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April 23, 2007

I'm Planning a Hunting Trip

I'm headed down to Little Rock, AR for the Airgun Show that is held each year there. It is a wonderful time of visiting with friends, making new acquaintances, and poring over all the wonderful airguns that are on display. As an added benefit, after the show I will continue on over to Texas for a hog hunt using airguns.

This year I plan on using a Sam Yang Bigbore in .45 caliber. I will be shooting roundball out of it, and my hope is to take two small hogs with it that will be suitable for pit roasting. When you are going for a meat hog, bigger isn't necessarily better, so I'm hoping to keep the size of these hogs under 80 lbs if I can. That said, if I see a true monster that would look good on the wall, I may just shoot him instead and cook him a 1/4 at a time!

I will be joined by three other hunters who enjoy the sport of bigbore airgun hunting, and I hope to have a few pictures to share with everyone when I get back. The bigbore airgun hunting fraternity is a small one, and most of the guys going either have hunted before, or we know each other via conversations by e-mail and phone.

When you head out on a hunting trip, it's a good idea to write down everything you'll need. And if you can manage it, a backup gun is not a bad idea, either. I've almost always taken a backup airgun when hunting small game, but I don't always have access to another bigbore as a backup. However, with four hunters going, a backup gun should be available for everyone.

I'll let you know how it all turns out.....so stay tuned! 

 

 

 

April 13, 2007

The Ethics of Airgun Hunting

Airgun Hunting Ethics

Airgun hunting is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, rebounding from centuries of obscurity due to the onslaught of first, the blackpowder rifle, and then the modern rifle using smokeless powder. However, as many hunting enthusiasts are learning, there is a lot to be said for hunting with an airgun.

Hunting with airguns isn’t new by any means. It was simply so expensive that only the wealthy, such as royalty, were able to afford the practice. But society has changed, and many more people now have access to airguns that are fit for taking game. With that increased access to airguns comes a need to develop a mindset when hunting that governs your actions as to what airgun is appropriate for the game animal you intend to shoot. And we’ll call that mindset the “ethics of airgun hunting.”

Now before I get started, you need to understand that here in America, with firearms readily available, airguns are often overlooked as a viable hunting tool. In fact, when you talk to hunters, they will often be somewhat skeptical about using an airgun. And if you are hunting large game, then you will really get some strange looks as well as inquiries into your mental health! Suffice it to say that firearm hunters are more or less in love with power, and airgun hunters are more inclined towards finesse.

A short list of considerations with respect to the use of an airgun for hunting would be; the accuracy of the gun in question as well as the shooter’s personal ability, the power level generated by the gun, and the anatomy of the animal being hunted. The combination of these three primary factors, as well as other peripheral issues, will help determine how best to accomplish our hunt.

The primary concern of an airgun hunter should be the accuracy of their rifle. Airgun hunting is an exercise in accuracy, and if your gun won’t put the pellet where you intend it to go every time, then you need to stop hunting right then and there until you have a gun that can consistently place a pellet on target. Notice I said you need to get an airgun that will do this…..but don’t forget the human term in this equation either. Once you have an accurate airgun, YOU, the hunter, need to gain the necessary skills to operate the airgun at the required level of proficiency. Many times, the unsuccessful hunter’s frustration is erroneously directed at the airgun, when in fact it is the shooter that is the cause of the problem.

Once you’ve solved the challenge of shooting accurately, take a look at your desired prey and the power level of the airgun you have chosen to use. If you are using a .177 caliber spring-piston airgun, such as a Diana 34 or similar gun, taking small game such as rabbits, squirrels, and small birds shouldn’t be an issue. You have the power on-tap to do the job efficiently. However, animals the size of a raccoon need to be accorded more respect. Can you kill a raccoon with a .177 springer? Sure, but you are much more likely to wound it needlessly than if you used a more appropriate airgun. 

In a previous article I used a graph provided by Dr. Robert Beeman on the power levels suggested for certain size animals. Here is the link again for that graph:

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

Read the entire article and note the emphasis on the power level needed at the POI (point of impact), not at the muzzle. And a second emphasis I would point out is the reference to the size of the kill zone on the animal you intend to shoot. As you can see from the article, Dr. Beeman shows a preference for the .20 and .25 caliber. However, in today’s market there is a more extensive selection offered in .177 and .22. If I had to have just one, I’d go with a .22, which allows a larger range of prey animals to be taken.

Along with aiming for the kill zone, it behooves the airgun hunter to have a good understanding of the anatomy of the animal you are shooting at. No matter the size of the kill zone, it is the path the projectile takes to get to the kill zone that is important. With smaller prey like rabbits and squirrels, the path to the kill zone is of lesser importance since they are soft-bodied prey. But when you take on larger animals, you must consider the anatomy of the animal concerned.

