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February 28, 2007

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Understanding Air Rifle Scopes

Choosing the right air rifle scope can be a daunting task. There are dozens to choose from and all of them have different features to offer you. To make things easier, lets examine the basics of airgun scopes. Essentially, a scope simply magnifies an image you are targeting and puts you on the same visual plane as the object. It does this by using a series of lenses inside the scope to bend the light that enters so that it magnifies the image. An air rifle scope is special because it can withstand the unique vibration and double recoil of an air rifle. NEVER PUT A FIREARM SCOPE ON AN AIR RIFLE. Now, the reason people enjoy having scopes on their air rifles is because it will help you achieve the pinpoint accuracy that air rifles are known for. So, let’s take a look at the two different kinds of scopes starting with fixed air rifle scopes.

Fixed Air Rifle Scopes

A fixed air rifle scope is set on one magnification and cannot be adjusted. It is denoted by something like this: 4X32 or 4X15. The 4X means that the object in the viewfinder is magnified 4 times more than you can see with the naked eye. The advantage to having a scope like this is that once it is sighted in, it requires very little adjusting. The disadvantage is that you cannot magnify an image any more than the set magnification. These scopes are adequate for hunting smaller rodents such as rats or mice or any rodent that can be hunted at closer ranges. See an example here .

Variable Air Rifle Scopes

With this type of airgun scope, an image can be magnified usually between 3-15X. It will be denoted with something like this: 3-9X32. So you can magnify it 3-9 times and the 32 means a 32mm objective lens. More on objecitve sizes later in the article.... These scopes are great for hunting larger game at longer distances. The disadvantage to this kind of scope is that it may require more frequent adjustments because there are many intricate parts inside the scope. See an example here.

Understanding Objective Sizes

The last number in a scope description denotes the objective size. For example, 4-16X50. 50 mean that this scope has a 50mm objective or a 50 mm lens opening. Objective size is important for two reasons. First, the bigger the lens, the stronger the magnification. Second, a larger objective will allow more light to enter the scope giving you a brighter, clearer sight picture. If you plan to use your air rifle scope at dusk or in other low light conditions be sure to pick out a scope with a large objective. Below are a couple of scopes we recommend:

Mounting Hardware

After you've read up on all the different mounting options below visit our Scope Mounts page here.

All scopes need a way to connect to the gun. This is done by using a one or two piece scope mount that fit around the scope and are tightened onto a rail on top of the airgun. I would recommend using a one piece mount for high powered spring air rifles that have a lot of recoil. A one piece mount is more sturdy and can withstand the intense recoil of magnum air rifles. If you are just mounting a scope to a CO2 or a lower powered spring rifle then a two piece mount will suffice. There are a few different types of hardware that you will need to be familiar with.

  • High mounts: These rings work best with larger scopes because it allows them to sit higher on the gun, giving the large objective lens room to clear the stock and barrel. In most cases high mounts should be used for scopes with a 50mm objective or higher. Only use high mounts if you have a scope with a big objective. You should always try to mount the scope as low to the top of the rifle as possible as this will increase your accuracy.
  • Medium mounts: These rings are slightly smaller than High rings and will work for most any air gun scope with an objective of 44mm or less.
  • One piece mounts: These mounts offer added stability to your scope. These mounts work best with high-powered rifles such as Beeman and RWS or any air rifle with a velocity of over 1000 FPS. These mounts are a bit more expensive but a lot of customers feel that it is worth it because of the added stability which means better accuracy.
  • Scope Tube Size: Scopes come in two tube sizes- 1 inch and 30 mm. Be sure to buy the correct size scope mounts to fit your scope.
  • Specialty mounts: A few air rifles require unique mounts.. Benjamin Air Rifles requires a B272 mount to mount any scope to their air rifles as well as a set of standard rings to be used in conjuction with the mount.
  • RWS C-Mount- I mention this mount because it is probably the best adjustable mount on the market. If you want to mount a scope to your RWS air rifle I seriously recommend that you get this mount. A lot of scopes don't have enough elevation and windage adjustments to sight them in properly with RWS rifles. The RWS C-mount allows you to make the major elevation and windage adjustments on the mount itself and then you can fine tune the accuracy using the adjustments on the scope. The only drawback is that this is an expensive mount, however, for RWS air rifles it is the worth the money and will allow you to sight your air rifle properly. This mount works with all RWS air rifles as well as any airgun with a standard 3/8 " dovetail mount. Click here for the RWS C-Mount.

