The high cost of ammunition is hitting the wallets of all shooters. Regular shooting practice, much less shooting for the simple fun of it, is becoming cost prohibitive.
Reloading your own ammunition is part of the answer, but the costs of bullets, powder and primers have soared.
Factor in the spate of cold, wet weather and opportunities to shoot are have been scarce this winter.
You can go to the KISA indoor range as your schedule and theirs align, but what about all the other days in the week?
I’ve always been a fan of air rifles and air pistols for practice at home, but this year they are playing an even bigger role. Pellets are even cheaper than .22 rimfire ammo!
With a little preparation and suitable care, you can shoot at home and indoors as the weather dictates.
Air guns will never replace my interest in other arms, but they are key for sustaining my shooting skills when weather or economy interfere with other forms of shooting.
The really nice thing about air guns is the great variety. You can spend as little or as much as you want, and with a little forethought you can select models that mesh well with your other arms for practice.
By that I mean you can find models that come very close to the weight and balance of your larger arms, which is invaluable in training and sustaining muscles and reflexes.
There’s another factor that turns out to be a bonus in using air guns for practice. The pellets move down the bore so much slower that they are absolutely unforgiving about sloppy trigger control and follow-through.
If you don’t maintain good shooting form even after you pull the trigger, the shot is going to veer much more noticeably than with any other arm including .22 rimfire. You can’t get away with sloppy habits you might have picked up with conventional firearms!
Regular practice with an air gun will inevitably improve your performance when using other arms.
I’ll be specific.
My array of air rifles ranges from a $50 Daisy Red Ryder BB gun, the kind many of us had in our youths, through a $500 scoped Beeman R7. Within that range I also have several in ascending price and features.
Yet all of them are useful and effective for practice at home.
The simple Daisy has a smooth bore and shoots only steel BBs. It probably won’t hit a soda can beyond 20 feet, but it has its uses as I’ll describe in a moment.
The Beeman R7 is so accurate that the most useful practice target at 20 feet is another pellet hole. I simply fire one shot into blank sheet of paper, and if subsequent shots fail to hit that hole, it’s my fault and not the gun’s.
How can both be so useful?
Simply adjust the size of the target to match the particular gun. With the Daisy, I use targets that are small enough that a miss is my fault, too.
I particularly like my little Daisy for practicing quick shots, the same kind I often make with short lightweight arms, whether a .22 for snowshoe hare or a lightweight brush gun for deer. It’s quick, almost instinctive shooting.
The scoped R7 is my workhorse for practice with my scoped arms intended for precise shooting. It’s more accurate than any .22 I own while weighing almost 8 pounds with the scope in place. In handling and balance, it’s very much like my scoped bolt action big game rifles.
Indoor practice from an offhand position at 20 feet is a humbling experience. It takes weeks of regular shooting to approach its accuracy potential in offhand shooting. Kneeling, sitting and prone shots at longer ranges outdoors are equally challenging.
The biggest challenge is developing good habits for follow-through after you have pulled the trigger. That’s an issue with even the fastest centerfire arms, though most of us don’t realize it.
While you can buy highly effective “pellet traps” to safely stop pellets for indoor shooting, but I’ve never quite got around to the investment. Instead I use a cardboard box full of magazines.
In my experience firing as few as 10 offhand shots a night will pay huge dividends in all your other shooting. Short daily training sessions are simply more effective than long training sessions once a week or so.
In as little as a couple of weeks you’ll be switching to smaller targets and paying a whole lot more attention to your stance, trigger squeeze and follow through. And those habits will resurface the next time you venture out with a rimfire or centerfire rifle.
You’re also likely to begin lusting for a more accurate air rifle!
My choice of the Beeman R7 was carefully considered. While some models easily achieve 1000 fps or more in velocity, they’re also loud and less accurate in general.
The R7 only manages 700 fps, which means it’s quieter and coincidentally easier to stop the fired pellets. And accurate? Holy cow.
Beeman claims the gun is capable of 0.11” groups center-to-center at 10 yards. My own shooting has proven that’s not an idle claim.
I opted for .177 caliber in my R7 because the pellets are easier to find. The model is also available in .20 caliber for hunting, but at a little lower velocity.
Like several other manufacturers, Beeman makes higher velocity guns intended for hunting. If you’re intent on hunting with your pellet rifle, there are even larger calibers available.
I’ve done a fair bit of hunting with my R7, and I don’t feel there’s any penalty for its lower 700 fps velocity and light pellets. Head shots take snowshoe hare reliably, and the extra accuracy is welcome in the tight quarters of an alder field. Even in more open country, I’ve managed head shots to a measured 43 yards. I don’t expect more than that from my .22 rimfire rifles!
Dry weather is likely to return to Kodiak long before ammunition prices drop. If you’re still crimped by the high cost, take a serious look at the possibilities with precision air rifles and air pistols. I’ve highlighted a couple of models and brands because I know them best, but there are a number of other good brands on the market.
If air rifle shooting is fun indoors, just imagine how much fun you can have outdoors in good weather! The extreme accuracy of these fine arms opens up all kinds of possibilities.
In the meantime buy up a pound or two of those little candy hearts on the shelves for Valentines Day. They’re about the right size for good targets the length of your backyard, and the remnants will melt in short order when the wet weather returns.