I received some excellent comments and emails on yesterdays post on Hunting Quietly Without Attracting the Attention of Your Neighbors. Several of them dealt with using 22 sub sonic, low velocity pistol rounds or silencers. I cannot disagree with these ideas they all have merit and a place in the overall scheme of things. However, there are several reasons that I lean towards the use of airguns rather the conventional firearms for this purpose.
One is the price of ammo, pellets are cheap, around here you can buy 500 for under $10 if you wait for the sales and they are available. Compare that to 22 cal or any other ammo prices. You can afford to stock a lot.
A second reason is that most of the game you will be hunting will be small game, rabbits, birds, squirrels etc. The cheaper less powerful air rifles are adequate for hunting these animals. For larger game such as deer, you would want something with more power.
You can purchase airguns in most states, even California without paper work. Anyone can own one. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) has jurisdiction over firearms. The U.S. Code specifically prohibits any federal, state or local municipality from declaring an airgun to be a firearm. Not only do the federal firearms laws not apply to airguns, they cannot be applied by law.
The law is United States Code, Title 15, Section 5001, BB/AIRGUN/PAINTBALL/IMITATION FIREARM PREEMPTION. The sections of interest to us are Sections “g(i) and g(ii)” at the very end. Read their very clear language.
(g) Preemption of State or local laws or ordinances; exceptions
The provisions of this section shall supersede any provisions of State or local laws or ordinances which provide for markings or identifications inconsistent with provisions of this section provided that no State shall
(i) prohibit the sale or manufacture of any look-alike, non-firing, collector replica of an antique firearms developed prior to 1898, or
(ii) prohibit the sale (other than prohibiting the sale to minors) of traditional B-B, paint ball, or pellet-firing air guns that expel a projectile through the force of air pressure.”
To me noise is a big issue; some airguns are quieter than others. I will concede that 22 cal sub sonic rounds can be just about as quiet as airguns. I have attempted to do some research on the subject and have found three sites that address the subject. Here are their links.
There are mainly three different types of airguns.
Spring powered air rifles- often called springers. This type of air rifle uses a spring to compress air in a chamber. The two biggest advantages for buying a spring-powered rifle are power and ease of use. With a spring powered air rifle you only have to cock the gun once to achieve maximum power. Most are rated at 1000 FPS and can be used for small game hunting, target shooting, and pest control. Adult males will have no problem cocking the rifles but if you are buying the air rifle for your younger kids (Under 14) or wife make sure they can handle the cocking pressure. Springers are probably the noisiest of the airgun types.
Pneumatic airguns use compressed air for power. There are several ways that the air can be compressed. The most common pneumatic airgun is the multi stroke. These airguns are designed so that several strokes of the pumping mechanism forces air into a chamber where it is held under high pressure. Each pump stroke forces more air into the chamber which increases the pressure which in turn increases the velocity of the projectile.
There are also airguns that have a pump similar to a bicycle pump that can be charged once and then fired multi times. These are nice, since you can have a fast second shot. Some of the pneumatic airguns can be pressurized from scuba tanks and by other means that I have not covered since they would not be viable under emergency conditions.
CO2 powered, while these are fine under normal conditions, in an emergency the co2 cylinders would not be readily available.
A couple of other factors that can influence how much noise your airgun makes are
One, ultra-lightweight alloy pellets. If you are exceeding the sound barrier (approx 1120 fps) you will get a loud crack. Using heavier pellets can solve your problem by slowing down the velocity of your pellet.
Another possible problem could be that your rifle is dieseling. You should never use a petroleum-based product in the barrel or compression chamber of a spring-powered airgun. This can cause an explosion called dieseling. This is loud, not good for your rifle and can be hazardous.
Get an airgun and play with it, it is cheap shooting and you will find it can be a good hunting weapon.