as target shooting and, provided they generate enough energy on target, hunting and pest control.
CO2 guns provide a great shooting experience that will be very similar to that of a traditional rimfire firearm. There is virtually no recoil and the accuracy can be exceptional. One of my favorite CO2 airguns of all time is the Hammerli 850 air Magnum. This is a multi-shot airgun suitable for light hunting and pest control as well as target shooting. It will consistently shoot 1/4 inch groups at 10 yards while delivering enough energy at 20 yards to be effective on small game and pests that tend to rob your birdfeeder.
So far, CO2 seems like the way to go, but there are some drawbacks. CO2 can be very temperature sensitive. If the temperature drops below a certain point CO2 becomes very ineffective. Conversely, if it gets too hot it can be over pressurized and cause the gun to malfunction. Lastly, in a rapid-fire situation, CO2 will freeze and become ineffective. As long as you understand the various shortcomings, and can work within them, you may find that a CO2 powered airgun is the right choice for you.
Our final airgun category is PCP powered airguns. PCP stands for pre-charged pneumatic. In short, this is like taking a pump pneumatic and filling the air chamber to the point where you can get multiple shots without having to pump it up between shots. This requires a high pressure air reservoir to be mounted to the airgun. Most PCP airguns operate at an up to a pressure of around 3000 psi or 200 bar. It’s important to know what your airgun requires so that you never overfill it.
When you make the transition from other airgun categories into PCP airguns there is going to be a learning curve. PCP airguns require specialized equipment to fill them up to the required pressure. Most of us with PCPs started with a traditional hand pump. My PCP airgun journey started with the Benjamin discovery kit. This was the first, the first that I know of anyway, complete PCP airgun system for the general airgunning public. It was priced well below the cost of most PCP airguns, yet included both the rifle and the fill system. This Benjamin hand pump served me very well as I started reviewing PCP airguns. However, it was not long that I found scuba tanks were a better option as far as I was concerned.
To get started in PCP airguns takes a bit of a financial commitment. The guns are generally more expensive as is the gear required to fill them. The benefit is that you can get tremendous power and exceptional accuracy from PCP airguns. Generally speaking, the power and accuracy from PCP powered airguns will be superior to all other airgun categories.
A typical budget would start around $400 for the Benjamin discovery kit. This kit includes the airgun and the hand pump required to fill it. While the rifle does have open sights, more than likely you’re going to want to scope it which will add another $100 to the price at a minimum. So if the entry-level costs are around $500 exactly how much can you spend? Well, the sky really is the limit here. There are some guns that sell for several thousand dollars. To be completely self-sufficient and “make” your own, clean, high pressure air, you’re looking at about $4000 for a basic model High Pressure Air (HPA) compressor.
Most people, stick with a high-quality hand pump, or become really good friends with their local dive shop. I found most dive shops to be very accommodating when it comes to filling my tanks. Currently I pay about six dollars per fill and I’ve collected about five tanks over the years. I can usually pick up a used tank for about $100 dollars from my local shop.
Once you’re past the initial investment, you can finally begin to enjoy the benefits of shooting PCP airguns. While the consistent, repeatable accuracy from the other airgun categories tops out at about 35 yards, PCP airguns can stretch out to and past 75 and 100 yards. This is a major advantage when hunting small game or medium game at range. It’s also a lot of fun for those that want to target shoot at longer ranges.
So that wraps up our look at the basic purposes for each of our four airgun categories. To summarize: spring powered airguns provide a great value and a lot of power but require a high level of skill to achieve consistent accuracy; pump pneumatic airguns can be very accurate and cost-effective but do not produce a lot of energy or power; CO2 powered airguns can provide decent power and great accuracy but are affected by climate and usage constraints that limit their overall effectiveness; and lastly, PCP airguns can provide the power, accuracy, and ease of shooting but the initial upfront cost can be higher than some airgunners may want to pay.
Regardless of your needs, AirgunDepot will have the right airgun for you.