Now that you know the basics, here are some simple suggestions to help you choose a scope:

  • Decide what type of shooting you are going to do. For small rodent hunting at close ranges, go with a 4X32 fixed scope. For larger varmints, go with a variable. For target shooting, a fixed scope will work just fine unelss you want the ability to zoom close up to your target. If so, go with a variable..
  • Decide on the quality of air rifle scope you want, then buy one a little bit nicer than that. It’s better to get something a little nicer than to get something you will regret having. The old saying, "You get what you pay for" is especially relevant with air rifle scopes and optics in general.
  • Make sure you buy the appropriate mounting hardware as well.

Recommendations

Airgun Depot is proud to announce our exclusive new line of air rifle scopes. We are the exclusive distributor for the Nikko Stirling Air King series of air rifle scopes. These scopes come with a sturdy one piece mount already attached to the scope. The scopes also feature flip open dust covers, adjustable objective, high grade lenses for improved clarity and a sturdy one piece scope body. We feel that our Nikko Stirling scopes give you the most bang for your buck. They are designed to withstand the intense recoil of high powered air rifles. Check them out below.


Visit our Air Rifle Scopes page here

Airgun Powerplants

By Randy Mitchell

Written Exclusively for Airgun Depot

Airgun power plants have a great deal to do with what kind of airgun you choose to buy. There are many variables that may affect your shooting habits….temperature, distance, if you are shooting targets or hunting, plinking or competition…..a lot of different reasons for choosing the correct type of power plant for your needs.

So just how many kinds of airguns are there? Basically, there are 5 types of airgun power plants, and each one has its pros and cons. Let's take a look at the different means of propelling a pellet or BB and think about which kind would best meet your specific shooting needs. The 5 types of power plants are:

  • Spring piston
  • Pneumatic
  • CO2 gas
  • Pre-charged pneumatic (PCP)
  • The traditional BB gun.

Spring-Piston

The most common type of airgun is the spring-piston type. Unlike pneumatic and CO2 pellet guns, there is no storage compartment for air or gas on a spring-piston airgun. Rather, a powerful spring is compressed upon cocking the gun, and when the trigger is released, a piston is driven forward which quickly compresses air to a high pressure, driving the pellet out of the barrel. This type of power plant is tried and tested, and has the advantage of producing the same power level shot after shot, rather than losing power like CO2 and PCP airguns do as pressure decreases. They are simple to use, and can be obtained in a variety of power levels from low-velocity plinkers to higher-powered hunting airguns delivering 30 fpe (foot pounds of energy). They are self-contained, not needing to be re-charged with air, and all you need to enjoy shooting them is the gun and some ammo. Here is an example of how a spring-piston airgun works: http://www.arld1.com/pistonpelletdynamics.html Some of the cons of spring-piston power plants are that they are sometimes harder to shoot accurately for beginners, and in the more powerful models, need a certain type of scope to withstand the vibrations that result from the recoil generated by the firing action. However, once the correct method of shooting is learned, spring-piston airguns deliver years of shooting pleasure that is hard to beat. For proper technique refer to my blog post on small game hunting with spring piston airguns.

