07 February 2021

Airgun Wars

Ammo prices have gone to infinity and beyond! That is, IF you can find it. Even a lot of the not-so-popular calibers are becoming virtually non-existent. A great many shooters are also concerned about an uncertain future and are sitting on their ammo and saving it for self-defense purposes. Recreational shooting and training have gone WAY down. Most of us simply cannot afford it. So what do we do?

We have limited options available in order to address this problem. 1. We can give up shooting completely, saving what little ammo we have for important stuff like hunting and civil wars.
2. We can cut WAY back, only shooting a few rounds out of a few of our guns to try and keep tuned up and have a little fun.
3. Do more dry-practice, maybe in conjunction with the above options.
4. Shoot more rimfire... oops, scratch that too.
5. Get a good quality airgun while you still can, lots of accessories and ammo for it and then go have a ball for just pennies!

Let's take a deeper look at #5. Many people still look at airguns as toys, insufficient to keep our egos stoked. I can assure that they are not. Aside from the obvious safety concerns that must be addressed when using ANY type of tool that expels projectiles at a high rate of speed out of the business end, modern airguns are accurate, powerful, affordable, easy to maintain and cheap to feed. For the purposes of this article, let's talk specifically about air rifles. Starting at the very, very bottom, you can get a decent plinker for 30 or 40 bucks. Depending on what kind of performance you're looking for and what kind of money you want to spend, you can go all the way up to several thousand dollars and everything in between.

You can get airguns that look like your favorite AK or AR-15 and a number of other models. You can also get them in several calibers. The most popular for the recreational shooter are .177 and .22 and, to a lesser degree, .20 caliber but did you know that air rifles are also available in big-kid calibers? Yep, .257, . 30, .357,  .44 and even .50 caliber! These are pricey but some of them are even capable of cleanly taking big game. Did you know that Lewis and Clark had an air rifle on their famous expedition? Yes sir, a .46 caliber Girandoni. Girandoni air rifles go all the way back to the late 1500's.

So let's speed up the clock and get back to the 21st century... 
I'm not going to list every model and action type out there but I will mention a few of the most common to give you some things to think about should you decide to jump onboard the airgun band wagon.

* Some of you are familiar with the cheapest ones. We called them Red Ryders when we were kids. Remember? They had the cocking lever that is part of the trigger guard and vaguely resembles a real, lever-action Winchester rifle. Those are spring operated and pretty anemic but great for having fun with the kids and teaching them gun safety and they're very inexpensive. They shoot .177 caliber BB's only, as far as I know.

* The next is the pump-up style with a lever under the barrel for adding compressed air. That's what I grew up on. It was a .22 caliber Benjamin although I don't remember the model number. This type can be pumped to variable pressures depending on how many times you pump it. Usually 3 times is the minimum to help ensure that a pellet doesn't get stuck in the bore and 10 pumps was usually considered maximum. I was raised on a ranch in NM and my dad used to pay me a bounty for certain pesky critters so I was out hunting all the time. I contribute much of my marksmanship and woodscraft skills to that old Benjamin and my early bounty hunting days.

*  You can also get those that derive their power from little CO2 cartridges. I don't care for those at all so I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about them. There are also a few others that I'm not going to talk about simply because they're not as popular.

* And then there's the break-barrel actions. Yeah, these are my favorite nowadays!  To add air for the next shot, simply hold the stock in one hand and reach up and grab the barrel towards the muzzle and try to break the gun in half. The barrel hinges right at the chamber and bends down to the shape of an inverted "V". When it snaps into position and there's no longer any tension on it, put a pellet or BB into the chamber and close the barrel. The one I have, automatically engages the safety when you load it. 

The remainder of the article will be about break-barrel guns. There are literally hundreds of different models of break-barrel guns. Some are quite affordable, others will require refinancing your house. Crosman, Benjamin, Beeman, RWS and Gamo are some of the oldest names in airguns. SIG Sauer, Ruger and a few others have more recently entered the airgun arena. Ruger makes a damned fine example of a break-barrel air rifle. Most of these guns are quite accurate, some of them stunningly so. Velocities can range anywhere from maybe 700 fps to well over 1200 fps, depending on caliber and the type of projectile being used. These guns are more than capable of humanely taking small varmints and game animals. They have airgun competitions and you will be amazed at how remarkably accurate some of these guns are! Practical range of the air rifle, again, depends on the gun and the type and style of ammo being used. 10 yards is mentioned a lot in ads and videos and whatnot so I assume that's kind of a standard in the industry but 20 yards seems much more realistic to me. Its not even too awfully hard to hit a pop can pretty regularly out to 50 yards or more with many of these guns.  

Now then, I want to talk about one gun in particular. It is the Beeman Silver Kodiak X2, Model 10774.There are other guns similar to this one but this one is mine and I like it a lot. I bought it primarily for a SHTF small game gun. This little jewel comes with a scope and two barrels, a .22 caliber barrel and a .177 barrel and it only takes maybe a minute to change them out. With BB's and alloy pellets of the .177 persuasion, you can expect at least 1200 fps. Alloy .22 pellets are more like 950. Lead pellets run about a grand in .177 and 830 fps with the .22. The receiver is satin nickel plated and the stock is synthetic which makes it fairly weather resistant. It has no open sights but the 4x32 Beeman scope does a great job. Depending on where you get it, it will probably run you between $125 and $150.

 It's not a stone cold, long-range killer but it's more than accurate and powerful enough to take bunnies, grouse, squirrels, etc., out to at least 20 yards. In fact, this one is plenty accurate enough to make reliable head shots at that range. Beeman says that accuracy will improve substantially after a few hundred rounds and I doubt if I have much more than a hundred through mine.
I haven't spent much time on the range with this one yet but I have done some preliminary testing with it. Here's what I found out...

On paper, it did pretty well considering it has not had the requisite number of break-in shots run through it. Using the .22 barrel and Gamo Match lead pellets from a fairly steady rest, it put 7 out of 8 shots in 1.5 inches. The first shot out of a clean barrel was dead center and 2" high, out of the group. 3 of the last 4 shots were in less than .75". What I gathered from this is that it might be prudent to put 4 or 5 rounds through a clean barrel before expecting your gun's best accuracy. I supplied a picture of the target below and 2 of the fired pellets compared to an unfired one. The target was stapled to an old plastic trash can because its what I had handy at the time. The pellets you see passed through both sides of the trash can and then into a plywood wall. The dents in the plywood were between 1/8 and 3/16" deep.

The next thing I did was shoot a full can of root beer, also at 20 yards. The pellet easily went through both sides and hit the wall. Interestingly, the can split from top to to bottom on ENTRY side, only making a small hole on the exit side. Picture supplied below.

The final event was to see if I could hit a quart bottle filled with colored water at 50 yards. There was just a little bit of dry grass out there so I sat an old oil filter on the ground and then put the quart bottle on top of that to get above the grass. I didn't realize that the round dropped that much so it took me a couple shots to get it on the target. It was roughly 6" below point of aim. I heard the first 2 shots hit something but the bottle didnt fall over and it wasn't leaking so I walked out there to see what was going on. What I found was that I had hit the oil filter twice, less than .75" apart (picture supplied) which further led me to believe that a clean barrel is not my friend. The next shot was on the bottle but surprisingly, only put a dent in it but did not penetrate. The heavy plastic and the pressure of the water inside was a little more than the pellet could overcome.

So, there you have it! As far as I'm concerned, this gun or one like it, is a winner, not only for survival/preparedness purposes but for cheap recreational shooting and hunting as well.

What did all of this have to do with Airgun Wars? Well, nothing really but hopefully I piqued your interest enough to get you to read it!