CA Guns & Hunting: Pellet Guns

CA Guns & Hunting: Pellet guns open a whole new world of hunting and shooting

BY BILL KARR/Editor, Cal. Guns & HuntingPublished: Mar 13, 2018

As with most youngsters, my first airgun was a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun, and besides the fact that it could actually propel a projectile that, with a lot of luck, wind adjustment, and placement, might knock a feather or two off a sparrow—I liked the fact that it was quiet.

Why? I could “hunt” without a lot of people knowing that I was out there on a big game excursion. “Big” game excursion being open to interpretation when you’re 12 years old.

cgh_karr_therestheTHERE’S THE SHOT an airgunner is looking for….an alert, high and steady gobbler head. The only problem is it’s looking right at you, and will be gone in about a second! The author did score on this big tom. WON PHOTO BY BILL KARR

Now, of course, the world of airguns has expanded exponentially. No, I would have to say astronomically. Heck, they now have 50-caliber airguns that can kill big game! In fact, the Dragon Slayer from Pyramyd Air develops 190 foot-pounds behind a 50-caliber bullet — or “pellet” — and can deliver 5 pellets in a tight pattern at 50 yards. The ammunition here is actually a 200-grain hollowpoint bullet of pure lead.

While fascinating and on the breaking edge of “big bore” airguns, the 50-caliber airguns are not commonly used, and this article will be more in tune with the common break-action high-power airguns in .177, .22 and .25 caliber, that are plenty big enough for hunting small game and turkey. And since I have only used the .177 and .22 caliber in hunting, those are my caliber of choice.

I was, in fact, pretty shocked just opening the box of my first modern airgun, an Umarex. It looked far more like a long-range rifle than an airgun in size, configuration and handling. In fact, it was larger and heavier than almost every one of my hunting rifles, and complete with adjustable scope. I truly enjoyed sighting it in, and was amazed at the pattern that could be achieved once I found the right pellet that worked for the gun — there was a huge difference in patterning between different pellets.

cgh_karr_joedygregoryJOEDY GREGORY OF Vista liked his new way of hunting with an airgun! He shot this nice tom at 52 yards “and it went down like a rock,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun and you can reach a little farther out.” He used an air bottle-filled Swedish gun, and said that with a scope, he can hit a quarter every time at 50-plus yards. This Thanksgiving turkey had a 10-inch beard and 1½-inch spurs.

You’ll find pellets of different conformations and material listed as “pointed” “domed,”, “round” “Hyper velocity”, “hollow point”, “field target, and a variety of “hunting” tips. I tried a half dozen in my Umarex, and while some of the styles had pellets scattered all over the target, the best group for me was with the domed pellets. Those with plastic insets considered “hunting” pellets didn’t perform with a darn for me.

It is extremely important to have your airgun scoped in as perfectly as you can get it, since your target while hunting turkeys is the head, and if you’ve ever watched wild turkeys, their heads are seldom not moving. That leaves you only a very short time frame to gain a target, hold and squeeze. Rabbits are a bit easier, because a well-placed pellet in the body will stop a cottontail in its tracks. And, of course, the best thing is that if you miss, the silence of the air rifle will frequently give you a second opportunity, and at times, even more.

I’ve taken four gobblers with airguns so far, and all of them were stoned by head shots. Don’t even consider a body shot with an airgun on a wild turkey, stick with a head shot where it’s either a kill or a clean miss.

Getting into the world of airgun hunting is a fun and exciting sport, and opens up entire vistas of new hunting opportunities, from ground squirrels to small game species like turkey and rabbit. Pellets are a lot less expensive than bullets or shotgun shells, and there are a lot of benefits to the silence of hunting with an airgun. Try it, you’ll like it! 

cgh_karr_beingwellBEING WELL CONCEALED is even more important when hunting turkeys with an airgun, as you generally want to be within 50 years, and even 30 yards if possible. This presentation was offered by a flock of young jakes to the author, who wiffed on the shot. WON PHOTO BY BILL KARR

A CLOSE GROUPING means you’ve found the right pellet for your airgun. In this case, the domed pellet worked best in the authors’ Umarex, far better than pointed or hunting pellets. WON PHOTO BY BILL KARR

PELLET CHOICE IS extremely important, because some airgun pellet configurations just won’t work in every airgun, as evidenced here where a pointed hunting pellet just wouldn’t pattern for the author. WON PHOTO BY BILL KARR

THE NATIONAL RIFLE Association (NRA) oversees thousands of air gun classes and ranges for youngsters across the United States every year, teaching them safe gun handling, protocol, markshmanship and accuracy. WON PHOTO BY BILL KARR