Pump Pneumatic

Pneumatic airguns are extremely popular, especially in America. Whereas spring-piston airguns enjoyed a following in Europe and other countries, the pump-up pneumatic gained popularity here in America. Names such as Daisy, Crosman, Sheridan, and Benjamin were household names when describing airguns here in the States. Today, many of the airguns available for the youth market can still be found bearing the Daisy and Crosman names, with Benjamin and Sheridan having combined, and subsequently been purchased by the Crosman brand. Pneumatic airguns contain a reservoir that is filled by pumping up the gun, with the pump usually being built into the gun itself. When the trigger is pulled, the reservoir is opened and the air escapes, propelling the pellet. I grew up with this kind of airgun, and enjoyed one of the obvious advantages of such a power plant. You could vary the power level of the gun simply by varying the number of pumps you used to charge the reservoir. Some of the most accurate airguns available are pump-up guns, many of them using only a single pump to provide a very consistent level of power for target shooting. There is almost no recoil, and accuracy is easier to obtain quickly than from a spring-piston airgun. Here is an excellent demonstration of how a pump-up pneumatic works: http://www.arld1.com/mechanismpumppneumatic.html The drawback to pneumatic airguns is the need to pump the gun up after each shot. If you are hunting, this means you often lose your game if you missed the first shot due to the movement caused by recharging your airgun for the next shot. It does have the side effect of teaching you the importance of making the first shot count!

CO2

Carbon-dioxide, or CO2, is usually supplied to an airgun with a reservoir via bulk filling or from a powerlet, often called a CO2 cartridge. CO2 is an excellent propellant, and allows the shooter to charge the gun and shoot many times before needing to replenish the CO2. Under pressure, CO2 is a liquid, and when placed in the reservoir of an airgun, it self-regulates and provides gas for shot after shot until all the liquid CO2 is converted into gas and used. One drawback to CO2 is its sensitivity to temperature. If the climate is cold, CO2 tends to stay in liquid form, and the power level achieved is much less. In extremely hot conditions, the pressure rises significantly, and often the pressure becomes too great, locking up the valve on the gun. When that happens, you have to cool the gun down before it can shoot again. I've actually put one of my guns in the freezer for a few minutes to regain its use on an extremely hot day! If you are a hunter, CO2 works great in warm climates, or ealier in the season in cooler climates. But once winter sets in, extended periods outside hunting are impractical.

PCP

Pre-charged pneumatics, or PCP's, use a reservoir like CO2 guns, but the propellant is high-pressure air, not CO2 gas. The pressures involved are much higher, from 1500 to3500 psi, sometimes higher. The power levels on PCP airguns usually outstrip those available from CO2 or spring-piston guns, and almost all of the modern big-bore airguns that one might use to hunt larger game such as deer or hogs rely on this power plant. The smaller calibers are almost recoil-free and offer extremely good accuracy. PCP has quickly become the propellant of choice for target and FT shooters who don't shoot in the spring-piston class. However, PCP does have its drawbacks. You need a source for air, either a special hand pump or a scuba tank or other high-pressure vessel capable of containing 3000 psi or more. And then you need a source for filling your tanks. It isn't always easy to find a source of high-pressure air, but the most common places are dive shops, fire departments, and paintball game locations. There are commercially available electric and gas-driven pumps available, but they are prohibitive in cost for the casual shooter. You are better off renting or leasing a large tank from a welding shop and having them fill it for you when you run low on air. To fill a PCP airgun, you must have the correct probe or connector that fits the gun attached to a source of air, either a tank or pump. (The probe should have come with your airgun, but if you are buying on the second-hand market, you will sometimes acquire a gun that has no probe. Contact the manufacturer to obtain the correct probe for your model of gun.) In the example below, the probe is inserted into the end of the reservoir, and the pressure valve on the tank is slowly opened to fill the gun.


Probe Adapter


Insert Probe In Tank


Connect Hose to Air Source Such as a Scuba Tank or Hand Pump

Fill the airgun slowly, no more than 100 psi per second. If you fill too fast, the reservoir will heat up from the pressurized air, which isn't especially good for the seals in your airgun. Once the desired fill pressure is achieved, close the pressure valve and bleed off the excess air in the hose by opening the bleed-off valve. This will release the excess air still trapped in the hose, allowing you to remove the probe from the gun without damaging it. Only fill your airgun to the manufacturer's suggested limit. The valve in your airgun is made to work at that optimum pressure. Air tanks come in a variety of sizes and weights. I would recommend a 4500 psi tank made of lighter-weight materials before using scuba tank. They hold more air and will give you more fills before you need to top them off again. One word of caution: High pressure air is NOT pure oxygen. Pure oxygen is flammable, and you are holding your life and the lives of those around you in low regard if you fill your PCP airgun with oxygen. There have been cases of individuals using medical supply oxygen to fill their guns. Don't be stupid!

