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What should I expect, and look for, in my first budget conscience airgun? – Part 1

Shooting Airguns is VERY different than shooting Firearms. Here are some things to consider.

Gamo Big Cat .177 breakbarrel airgun – extremely popular “first” airgun.

As I sit down to write this article I start to flash back to my early days of airgunning.  I had no idea what to expect and every turn was another learning experience.  My hope with these next two articles is to help those new to airgunning have a better understanding of what to expect and how to get the most out of their airgunning dollars.

Great Expectations

It’s enlightening to listen to the expectations of new airgunners.  I’ve used a particular questioner on my website for a while and it asks basic questions like; “what size game do you intend to shoot” and “how important is 1 inch accuracy (a 1 inch diameter is the commonly accepted “kill zone” for small game) at a given distance” etc.   What I’ve come to realize is that most new airgunners expect firearm like shootability and accuracy for under $250.

Hatsan AT44 Tactical .22 cal – 1″ at 50 yards? no problem. Under $250.. problem….

The most often requested combination is anairgun for small & medium game (squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, fox, gopher, etc), with 1 inch accuracy (rated as “extremely important”), at a distance of 50 yards, that’s “very quiet,” and that costs $250 or less.    Well heck yeah, I’d love that airgun too!  The problem is that very little of these “requirements” are practical without spending well over $1000 for the gun and gear.  So what would be reasonable in the way of accuracy, budget, and other important features?

Keeping it real

The first thing that new airgunners need to wrap themselves around is that a 1 inch circle is a very small target at 50 yards, which is already a very long shot for an airgun.  When I think of accuracy, I think of overall accuracy, not just “once off” accuracy.  I may get 1 great group out of 20, but to understand the overall accuracy of an airgun, you need to average all the groups; the good, the bad, and the ugly, to really understand its true accuracy.   Accuracy only counts if it’s repeatable.   I’ve had many airguns that grouped under 1 inch at 50 yards once or twice, but doing it every time, or even some of the time, is quite a feat.   Most airguns that can produce that kind of repeatable accuracy will be PCP class airguns and will run well over $750 to $1500+ depending on the airgun, fill accessories, optics, etc.  If your budget is around $250 have to make some compromises.

Finding Consistent Accuracy on a Budget

If you’re hunting accuracy on a limited budget, here are some guidelines that will help you get the most for your spending dollar.  The first thing you need to do is to set your expectations for repeatable accuracy (accuracy = 1” groups or better) down to 30 to 35 yards, and that will be a stretch for a lot of budget conscience airguns.   Next, if longer range accuracy is key, then stick to the larger calibers like .22 and .25.   You’ll need an initial velocity of around 700 FPS to see repeatable accuracy out to 35 yards.  I wish I knew all the physics behind why that’s the case, but sometime experience is the best teacher, and in my experience, I’ve observed that 700 FPS seems to be key.   This is important especially for the .25 cal airguns because as they have more lead to push down the barrel.  The Hatsan Model 125 and Hatsan Model 135 are good examples of .25 caliber airguns that will exceed that 700 FPS barrier.

Ruger Yukon Airgun Combo in .22 – Great option for a “first” airgun.

In the .22 caliber class, make sure that you’re looking at the FPS ratings with lead pellets and not alloy pellets.  Most standard 800 fps class .22 caliber airguns will move average weight lead pellets (14+ grain) at close to or just over 700 FPS, which is one reason it is such a popular choice for small game hunting and pest control.  A great example of a good air rifle for new airgunners would be the new Ruger Yukon in .22 from Umarex USA.  It has a good set of features, high shootability, and won’t break the bank.

This will wrap up part 1 of “What should I expect, and look for, in my first budget conscience airgun?”   In Part 2, we’ll address some of the physical features and options such as power plant (metal spring or gas piston), different triggers, optics, and of course the biggest variable of them all, the guy pulling the trigger.

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As I sit down to write this article I start to flash back to my early days of airgunning.  I had no idea what to expect and every turn was another learning experience.  My hope with these next two articles is to help those new to airgunning have a better understanding of what to expect […]