How to Buy an Air Gun

From competition to backyard plinking, use this guide to find the air gun that's right for you.

Years ago, selecting an air gun amounted to picking from one or two calibers and several propulsion systems, none of which had any great advantage over the other. Boy, times have changed.

Air guns have evolved along with shooters’ interests. You can find specialty products for those who compete, guns that help with pest control around the house, small pursuit guns and even large-game calibers for whitetail deer and hogs.

You should first consider who will be using the gun and will the shooter be doing. Will this be a young shooter’s first gun, or will it belong to an accomplished shooters for competitions? How about an adult interested in a safe backyard activity for the whole family?

Types Of Air Guns

Variable Pump
Variable pump air guns are popular for beginners, youth and backyard plinkers. Air pressure is increased with every stroke and the resulting shot is good enough for tin cans and targets but not powerful enough for hunting.

The most popular variable pump rifle is the Crosman Pumpmaster 760, which has been in production since 1966. Adult variable pump guns include the popular Benjamin 392.

Air guns are defined as such due to their ability to launch a projectile with compressed gas rather than burning a propellant. The American manufacturer Crosman Corporation pioneered the use of a small cylinder containing pressurized carbon dioxide as a power source. This 12-gram Powerlet® enables an air gun to fire with the simple cocking of the gun and is capable of powering multiple shots. CO2 is popular in air pistols and youth air rifles.

Break Action
Sometimes called “breakbarrell,” this type of gun utilizes the barrel as a lever to compress a coiled steel spring or gas piston. This type of air gun is popular for hunters due to both their power and lack of requirement for an external power source, such as CO2 or an air pump.

Because of the inherent nature of a break action’s powerplant, this type of air rifle generates significantly more recoil and vibration, making accurate shooting a challenge but achievable. While most popular among air rifles, there are a few break action pistols.

In 2009 Crosman Corporation introduced the innovative Nitro Piston® powerplant, a nitrogen-filled gas ram that replaces the coiled steel spring in break action air rifles. The benefits are lighter weight, easier cocking effort, and vastly less noise and vibration.

Precharged Pneumatics (PCP)
Precharged pneumatics are the top of the food chain among air gun powerplants. Charged to pressures of 2000-3000 PSI from an external air source, this class of air guns are capable of delivering large caliber, large weight projectiles that are effective on large game such as whitetail deer, hogs and even bison. PCP guns have a fixed barrel, giving them exceptional accuracy.

Air Gun Activities

Air guns have a wide variety of applications, some requiring exceptional precision and others needing maximum power.

Target Shooting
Primarily a backyard activity, shooting targets, or “plinking,”  air guns provide great fun for friendly competitions or shooting practice and are quiet enough not to disturb neighbors.

Each year thousands of shooters vie for titles in air gun competition disciplines for youth and adults. Air guns are available with features needed to be successful for field target, 10-meter and silhouette shooting.

Pest Control
Air guns are particularly valued for pest control because they are quiet and, depending on the model, low power. Pest control generally refers to rats, crows and pigeons and such similarly-sized pests.

Comprised of small game (squirrels, rabbits), varmints (woodhchuck, fox), predator (raccoons, fox, coyote) and in recent years, trophy-sized game such as whitetail deer and hogs.

Today adult and youth air guns are well made and you can be proud to own one. With ammunition widely available and inexpensive, air guns present a year-round activity that everyone can enjoy.