Traditional BB guns

The ubiquitous BB gun, such as the Red Ryder from Daisy, is a gun that many of America's youth grew up with. It is a hybrid gun of sorts. It uses a catapult to start the BB on its way, and a very light spring-piston to accelerate the BB down the barrel. They work well, and are often an airgunner's first introduction to airguns. The power level is low compared to other power plants, and you most often find it on the lower end of airguns. The ammo is most often a steel BB that has a nasty habit of ricocheting more than a lead pellet, so caution should be used, especially when teaching youngsters the finer points of safe gun-handling. These are the power plants that allow us to enjoy the sport of airgunning. Choosing which one is best for you is a personal decision that can involve some trial and error….but it is all fun! So enjoy!

Small Game Hunting with Airguns

By Randy Mitchell

Written Exlusively For Airgun Depot

“Hunting? With air guns? You’re kidding me!”

That is the comment I hear on a rather frequent basis when I am chatting with a fellow hunter, or sharing my hobbies with another interested party. With the ready access to firearms that we in America enjoy, air rifles, pellet guns, and other air guns are often over-looked as a viable way to pursue the great sport of hunting, or as an alternative method of pest control versus the use of poison and traps.

Over the last few years, I have more or less dived headlong into the use of airguns as a means of hunting. As a matter of fact, I haven’t used a firearm for any kind of hunting except shooting birds on the wing for over 4 years. I have found that air guns have met my needs for all the hunting I do very admirably, up to and including the hunting of big game such as whitetail deer. However, that is a story for another day. For now, let’s focus on the issues surrounding the use of air guns on small game.

I’m an avid squirrel hunter, and have been since my youth. Many a youngster has found out, either by mistake or on purpose, that a pump-up BB gun or pellet gun is quite capable of taking small game such as squirrel and rabbits. But how many people do you know who use an air gun on purpose, setting out with the intent of harvesting their game with a device powered by some form of compressed air or gas? Let’s address some of the issues surrounding hunting small game with an airgun….caliber, sights, technique, and care of your weapon of choice.

Which Caliber Is Best For Hunting and How Much Power Do I Need?

There are basically 4 different calibers for air guns that are commonly found and that have ready ammunition available. They are .177, .20, .22, and .25 caliber. The .177 and .22 are by far the most commonly chambered for air guns, so we’ll just arbitrarily make a comparison of those two for now and save the .20 and .25 caliber for another day.

Is the .177 caliber pellet adequate for squirrel hunting? It certainly looks very tiny, and I suppose it is a fair question as to whether or not it is a viable hunting caliber in air guns. Now there is a school of thought in the air gun world that uses this rule of thumb: “.177 for feathers, .22 for fur.” In other words, if you are shooting birds, a .177 is sufficient. If you are hunting non-avian game, then consider a .22 caliber. In my experience, it really comes down to the issue of pellet placement on the target. I have had good luck using both calibers in squirrel hunting, and the caliber issue is less of a concern to me than the issue of what particular air gun do I want to carry around with me today.

In terms of power, Dr. Robert Beeman has a handy little graph that gives one an idea of what level of power is needed for dispatching the game you are hunting. According to Dr. Beeman, 3 fpe is all that is needed to dispatch a squirrel, provided you have placed the pellet in the kill zone. With a pellet weighing roughly 8 grains, that translates to about 415 feet per second at the point of impact. In a .22 caliber airgun, an average weight pellet only has to be going about 300 fps to achieve the same level of energy needed to accomplish the deed. You can look at the graph I am quoting from at the following url:

http://www.beemans.net/field%20use.htm

Now, using Dr. Beeman’s graph as a starting place for what kind of power is the minimum needed, one must also take into consideration the ability of the shooter. If you can’t hit the target, what caliber you use is of little consequence. My personal rule, especially with game animals, is that I need to be able to hit the kill zone, whatever the size, 80% of the time. So if you are hunting squirrels, you need to be able to hit a 1” circle 8 out of 10 shots. A 1” circle is the approximate size of a squirrel’s kill zone on either the head or the heart/lung area. That requirement often brings the range at which I will shoot downwards quite a bit. Depending on the gun, I feel comfortable shooting at ranges of up to 50 yards, sometimes a little more. However, most of my shots are in the 15 to 35 yard range. Air guns will kill at greater ranges, but it is my marksmanship that holds me to those lesser ranges out of respect for my intended prey. I’d rather miss than wound.

