August 03, 2022
Like many hunters, the first shooting lessons I took focused on an airgun. (“Pull the trigger. Don’t shoot the robins.”) That airgun was a great training tool and with it I learned about firearm safety as well as the basic mechanics of marksmanship. Although that pump rifle with a hollow plastic stock wasn’t known for its accuracy, it would hit a hand-drawn bull’s-eye on a paper plate at 15 yards as long as the drawer didn’t make the mark too small.
Airguns have improved a lot in the four decades since I learned how to shoot. They are now even better training tools, thanks to improved accuracy and ergonomics, and many of them are legitimate hunting rifles. Today, you can get air rifles from companies like Umarex up to .50 caliber. Traditional .177 and .22 caliber air rifles are perfect for training, target shooting, and plinking, but .25, .30, and .50 caliber models increase the power considerably. They really are legitimate hunting tools for small game and in some cases, depending on local regulations, for big game as well.
Big game with an air rifle? Yes, you read it right. Lest you think I’m kidding, let’s take a look at airgun ballistics. The Umarex Hammer air rifle fires a 550-grain bullet at 760 fps and produces 705 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. By comparison, a .357 Mag. with a 180-grain bullet moving at about 1,100 fps produces about 500 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. at .41 rem. magazine with a 210-grain bullet at about 1,300 fps produces a little over 850 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. Both charges have taken a lot of deer, and the Hammer’s .50-caliber bullet lands between the two. It will cleanly take a white tail when the slug hits the vital organs.
It is important to realize that these airguns in higher calibers are many levels above the typical .177 or .22 caliber models in terms of power. Of course, you don’t have to go all the way up to .50 caliber to get adequate power for small game and fur-bearing animals like raccoons. The Umarex Origin fires .25-caliber buckshot that weighs about 30 grains and produces velocities of up to 950 fps, while the company’s .30-caliber Gauntlet rifle fires 50-grain BBs at 975 fps for 105 foot-pounds of energy. In both cases, you’re talking about larger, heavier shot being pushed at significant speeds.
Most large-bore airguns are pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) models with air tanks that are regulated to provide consistent pressure from shot to shot. This equates to constant speed and accuracy. They don’t just shoot down pellets, especially when you consider that each shot is boosted by 2,800 to 3,000 psi.
Like any hunting tool, before you take an airgun into the field, you need to understand how it works and the trajectory of the shot or bullet it fires. These projectiles are powerful, but they are very different than a centerfire rifle bullet. You need to spend time on the shooting range, making sure you understand how to safely load and handle these rifles, as well as how to change air tanks. Also, practice until you have a complete understanding of bullet drop and drift.
The more you practice, the more efficient and effective the hunter will become when it comes to quickly shouldering the rifle, finding a solid position, and shooting accurately. Umarex airguns are great training tools for practicing those steps, whether you’re hunting with them or with centerfire and rimfire rifles.
Today’s air rifles are incredibly accurate and you’ll get good results when you execute good aiming mechanics. Practice is fun and it’s cheap. Keep in mind that you’re not spending $40 or $50 for a box of centerfire ammo. Pellets come at a fraction of that cost.
Umarex designs air rifles for hunting, and the company includes several features in its hunting models that make them ideal for the field. Let’s take the .25 caliber Origin as an example. This PCP rifle comes with the Umarex Ever-Pressure Tank System, which can be filled using a hand pump. It takes about 13 pumps to get a full power injection, so you won’t have a problem filling this tank with air. However, unlike some PCP pistols, the Always Ready Tank is also compatible with Umarex’s ReadyAir air compressor. If you want to fill the tank to its maximum pressure of 3625 psi, connect it to the compressor.
Some other really convenient features about Origin are worth mentioning. The rifle has an eight-round rotary magazine, so you’re not trying to chamber a BB every time you want to shoot. Cocking the rifle is quick and easy thanks to the side lever. Also, the Origin has an adjustable trigger. All of these features come at a suggested retail price of $329.99, which is a pretty good deal for a hunting-ready airgun.
The popularity of airgun hunting has grown steadily over the past decade, thanks to companies like Umarex building models with features that make them capable and convenient in the field. There has never been a better time to hunt with an air rifle than now.