I think that one of the greatest advantages of airguns is that they are very quiet. These guns can be used where low noise and stealth are required and this is one of the most frequently stated reasons firearm hunters transition over. Depending on the type of gun and how it is configured, the sound signature is typically far less than even a .22 subsonic rimfire. This means that many new hunting opportunities open up, especially in more developed areas of the country.
Regardless of the power plant used, airguns are intrinsically quiet. However, not all airguns generate the same type of sound; the sound generated from a spring piston airgun is at least partially of mechanical origin related to the spring piston slamming home, these guns generate a relatively small volume of air to drive the pellet forward making them the quietest of the airgun power plants. The release of a much larger volume of compressed air from a PCP results in a louder report that is closer to a firearm, though not exactly the same or as loud. Many airguns generate velocities in the subsonic range, but when they go supersonic (around 1100 fps) a sharp “crack” will be noted. When using guns that achieve supersonic velocities, I often dial down the power setting or use a heavier pellet. This tends to provide better ballistic performance along with a reduction in the sound intensity.
The Beeman Falcon R is a fine rifle that has been made just about perfect with the addition of a fully shrouded barrel. Accurate, powerful, and quiet
Beyond the quieter discharge of airguns, they may be further suppressed to a level that is quite impressive by using a silencer or a shrouded barrel. Before entering this discussion there are a couple of legal issues that should be discussed. A silencer that can be used, or modified for use on a firearm comes under the jurisdiction of the BATF. It is considered a firearm and must carry a serial number; furthermore legal possession requires a federal permit. Most but not all states allow their citizens to possess one, though some will not permit civilian ownership under any circumstance. This license may be be fairly straight forward or difficult to obtain depending on where you live. If the airgun silencer and its parts are not adaptable for use on a firearm, then it should fall outside of the jurisdiction of BATF and not require the license. Many airgunners believe that an air rifle with a moderator (silencer) permanently attached is therefore legal. This is somewhat of a gray zone and the BATF does not always have a consistent interpretation of their own regulations. For shooters in most other parts of the world, there are many propriatary and third party manufacturers offering a range of aftermarket suppressors. It is ironic that in countries such as the UK that have very restrictive gun laws,the use of an airgun silencer is considered an essential piece of equipment. You cannot buy these after market products in the US without the proper license, though there are a few rifles available domestically that have a permanently attached silencer. I would not recommend using an after market silencer on your airgun in the States without the appropriate license, it’s not worth the risk.
A shroud can be integrated without significantly increasing the overall length of the rifle, as this Twinmaster Carbine demonstartes
Another design option for a very quiet gun is to incorporate an integrated barrel shroud. These are full length shrouds that are built into the gun and provide a gas porting function without an extraneous “device”, and are an integrated component of the airgun. These are very effective in reducing a PCP rifles sound signature, and don’t increase the guns overall length by more than a couple inches. Most of the high end gun makers such as AirArms and Falcon offer models with integrated shrouds. Crosman will be on the market soon with their new Marauder, which is a moderately priced gun with a shrouded barrel.
In addition to the legal possession of devices used to silence airguns, you also need to consider local hunting regulations. Some states do not allow silenced guns for hunting, some do not allow taking game animals but are OK for non-game animals, and pest control activities usually get pretty wide latitude.
So once you get these details out of the way, how do moderated guns work in the field? Two of the outstanding hunting rifles I’ve been using for several months are the AirArms S410 FAC, and the Beeman Falcon-R, both .22 caliber and both shrouded. These guns are more than capable of ¼” 50 yard groups, and can reach out much further with the power to anchor small game while generating a sound only a little louder than snapping your fingers. On jackrabbits, prairie dogs, and ground squirrel shoots, I’ve knocked multiple varmints over without disturbing their neighbor sitting a foot away. The advantage of these quiet air arms for urban predator and pest control duties are obvious, and opens up more shooting opportunity for those that might not otherwise be able to participate in the sport.
The logun S16 was my first rifle with a shrouded barrel, and even though the gun didn't was a bit heavy for long hikes in the woods, it sold me on the concept
Many of the airguns I use when shooting and hunting these days are shrouded, and I find this especially useful when hunting in more densely populated regions or around livestock. The places I hunt small game here at home aren’t generally that noise sensitive, but places where I shoot pest often are. I like the fact that using a gun with an integrated shroud I can hjunt in close proximity to habitation and not be heard. There is also a lot to be said for shooting moderated guns indoors as well, the family can be watching TV or reading upstairs and I don’t disturb anyone, plus I don’t need to wear hearing protection. I think that if you are looking for a pest control gun or will be shooting in a noise sensitive area, it would be well worth looking for one with a fully shrouded barrel. If you will be using it to hunt small game, just make sure of your local regulations.