Do I Need A Scope?

Because the kill zone on a squirrel is so tiny, I almost always opt for a scope on my air guns. I do use some classic air guns of yester-year that have peep sights, but with my eyes, a scope is a great aid in hunting. Not only does it increase my accuracy, but it is an aid for locating the squirrel that is doing its best to become part of the tree, holding still and motionless, depending on its camouflage to protect it from my prying eyes. There are many airgun scopes to choose from, but I find a 3-9x variable scope with an adjustable objective (AO) to be adequate for most hunting situations. The AO is very helpful in bringing into focus the target and the crosshairs so that one or the other isn’t blurry. And the zoom feature aids me in being very precise with pellet placement on shots that are on the outer edge of my effective range. One other very useful feature to a variable power scope is that if my squirrel hunting gun is doing double-duty as a pest control gun, I need to be very sure of my target. For instance, if there are several small sparrows mixed in a group, I want to be sure that I only dispatch the English sparrow, and leave the indigenous song sparrows alone. One is a pest, the other a very desirable singing bird. Yet they look very much alike. A good scope is an excellent aid in identifying the correct target.

One other consideration when using a scope…..be sure it is rated for the type power-plant your air gun uses. If your air gun is a spring-piston type of air gun, the vibrations from such a power-plant can and have sent many a scope to the graveyard. Air gun rated scopes are cushioned differently than most firearm scopes in order to handle the vibration that occurs when a spring-piston air gun fires. Other types of power-plants such as CO2, pre-charge pneumatics (PCP), or pump-up pneumatic guns need not worry about that issue. They will accept firearm scopes quite handily, though you may need to have the parallax adjusted since you won’t be taking very many 100+ yard shots.

Which Pellets Should I Use?

Practice with your air gun until you have achieved the necessary marksmanship needed to pursue your game. Try a variety of pellets and choose the most accurate for your needs. I personally find domed pellets to be the most accurate in most of my airguns, and if over-penetration is an issue, some of the wadcutter type pellets used in competition matches will reduce the penetration to a degree. This is very handy in the event you are clearing out a barn of pest birds and don’t want to damage the roof after shooting a pest bird.

So, are you ready to go squirrel hunting? Let’s go! We’ve got our air gun of choice, the pellet that shoots the most accurately from that gun, a good quality airgun scope if desired, and we know the range at which we should and should not shoot. As we head off into the woods, we take advantage of natural paths such as dry creek beds, logging lanes, game trails….any means by which we can move quietly through the woods. We’ve located food sources for our squirrels, such as the edge of the woods that borders a cornfield, or perhaps a soybean field. Maybe we are hunting the hardwoods where there is a good mast crop of acorns and beechnuts.  If we’ve done some scouting, we may already have noticed where the squirrel’s nests, called dreys, are located. If we arrive early, we can catch them coming out of them. If it is the evening, perhaps we’ll find them heading back to the nest. Using every bit of advantage we can, we sometimes sit and wait for movement in the trees or along the ground. Quite often we will hear the squirrel before we actually see him as he bounces along the ground over the dry leaves.

The conditions under which we can hunt squirrels may range from early in the season when there is a heavy cover of leaves still on the trees, to late winter when the trees are bare and the wind blows cold. In early season, we watch for the leaves and branches of the trees to sway abnormally as the squirrel makes his way through the canopy. We use the canopy against the squirrel by stalking closer, closing the range since he can’t see us as readily as when there are no leaves on the trees. If we are hunting in late fall, we place obstacles between us and our target, using whatever we can to carefully move into range….or we wait and see if the squirrel will come to us. Only time spent in the woods and experience will help us decide which tactic we use at any given time.

