These days air rifles are not just about BB’s and kids. Modern air rifles are being use to harvest deer in the state of Missouri. Since 2008, hunting deer with an air rifle with a a bore of at least .40 caliber has been legal. If you are thinking that it is a simple matter that air has replaced gun powder for bullet acceleration, you are not entirely correct.
Air rifles differ from traditional high-powered deer rifles in several respects.
The muzzle velocity of a bullet exiting an air rifle is about 1/4 that a a center-fire rifle. This reduces the distance at which a deer can be taken from beyond 200 yards to between 40 and 100 yards. Hunting deer with an air rifle is somewhere between hunting with a bow and a muzzle-loader in terms of distances that can result in a clean kill.
An air rifle can weigh in at eight pounds or more.
These firearms are typically somewhat longer than a traditional deer rifle. At this time, modern high-powered air rifles are single shot. They are loaded by dropping a fresh bullet into the breech and closing it. This makes them much easier and faster to load than a muzzle loader using black powder. Some air rifles shoot a lead hollow point bullet. Others are loaded with lead balls.
Like a bow hunter, hunters with air rifles have to aim for the deer’s lungs to kill the deer quickly.
If both lungs are hit, the deer will drop in just seconds. Like all forms of deer hunting, hunters should work to do more than just injure the deer. Deer that are hit should be tracked, if possible, the kill completed cleanly.
Because of the relatively slow velocity of the bullet, hunters using air rifles need to allow for much more drop of the bullet as distances increase .
Practice with the gun is mandatory if you plan to be able to hit your target at distances near or above 50 yards. Compensation for the effect of gravity and air drag are necessary for accuracy. The good news is that these rifles are quiet enough when shot that the opportunity for a second or even third shot is possible.
Air rifles are slowly finding a niche in the urban and suburban areas where hunts are allowed to reduce deer populations.
These guns are much more quiet than their high-powered counterparts. Since the bullet drops faster and has less power behind it, less unplanned property damage and personal injury results from bullets that miss the target.
Low, J. (2010). “Air gunomics.” Missouri Conservationist: 71(10) October 2010.