Which Air Gun Should I Buy?

As you can imagine not a day goes by without us being asked this question several times. The smart answer of course (and the one that involves the least effort) is “the best you can afford”. Our usual response, however, is to ascertain for what purpose the individual might want the gun. Is it for back garden target shooting, club shooting or vermin control and does the customer have any particular make or model he would like to see? With so many guns to choose from Woody’s staff generally have little difficulty when it comes to showing a “short list” of airguns fit for purpose.

Juniors need guns with shorter stocks, smaller adults usually require guns of a lighter weight, whilst those demanding “hyper” accuracy often prefer a heavier gun. All are relative aspects that should be taken into consideration when making a choice.

There are three ways that an air gun can produce the power needed to shoot a pellet. The conventional spring and piston system, pre-charged using a Co2 cylinder and pre-charged using compressed air.

The Spring Airgun

The first is the easiest to use as one simply “cocks” the barrel to compress a spring that can then, by means of the trigger, release a piston forward that will provide the propulsion for the pellet. The disadvantage of this system is that it creates recoil, the energy that causes a gun to “jump” backwards and throw the shooter off his or her aim. The “economy” airguns invariably produce more recoil as they are of basic construction and sometimes relatively crudely engineered. Paying a little bit more money for a spring -powered airgun will pay dividends during use as not only will the gun be smoother to shoot but also the trigger pull will be lighter and more predictable. On some airguns, so much pressure is required to release the trigger that it will be found next to impossible not to “pull off” target when firing the gun. The better quality manufacturers go to great lengths to develop light, crisp but safe trigger pulls in order that accuracy is not sacrificed as a result of the gun being fired. Attention is paid to the reliability of safety catches although of course the shooter should never rely on the infallibility of such a device. The fit of the barrel into the breech will be found to be superior on the better quality guns as they are much more likely to be in a straight configuration with the air chamber. Most break barrel air rifles “droop” vertically down from the breech but, to a degree, this is acceptable as a small amount can be cancelled out by the correct fitting of a telescopic sight etc. It is the horizontal misalignment that is unacceptable as it invariably leads to inaccuracy.

The bottom line regarding this form of airgun is that there are considerable benefits to be had by paying just a little bit more for your outfit.

The Co2 Airgun

We tend to think of these as the half-way house as they provide a recoilless action that can be combined with either a single shot or magazine fed system. They are, generally speaking lighter in weight than their spring powered counterparts whilst the addition of a sound moderator provides a significant noise reduction. The best on the market is the Umarex 850 Air Magnum, a rifle that uses a bolt-action system to cock and operate the 8 shot magazine. We find this model reliable and quiet when a good quality sound moderator is fitted.

Compressed Air Pre-Charged

PCP’s as they are often referred to, represent today, the ultimate in air weapon technology. The concept reaches back to the eighteenth century although the air reservoir on the guns then would have required five minutes of assiduous pumping by one’s manservant before a single shot could be fired. Today’s PCP’s can be purchased with either a single shot or magazine pellet feed. They can be very light in weight, extremely accurate and quiet to shoot. The noise made by some of these guns has been compared to a hamster breaking wind although we feel that statement to be of some slight exaggeration!

A sub 12 ft lb rifle will have an effective range of up to 36 metres when used on small vermin whilst the lack of noise ensures that everything in the surrounding area (including neighbours) is not spooked when a shot is made. It should be remembered that a compressed air rifle is operating at approximately 200 bar or 2700lbs per square inch of pressure. All this pressure is contained by small synthetic seals so good engineering and the use of the correct material for the seal is paramount. All makes of airguns operating at this pressure can to a greater or lesser degree give a problem when it comes to holding air. No manufacture can honestly say that they do not experience any difficulties whatsoever in this area but if a good quality rifle is purchased from a qualified retailer then the shooting experienced using this form of airgun is fantastic. To put this into perspective, the good quality PCPs are estimated to give a 99% reliability rate and when it comes to the odd one then lets face it that is what after sales service is all about. Essentially the benefits of using this type of airgun outweigh any disadvantages many times over. We personally would not use any other type of airgun for our shooting.

First time customers to PCP:’s often express concerns about the “difficulties” of charging the guns etc. Woody’s invariably put their mind at rest by giving a thirty seconds demonstration. We sell only safe and good quality equipment for this purpose and when you consider that the cost of the compressed air relates to approximately a fiver for a 1000 shots it is an easy system to convert prospective shooters.

Obviously the cost of the charging equipment has to come into the equation. However, at present we can usually put a good second hand outfit together with a new three litre cylinder etc for around £550-00 depending on our second hand stock at the time.