Are pellets the new .22 LR ? It’s a legitimate question that could be debated by many. The firearms industry can be an odd and fickle thing to put it mildly. The last eight  years of a Democrat being in the White House has certainly caused more panic buying of guns and ammunition that at any time in the last 100 years I would wager. The rumors and speculation by millions of gun owners only drove the frenzy of buying and hoarding to staggering levels. This perfect storm has in certain areas of the country made finding a box of .22 Long Rifle dam near impossible.

Many of us remember in the days before the hoarding and chaos that we first learned to shoot on rifles like the Marlin 60, the Ruger 10/22, the Remington Nylon 66, and the Browning SA-22. All of these have one thing in common, the .22 Long Rifle cartridge. Millions of young shooters spent quality time at the range or in the woods with their friends and family blazing threw hundreds if not thousands of rounds in a session. Most all of this slowed if not stopped in the last almost decade. The availability of .22 Long Rifle is slowing returning to normal, but what are millions of young shooters to do in the meantime ? We can’t spend all our time running from gun store to gun store looking for that precious one box of .22 Long Rifle on the shelf.

BB’s and Air Guns to the Rescue

BB guns and air rifles use to be treated by many as a joke in the firearms community. In the time that the Democrats have owned the White House the market and technology in Air Guns has grown exponentially. It use to be that the Red Ryder single shot air rifle made famous by the cult classic movie A Christmas Story was about as good as it got when it came to affordable air rifles. There were Shermans and Crossman’s here and there but the scene was pretty bleak. In the world of Air Pistols it was equally as bad with a selection of guns that were largely lame.

The times they are a changing, the song goes, and today in 2016 if you are shooting a plain and under powered Air Gun it’s because you want to. In the last few years major firearms manufacturers like Sig Sauer, Walther and Smith & Wesson have all reached out to gun enthusiasts to fill the void left by the disappearance of available .22 Long Rifle ammunition. Companies today are more aggressive to get marketshare growth and the products they have been releasing are showing they are serious about their trade. They also hear the footsteps of their competitors coming close behind them.

Image:Rick Dembroski
Sig Pellet Trap Target

Toys or Tools ?

The expansion of the market has also pushed manufacturers to develop different types of pellets for Air Guns, allowing these high tech and more powerful rifles to actually take some small game. Notice I said some small game, with proper marksmanship and pellet selection a young shooter can easily shoot birds and squirrels. The same type of game you would expect young shooters to take with a .22 Long Rifle. There are several added benefits to starting new shooters out on pellets rather than rifles chambered in .22 Long Rifle. Here are just a few

  • Shorter range forces shooters to stalk potential prey
  • BB’s and Pellets generally easier to find than .22 Long Rifle
  • Less noise for new shooters
  • Less worries if shooter misses the target
  • Can be used in most backyards without neighbors panicking
  • Forces young shooters to slow down and reload more often, enhancing safety
  • Generally smaller dimensions, easier for youth shooters to handle
Image: Rick Dembroski
Starting my Nephew out slowly

I will admit when I was first asked about Air Guns, I was totally unprepared and didn’t think much about them aside from the old Red Ryder that I had tucked in the garage for when my nephews come over to my house. I was fortunate enough to have Sig Sauer’s Air Guns Division send me a few of their guns and targets to do a test and evaluation, and it changed my thought process completely.

The two guns Sig Sauer sent me were their steel framed P226 and their MPX ASP short barreled Air Rifle. I won’t go into a full review of them at this time, but my results and satisfaction with them are nearly on par with what our Editor in Chief, Mark Miller experienced with his set. I loaded up the P226 and MPX and made quick work of the coffee and soda cans I had been saving for just such an occasion. It was when I was playing in the yard that it began to dawn on me that these two guns are way overbuilt compared to the Air Guns I had been use to.

The controls worked very similar to the ones on Sig’s centerfire versions of these guns. Mark Miller had been right to call them a training tool for people on a budget or want to practice in their backyards in suburbia. In fact that when sitting the Air Gun version of the 226 next to a centerfire Sig you can have a hard time telling that the Air Pistol is just that. Sig really did their homework on this making it an appealing training tool, rather than a toy

The MPX ASP came with a rifled steel barrel and throws .177 caliber pellets at just over 600 feet per second. Now that isn’t much for a centerfire rifle but it’s decent for a cartridge powered air rifle. Now if you are looking for a hunting style single shot air rifle there are plenty on the market in both .22 and .177 caliber. Several models reach velocities of 1500 feet per second, that’s more that adequate to down any of the small game I spoke of. Again showing that these are the old Red Ryders a lot of us were use to growing up

Image:Rick Dembroski
Sig Sauer P226 Air Pistol

I went to Pyramid Airguns on the internet and was shocked to see the variety of available Air Guns on the market. If you can think of it, chances are someone has made it, including select fire BB guns patterned after the M4 machine gun. Which admittedly looks like a lot of gun without the expensive tax stamps and year long wait on forms from the BATFE. The toys aside, are airguns a viable substitute for teaching young shooters ? I would have to say yes most assured they are, if you select the correct one for your application. Am I saying that they can totally replace the .22 Long Rifle ? not at all.

Have you been frustrated with the lack of .22 Long Rifle in your area ? Have you already taken up shooting Air Guns in your yard as a means to stay sharp and practice basic marksmanship? We want to hear from you our readers. Is there a particular Air Gun that interests you or model you want to see us before a test and evaluation on ? Let us know that too. In the interest of full disclosure I am getting the select fire BB gun in the near future, I might do some videos with it if the rifle runs well.

Be sure to check back often, we have several new writers coming on board and in the next few weeks I will give you a small list of what is coming out: “American” AR15 from Heritage Arms  5oo round first review, A nice series on the .300 AAC Blackout, complete with full auto fire, and a few special projects that I can’t speak of due to non-disclosure agreements I have in place. Thanks for stopping by


Image:Rick Dembroski
Sig Sauer P226 & MPX Air Rifle. It can be hard at first glance to tell they are pellet guns