One of the definite trends in the airgun market is the appearance of bigger-bore air rifles — .25 caliber all the way to .50 caliber — being used by a growing cadre of hunters.
“It really started with predator control, mostly coyotes and land management, in the form of hogs,” says Crosman Corporation’s marketing manager, Chip Hunnicutt. “Now, as more state game agencies are learning, folks want to take their big-bore airgun into the deer stand, too. Their appeal is similar to that of archery in that they have a limited range for deer, up to 50 yards, so hunting skill remains a factor. And because they are more quiet than a firearm and have little to any recoil, they are pleasant to use.”
Crosman, for example, makes the Bulldog .357, which can launch a 145-grain .357-caliber bullet up to 800 feet per second, and is rated by Crosman as being capable of taking game up to and including whitetail deer. The Bulldog is a pre-charged pneumatic gun, meaning it has an air reservoir incorporated into the rifle itself that is charged with a high-pressure hand pump or a scuba tank and can deliver around 10 shots per reservoir fill.
For 2015, HatsanUSA has released two new air rifles, the .30- and .35-caliber Carnivore rifles, for hunting up to medium-sized came, including coyotes, at up to 100 yards. These rifles are also PCPs.
One problem: big-bore air rifles are so new to the hunting scene, many state game agencies do not have regulations addressing their use. Generally speaking, “nuisance” species like hogs and coyotes may be hunted with air rifles, but actual “game” animals like deer aren’t allowed to be harvested with an air rifle. There are exceptions, though, and a handful of states do let hunters pursue deer and other game with the big-bores. And more states should be coming online as big-bore popularity keeps growing.