As the cost of firearm ammunition continues to rise, so does the popularity of airguns for recreation, small game hunting, and pest control.
Higher velocity air rifles, or “magnum air rifles” like the Ruger Air Hawk are attractive to those looking for maximum projectile speed. .177 caliber sporting air rifles are mostly used for plinking or paper target shooting, although shooters that acquire great accuracy with their .177 caliber air rifles do use them for small pest control. Small game hunting with air rifles is on the rise with the use of .22 caliber pellets. When properly placed, the impact from a high powered pellet rifle easily takes squirrel, rabbit, and other small game.
With the increasing cost of ammunition, sidearm owners that simply enjoy the sport of shooting are finding that some air pistols offer them an economical way to shoot. An airgun shooter can fire quality lead pellets or steel airgun BBs for a couple of pennies and there are some air pistols that offer near replica feel and performance. If the world’s most famous double agent needed to target practice today, he could choose a Walther PPK/S BB pistol that’s close in weight and function to his actual sidearm. It, along with the Px4 Storm and CP99 Compact, have slides that function, providing a realistic recoil action, and remain in the rearward position when the magazine is empty.
Another contributing factor to the attraction of airguns is that they don’t always have to be taken to a firing range. With the proper backstop and pellet or BB trap, they can be used within a home, garage, or secured property. There are several online resources for building your own airgun ammunition trap and backstop. Just be sure you’re not breaking any laws or ordinances before you set up and start target shooting, and as a safety precaution, make sure there’s no persons or objects that can be endangered by an unexpected stray projectile or ricochet.
Hunting for land roaming creatures wasn’t part of my childhood, although seeking swimming critters was. So my exposure to guns was quite limited. I don’t recall ever shooting a gun until I was 30.
I grew up in a small town, just 40 miles from a big city of 400,000 people. I fished with my dad and grandmother, camped, rode a bicycle, and mowed lawns. I knew my grandpa had a shotgun, but I had never touched it or saw it in action. My first real exposure to a gun was when I was 8 or 9, my dad and I ventured into the woods with my grandpa and a relative to shoot rabbits. All I remember was the unexpected blast of the rifle terrifying me at that young age.
After that, shooting and hunting wasn’t something I was exposed to as a youth, but I continued to enjoy fishing. So, going to work for a fishing lure manufacturer after college was a natural progression. I loved to fish. I was decent at catching them, but not the greatest at locating them, but hey, that’s why it’s good to know and work with great local guides and famous fishermen. I learned to catch a variety of species in various waters. But after almost 10 years, it was time for an employment change, which led me to the shooting sports and my introduction to shooting.
I learned quickly–that, unlike fishing, shooting provides instant gratification. My first shot was with a replica BB gun, a Walther PPK/S that uses a CO2 capsule to shoot steel BBs. I thought it was cool because the slide cycles, imitating the real gun. My next one was a CP99 Compact BB pistol–much the same as the PPK and another Walther replica. Then I shot an RWS break barrel rifle. It’s amazing the amount of power an RWS Rifle has from just cocking the spring piston one time. After becoming comfortable with daily handling, I had the opportunity to fire a couple of firearms. The first was a Walther P22. Nice pistol. I really enjoyed the friendly target competitions and I wasn’t half bad considering it was my first time with a firearm. I gave my friends a challenge when it came to hitting the smallest target. Since then I’ve shot some larger caliber pistols, done a little shooting with dad, and obtained my conceal carry license. I continue to pick up airguns, but I have yet to find an airgun that tops the Smith & Wesson 586 revolver. I bought a pair. They’re a big hit on date nights with my wife.
Break out your air rifles, air pistols, airsoft guns, and RAM markers and get outside and have some fun with your closest friends and family. There are many games and targets for air guns that will excite you and challenge your competitive nature.
The first rule when setting up a game or competition is to always observe gun safety rules. Think about what might get hit if a shooter misses the intended target. Once you’ve determined the area you’re using is safe and legal, the fun can begin.
There are many types of targets you can buy—spinning, shattering, and paper targets for example, but you don’t have to buy a target. If you use your imagination, airgun shooting can be convenient as well as fun and competitive for all ages. For example, a box of animal cookies could easily become a miniature silhouette range or if set up in various locations a safari hunt. Exploding a small piece of fruit with a gun like the Umarex Morph 3X or seeing who can bust a shredded mini-wheat with a BB gun is challenging. Just imagine the explosion of a cheese ball or nacho chip! How about a lollipop! Take a look in your cabinets – consumable foods make great targets because they can be left as treats for wildlife.
Look around the outdoors, there’s all kinds of natural targets. Line up a row of acorns, stack some pine cones, or for a real air rifle challenge, hang a small branch with a leaf on it against a safe backstop and see who can shoot the leaf off the branch.
If you have a competitive nature, try knocking down golf tees or picking off toothpicks at 10-meters. Place a cocoa puff on top of a golf tee and hit the puff. If you want to see who’s airgun has more energy, see how far your airgun’s projectile will penetrate a bar of soap. On a windy day, put a small object on a swaying branch to create a moving target. To determine who’s the quickest shot, shoot at little green army men with your semi-auto BB pistol like the Beretta Elite II.
If you’re shooting an air gun with a youth, or someone that likes a target that provides a big reaction when hit, items that make noise or bust are best. Balloons, lollipops, tiny canisters partially filled with flour, and cap gun caps are great ideas. Charcoal briquets provide a good reaction as do packets of ketchup and mustard—just be prepared to hose down the mess.
Use your imagination when choosing airgun targets and your whole family will have fun shooting while becoming sharp-shooters without realizing it.