For instance, when I hunt feral hogs, I always try to avoid shooting the animal in the heart/lung area due to the natural shield of muscle that hogs possess. A head shot is much more desirable, and a profile head shot directly to the temple is more desirable than a head-on shot in my opinion. And the airgun I use for such hunting? Nothing less than a .30 caliber giving me well over 100 fpe, with 150 fpe and higher the better option. This is a personal opinion, for I know some fellow airgun hunters who can kill a pig with less power from their airgun. But for me, I’m going to stick with the above numbers I mentioned to give me an edge.

Now let’s scale back the size of our animal to an animal you are more likely to come into contact with….the raccoon. The average hunter needs 18-20 fpe minimum to effectively take on a raccoon. Yes, I know, there are many who have killed them with less, but I’m talking to the average hunter like myself who invariably makes a bad shot from time to time, and when that happens, we need a little more “oomph” behind the pellet to still make our shot effective. Is a head-on shot a good idea? I have spoken to firearm hunters who shoot coons between the eyes with a .22 rimfire, only to have the bullet ricochet off the skull. Behind the ear is a much better place to direct your shot, and with the lower levels of power available in airguns, I hesitate to recommend a head-on shot on a raccoon unless you are using one of the bigbores. Again, it is the path that the projectile has to take to get to the kill zone that is the issue here.

One of the peripheral issues I alluded to in an earlier paragraph would be the issue of what range should you be shooting at. The airgun hunter, by necessity, must close the range to his prey in order to make an effective shot. Remember, the skirted pellet loses velocity much faster than the firearm bullet, and the amount of energy arriving on target needs to be considered. The stalking skills of the airgun hunter play a much larger role than that of a firearm hunter as airgun hunting is a close-up affair by comparison. Where I will sometimes take a shot at a deer 200+ yards off with a firearm, all the deer I’ve killed with my airgun were 50 yards away or closer. Likewise, while on safari in South Africa with my airgun, closing within range was the greatest challenge we faced every day. It is very much like bow hunting in regards to the ranges with which I am comfortable, and a good stalk or stand position is of major importance.

So, hunting with an airgun requires an accurate combination of gun and shooter, an airgun of appropriate power for the intended game, and knowledge of your quarry’s anatomy in order to make the best shot possible. Much of this information is acquired through experience, while some of it can be obtained by reading and corresponding with other hunters. A good place to start is with pest control on undesirable avian species, followed by the pursuit of small game during the legal hunting season. As the hunter’s experience and familiarity with his/her airgun increases, there are additional challenges that come with the pursuit of big game with airguns.

In the modern era, some will question why airguns should be allowed for hunting. But if you will take the airgun seriously as a hunting weapon, you will find it up to the challenge. In any form of hunting, be it firearm, bow, or airgun, the hunter’s proficiency is what is in question rather than the weapon used. I grew up hunting squirrels with a shotgun and .22 rimfire rifle, and one shot kills were common, though not automatic. Likewise, with an airgun, I experience one shot kills, occasionally having to use further shots to finish off the prey. What I am finding, though, is that I am more careful using an airgun, and more particular of the kind of shot I desire in order to make that one shot kill. The by-product of this attitude, this emphasis on the ethics of using an airgun, is that my one shot kill ratio is going up since I often pass on shots that I would have taken had I used a shotgun or other firearm.

Airgun hunting is a thrilling challenge that is well worth the effort if you love hunting, for there is always something in season for the airgun hunter, allowing you to hunt year-round. And if you will take into consideration the ethics involved in using an airgun for hunting, your enjoyment of the sport will be assured.

If you'd like to read stories of airgun hunts, I would encourage you to drop by my personal website at:

http://www.adventuresinairguns.com

And also visit the website of Jim Chapman:

http://www.americanairgunhunter.com

You will find several hunting stories from individuals who have been there and done that, so to speak. Enjoy your airgunning! 

April 05, 2007

What's in Your Airgun Arsenal?

In the world of airguns, shooting, and hunting, you will find as many different opinions of what gun you should own as there are people. You’ll find the elitist who wouldn’t dream of owning anything less than the best available. You’ll also find the cash-strapped individual who has to save for months in order to afford the cheapest of airgun platforms. But by and large, I imagine that most of us fall somewhere in the middle of the pack.

As many of you know, I hunt….a lot. That is the main use for most of my airguns. But from time to time, I simply want to roll a can across the yard, or perhaps challenge my two boys to an impromptu game of tic-tac-toe with an airgun. Occasionally, I’ll have a group of folks over from my church, and we’ll pass the time in the backyard shooting with a number of my airguns. I’ve not been able to dive into the world of competitive shooting like some FT shooters, but one day I hope to get the chance.

