PCP airguns represent the top of the airgun food chain. They produce firearm-like power and accuracy without the need for gunpowder. They can be moderated for stealthy operation and are perfect for backyard target practice or big game hunting. They are simply awesome, and more great options hit the market each year. But they still have one problem. You need to fill them. And, more airguns than ever are pushing that “max psi” limit well past 3000 psi all the way up to 5000 psi. While the capabilities are ever-increasing, so are the demands for high-pressure air (HPA). This begs the question, “Is it still practical to hand pump today’s PCP airguns?” Well, it’s a good question that we will try and address here in this article.
Oh, The Good Old Days
When the Benjamin Discovery was first released in the US market, it marked a radical change for mainstream airgunners. PCP air rifles had been almost like mythical creatures talked about but seldom, if ever, seen. Sure, we knew they were out there, but the cost to acquire and fill them was way out of bounds for most airgunners. The Discovery, with its bundled hand pump, turned all that around, introducing an entire generation to the wonderful world of affordable PCP airguns. We are pleased to say that the industry never looked back, and today we are surrounded by an abundance of great PCP Airguns.
One of the things that made the Discovery so ingenious was to set it up for a max 2000 psi fill. Filling to 2000 psi with the bundled hand pump was easy enough and yielded a good amount of usable shots. It was a low-hanging solution to the biggest problem for PCP airguns.
Benjamin followed the Discovery with the Benjamin Marauder. The Marauder introduced an entirely new level of build quality and performance, and it also introduced shooters to 3000 psi. It takes a lot more work to get from 2000 psi to 3000 psi, and the cylinder is larger. But, airgunners were not hooked on easy accuracy with zero recoil, so we all gladly put in the extra effort to hand pump our Marauders.
And Now Today
As technology grew and capabilities grew, airguns started to need more and more air. We have larger cylinders and higher max pressures. Trying to hand pump many of today’s high-capacity airguns is maybe more work than it’s worth. But is there a way to get it done?
There are certainly some great options for personal compressors that have driven the PCP market to new heights in performance and capacity. But as that capacity grows, so again does the divide. In reality, you are the only person who can choose whether hand-pumping your PCP is worthwhile.
Hand Pumping Options to Consider
There’s no way around it; hand-pumping your airguns is a lot of work. If you are going for a more traditional cylinder airgun, using a hand pump is certainly a decent option. The Gamo Arrow is a perfect example of an airgun well suited to pump by hand. The small cylinder takes up to 3400 psi and delivers a ton of usable shots. The Gamo Arrow with a hand pump is a great option for backyard target practice and even light small-game hunting.
But, as you start to look up the product stack, say at an Air Venturi Avenger, it has a reasonably sized air cylinder, but it needs 3600+ psi to get a full fill. If you’ve ever used a hand pump, you know that the further past 3000 psi you go, the harder it is to pump, even to the point of being completely impractical for some people.
If you are going to hand pump, then make sure that you get a quality hand pump. Hill is the leading manufacturer of PCP hand pumps. Their new Mark V delivers more air with less effort. It’s built like a tank and is user serviceable for those who want to work on their own gear. It’s expensive, but it’s the way to go if you need a hand pump as your primary fill option.
Frankly, it’s a good idea to have a hand pump as a backup anyway. Should your compressor go down and you need or want to get out and do some shooting, it’s nice to know that you can always get your gun topped off in a pinch.
So if you are wondering if hand pumping today’s modern PCP airguns is still practical, it will come down to your level of physical fitness and the gun or guns you are filling. If you like to shoot and want to have your airguns as an option, then having a decent hand pump in working order is a great idea. At least you will always be able to get a full fill and get out and do some shooting.