Home :: How to Choose an Airgun

How to Choose an Airgun

By Kevin and Craig - Straight Shooters

Trying to figure out which airgun is the "right" one to purchase can be a very difficult task nowadays. There are so many airguns on the market to choose from that a new shooter can get confused very quickly. Customers tell us every day that sorting through all the manufacturer advertisements, dealer website pages, gun pictures, gun reviews and chat forum posts can give a prospective buyer a headache from information overload. By the end of the day, a new airgunner can be more confused than when he started doing background research on airguns. But in reality, choosing the proper airgun need not be difficult at all. To make the whole decision process easier, we have come up with a few basic, but vital questions that will help you determine which gun models to consider for your shooting needs. Just start with the following questions:

Airgunners usually use an airgun for plinking, target shooting, pest control or hunting so here's Question #1 you will need to answer.

1) What is your intended use for the airgun?
In many cases, the answer is a combination of uses. Just be sure you know the intended use of the airgun. For example, if you require a multi-use gun, then it is helpful to determine what percentage of your shooting will be directed to each use. A fairly common usage combination is 50% target shooting and 50% pest control.
Knowing the answer to Question 1 is vital because all airguns are designed and built to fit certain market needs. Some are designed for general shooting while others are designed more specifically for hunting or competition target shooting. It is true, to a degree, that any airgun can be used for any purpose, but experienced airgunners know that it is always better to buy a gun that is designed for your intended use. It is possible to use a magnum powered hunting rifle for plinking and target shooting but in reality, a medium powered gun built for general use would better fit the task.

The next most important question concerns distance because knowing how far you will need to shoot effectively will determine the power level required. So it will be important for you to answer Question #2 .

2) How far will you be shooting?
Most airguns fall into the following 4 power categories: Light, Medium, High (Magnum) and Super-Magnum (Specialty Rifles). For the most part, we tend to combine magnum and super-magnum guns in the same "high power" or "magnum" category. Generally speaking, light powered airguns are great for plinking, target shooting and light pest control to roughly 35 yards. That's where the light powered guns are at their best. Sure, you can plink or target shoot at any distance but the gun will perform best to approximately 35 yards. Medium powered airguns will extend your range to 50 yards. Magnum rifles will extend the range to 65 yards and super-magnum rifles to 75-80 yards. So you can see why it is important to know your intended shooting distance because it enables you to fit a gun with the proper power level to your required shooting distance needs.

If you can answer the first two questions, you are well on your way to narrowing your search for the right airgun. For example, if your intended use is pest control to a distance of 40 yards, a medium powered airgun will serve your needs well, with plenty of power to do the job properly. If however, you wish to target shoot or hunt to 65 yards, it's best to choose a magnum or super-magnum rifle.

Are there other factors to consider in choosing an airgun? Yes, there are quite a few and we'll review a few other considerations. But as important as all the other factors will be in the decision process, they are all secondary considerations. Always determine the required power level and gun use before dealing with the following considerations.

Other Considerations

Gun Type - Once you have the answers to Questions 1 & 2, then you can decide whether you want a Spring Gun, Gas Ram or PCP. Springers and gas ram rifles will require heavier duty scopes than a PCP but are self contained in the sense that they are designed to be cocked and shot. No charging equipment is needed as is the case with PCP rifles. On the other side of the coin, the PCP's tend to have more power and can use less expensive scopes because they have no recoil. Each have their strong points and you can decide which category of gun fits your needs.

Fit and Finish - This is a subject that is important to most shooters although it actually has little to do, directly, with how well a gun shoots. But fit and finish can make a big difference to a shooter. Fit and finish includes factors such as the shape of the stock, overall looks of the rifle, quality of the bluing and other cosmetic factors. Cosmetics are based on personal taste and I do believe that if a shooter feels more comfortable with a rifle for any given reason, he is likely to shoot with more confidence and that could lead to better shooting results.

Trigger Quality - Airguns are built at all different price levels and trigger sensitivity will vary depending on the price and intended use of the gun. Most adult airgun triggers are factory set at roughly 3 lbs. of pull. And they can usually be adjusted down to roughly 1-1.5 lbs of pull. However, if a lighter trigger pull is needed, then look at a match gun with a match trigger which is designed to be set to mere ounces of pull. Don't expect a sporter model airgun to have a match grade trigger or you'll end up disappointed. And I should mention that many times customers buy a sporter gun designed for plinking, pest control and hunting and then use it for shooting field target competition. But although the gun may be used for field target competition, it doesn't mean that the gun was designed for field target competition. It's still a sporter rifle, not a competition rifle so it isn't going to have a match trigger or field target stock available as an option.

Power - It is a good idea to use a spring gun with the correct power level for the job at hand. It is not a good idea to buy a gun with far more power than is needed to do the job. Why? Because with spring guns, you pay a price for higher power. As the power level of a spring gun goes up, so can the price of the scope required. A high powered spring gun will likely break any but the high recoil scopes.  And of course, the gun will cock harder and shoot at a louder volume. So be aware of these issues  when choosing a power level based only on high velocity or greatest power. These facts will not apply to PCP rifles, however because PCP' s have no recoil and consequently you can use any scope.

Features - Every shooter has their own idea of what makes a great gun. Some people love fine wood, others like a certain shape or style. It's always important to know what features you would like to own when choosing a rifle. Knowing what features are important to you further refines the selection process.

Features vary from spring gun/gas rams to PCP's. Typically, PCP's have more features to choose from than spring guns or gas ram rifles. But nevertheless, all types of guns have some feature choices available to the shooter. Spring guns/gas ram guns offer calibers ranging from .177-.25 depending on the particular model. Some spring rifles are available in all calibers, some in just one or two calibers. Some offer a choice of beech or walnut stocks while others feature only a beech stock. Some rifles are break barrels, others are side cockers or under levers types. Some are heavier in weight and some are lighter.

PCP's tend to offer some features not available to spring or gas ram rifles. Adjustable power is a feature offered on some PCP's which is not available on spring rifles. PCP's generally have higher power levels and more stock options, including some with synthetic stocks. And PCP's offer more styles of guns also. Some have traditional looks while others have a paramilitary look and appeal. But whichever type of gun you choose, the features offered will play an important part in the selection process.

I hope the information provided above will help you to make a good buying decision. It's really not a difficult thing to do if you consider the practical side of the equation first (Questions 1 & 2) followed by the subjective side (Other Considerations). I believe you'll be able to narrow your search for the right gun down to a couple of guns very quickly. And of course, if you have any questions about the guns, you can always email us at shooters@straightshooters.com or call us at 320-240-9062 central time.