These next two articles should wrap things up for this series. We’ve been over a lot of topics and we certainly didn’t hit all the options, but I hope that it’s been useful to help folks narrow down their choices when looking for a new airgun. In this final segment, I’ll go over some basic requirements if you’re mostly looking into a hunting airgun.
There are no “official” guidelines on what’s ethical and what’s not. While working customer support for a prominent airgun vendor, I learned their protocols for what’s “OK” and what’s not OK for hunting. I believe they are very reasonable and they are the standard that I’ve adopted for my own uses. They are: minimum of 800 FPS with lead pellets in .177, minimum of 600 FPS with lead pellets in .22, and over 500 FPS with lead pellets in .25. Of course accuracy has to be acceptable in conjunction with velocity and energy on target. It doesn’t matter how much “power” you have if you can’t hit the kill zone.Gamo Fusion Whisper IGT – available in .177 and .22, this rifle is well suited for small game hunting and pest control. The .22 would be the more appropriate choice if you are hunting or controlling fur bearing game and pests.
When it comes to big bore, velocity is not what you want to measure. It’s going to be foot pounds. Most big bore guns are going to push 100+ foot pounds all the way up to 300, 400, and even 500 foot pounds with some specialty guns. You’ll need to match the performance to the game, and only you can know what’s going to be ethical or not. Responsible hunters do their homework and take calculated, ethical shots. It’s going to be up to you to do the research, get to know your game, get to know your airgun, and do the math to make sure everything lines up.
Small Game and Pests
Small Game and Pests covers a lot of ground. Here you’ll find most pest birds along with small game birds like quail. It also covers pests like rats, and field mice and game like rabbits, squirrel, and other small fur bearing animals. Most of these can be taken humanely with less than 9 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle. With smaller calibers shot placement it going to be really, really critical. The higher velocity .177s have a tendency to simply pass through and wound if the shot is not placed correctly. The .22 and .25 calibers are far more effective especially with less than perfect shots. I’m growing more fond of the .25 caliber for small game hunting. It’s big, heavy, and does the job very, very well. Back when I started airgunning 8 years ago, there were no .25s just sitting on the shelves. Today they are quickly becoming the new .22. Generally .25 caliber airguns don’t post high velocity numbers, but their heavier pellets maintain their stability over long ranges, are less susceptible to wind, and carry energy further. They are just better for hunting small game.Hatsan Mod 95 .25 Vortex Airgun – Arguably the most progressive offerings in affordable .25 cal, non PCP, airguns comes from Hatsan USA. All their long guns are available in three calibers: .177, .22, & .25. The .25 Mod 95 is a great small game gun inside 25 yards. If you need more range and power, simply step up to the 125 class and you’ve got it.
What classifies as “medium” game is going to be subjective. I look at pests and game like possum, raccoon, wood chuck, etc. to be right in this category. The general rule of thumb here is 25 foot pounds and up. When you get to this class you need to start doing some math. If you look at the typical “high powered” airgun that markets itself as a 1200 FPS airgun, that may only translate into foot pounds or less. More importantly, those numbers are probably only achieved in a lab and with alloy pellets which are so hard they really don’t impart energy into the target. Add to that an overall lack of accuracy and stability, and they just don’t work well.Benjamin Trail NP2 .22 Caliber – On paper this gun looks suitable as an entry level medium game gun. The box says 950 FPS, which if achieved with even lightweight lead pellets, would be just approaching 24 FPE and very close to what I would consider as the minimum energy necessary for taking medium sized game or pest. In actual testing (see the article series here on AirgunDepot) the average velocity was 820.4 FPS with 11.9 grain RWS Hobby pellets. That equals 17.79 FPE which is way below what would be required for medium game. It’s critical that you know the ACTUAL performance when choosing an airgun for hunting purposes.
If those guns don’t work, what will?
I’m going to address this question in the next article in this series. There are some spring and gas ram airguns that can be effective with medium game, but the real winners are the entry level PCP airguns. They pack the punch and have the accuracy to get the job done and many cost about what a quality springer would cost to do the same job.
The next article will wrap up this series so definitely keep your eyes on the blog. And remember, if you have questions and/or comments, please just let us know!