Airguns are experiencing a renaissance not unlike archery hunters have seen with compound bows or muzzleloaders and their advancements in ignition systems. New technology such as the Crosman Nitro Piston-powered break barrel rifles and Benjamin pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) rifles have made it possible for hunters to take airguns beyond the backyard and pursue game as large as hogs and coyotes. Airgun hunting is not a new concept, however just as with a bow, centerfire or muzzleloader, there are considerations to be made in order to be successful.
Because airguns do not produce the velocity of a firearm, it is important to be aware that shorter effective ranges are to be expected. The ammunition does not have the cutting diameter of a broadhead, making head shots the most effective target. Head shots are not reserved solely for big game. This technique applies equally to woodchucks, squirrels and pests such as rats. The heart/lung shot is ingrained in shooters at an early age because it is the largest target area and the animal will surely die. With airguns the distance between a chest impact and “will surely die” could be significant. Coupled with no exit wound, the hunter is faced with a difficult track, and likely a lost animal.
Experienced firearm hunters often opt for a neck shot to put an animal down quickly. The buck in the photo above was taken with the Benjamin Rogue .357 with a single head shot at 43 yards. The entry was the size of a dime and there was no exit. No meat was ruined, the trophy was intact and no tracking was necessary. The same result on a 180 pound hog at 50 yards and a prairie dog at 135 yards left no doubt that a properly placed head shot is the most effective method of dispatch with an airgun.
Professional airgun hunter and writer Jim Chapman approved of taking a deer with the Rogue and reflecting on his own whitetail deer experiences, wrote, “it’s not a matter of power but exact shot placement, and for that reason my personal guideline is to keep my shots inside of 40-50 yards” (Whitetail Hunt at Michigan’s Deer Tracks Ranch, 2009).
Crosman offers an Airgun Hunting Capabilities Guide to assist consumers in determining what Crosman or Benjamin airgun best fits their needs. The guide was developed with input from several veteran outdoorsmen with experience in multiple hunting disciplines. Suitable hunting airguns, from .177 caliber up to the ground-breaking Benjamin Rogue .357, are included along with suggested pellets and expected velocities and foot-pounds of energy (fpe). The guide lists a variety of popular small, medium and larger game and recommended maximum distances for shooting each species, all with a headshot being the recommended kill zone. There are species such as deer and exotics that, with practice and proper discipline, these guns are perfectly appropriate to use but are not included in the chart.
Hunting with an airgun offers the exciting challenge of close pursuit across a wide variety of species if taken with a head shot. Ultimately, success will be determined by ballistics and the accuracy of the shooter, so above all know your distance and know your capabilities.
Ready to hunt? We encourage you to check your local regulations then visit us online to find the perfect hunting airgun to fit your needs.
See Crosman’s Chip Hunnicutt use the Benjamin Rogue .357 on a deer hunt next season on The Outdoor Channel’s “Hunting the World Southern Style”. Thanks to Cypress Creek Hunting Lodge for an outstanding experience. For more on hunting with airguns, visit crosmanhunting.com.