Shooting on our own property, often in city or town limits, has been a hot topic for a while now. It’s important to not only know the basic legalities of “can I shoot or can’t I shoot,” but also understand what other rules and regulations may come into play. I’ll use my own town for an example and hope that it helps you find what you need where you live, to be able to shoot airguns responsibly and legally on your own property.
Noise is the enemy…
The residential areas of Lake Havasu City are fairly well protected regarding loud noises. This is probably the most important rule you may encounter as well. While it may be legal to target shoot airguns, I need to make sure that I don’t violate the strict noise ordinances that are in place. The law reads that anything over 75 DB, as measured from the complainant’s property, would be in violation. Just for reference, a loud clap could possibly trip that mark. So it prompted me to make another call to the local PD to get some clarification. What I learned was that the officers have a lot of leeway to determine if something is “too loud.” If I’m shooting during the day and it’s not too early or too late, then I’m probably going to be ok, so long as I’m not abusing the noise limitation. In other words, I need to be VERY conscious of what I’m shooting and how loud it is, not at the muzzle so much, but some 30 to 40 yards away, or wherever a complainant would be hearing it on their property.
What part of the airgun is loud?
There are many areas that need to be addressed, and those change based on the type of airgun in question. For now, I’ll start with the most commonly investigated, spring and/or gas ram airguns. In short, most of the noise that’s generated from these guns comes from the mechanics, not the actual report from the shot. The exception to that would be shooting pellets that go supersonic. They will make a very loud “crack” that’s sure to draw the attention of local authorities. So the first rule in keeping things quiet, regardless of what type of gun you are shooting, is always keep your shots subsonic, i.e. under 1000 FPS, to be safe. We’ll talk a bit more about this in part 2.
Now let’s get back to the mechanical noise that’s produced by gas ram and spring powered airguns. Generally speaking, the more powerful the airgun the louder it will be as the piston is propelled forward, slamming into the front of the compression chamber with more force than airguns that have less power. This loud “slap” is what you are mostly hearing when a spring/gas ram gun fires. There can be secondary noises, more specifically with metal spring guns. They tend to buzz, and make a lot of other noises after the initial “slap” you get from the shot.
The other thing that contributes to the noise is the overall build quality, or the lack thereof. The more expensive rifles such as the Air Arm TX200, Pro Sport and Walther LGV/LGU, have been carefully engineered to shoot with extreme precision and are extremely quiet, even though they are powered by a traditional metal spring. Contrast that to most of the Chinese import rifles and there’s a major difference.Air Arms TX200 MKIII Air Rifle, Walnut Stock RH – 0.177 Caliber – This rifle is built with such precision that there’s very little felt recoil or noise even though it is powered by a traditional metal spring.
What some manufacturers have done to help mitigate the secondary noises is utilize a gas piston, also called a nitro piston or gas spring (depending on the manufacturer) vs a traditional metal spring. This does help reduce the overall sound signature regarding secondary noises, but the actual registered “max” noise on a DB meter can be as much, or even higher, than a normal spring rifle.Benjamin Trail NP .22 Caliber Airgun – This was one of the first “official” nitro piston airguns. I have one of these and it’s a very good all around shooter. It’s also pretty quite, especially with the shrouded barrel.
So where does this leave us?
There’s a lot more to discuss, and we’ll be picking things up right here with our next installment in the series. Keep an eye on the blog as we take a journey and discuss shooting airguns quietly and what that really means!