Airgun Hunting: Where Does It Fit?
Airgun Hunting : Where Does It Fit?
There is a long tradition of hunting with air guns that dates back to the late 1600s when big bore air rifles were used by European nobility to take large game animals. In more recent years, spring piston airguns became available to the masses, and after World War II there was a dramatic increase in the availability and selection of these guns. The sport has continued to grow in much of the world, especially in those locales where gun ownership is not an option for the civilian population. In Europe this tradition has migrated into current times, with many of fine guns being built in Germany, Sweden, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
As a matter of fact, the UK is arguably the center of the modern airgunning world, especially when it comes to hunting usage. They produce many of the finest spring piston and PCP airguns in the world; they have a vibrant airgun hunting community with popular magazines dedicated to reporting on and promoting the sport. The British sportsman has a complete infrastructure in place to facilitate the sport, and I’ve read that there are more airgun hunters than firearm hunters there. While the range of available guns offered to the market comprises both spring piston and pcp powerplants, there has been an upsurge in the pcp market over the last decade.
In the United States serious airgun hunting has been relatively unknown, and even less so when it comes to PCPs. However, anecdotal reports from many of the major manufacturers, distributors and importers would indicate that the purchase of airguns for pest control and small game hunting has started to increase here as well. It appears that the majority of airguns being sold domestically are spring piston airguns used for plinking and pest control, but there is a growing cadre of air hunters using both springers and/or precharged pneumatic guns. As Americans are faced with increased urbanization, the attraction of the airpowered hunting arm becomes ever more attractive; providing a means of hunting in areas that are more densely populated where firearms are not practical. While many hunters feel that PCPs are easier to shoot accurately and tend to be more powerful than spring piston guns, the fact that a number of springers are quite powerful (for small game), are fully self contained, and tend to be less expensive ensures that both power plants will continue to be used by sportsman for years to come.
North America offers the airgun hunter a wealth of game species, everything from starlings and pest birds ....
to predators such as coyote, bobcats, fox, and raccoons with the larger calibers.
There are many paths by which sportsman find their way to airgun hunting; some are introduced to hunting with an airgun then move to firearms, returning to airguns when they find that there is not enough time or land to permit them to hunt as much as they would like with firearms. Then there are people like me, who grow up with traditional hunting then get caught up in the challenge of the sport and the technology of the arms, and migrate to airgunning with a passion.
As stated previously, in Europe and much of the world airguns are the only game in town for people wishing to hunt. They simply are not allowed to own or use firearms or the population densities are so high that there is not enough open land to hunt over. But why would anyone here want to use an airgun when they could go buy a .22 rimfire, and achieve more power at a lower cost? Well, there are several reasons; airguns are relatively quiet and have a limited carrying range, they can therefore be used to perform pest control duties and hunt in fairly populated areas. When you have an opportunity to clear pest species such as pigeons from an industrial area, rats around a barn, or starling at the backyard bird feeder, an airgun might not be just the best method, it might well be the only acceptable approach. Even in areas wher a firearm can be used, he challenge of the hunt is increased with an airgun, because to ethically take quarry the hunter must close the distance which requires honed hunting skills. Airgun hunting offers many parallels to bow hunting in this respect, but also incorporates traditional marksmanship.
The modern PCP airgun is capable of tack driving accuracy out to fifty or sixty yards (some significantly further), and most springers can be used with confidence out to thirty five or forty yards, which I think is perfect for most pest species. Another benefit is that the hunter can get in a great deal of practice. I will often go down to my basement range and put a couple hundred rounds through a gun that I’m getting ready to take on a hunt. You’re not going to be able to do this with a firearm unless you happen to live on a ranch in Montana. When I was a kid learning to shoot and hunt I was always told “to shoot well, shoot a lot”, and airgunners have the advantage that they can shoot just about anywhere and shoot cheaply.
The last reason on my list why airguns fit into my hunting repertoir is the least tangible …. Airguns are cool! There is something about the engineering that goes into these guns, along with the diversity in designs available that makes airguns a highly addictive past time. And if you're a hunter, you'll really appreciate the extra fild time you'll be able to fit in.