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Air guns are gaining popularity

Although the centerfire ammunition supply has loosened for many calibers, .22LR rimfire ammo still seems to be on the short side. It was the caliber avid target shooters and plinkers would use when it was cheap to shoot. But since that’s not the case anymore, the big move is to airguns, be it one-pump pneumatic air guns or CO2 powered pistols and rifles.

In fact, BB and pellet guns are even being used in precision shooting competitions such as one at Camp Perry, near Port Clinton, Ohio. There they have an 80-point indoor range where only airguns are fired. It’s equipped with state-of-the-art-electronic targets and facilitated by the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP).

While this precision airgun market is relatively new, one of the big three gun makers (Glock, Sig Sauer and Smith and Wesson) has entered the market whole hog. Sig Sauer, known for making exceptional quality firearms, has introduced a line of CO2 pistols and rifles that are patterned after their actual centerfire models in size, weight, trigger pull and overall operation. But Sig didn’t stop there. It also came out with a line of steel targets, pellets and CO2 cylinders to compliment the airguns for indoor or outdoor shooting fun and training. Sig intended the line to be a new breed of firearms for training and recreation, for adults as well as youngsters under proper supervision.

We were privileged to test a Sig P226 Advanced Sport Pellet pistol that is a replica of the actual firearm and one the Navy SEALS carry. In fact, a gold Navy anchor is emblazoned on one side of the action of the Flat Dark Earth (desert tan) pistol that was tested (also offered in black). This .177 caliber pellet pistol has the size, weight, trigger pull and realistic blowback action of a real Sig 226 pistol. It carries 16 rounds (8x2) of pellets in a double ended plastic magazine. It’s rated at 510 fps as is its sister pistol the P250 ASP. Both pellet guns have accessory rails to mount a laser or tactical light, just like the real McCoys.

Sig’s rifle line resembles their AR rifles with their Sig MCX ASP being rated at 525 fps while the Sig MPX ASP is rated at 475 fps. Both can be mounted with a 4x24 Sig scope or Sig MRD red dot sight. Both have 30-ound magazines that can fire up to 30 rounds in 3.5 seconds. Now that’s exciting and economical shooting. All pistols and rifles use 90g CO2 cylinders.

As for the Sig targets, there’s the single Reflex dual swivel action metal target that spins when hit and sticks in the ground or a piece of Styrofoam; a Quad Spinner that is free standing with two support legs that also spins when hit; a Quad Shooting Gallery that has four knockdown metal targets and one center reset target that automatically sets the four in upright positions; and the extremely challenging Texas Star Spinner (resembles a Ferris wheel) with nine center mass targets that spin around one central axis.

Shooters need to hit any one of the nine targets to start it spinning. As each one is hit the wheel may speed up or slow down or even reverse direction. This is loads of fun for adults and youngsters alike. Kids especially get a kick out of it as it’s constant action that keeps their interest and develops hand-eye coordination.

Airguns allow affordable training and for teaching safe firearms handling. And they also allow shooting with less noise and reduced expense.

An airgun range can be set up in a home basement or garage that can also be used outdoors. A safe and inexpensive range or backdrop for all the aforementioned Sig targets can be made by cutting a 4x8 sheet of 3-inch Styrofoam in half, doubling it then backing it with a 4x4 foot piece of quarter-inch plywood. In using this setup, only the first piece of Styrofoam was penetrated completely, but not the second at a distance of 10 yards during our test.

Since fixed sight airguns are not the most accurate, the shooter has to calibrate the gun to the target. As for the tester, it shot low left so a shooting adjustment had to be made.

Airguns can offer more enjoyment than TV video or iPad games for adults and youngsters. And overall costs are but a tiny fraction of real ammo and guns.

PRESS PHOTO BY NICK HROMIAKAirguns are an inexpensive way to teach gun safety while replicating the action of a real firearm.