After we have finished our hunt, don’t forget to wipe down your air gun with a product designed to protect the metal from rust. There are several products on the market that achieve this, and I do my best to remove my fingerprints and moisture from the finish of the gun. The oils in your skin and moisture and humidity will quickly ruin the finish on metal. As for the barrel, I don’t clean the barrel after every hunt or firing session. Air guns don’t suffer from powder build-up like firearms, and unless accuracy begins to suffer, a patch run through every so often is sufficient. In the event you do clean your barrel thoroughly, avoid harsh firearm solvents. They are designed to removed powder buildup, and they will quickly deteriorate your seals and o-rings that are necessary to an air gun’s proper functioning. A product such as Goo-gone or another citrus-based cleaner is more than enough cleaning power for an air gun barrel.

In subsequent articles, I’ll try and cover more tactics and share stories of squirrel hunts that describe how you achieve the purpose for which you are in the woods. There are several scenarios that can change depending on how many hunters you have, what time of year it happens to be, and whether or not you are using a dog for treeing purposes. In any event, I encourage you to consider the pursuit of small game with an air gun. It is a rewarding experience that can lead to a lifetime of enjoyment.


Randy Mitchell

Pest Control With Spring Piston Air Rifles

By Randy Mitchell

Written Exclusively For Airgun Depot

Air Rifles are bought for a variety of reasons. Many folks want to punch holes in paper, others want to hunt small game with an airgun. There are Olympic competitions that many aspire to, and I would lay good money down that many firearms enthusiasts got their start with an airgun. But sooner or later, either the actual owner of the airgun, or perhaps their spouse, is going to demand that the air rifle be put to a very useful purpose….pest control.

What Are Pests?

Now a pest can come in many disguises. Among the more acknowledged pests are certain birds, such as the European starling and the English sparrow. Rodents such as mice and rats are also almost universally considered pests. Pigeons, fed in many city parks by well-intentioned individuals, create an incredible mess on rooftops and sidewalks, and seem to take a particular delight is decorating the clean exteriors of cars with their droppings.

Why Use A Spring Piston Airgun For Pest Control?

Using a spring-piston air rifle for pest control makes a lot of sense for several reasons. First, it is a self-contained power plant, needing only to be cocked and loaded. You don’t have to insert a CO2 cartridge or place air in a reservoir in order to use it. Secondly, the design of the spring-piston airgun is robust, giving you good performance under a plethora of conditions…..warm weather, cold weather, rain or shine….it is going to work. Third, there are so many different kinds of spring-piston air rifles available that you can find one to fit your budget and shooting requirements. Airgun Depot's new product finder is a helpful tool in selecting an air rifle that fits withing your budget.

Spring Piston Basics

If you are new to spring-piston airguns, here are a few things you need to know to make your shooting experience more enjoyable. Keeping safety in mind, let’s cock and load the most common design in spring-piston air rifles, the break-barrel. This gun is cocked by giving the barrel a rap near the muzzle, breaking open the action of the gun.

Grab the barrel and bend it down until the gun cocks. Now here is where some people make a mistake. Don’t let go of the barrel …..if the action snaps shut unexpectedly, you run the risk of damaging the airgun as well as causing personal injury to yourself. Many airgun designs incorporate a “beartrap” feature to protect against that, but you are placing your faith in a mechanical device that will, one day, fail. Get in the habit of retaining your hold on the barrel and using the other hand to load the pellet, seating it firmly in place.


Don't Let go of the barrel when loading

Then close the barrel while pointing the airgun in a safe direction. Once your spring-piston air rifle is cocked, you need to shoot it within a reasonable amount of time. Leaving the gun cocked for extended periods of time will eventually cause the spring to take a set, reducing the effectiveness and longevity of the airgun. Some break-barrel designs allow you to un-cock the gun, but many don’t. You will have to discharge the pellet by firing the gun in a safe direction if your pest doesn’t hang around long enough for you to take a shot.

Shooting Technique- It's not the same as a centerfire rifle.

