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Buying your first Airgun – Part 3

Really knowing your intended purpose is key...

In part 1 of “Buying your first airgun” I laid out how FPS alone is not a good measure for whether or not an airgun meets muster. It can certainly help identify the potential energy that a particular model can produce, but it’s not the definitive measure. In part 2 I looked at how a single airgun power plant can be matched with different options, i.e. caliber and pellet choice, to help it better suit a particular purpose. Now in part 3, I want to help new airgunners define their shooting needs so they can pick the right, First Airgun.

Target or Varmint…

Stick around long enough and you’ll hear me ask the phrase, “Do you want to shoot target or varmint?” fairly often. That’s the 2nd question I usually ask right after, “Do you want a rifle or a pistol?” This series has been mainly about rifles so I’m going to follow that path here. Today we’ll tackle the “Target” options and then we’ll move on to the “Varmint” options in part 4.

So you are looking for an airgun that’s mainly going to be used for Target shooting. The next question will be, “Are you interested in competitive target shooting, or casual, i.e. back yard, target shooting?” I’ll start with some things to consider if you want to head down the competitive target shooting branch.

There are many competitive target shooting disciplines. They range from extreme, Olympic class 10 meter accuracy, all the way to extreme long range bench rest. So this area of competitive airguns is extremely broad. The first thing to realize when you choose competitive shooting, is that you need to have a fairly liberal budget. Competitive class airguns can be very expensive. If you are going to shoot Field Target, Bench Rest, or Long Range Bench Rest, then optics start to play a very important role, and the good ones can cost as much, or more than the airgun they are sitting on.   You’ll find the same scenario in the firearms world.

Air Arms FTP 900 Air Rifle – Purpose built PCP Field target Airgun starting at around $2500

What are some of the major competitive disciplines?

As I mentioned above, there are a lot of options here. Most of the time, youngsters start with 3 position, which is generally shot at 10 yards with low powered, but highly accurate airguns like the Air Arms T200 Sporter. This airgun has target sights and is a relatively inexpensive starting point. From there you move to precision 10 meter which takes a completely different class of airgun, i.e. something like the Walther LG400 is an example of a precision 10 meter airgun.

Walther LG400 Alutec Competition Air Rifle

There are other disciplines like silhouette and field target that simulate a hunting style of shooting. There are many, many airguns that are suitable for this type of competitive shooting. You can often be competitive with spring powered airguns like the Air Arms TX200 or the Walther LGV which, while fairly expensive to start, don’t require any support mechanisms such as high pressure scuba tanks or bulk fill CO2 bottles.   Of course if you’re ready to jump in with both feet, there are a lot of really great PCP airguns that fit the bill. The new Air Arms Ultimate Sporter is amazing and it reflects the higher price point.

Air Arms TX200 MKIII Air Rifle, Walnut Stock RH – 0.177 Caliber

As you move into bench rest, and especially long range bench rest, you start getting into some highly specialized airguns. You’ll find larger calibers like the .25, .30, & .357, although I think the favorite caliber right now is the .30 cal when it comes to the really long range shooting. Long range for airguns is going to be 200 to 300 yards.   That’s what you call “extreme” long range shooting. Normal bench rest is generally at 25, 50 or maybe 75 yards or meters, depending on the event rules. It’s all about extreme accuracy with bench rest shooting. Shooters are looking to shoot the smallest possible Center to Center group size. I believe you need to be sub .25″ at 25 meters to start to be competitive. That’s some serious accuracy. These airguns will generally all be high end PCP airguns like the Air Arms, BSA, and others.

Ok. Back to financial reality and casual target shooting…

Casual target shooting, as I call it, has a lot of options. There are airguns that have no purpose other than to put a smile on your face as you blast full auto at some sort of reactive target, i.e. water balloons, paint balls, etc. One of my favorites in this category is the Umarex Steel Force. It’s all accuracy by volume with this airgun, and it’s addictively fun to shoot.

Umarex Steel Force CO2 BB Gun
.177 Cal BB Machine Gun – A Super airgun for just tearing things up!

There are other, more “serious” and “grown up” airguns that are great for casual target shooting as well. When it comes to this type of shooting, it’s best to set a budget and then find something that fits. All airgun types are open for casual target shooting. It helps to know what kind of target you plan to be shooting. The Steel Force is a good example of why this is important. If your targets are always going to be tin cans, water bottles, and similar targets, then it’s a great fit. If you are planning to shoot for accuracy, say like your own bench rest setup at 25 meters, then it’s certainly NOT going to fit the bill.

Paper or plastic?

A good way to determine what kind of target shooting you’re looking to do is ask yourself the same question you may get at the grocery store, “paper or plastic.” The Steel Force is going to be a good gun for shooting “plastic.” Something like the RWS 34, or Benjamin Marauder may be a good option for “paper,” depending on your budget. The paper option will require a bit more thought about range and expected accuracy. Because there are several hundred viable options, it may be best to reach out to some of your airgun buddies or get on the phone with an airgun specialist to help you refine your wants and needs so that you can make the right purchase.

Benjamin Marauder Air Rifle – .22 Caliber Wood Stock – Great airgun for casual target shooting and plinking!

Moving on to Varmint…

In the next segment in this series we’ll be moving on to how to pick the right varmint airgun so definitely keep your eye on the target… I mean blog!

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In part 1 of “Buying your first airgun” I laid out how FPS alone is not a good measure for whether or not an airgun meets muster. It can certainly help identify the potential energy that a particular model can produce, but it’s not the definitive measure. In part 2 I looked at how a […]