I recently was browsing through some old posts on one of the airgun forums, and noticed a thread on shooting pest squirrels. One of the posters was using an old 10-meter competition gun, one of the German-made side-lever springers. He explained that it was the only gun he had, the only gun he ever needed, and he had no intention of buying another one. He went on further to qualify his use of that 10-meter gun by explaining the parameters of his shooting at squirrels….the range he found acceptable, the shot placement that he insisted on having, and the effect of his shooting. Suffice it to say that his one and only airgun met ALL of his airgunning needs….and he was happy.

So what kinds of airguns should you have in your arsenal? I’d have to answer that question with “the kind that makes you happy and meets your needs.” We aren’t all alike, and we each have expectations of our airguns, and if those expectations are being met or exceeded, well then, we are to be congratulated!

One activity that I enjoy is buying and trying out different kinds of airguns in order to get a broader exposure to what is available out there. But in my personal arsenal, I opt for one quality airgun of each kind that I can use hunting. I have a spring-piston, a PCP, a CO2, and a quality pumper that have permanent homes in the gun rack. I have several other airguns in those categories, but there is always at least one of each power-plant on-call for my personal satisfaction. They serve as back-ups to each other, and one or more of them gets shot at least weekly if not daily.

These airguns make me happy. And that is what is important in this airgun hobby that we enjoy. So as you are browsing around the website here at Airgundepot.com, find the gun that you think will make you happy. With the selection available here, you're bound to find something of interest to you.

April 02, 2007

Nikko Stirling 3-9x42 AO Air Rifle Scope

Airgundepot.com has recently added a line of scopes to their selection which promises to be an excellent choice for the airgunner who likes to have a quality, though economical, choice for his scope needs. The Gold Crown “AirKing” series of scopes from Nikko Stirling provide many desirable features for the hunter and casual plinker. The Nikko Gold Grown airgun scopes currently come in three flavors:


I was sent the 3-9x42AO Gold Crown scope to review and found it a very nice scope that is extremely easy on the pocketbook, as well. Just look at the features you get for a price well shy of $100:

  • An adjustable focus and parallax, allowing you to focus at ranges as close as 5 yards on out to infinity.
  • An adjustable zoom feature from 3-9x.
  • Dust covers that feature an easy-to-use flip open action.
  • Improved lens manufacturing tolerances, as well as a coating to increase the light-gathering capability of the scope. At dawn and dusk, this feature is handy!
  • One piece construction of the scope’s body, giving rigid strength.
  • Rubber adjustments on both the zoom ring and objective ring….very precise.
  • A nice mil-dot reticle featuring 4 mildots in each direction from center.
  • And it comes with a one-piece mount already included…saving you more money!

I have a few different scopes, so I decided to set out one evening on my front porch with several of them and compare them to the Nikko Stirling’s features. The scopes were the budget Tech Force 3-9x40, the Leapers 3-9x40AO, a Tasco Varmint in 2.5-10x42, and a fixed 4x BSA with adjustable AO. To make things interesting, I also pulled out a friend’s Leupold MK IV in 10x, an $800 scope.

What I did was take each scope every half-hour, and focus on a series of objects, close and far away, in shadows and out in the light, from 2 hours before sunset until dark. As the evening progressed and the light grew dimmer, the ability of the Nikko Stirling to keep the image bright began to show up. It was superior to every scope in the test, with the exception of the Leupold. But remember, the Nikko costs just 10% of what the Leupold costs!

I compared the magnification and clarity at each setting on the scope and tried to determine which scope I would want to be looking through in the event I was sighting in on a squirrel or rabbit in the bushes. The Nikko once again got my vote for such a use, clearly beating out the Tech Force and BSA, as well as the Tasco Varmint scope. The Leapers was a close second to the Nikko.

Nikko Stirling is not new to the market. They’ve been manufacturing optics such as telescopic sights, mounts, spotting scopes and binoculars for over 40 years. Malcolm John Fuller, the founder of the company, passed away in 1994, but he founded the company with the express purpose of making optics for hunters. They don’t make any other optical parts for cameras, jewelry, microscopes, or spectacles. They focus solely on hunters and their needs.

The Gold Crown series of scopes from Nikko Stirling are also braced for the recoil that spring-piston airguns deliver, so there is no need to worry about whether or not they will hold up.

 

I mounted the Nikko Stirling on an RWS 850 Magnum and shot several hundred rounds while using the scope. As you can see, the scope is 13 1/2" long.

 

The one-piece mount that comes with the scope held very securely, and there was no shifting of impact while carrying it afield or shooting from the bench. I look forward to getting additional Nikko scopes to place on some of my other guns to enhance my shooting pleasure.

 

 

Magnification was clear and crisp. Below, you see two photos, the first being a 20 yard focus, the second a 100 yard focus. Both are very nice and sharp, though my camera work may not reflect that.

 

A 20yard focus off my back porch.

 

 

A 100 yard view through the scope at my treeline on the back edge of my property. This scope is clear and bright at all levels of magnification.

I personally rate this scope a best buy in its price range, and I think if you try one, you will be pleased with the performance it gives. 

 

 


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