Airguns are a good (and relatively affordable) way to get started in shooting sports, they can also be a lot of fun to shoot casually whether it is just for fun or as a cheaper alternative to "keep ones eye in".
Now I am no expert on airguns (that title goes to many others here), I've started shooting airguns again after a gap of many years - being inspired by other members who've tempted me back into this fun form of shooting! Most of what is written below has been picked up from various discussions on this board and personal conversations with some of the more knowledgeable members here.
Anyhow, I hope that this article would help a novice make a more informed choice in terms of which airgun to choose - based on his preferred use and budget. I also hope that other more knowledgeable members would chip in and add to the information here.BEFORE
you proceed further, the standard word of caution - PLEASE MEMORISE the rules of firearms safety
. AIRGUNS ARE NOT TOYS
and can cause serious injury if handled in an unsafe manner!The Various Power Plants
Airguns can be divided into five major types, based on their power plant mechanisms.1. Spring Piston Airguns
- These are the most popular type of airguns and also the most commonly found in India. With the exception of one Indian manufacturer all of the other local manufacturers make airguns of this type exclusively. These have a mainspring which is compressed when the gun is cocked. Pulling the trigger releases this mainspring which pushes forward the piston, resulting in a rapid compression of air; which in turn propels the pellet forward. There is a secondary aspect to the power of spring piston airguns - called "dieselling", but we won't get into that for now. Spring piston airguns have a unique back-forward type of recoil which is specially hard for telescopes to withstand. Spring piston airguns are of three further types -
a. Break Barrel - These are the most common type, the barrel also doubles as the cocking lever in these type of airguns. They are relatively cheaper to manufacture (owing to having fewer moving parts) and also usually slightly lighter than the side-lever or under-lever type of airguns. However, they can sometimes be difficult to scope as the barrel is not "fixed" and can make such airguns suffer from "barrel droop".
b. Side Lever - These employ a separate side-lever to cock the airgun. The barrel is fixed to the action.
c. Under Lever - These employ a separate lever under the barrel of the gun to cock the airgun.
Spring piston airguns come in various power levels and are usually good for casual plinking and pest control. They are seldom used for Olympic style competitive shooting at any level, but a really good spring piston airgun combined with a good shooter could be a contender at least in the open sight category at state/ district level competitions.2. Multi Stoke Pneumatic
- These are quite popular in USA and are also relatively cheap to manufacture. The action of "pumping" the gun (via an under lever or back and forth type of pumping device under the barrel), compresses air and stores it in a chamber within the gun. This compressed air is released via a valve when the trigger is pulled, thus propelling the pellet forward. These airguns have NO recoil at all. The more times you pump the more the air compression and therefore the more the power output of the airgun. These too are seldom (if ever) used in Olympic style competitions, but can be fun plinkers and some models also offer enough power for pest control. No manufacturer currently makes such airguns in India.3. Single Stroke Pneumatic
- These used to be quite popular at the highest level of the sport till some years back. They are similar to multi-stroke pneumatic airguns in concept, but a single cocking stroke compresses enough air to power the gun. This type of power plant produces very consistent pellet velocities (a must for accuracy) and a high quality single stroke pneumatic combined with a good shooter would be a contender at any level, even today. That said, these are usually not cheap with the imported match grade models costing several thousand dollars apiece. These are relatively low powered guns, meant only for target shooting. The Indian Hume Pipe Co. manufacturers one model of this type in India which is priced around INR 12,000/-, however reports of members here as to it's quality and consistency are far from satisfactory; with even brand new guns suffering from several defects right out of the box.4. Pre-Charged Pneumatic (PCP)
- These guns use highly compressed air which is filled via a manual or electric pump or a large cylinder (scuba tank etc.) into a fixed (permanently to the gun) or detachable container. They use air compressed to the tune of 2000 to 3000 psi - to put this in perspective car tyres are usually inflated to 25 psi. When the trigger is pulled, a part of this highly compressed air is released via a valve thus propelling the pellet forward. PCP airguns are NOT cheap, and also entail other support accessories like pumps, spare cylinders (for the gun) and optionally a large cylinder to store pre-compressed air in thus freeing you from the hassle of manually pumping air into each cylinder. Also, care must be taken while handling highly compressed air, as a cylinder failure could result in a decent sized explosion! That said, PCP's provide extremely consistent velocities irrespective of ambient temperature or altitude and free the shooter from the distraction (& labour) of cocking effort each time the gun has to be loaded. This has made them the preferred choice of most shooters at the highest levels of the sport. PCP's come in different models, depending on intended use - there are high powered hunting models for pest elimination, low powered but super accurate match models for target shooters, single shot models, multi-shot models etc. Currently no manufacturer makes these in India, though the Indian Hume Pipe Co. is planning to launch a target model PCP soon.5. CO2 Powered
- These guns are powered by compressed carbon dioxide (CO2) gas stored within a cylinder. They used to be popular amongst shooters for a while, but went out of favour because their velocities vary with changes in ambient temperature etc. However CO2 guns will give many many more shots for the same sized cylinder (as compared to PCPs), which makes them a good choice for fun plinking or even entry level competition shooting. They either use small disposable cylinders (which are hard to find and very expensive in India) OR can be refilled via a larger cylinder which screws into the gun permanently (till it needs to be refilled) or screws into the gun to "charge it" for 20-30 shots. These refillable cylinders can be refilled locally. They are of usually low to medium power. Currently only the Indian Hume Pipe Co. makes one model (an air-pistol) which uses this type of power plant. They used to also make a CO2 air-rifle called the National Cadet, but that model has been discontinued.Ammunition/ Calibres
While there are airguns in calibres all the way up to .50", you are not likely to find these in India. Internationally the most prevalent airgun calibres are .177, .20, .22 and .25 - of these four .177 and .22 are by far the most popular and are the only two calibres for which pellets are made in India. In India even imported pellets are mostly available only in these two calibres, so I will restrict the discussion to these two.