Shooting spring-piston air rifles can be a learning experience all in itself. I have found that holding the gun as lightly as possible works well, and being consistent in the placement of my hand on the forearm helps insure good groups on target. Firearm shooters who buy a spring-piston airgun often have to un-learn the habits they picked up firing centerfire rifles. Shooting springers is almost the opposite of shooting large caliber firearms. Experiment with your hold on the forearm to see where the gun likes to be held. This may seem odd, but you will often find there is a “sweet spot” where the gun shoots the best. Refrain from resting the forearm or barrel on a hard, un-yielding surface. The bounce from the recoil will wreak havoc with your accuracy. I get good results by simply making a shelf out of my hand and laying the gun across it, not actually holding the forearm. I can also be more consistent this way, which helps in my accuracy.

Pest Control Basics

If you will take a look at the hunting laws and regulations in many states, you will find that there is a year-round, no-limit rule for animals designated as pests, allowing the airgunner to enjoy the legal, and encouraged, culling of pests. It is a great way to hone your hunting skills, and allows the avid hunter to enjoy an off-season use for his sport that also benefits the local environment by reducing the competition that pests put upon more desirable species. For instance, many kinds of birds are cavity dwellers….among them the bluebird, woodpecker, and purple martins.


The Evil European Starling

The European starling is a huge competitor for nesting sights, and has the assets that nature has provided to evict the afore-mentioned birds from their nests. With a dagger-like beak, and a much heavier build, the starling can and will kill the other birds in their nests, taking over the nesting cavity for its own use. English sparrows are just as deadly to our indigenous bird population. In my back yard, just last year, I witnessed the death of a family of bluebirds at the hands of English sparrows, which subsequently built a nest over the top of the murdered young bluebirds. See the picture below as evidence.


English Sparrow nest built over top of family of blue birds


Payback- 4 Less European Starlings=more bluebirds, woodpeckers etc.

Not all pests are avian. Rats and mice carry disease, and dwell in close proximity to man and man-made dwellings, flourishing nicely off of our refuse. And in some parts of the country, groundhogs and their relatives cause foundation damage by hollowing out the ground underneath support beams and concrete slabs. In Louisiana, my home state, the nutria rat has to be culled by the police department around New Orleans due to their habit of burrowing into the levies that keep the water at bay. Louisiana has even posted a bounty on the pest in an effort to encourage the reduction in population of this animal whose behavior can have catastrophic results.

In addition to these acknowledged pests, there are instances where game animals become pests. If you are lucky, you may reside in a state that has hunting rules that allow one to shoot game animals out of season in the event their behavior becomes damaging to crops or property. For instance, crows may be harvested year-round in some states if they are in the act of crop depredation, even though there is a dedicated season for general hunting of corvids. When squirrels moved into my attic, I called the department of wildlife in my state of residence, and was told to just shoot them. The wise thing to do when you have a game animal becoming a pest is to check with your state and local authorities to keep yourself out of trouble.

Offer Your Pest Control Services

Airgunners can often engender good will by offering their services free of charge to land owners, ranchers, and farmers. Both parties benefit from such an arrangement, the land owner getting pest control for free, and the airgunner securing another shooting venue. I know several airgunners who have a standing invitation to control pests at several different locations. When the hunting season is over, they head for these spots to continue honing their skills by culling pests. There are even individuals who do pest control as a job, coupling their hobby of airguns with a pest control business.

Now I enjoy shooting pests, as I try and give all my desirable bird species a leg up over their competitors. English sparrows and European starlings fall with regularity to my airguns. I actually spend about half an hour each morning as weather permits waiting for starlings to roost in the front yard tree. Shooting from the porch, I discourage them from nesting in the hollows of the tree. I try very hard to reserve those hollows for bluebirds and woodpeckers. I also spend many enjoyable moments observing my bird feeders, and when the English sparrows come calling, their bodies start falling. Squirrels that start looking around the eaves of my house for potential nesting locations are quickly dealt with. Occasionally, a groundhog will take up residence under the old barn on my property, and out comes a suitably powerful airgun to deal with the unwanted pest.

