One of my fondest memories of childhood was having my own Daisy BB gun and plinking at tin cans and "other opportunities" in my backyard. As I grew and became older, I enjoyed plinking and hunting with rimfire and centerfire rifles, revolvers, and shotguns. Before I became aquainted with perfume and gasoline, there was nothing better than the smell of fresh fired gunpowder (including fireworks)! Off to college and pursuing a career, I lost touch with the joys of hunting and shooting. But not long ago, living in an area not condusive to using a rimfire rifle or pistol, I rediscovered airguns and took up plinking and target shooting again!
The oldest existing airgun dates from1580 and is displayed in a museum in Stockholm, Sweden. In the 1600's airguns of .30 - .51 caliber were used for both hunting and warfare, since their accuracy, relative quietness, and lack of telltale smoke were a great advantage over the crude matchlocks of the time. Lewis and Clark took an 800 psi, .46 caliber airgun with them on their exploratory trip to the west at the turn of the 19th century.
Today's airguns come in a wide variety of types, styles, uses, and power. From the same reliable Daisy BB guns to the powerful and supersonic pellet rifles used for plinking, hunting, and competitive target shooting and the soft air and paintball guns used for mock combat, there is an airgun suited to most any purpose. Air guns are operated with a spring piston, single or multi-stroke pump, or cylinders of compressed carbon dioxide.
For simple target shooting or plinking fun, I like to get out my Crosman CO2 BB repeater pistol, but get more power and accuracy using my Crosman CO2 .177 caliber "357" pellet revolver. Both use cylinders of carbon dioxide that are fitted within the pistol's grips and both attain a velocity of around 400+ ft. per second, with the .177 lead pellet having more mass than the .177 copper BB and thus more knockdown power.
For more punch, I opt for my Crosman "American Classic" .177 caliber pellet pistol or my Crosman "760" .177 caliber pellet rifle, both multi-stroke pumps with velocities in excess of 600 ft. per second. A multi-stroke pump means that the more times the gun is pumped, the more pressure is provided and the higher velocity of the round.
For small game hunting, varmit and pest control, or target annihilation, I use a Gamo .177 "Big Cat", break barrel - spring piston rifle with a scope. With special Gamo pellets, this rifle can reach supersonic velocities of over 1,250 ft. per second, making a loud "crack" like a .22 rimfire. However, unlike a .22 rimfire, the smaller sized .177 pellet does not have the mass or the knockdown power of the rimfire, yet it is considerable.
For even more knockdown power, I turn to my Beeman RS2 break barrel - spring piston rifle that shoots a .22 caliber pellet at some 830 ft. per second.
No airgun, including BB guns, air soft, paintball or pellet rifles should be considered a toy! Each should be treated with safety in mind, just as any other firearm. Municipal Codes may prohibit the firing of an airgun within their area of jurisdiction. Check with your local Authorities beforehand. Although eye protection if a must, hearing protection may only be necessary when shooting at supersonic velocities. It should be noted that pellets shot at supersonic speeds suffer from instability when encountering the shock wave produced at the speed of sound and are somewhat less accurate at longer ranges than a sub-sonic round.
Many more people today, are taking to hunting and competitive shooting with airguns, Besides being just plain fun, they can be just as durable, accurate, and powerful as small caliber rimfires and yet may have a lower overall operating cost. The rising sport of air soft and paintball mock combat meets attests to the airgun's versitility. Airguns are a great tool for teaching youth the safety aspects, proper shooting techniques, and the proper handling of firearms. Many Boy Scouts have earned their Rifle Shooting Merit Badge with air guns.
Bass Pro Shops stocks a variety of airguns with BB or pellet pistols and pellet rifles from Daisy, Crosman, Winchester, Beeman, Gamo and Benjamin. Soft air and paintball guns are represented by major manufacturers such as Franchi, JT, Crosman, Tippman, and Spyder. In addition to BB's, we offer a wide selection of .177 and .22 pellets in different configurations especially for plinking, target shooting, or hunting. Air soft BB's, paintballs, cleaning kits, safety glasses, hearing protection, and a variety of targets are stocked for all your airgun needs.
By Gary Feduccia