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Special Report: Lethal Air


POSTED: Thursday, November 7, 2013 - 11:09am

UPDATED: Monday, November 11, 2013 - 3:53pm

Guns are still pricey and ammunition is still scarce and expensive.

So, how do you get the proper amount of practice without taking out a loan?

Let’s talk about airguns.And when I say airguns, I know what you’re thinking. The scene from “A Christmas Story” is pretty much our standard picture of air guns.

But air rifles and pistols have grown up, and the latest technology makes them suitable for everything from honing your shooting skills to big game hunting.

And serious airguns go back much farther than you think.

In fact, the first repeating rifle adopted by any nation’s army was an airgun.

The Girardoni was an air-powered musket capable of hurling a .46 caliber piece of lead down range at muzzle velocities equivalent to a .45 automatic pistol.

It held compressed air in the buttstock which unscrewed and could be changed quickly. 20 rounds were stored in a side loading rack, and the gun could fire 80 of them before power began diminishing.

You could hit a man in the head at 50 yards, and it would still kill at 100.

It was adopted by the Austrian army in 1780 and actually used in battle against Napoleon.

The gun was carried by Lewis and Clark on their expedition in 1803, and is credited with not only procuring game, but amazing Indian tribes during the trip.

Now growing up in our neck of the woods, pretty much every boy had an air rifle like this Daisy Model 25, in pretty much continuous production since 1914.

Later, they decided to design guns that looked like the real thing, like this 1894, which was my first BB gun was an almost exact copy of a Winchester model 1894.

Nowadays, CO2 powered air pistols are made by companies like Smith & Wesson and Beretta and are exact copies of their real handguns, like this smith & Wesson R8 revolver, which is identical to the real thing.

That being case, the guns allow shooters to practice very cheaply, with a gun that feels and operates like their actual firearm.
In Europe, strict gun laws starting in the early 20th century, led to development of simple, one-cock airguns with muzzle velocities rivaling a .22 rifle. They are used extensively around the world for small game.

But then we come to real airguns…and that brought us to Chris Vaughn of Bullard.

Chris is an airgun enthusiast, and his specialty is what are known as pre-charged pneumatic airguns. These are rifles that load up with compressed air, or nitrogen in Chris’s case, from a pressurized tank.

“A lot of these are dealing with 3000 PSI of pressure,” Chris says.

And the range of calibers is astounding, from a .22 or .25 caliber pellet, up to a .357, .308 or .50 caliber musket ball.

“This is a .25 caliber Daystate MCT that is actually made in England,” he told us.

And the accuracy is astounding.

From Russia, comes this expensive beauty, looking for all the world like a military firearm.

But the big.50 caliber Quakenbush was figuratively and literally a blast.

One of the most powerful production airguns on the market is made in the USA, the Benjamin Rogue .357.

And useful. Many states from New Jersey to California allow airgun hunting.

But in a state that allows bow hunting, crossbow hunting and black powder rifle hunting…Texas has so far said no to airguns.
You hear me, California is more progressive in its hunting laws than Texas.

And it ranges from small game, to pests, to large animals like feral hog, to deer and buffalo. That’s right, buffalo with an air rifle.

So, given the price of ammunition these days, it looks like airguns can provide the fun, skill training and practice you need for pennies.

And, if you live in the right place, they can put mean on the table.

Comments News Comments

I have a .22 caliber airgun and it's a lot of fun. It's got plenty of power. It'll go completely through an aerosol can at 50 yards. I'm intrigued by the .50 and the .357 I didn't know airguns got that big. Great article Roger!

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