ISSF style airgun competitions (which are the only ones held in India) ONLY .177 calibre
airguns are allowed to be used. Due to this rifle associations/ clubs get batches of imported match pellets ONLY in this calibre (may not always be available), therefore .177 imported match pellets are easier & cheaper to procure for rifle club members. Since .177 calibre pellets are much lighter than .22 pellets, they also fly out at higher speeds, that is to say they have a higher muzzle velocity than the same model airgun
chambered for .22 calibre pellets. This higher velocity means that they tend to have a flatter trajectory than .22 pellets which makes it a bit easier to shoot them over longer ranges (one needs to make less compensation for drop). That said, this higher muzzle velocity can cause them to zip through a target when used for pest control - resulting in less than ideal energy transfer and making is slightly harder to achieve a humane kill. Generally speaking .177 pellets are also cheaper to buy than .22 pellets.NOTE:
Pertinent to the mention of pest control - as per the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, ONLY Schedule V vermin may be shot without prior permission/ special circumstances. Currently mice, rats and the common crow are the ONLY THREE animals classed as Schedule V vermin in India. ALL FORMS of hunting for sport OR food are completely ILLEGAL in India.
Some airguns also use BB's as ammuntion, which are basically round steel or lead balls. These type of airguns are quite popular in USA where they are referred to as BB guns.Where to buy?Indian Airguns
Indian airguns are mostly manufactured by small scale units, with many brands selling only locally/ regionally. The only large scale manufacturer in India is the Indian Hume Pipe Co., and their airguns are decent enough and reasonably priced (varying between approx INR 3,000 to INR 12,000 depending on the model) - the best bet amongst locally made airguns IMHO. However DO NOT expect high power levels or super accuracy from these airguns, they can be best classified as good for fun plinking with some basic short range pest control. A list of their dealers is available on their website - http://www.indianhumepipe.com
One of our members has had some good things to say about the air-rifle made by Gunmark/ G Smith & Co. of Pune, while another member had an extremely poor experience. However, I have not tried out this air-rifle myself, so cannot comment as to how good or bad it really is. You can probably find out more by searching through some of the older posts on this website as well as contacting them through their website - http://www.gsmithco.com Imported Airguns
Airguns come under the restricted list of imports and their commercial import
is NOT currently allowed. This basically means that imported airguns are only available with gun dealers from time to time and when available they demand excruciatingly high prices for even ordinary imported models. If you are prepared to be fleeced by one of these dealers then you can try calling your local arms dealers to see if any of them has any imported models available with him. A partial list of arms dealers in India is available under the yellow pages section of this website.
If you are looking for a second hand target model, a much better bet might be to try an buy one off someone active on the shooting circuit. Your local shooting club/ rifle association would be the best place to start looking for one of these.
If you wish to import an airgun yourself
, you have a couple of options available.
1. For members of rifle associations/ shooting clubs, the government has now allowed the import of airguns (in .177 calibre only) for their personal use. So if you are the member of a rifle association/ shooting club I would strongly recommend
that you NOT pay dealers ridiculous prices and in stead order a new gun for yourself from an overseas vendor who is willing to ship to India. Members here have previously imported airguns from - http://www.mac1airgun.com
(accept International credit cards, usually has the cheapest shipping costs to India) http://pyramydair.com
(have a ~ US$ 50 surcharge if one is using an International credit card) http://www.airgunbuyer.com
(accept International credit cards) http://www.sportsmantarget.com
(stock mostly Chinese products, shipping to India is ~ US $70)
For more details please see the thread Airgun import experiences - via post/ courier route
2. For anyone returning from overseas another option exists and that is to import an airgun as part of baggage. This route DOES NOT require one to be the member of a rifle club/ shooting association AND has NO restriction on calibre (so one can import a .22 cal airgun as well). For more details please see the thread Airgun import experiences - via personal baggage routeUPDATE:
The government has completely waived off all import duties on airguns imported by members of shooting clubs/ rifle associations.Conclusion
Airguns vary widely in terms of power levels, accuracy potential, price and calibre. Which one is right for you would depend entirely on your intended use and budget. I hope this article would have helped you somewhat in making your choice.