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Hunting with Air for Small & Large Game

There has never been a better time to hunt with an air rifle than right now.

Hunting with Air for Small & Large Game

Umarex designs several air rifles for hunting, including the .25-caliber Origin.

Like many hunters, the first shooting lessons I received centered on an air rifle. ("Squeeze the trigger. Don't shoot robins.") That air rifle was a great training tool, and with it, I learned about firearm safety as well as the basic mechanics of marksmanship. Although that pump rifle with a hollow plastic stock wasn't known for precision accuracy, it would hit a hand-drawn bullseye on a paper plate at 15 yards as long as the drawer didn't make the mark too small.

Air rifles have improved greatly in the four decades since I first learned to shoot. They are even better training tools now, thanks to improved accuracy and ergonomics, and many of them are legitimate hunting rifles. Today, you can get air rifles from companies like Umarex all the way up to .50 caliber. The traditional .177- and .22-caliber air rifles are perfect for training, target shooting and plinking, but the .25-, .30- and .50-caliber models step up power considerably. They really are legitimate hunting tools for small game and, in some cases depending on local regulations, big game as well.

Big game with an air rifle? Yes, you read that correctly. Lest you think I'm kidding, let's take a look at some air rifle ballistics. The Umarex Hammer air rifle shoots a 550-grain slug at 760 fps and produces 705 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. In comparison, a .357 Mag. with a 180-grain bullet moving at about 1,100 fps, produces around 500 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. A .41 Rem. Mag. with a 210-grain bullet at about 1,300 fps produces a little more than 850 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle. Both of these loads have taken lots of deer, and the .50-caliber slug from the Hammer falls between the two. It will cleanly take a whitetail when the slug hits the vitals.

It's important to realize these air rifles in higher calibers are many levels above the typical .177- or .22-caliber models in terms of energy. Of course, you don't have to go all the way up to .50 caliber to get adequate power for taking small game and furbearers like raccoons. The Umarex Origin shoots .25-caliber pellets weighing about 30 grains and produces velocities up to 950 fps, while the company's .30-caliber Gauntlet rifle shoots 50-grain pellets at 975 fps for 105 foot-pounds of energy. In both cases, you're talking bigger and heavier pellets pushed at serious velocities.

Most large-caliber air rifles are pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) models with air tanks that are regulated to provide a consistent pressure from shot to shot. This equates to consistent velocity and accuracy. They're not just lobbing pellets down range, especially when you consider each shot is propelled by 2,800 to 3,000 psi.

Umarex Origin
The .25-caliber Umarex Origin shoots 30-grain pellets and produces velocities up to 950 fps.

Just like any hunting tool, before you take an air rifle into the field, you need to understand its operation and the trajectory of the pellet or slug that it fires. These projectiles are powerful, but they are a lot different than a centerfire rifle bullet. You need to spend time on the range, making sure you understand how to safely load and manipulate these rifles, as well as how to change the air tanks. In addition, practice until you have a complete understanding of bullet drop and drift.

The more you practice, the more efficient and effective hunter you're going to be when it comes to quickly shouldering the rifle, finding a solid position and accurately triggering a shot. Air rifles from Umarex are great training tools to practice those steps, whether you hunt with them or with centerfire and rimfire rifles.

Today's air rifles are incredibly accurate, and you'll see good results when you execute good mechanics of marksmanship. Practice is fun, and it's cheap. Keep in mind you're not spending $40 or $50 for a box of centerfire ammo. Pellets come at a fraction of that cost.

Umarex designs air rifles for hunting, and the company includes several features on its hunting models that make them well-suited for the field. Take the .25-caliber Origin for example. This PCP rifle comes with the Umarex Ever-Pressure tank system, which can be filled with a hand pump. It takes about 13 pumps to get one full-power shot, so you're not struggling to fill up this air tank. Unlike some PCP guns, however, the ever-ready tank is also compatible with Umarex's ReadyAir air compressor. If you want to fill up the tank to its maximum pressure of 3,625 psi, hook it up to the compressor.

Umarex Air Guns
The Umarex Ever-Pressure tank system can be filled by hand or with the ReadyAir air compressor.

A few other really convenient features about the Origin are worth noting. The rifle has an eight-round rotary magazine, so you're not trying to thumb a pellet into the chamber every time you want to take a shot. Cocking the rifle is fast and easy thanks to the side-mounted lever. Plus, the Origin has an adjustable trigger. All these features come at a suggested retail price of $329.99, which is a good deal for a hunt-ready air rifle.

Hunting with air rifles has steadily grown in popularity over the past decade, thanks to companies like Umarex that build models with features that make them capable and convenient in the field. There has never been a better time to take an air rifle hunting than now.


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