I’ve Just Been To A Parallel Airgun Universe

A parallel airgun universe. What? Have I (finally) lost it?

Well, no I’ve not lost it – or at least I hope not. But it’s true, there is a parallel airgun universe. I was there at the weekend and it was alive and well.

What am I talking about? Please bear with me and read on…

A Little Background

Surprisingly for an ex-pat Brit, I never got into airguns until moving to the USA nearly 30 years ago. (I was shooting Lee Enfield and Mauser 98 firearms back in the old country). The credit for initiating me into airguns belongs firmly to a certain James Kitching.

James – now sadly long departed – was the owner of the improbably-named “Fun Supply” airgun website. From there, I purchased my first air rifle. It was a QB78. It didn’t work. So I fixed it and that was my first step into airguns.

I hope that others also remember James Kitching. He was a great innovator in the airgun universe. He, it was, who started the original “Fun Supply Yellow Airgun Forum”, the original online airgun Forum (so far as I know). Over the years, this morphed into the once-dominant “Yellow Forum” and then to the current “Airgun Warriors” version.

Looking around the local gun shops and big box sporting goods stores back in the late 90s, I found few airguns and certainly nothing like my QB78s!

So, as a new airgun owner, I was firmly locked-in to the online Fun Supply store and Forum as my source of airguns and information.

I’ve Just Been To A Parallel Airgun Universe

The Local Airgun Environment

Over the years, the friendly, traditional gun shop has – sadly – become an endangered species around here in upstate New York. Those wonderful, huge, quarterly local Gun Shows withered away, too. But neither was ever a compelling source for airguns.

Then, it has to be said, that neither my wife nor I are “big box store” or mall shoppers. We absolutely prefer to buy from local, bricks-and-mortar specialist stores where we can. If not we will buy from specialist vendors online.

Sure, I make occasional visits to big box stores. I’ve watched the airgun selection at our local WalMart change from acceptable, to restricted, to – now – nearly non-existent. There’s a Dick’s Sporting Goods location near us, but that gave-up on airguns (or any guns) completely.

Gander Mountain flared-up with a big branch locally – with plenty of airguns – but then disappeared as rapidly as it arrived. The trend goes on…

Finally – The Parallel Airgun Universe

So it was a HUGE surprise when I visited the local Sportsman’s Warehouse this weekend. It was surprising for three reasons. One that I went there! Second, it had airguns. Thirdly it had lots of them – great stock in a wide profusion of models.

That’s where I found my parallel airgun universe!!!

So what makes it a parallel universe?

Well, it was a completely PCP-free zone!

In Hard Air Magazine, the HAM Community and other specialist online airgun stores and media, the vast majority of the talk is about PCP air rifles. Sure, break barrel air rifles are popular – there’s still a ton of Weihrauchs being sold. Dianas, too.

But basically “my”, and possibly “our” airgun universe has become dominated by PCPs in recent years. Just look at the ratio of “piston” shooters compared to those running PCPs at the recent, local, Finger Lakes Field Target shoot, for example.

If you examine the top-selling airguns lists published annually by Pyramyd Air, the traditional, single-shot, “Zillion FPS” break barrel air rifles have disappeared from sight. They’ve been replaced by PCPs.

Yet here at Sportsman’s Warehouse, that alternative, parallel airgun universe was very much alive!

I’ve Just Been To A Parallel Airgun Universe

The Shopping Experience

Although I’m guessing that the shoppers there have access to the Internet – they all had mobile phones – they were examining the brightly-colored airgun boxes with enormous interest.

“Wow, this is great! It does 1,100 FPS,” said one customer. “No this is better,” said another. “It shoots 1,250 FPS”.

As you can see from these photographs, Sportsmans Warehouse had a ton of airguns in stock. Crosman, Benjamin, Gamo and Umarex were all represented in strength. There was a Stoeger Airguns model, too.

True, there were some multi-pump Crosman 362s. Plus the inevitable 760s and Daisy Red Ryders.

Then there were the CO2-powered airguns. A few lonely full-auto Crosman boxes remained, although it looked as though most had been sold. The store website shows some Umarex Legends full-autos, but they were out of stock when I visited.

Umarex had locked-up the prestigious “end cap” location with a stack of CO-powered Ruger 10/22 air rifles, too.

I’ve Just Been To A Parallel Airgun Universe

But the overwhelming majority of airgun SKUs were for “traditional” single-shot break barrel air rifles. Plus a few of those newfangled multi-shot spring/piston models. There was not a PCP in sight. They just didn’t exist in this parallel airgun universe.

Why No PCPs?

Well I’m guessing that price is a major factor. The most expensive airgun I saw was selling for $299.99. The majority for much less. $99.99 was still a popular price.

Then it seems that many big box sporting goods stores have never come to grips with the charging requirement for PCPs.

At least a couple of companies have made brave efforts to combine PCP charging with the gun in one box. I believe that was to appeal to the big box stores.

One was the American Tactical Nova Freedom with it’s built-in hand pump. Another is the Umarex Origin combo, where the PCP air rifle and pump are separate but bundled together in the same retail box. There may be more…

But essentially, PCPs do not exist in this parallel airgun universe. Maybe they never will.

I’ve Just Been To A Parallel Airgun Universe

So when you observe the airgun industry introducing apparently-endless “new” single-shot break barrel air rifles and – like me – wonder why, here’s the answer.

Maybe those enthusiastic customers I observed will – one day – move on to higher-end airguns like PCPs. Maybe they will tire of the heavy cocking effort and mysterious lack of accuracy of the springers (because they are not told the hold requirements). Maybe the inevitable 
“pinch point” blisters from the pumpers will hurt too much. Maybe the heavy trigger pull and limited range of the CO2-powered multi-shot pellet guns will grow old.

But maybe not. Just possibly they will be happy with their airguns and love them for what they are. I hope so.

At any event I was reminded that a “non PCP” parallel airgun universe exists. That’s a good thing as I had long forgotten it. Had you?