Air rifles – getting the best value

There’s far more value to airgun shooting than the financial cost of our individual setups, as Andy McLachlan explains.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to enjoy your sport, and here Andy’s using a 25-year old BSA Meteor springer with open sights

How exactly do we put a “value” on the things that we like to do? Do we only need to consider things that cost us money, or do we have to take into account the other benefits as well?

The reason I ask is because I have been pondering those very questions myself over the lockdown period. We had all been denied the opportunity to carry on with most of the things we have enjoyed participating in, such as using our precious airguns, but it hadn’t been just the actual physical act of shooting them that had been missed the most. 

In my case, and I suspect for most people reading this, it is our friends and just getting the opportunity of spending time within the friendly environment of our regular shooting scenarios that we missed the most.

Therefore, when we consider how much investment we’ve made in our hobby, can we just consider the guns, scopes and tins of ammunition in the cupboard when we try to put a price on how much our passion has cost us financially? 

One of the secondary, but vitally important benefits of shooting is the opportunity it brings to spend time with other people

In many cases, and I am thinking of myself specifically here, many thousands have been invested in shooting (and fishing) hardware over the years. I admit I am somebody who is drawn in by the latest product developments devised to attract the enthusiast via clever marketing and the “must have“ appeal of all things new.

I am sure that many of us suffer equally on this front. I don’t suppose this is a bad thing if we can afford to do so, as having high quality gear can and does help a lot of us to enjoy our sport further. We all like to use good quality kit, but that doesn’t of course mean that using equipment that is priced a bit lower means that we can’t still enjoy ourselves. There are very few poor-quality guns and scopes about these days. Even the most basic of equipment is more than capable of doing the job, certainly enough to enable the sport to be fully enjoyed by the beginner, for example.

The most important consideration for somebody considering how much enjoyment might be gained from the act of shooting an airgun should not just be the initial cost of the equipment, but the opportunities to challenge oneself to improve and to make new friends. In addition, and again thinking from my own perspective, I find the act of shooting and just trying to be as accurate as you can be on the target card strangely therapeutic. 

When I’m “in the zone”, I will genuinely forget about those concerning issues we all face from time to time, as I become totally absorbed in the loading, aiming and shooting process as I settle down both emotionally and physically from other concerns.

On the financial front, attempting to calm oneself prior to releasing a shot matters not one jot concerning the cost of the equipment you happen to be using. Both cheap and expensive gear require exactly the same levels of concentration to gain a satisfactory result. It’s just that this will be easier to achieve with the more expensive equipment such as improved trigger units, barrels and of course optics.

With this in mind, I reckon that the fledgling airgunner has a vast array of choice regarding the numbers of genuinely good quality guns and scopes that are both readily available and affordable following some basic research. For less than £1,000 the novice can be equipped with a combination that is more than capable of hitting the target with smile-inducing regularity, which is of course important for the beginner.

The problem, at the time of writing, is that we are still all stuck in this limbo period of not knowing when we can properly return to what was our previous reality. No longer can we just nip out down to our local club or range and meet our friends and fire our guns. Unless we can use our equipment outside we are very much alone. This does not make it easy for people who very much rely on the close contact of their friends to try to retain their remaining sanity.

It’s not all about target work though, as anyone contemplating becoming an airgun hunter has a lot to look forward to

What I am trying to say is that shooting, or any hobby for that matter, is so much more important for our sense of well-being than many of us may have considered at the start of the Covid journey. 

The fact that we are not able to participate fully at present reminds us how lucky we are to have a passion that allows us to deflect at least sometimes the negative and concentrate upon the positive. Take that away and many of us feel genuinely lost without it.

My guns are all stacked away in their storage area, as are many other people’s at present. Not being able to use them on a regular basis has meant a complete change in how I live my life: it really does make that much difference to my normal weekly routine, which is very much poorer as a result. 

Overall then, I consider those of us with a passion for something like airgunning as being truly fortunate. It does not have to involve spending thousands straight away just to get started. The sport is well served by lots of clubs who are more than willing to coach a complete novice with their initial efforts. 

While Andy loves shiny new things, he also has a soft spot for shooting the classics in an HFT competition, such as this Feinwerkbau Sport

Much more important than any talk of equipment in my opinion, especially now that I am older, is the realisation that just being around other people with a similar interest is extremely good for the soul. Other shooters may be attracted and have access to hunting opportunities. If you have access to “wild” shooting and have yet to try it, you will find it both exhilarating and a challenge at the same time as there is so much to learn.

One thing is for sure, there are many thousands of airgunners out there who are feeling the same at the moment. I suppose we could argue that the recent break in our abilities to enjoy our freedoms allows us to reflect upon just how important our free time actually is to our overall well-being.

Let us look forward to the hopefully imminent future when we can once again open those cabinets, dust off our gun bags and head off at will to do some shooting!

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