Plenty Of Power, Precision And Fun!
By Tom McHale
You know it’s gonna be a great day when the ring of freedom sounds an awful lot like your front doorbell. The other day when mine rang, I answered the call and discovered a big, fat package on my porch. It turns out the bundle of joy was a .45-caliber rifle. Oh, did I mention it had an integral suppressor?
What? No fuss, no muss, no FFL transfers, no “no-knock” raids by the ATF? No, it wasn’t a covert shipment from old kindergarten buddies currently serving a tour in MS-13. In fact, it was 100 percent legal. That’s because I was the fortunate recipient of a brand new big-bore airgun. No, we’re most certainly not talking about your daddy’s airguns. While Daisy Red Ryders bring back nostalgic memories of sending tin cans straight back to their maker with extreme prejudice, things have changed somewhat and arguably for the better.
Huh? “BB” gun stories in a magazine dedicated to the celebration of fire and brimstone? Yup. I used to be a snobbish aficionado of guns making loud noises, spit fire, and creating smoke by the metric ton. I still am, but I’ve broadened my horizons to include some of the most technologically advanced “guns” I’ve seen. The capabilities of today’s airguns just might surprise you. Let’s take a quick walk through High-Pressure Paradise to see what you can do with modern breeze-powered blasters.
Did somebody say “big bore?” This Umarex Hammer fires .50 caliber lead slugs.
Tactical looking, ain’t it?
Don’t call ’em pellets! These hefty projectiles from Hunters Supply are for this
.45 caliber Gamo TC45 air rifle.
SIG SAUER makes rifles and pistols mimicking their “internal combustion”
counterparts for low-cost training and practice.
Sweet, Discreet, Precise
Some of you are fortunate enough to have land on which you can shoot. Most of us suffer in quiet desperation, living in abject terror under the iron-fisted rule of a homeowners’ association. At least where I live, building a live-fire range in my front yard is seriously frowned upon, regardless of how large a berm I bulldoze. But never fear, airguns are here! While not completely quiet (balloons still make noise when you pop them after all), airguns are almost always hearing-safe and far less likely to send the neighbors’ Havanese yapper into therapy. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but if an airgun fires in the confines of an HOA and no board members hear it …
Theoretically, that opens up lots of possibilities right at home. Plinking? Sure. Training? Why, yes. Check out the new offerings from companies like SIG SAUER and Umarex. I’ve got a drawer full of P229s, 1911s and P320 air pistols shaped — even weighted — to feel like the real thing. Not only will they fit in your “real gun” holsters for some very realistic “at home” training, many even have nifty realistic features like reciprocating slides. Backyard? Check. Garage? Check. Family room? Only when my wife isn’t home. The best part is the CO2 canisters, pellets, and BBs to drive them are available at your local sporting goods or big box store for a fraction of the price of the fiery stuff.
If you want to step up your precision game, check out the slew of new PCP (pre-charged pneumatic) airguns. With self-contained air tanks packing 3,000 to 4,500 psi of compressed air, these fellas will sling anything from .177 or .22 caliber pellets to .50 caliber slugs with mighty authority and without the sproing of those toy BB guns.
Models like the Gamo Urban 22 and Umarex Gauntlet run about $300 and will shock you with their performance and accuracy. Sure, you’ve got to charge them with compressed air, but local dive shops, paintball centers, and even some fire departments can help you with this. If you want to go self-sufficient, you can buy a 4,500 psi hand pump for about $150, and compressor prices are falling faster than Academy Awards TV ratings. They can now be had for less than $800.
This handy little airgun from Gamo is appropriately named the Urban 22.
It’s perfect for backyard fun and pest control.
Match this! If you want to improve your rifle skills, modern airguns are up to the task.
Here’s a 10-yard group from the Gamo Urban 22 PCP.
Is it real or is it air-powered? This SIG SAUER P320 ASP is a .177 pellet gun. Dimensionally, it’s
identical to the real thing making it excellent for at-home training.
The Pursuit Of Power
Let’s come back to the bundle of heavy lead slug-flinging joy arriving in the mail. This particular specimen was a Gamo TC45 pre-charged pneumatic air rifle. Would you be impressed if I told you it’s capable of launching 411-gr. lead slugs, delivering over 400-foot-pounds of muzzle energy? That’s exactly what it does. After a quick chat with founder David Williams at Hunters Supply, I stocked up on a variety of, umm “pellets” ranging from 138-grainers to 411-gr. lead slugs — for an air rifle. Those 138s clocked in at an average of 755 fps. The 147–gr., lead round balls hit 859 fps likely owing to their smaller bearing surface. As for the 411-gr. heavies, I measured those at 637 fps. That’s not shabby for an “air rifle” now is it?
Yes, I still love my Daisy Red Ryder, but folks, we’re playing a whole new ballgame. Stay tuned — we’ll go a lot deeper next time.