Check Your Laws & Educate Your Neighbors

When you are engaged in controlling pests, you often are in a residential area. In light of this fact, let me share a few words of caution. Check your local ordinances to ensure you are shooting legally. Also consider the attitudes and prejudices of your neighbors. There are very few pests that are worth gaining the enmity of those with whom you interact on a daily basis. I talk with and personally know the head of my local law enforcement department, and as an avid hunter himself, he has shown an interest in my airguns and their uses. All my neighbors know of my airgun hobby, and don’t get alarmed when they see me in the yard with what appears to be a scoped rifle. Be sure of your backstop, always knowing where your pellet will go if you miss. And never, ever shoot a domestic animal that is merely trespassing. It isn’t the animal’s fault, it is the fault of the owner. Go and talk with them in a reasonable manner. If that doesn’t achieve the desired results, contact your local animal control officer. Let them deal with the owner of the offending animal. They have the law on their side and will save you much heartache if you let them do their job before resorting to handling the situation yourself.

In a perfect world, everyone would recognize the need to control pests. However, you will run across individuals who will ask why you are shooting the pretty black birds (starlings), or the cute little sparrows (English sparrows). Knowing more about your pest and being able to speak with authority about their habits goes a long way in convincing those who object to your pest control methods. Explain to the well-intentioned objector that starlings and sparrows (the latter a member of the weaver-bird family and not a true sparrow) were introduced into the United States over a century ago, and that they have spread in almost plague-like proportions, competing with our own songbirds and other indigenous bird life for food and nesting sites. They cause millions of dollars in damage to our agriculture each year, consuming or fouling grain-based foods for the livestock industry, contributing to the spread of histoplasmosis and other diseases, and causing unsightly messes with their nest building habits. Municipalities yearly spend millions of valuable tax dollars trying to cope with the large winter flocks of starlings. Remind them that the next time they are at the grocery store, they should look up at the eaves of the building, or over the entrance of the door and see if they don’t spy an untidy bird nest nestled right over the path they are walking.


Pigeons- Another messy pest

Baiting Pests

From time to time you will find a pest situation that calls for the baiting of the pest in order to eliminate it. Rats are among those pests that are susceptible to being baited out in the open in order to cull their numbers. Nocturnal shoots work best with rats, and baits consisting of peanut butter and other very smelly baits will draw them out into the open allowing the airgunner an opportunity to deal with their unwanted presence. In many pest control situations, over penetration is not desired. Consider using wadcutter pellets, or perhaps hollow points in order to limit over-penetration. Another way to control the results of a missed shot is to build a backstop and place your baits in front of it. I have even seen plans on the internet of a glow-in-the-dark backstop that outlined the pest as they stepped in front of it! There are countless variations on ways to use subdued lighting, baits, and backstops to accomplish the goal of pest control….so use your imagination and enjoy your hobby of airgunning.

Airguns Are Safer Than Using Poisons

The use of air rifles to cull pests is more precise, as well as more environmentally safe, than using poisons that have been developed for the pest control industry. Many of the poisons used to control avians have a nasty tendency to pass from the target pest into the surrounding environment. In other words, if you poison a starling or pigeon, it will fly off and die somewhere other than the poison site, and a scavenger that picks it up and eats it may perish from the same poison. This puts at risk your dog and cat, raccoons, foxes, birds of prey as well as vultures, and many other animals that eat carrion. When you use an airgun, you can pick up after yourself and dispose of the pest in a safe manner.

Which Caliber Should I Use?

The size of a pest will help you determine which caliber of airgun to use. Sparrows and starlings rarely need anything more powerful than a medium-powered .177. Pigeons and crows are tougher, and I like to use a .22 caliber air rifle on these pests. Rats and mice all fall to the tiny .177 just fine, though you will run across some rats that may make you wish you had a .22. Groundhogs and nutria are pushing the upper limit in the size of most common pests, and I recommend a .22 caliber or larger airgun for these larger animals. Remember our discussion earlier about backstop issues and plan accordingly so that your use of an airgun for pest control becomes a positive event and not a negative liability.

In short, let your hobby and enjoyment of airguns be put to the very useful purpose of pest control when the need arises. And if you hunt, let it be an additional training ground for when you go out in pursuit of game animals. Have fun, and shoot safely.


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