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Have you ever wondered how many types of air rifles are out there? Or is your head spinning around with various powerplants and you don’t know which one to choose? I got you covered. In this post, you will get the detailed information about all types of air guns and each type’s advantages and disadvantages so you can save time and money in the quest of searching for the best air gun on the market.
There are 5 types of air guns in the whole world. They are spring powered, gas piston, precharged pneumatic (PCP) , variable pump and CO2 air guns. Each type has its own unique characteristics but all of them got their names due to the way they operate.
Table of Contents
In the spring powered air rifle (springer), there is a piston and a coiled spring inside the chamber. The spring is compressed when you cock the gun. When you pull the trigger, you make the spring decompressed so it causes the piston to move forward. The piston movement makes the air compressed and the pellet is propelled out of the muzzle due to the force from pressurized air. All of this happens in the blink of an eye.
- Simple to use
- Cheap to buy
- Accurate, powerful, consistent on shot-to-shot basis
- Fully self-contained, no need for CO2 cartridges or pumping equipments
- Helps you sharpen your shooting skills since springer often has lots of recoil
- Gun parts are available in the market
- Easy to service, modify or tweak the gun for better performance.
- More recoil compared to other types
- Requires practice to cock and shoot properly
- Cannot be left cocked since the spring will be fatigued and might not function perfectly
- Gets weaker if you shoot for several years, but can be modified for better performance
Basically, a gas piston air gun (also called gas strut, gas ram) works the same way as the spring piston gun but a gas ram gun has a gas-filled cylinder instead of a coiled spring. The air in the cylinder is already compressed and you apply more pressure to it when you cock the gun. The pressurized air is kept under tension until you release the trigger. When that happens, the pellet is discharged out of the barrel due to propellant force of pressurized air.
- Lasts longer than the spring gun
- Can be left cocked for days since there is no spring fatigue
- Lighter than a spring gun
- Less recoil than a spring air gun as there is no spring vibration when you shoot
- Not affected by weather
- Easy to cock
- Unlike a PCP gun which expends air and has to be recharged after a certain number of shots, the air in a gas ram gun is retained and it works for years with stable power.
- Hard to find gun materials to modify
- Won’t work at all if the gas leaks.
The precharged pneumatic (PCP) air gun uses high-pressurized air in the chamber as the propellant force to discharge the pellet. The pressurized air is compressed up to 3000-4000 psi by using scuba tanks or hand pumps. When the air reaches a desired pressure level, the gun is ready to use.
- Virtually recoilless
- Compact, high power, high accuracy
- Highly effective with large caliber pellets
- Very little cocking effort
- Most are repeaters which allow you to quickly shoot the second round if you miss the first shot.
- Not self-contained
- More expensive than other types
- Need lots of charging equipments so there are more costs for the gun
Variable pump gun has a piston and a pressure cylinder in the chamber. When you cock the gun, the air between the piston and cylinder is compressed. It has nowhere to go and is forced into the cylinder. The cylinder has a lock valve that lets the air in and keeps it there until you shoot. When you pull the trigger, the pellet is propelled due to force of compressed air.
- Compact, lightweight, recoilless
- Permits you to have control over the power of each shot. Pump more and you have more power. Pump less and you have less power.
- Most have medium power
- Self-contained, no pumping equipment required
- Pumping action can be tedious at some points
- Requires practice to master the cocking action
- Requires significant time and effort to cock so it is not great for hunting situations since your animal target can run off if you miss the first shot and are still busy with the pumping action
CO2 powered air gun works the same way as a PCP air gun but it uses carbon dioxide cartridges (CO2) as the power source instead of the pressurized gas. When you pull the trigger, the compressed CO2 is released and it causes the pellet move forward inside the barrel.
- Highly accurate
- Easy to cock
- Recoilless to shoot
- Consistent on a shot-to-shot basis
- Convenient for repeated shooting
- Allows semi-automatic fire (fire as fast as you pull the trigger)
- Not very powerful
- Power and accuracy are affected by weather since the expansion of C02 is different at various temperatures
- The cost of CO2 cartridges can add up if you shoot a lot
Choosing the best air rifle is much easier when you know which type of air gun has what trait. Each type has both pros and cons so at the end of the day, it all comes down to your choice and preference.