Regardless of our individual backgrounds, the giving of gifts has long been a traditional part of celebrating the holiday season. Among the more popular gift options for generations of young outdoor enthusiasts is the air rifle.
Once commonly referred to simply as a BB-gun, air rifles have opened the door to lifetimes of recreational target shooting and hunting adventures through the years.
Today’s air rifles, however, have far outgrown the BB-gun moniker. In fact, while looking over a collection of modern air rifles at the 2019 edition of the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show, I couldn’t help but say, “these are not the BB-gun I grew up with.”
“No, they are not,” said Kristen Coss, marketing manager for Air Venturi, a company that distributes several brands of air rifles. Among them a line of Springfield Armory replicas. “Air guns come up to .50 caliber now. And you can hunt big game ethically (with an air rifle).”
One hunter, she said, has even taken a cape buffalo with a modern air rifle. Instead of using a pellet, however, the hunter used what Air Venturi calls an Air Bolt tipped with a hunting broadhead and shot from a .50 caliber Seneca Dragon Claw. The bolts reach speeds of 500 feet per second, but the rifle also shoots pellets. They have been clocked at 680 feet per second and deliver 230-foot pounds of knockdown energy.
As for downrange accuracy, Coss said the rifle performs quite well to about 75 yards. So, you still need the skill to work your way in close to the game you are pursuing.
The Dragon Claw may be an air rifle, but don’t bother looking for a plastic stock because you won’t find it on this model. It comes with a hardwood Monte Carlo stock, laser engraving and an etched metal receiver.
Seneca also produces air-powered shotguns, one in a double-barrel configuration. With the choke removed from the barrels on these guns, you also can shoot a slug or the Air Bolt.
These upgraded air rifles are never going to replace firearms, said Coss, but “you can use air guns for plinking. You can use air guns as replicas for training. Now there’s Glock versions of air guns. There’s Sig Sauer versions of air guns. So, your firearm equivalent would typically have a replica that you can use to practice in your basement.”
Not to mention hunting in some states but do your research and verify whether hunting with an air rifle is specifically permitted in the state or states where you are interested in hunting. And if hunting is permitted, be sure to clarify which species you can hunt with an air rifle before going afield.
Coss referenced an interactive map that is available online at Pyramydair.com. All you have to do is click on the appropriate state and you will find a list of animals you can hunt with an air gun. But the appropriate regulation book or state wildlife agency will be your most accurate source of information.
In Nevada, the approved firearm types for game species are specifically identified in regulations, and air guns are not on the list. There are no restrictions for unprotected species.
Bottom line? Today’s air guns come in all shapes and sizes, including old favorites like the Daisy Red Ryder so many of us had as kids, and maybe still do. For those who enjoy shooting modern sporting rifles like the AR-15, or vintage firearms like the M1 carbine, there are high-powered air guns built to replicate that experience. If you like something untraditional, something different, there are models available in some rather creative configurations.
Many of today’s high-powered air guns use a pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) system, which utilizes an onboard tank to store compressed air rather than CO2 like some of the older versions use. The reservoirs on PCP systems can be charged from a scuba tank, a hand pump or a special air compressor. A standard compressor won’t work because you need something that is capable of producing more than 4,500 pounds per square inch (psi), said Coss.
With Christmas just around the corner, perhaps it’s time to add one of these new air guns to your wish list.
Utah accepting turkey tag apps
The Beehive state is now accepting applications for its Spring 2020 wild turkey hunt. The deadline is December 30, and you can apply online at www.utah-hunt.com.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at email@example.com