Chip Hunnicutt is a member of the prostaff and Marketing Manager for Crosman. This article first appeared in The Gulf Coast Sportsman.

Airguns used to be for popping squirrels, pine cones and the occasional bat that always seemed to get through the flu and into our living room at least once every few winters. And yup, I’ve been shot in the fanny with one and for the next 30 years I figured that all an airgun could do was bruise my britches.

Boy was I wrong.

If you haven’t looked at what’s happening in airguns these days it’s time to get off and take a look because there’s no ammunition shortage for airguns and there’s a lot more power than you think. Sure, that pot metal and wood cowboy gun of your youth is still out there but friends, let me tell you, when you hear the sweet slap of lead on fur and barely any report from the rifle, you know you’ve got the perfect hunt combination.

In 2015 Pennsylvania is hoping to become the 49th state to legalize some form of hunting with air power (I’m looking at you, New Hampshire). Don’t laugh – just last year Texas approved airguns for taking squirrels even though it’s been perfectly legal to shoot big ol’ hogs since Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call headed north.

What’s driving the renewed interest in the toys of our youth? The fact they’re not toys anymore, for one thing. For another, the shortage of rimfire ammunition along with higher prices for firearm cartridges has moved many to look for other options. Consider pellet prices, around two cents apiece or 500 rounds for what you spent on lunch today, to .22 LR at ten cents (when you can find it) or two bucks for a 7mm factory round and when you see the videos showcasing how remarkably accurate these guns are, the question quickly changes from “why do I need an airgun” to “how soon can I get it?”
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The biggest advances have come in break barrel rifles and precharged pneumatics. Break barrels, operated by breaking open the action, inserting a pellet, closing it up and firing a single shot, used to be powered by a coiled steel spring. That was replaced six years ago by a gas piston and most recently, Crosman split that piston and inserted a bushing between the two halves and named it Recoil Arrest for their line of rifles under the Benjamin brand. As the piston finishes its stroke it compresses the bushing, causing it to expand against the interior walls of the action. The result is darn near no recoil. This Nitro Piston 2 is also ten pounds easier to cock while being 30% more powerful so if you’re looking for a great gift idea, they’re available in the Benjamin Trail with hardwood, synthetic or Realtree Xtra finishes and the new Shockey Signature rifles, the Steel Eagle and Golden Eagle.

The author with the 11pt whitetail he took at 43 yards in airgun-friendly South Carolina. The successor to the Rogue .357 is the Benjamin Bulldog .357 air rifle.

The author with the 11pt whitetail he took at 43 yards in airgun-friendly South Carolina. The successor to the Rogue .357 is the Benjamin Bulldog .357 air rifle.

If you’re looking for the ultimate airgun challenge, it’s big game and predators. Like bowhunting, you’re going to have to know how to get close. And because the velocities are slower than a firearm, you’ll have to be a rifleman to make an accurate shot. States like North Carolina and South Carolina, Michigan, Missouri, Alabama and Arizona welcome hunters in pursuit of bear, hogs and whitetail deer with an air rifle. In Arizona, everything but elk is on the menu for hunters wielding air powered rifles in .357 caliber like the Bulldog from Benjamin.

Shake off what you think you knew about airguns and step into the brave new world of 3,000 PSI-powered pistols and rifles, nitrogen-filled gas rams and move those tin can targets back, oh, about 90 yards.

Make room at the campfire gentlemen. I’ve got an airgun and we hunt in the morning.