Air rifles have been around for quite some time. The Austrian army equipped some of its units with air rifles in the early 1800s, and the Lewis and Clark expedition carried one on its westward journey. Back then, a huge flaw of the air rifle’s design was that it was delicate and had to be pumped over 100 times to fill its air reservoir.
I fondly remember my 10th birthday. It was the day I opened up that beautifully wrapped box to find a Crossman pump action air rifle. The rifle was capable of not just firing your standard BB, but also .177 pellets in single shot mode. I was given a carton of BBs, and a box of wad cutter pellets.
For that glorious summer I was Wyatt Earp, or a big game hunter in the Yukon. Many mourning doves fell to my deadly aim, as did a great many tin cans and hornet’s nests. The rifle was joined that winter by a pellet pistol and now I was armed for whatever situation boyhood could throw at me.
Today, the pellet rifle is starting to come into its own among survivalists and hunters, and is seen as more than just a child’s tool before they own a real firearm – for a host of reasons.
The pellet rifle has proven itself to be a fine small game implement, and can feed a man lost in the woods on squirrel, grouse and rabbit. The pellet rifle is compact, and can allow the carrying of more ammunition than even a .22 long rifle, especially if it is pump-operated and does not employ C02 cartridges. And a pneumatic air rifle can deliver velocities within a range equal to that of many big game rifles.
It is not uncommon to see Internet photographs of hunters who use air rifles posing with their big game kills such as a wild boar or deer. No, I don’t recommend you take even the most powerful air rifle with you on your next Alaskan brown bear hunt. But a proper air rifle is suited to most game found in the lower 48 states and much of Canada.