Mat Manning considers the hardware and accessories that airgunners are likely to splash out on as they finally emerge from isolation
Thanks to the fact that they can be used in the garden, airguns and associated accessories continued to sell reasonably well through the lockdown—the difficult part was sourcing stock and getting it to would-be customers.
Although many airgunners were still able to topple a few targets while the rest of the shooting community was wrestling with chronic withdrawal symptoms, the signs suggest that a lot of them are planning to head out on a spending spree as soon as they can.
I have had no end of people contacting me, both via Airgun Show comments and on Facebook too, to ask for advice about which gun to buy when lockdown restrictions begin to ease. Surprisingly, the vast majority of these enquiries have been from shooters looking to spend in excess of £1,000 on high-end airguns.
Because we’re worth it
The explanation for the urge to splurge on expensive gear seems to boil down to several factors. Firstly, a lot of shooters want to treat themselves after having to endure such a long layoff from their sport—if they’ve been home schooling their children they probably also feel entitled to a significant reward for managing not to reach for the slipper during those testing months.
Secondly, many of the shooters I have been in contact with have actually managed to put a few quid aside over the past few weeks. The fortunate ones who have managed to sustain a reasonable income have made a saving by being stuck at home and not forking out on days out with their family, restaurant dining with their partner, filling up the car on a weekly basis and all the other usual expenses that suddenly fell by the wayside.
Thirdly, and very significantly, a lot of shooters sensibly want to be able to actually handle a few top-end airguns before parting with their cash. It’s all very well buying a £100 springer from an online delivery business when you want to while away the long hours of lockdown with some backyard plinking but only a fool would throw the best part of a month’s earnings at an airgun without knowing that it actually fits them properly.
As gun shops open their doors, these punters will be rolling in with serious money to spend. Expect airguns from FX and Daystate, and flagship models from Air Arms, Weihrauch and BSA to do well.
Latest guns of the week to aid your shopping
- The Walther RM8 UC is this week’s GTN Gun of the Week
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Don your finery
I can also see clothing sales seeing a bit of a spike for similar reasons. Just like a high-end airgun, the
clothes that shooters wear out in the field need to fit them properly. Most of us will take a risk when buying cheaper items of clothing such as hats and gloves online but we want to try before we buy if we are spending a bit more on a jacket or boots that should last a year or two.
I have made the mistake of buying a pricey hunting jacket online only to find that it needed to be changed via some laborious and stressful process – it’s a mistake you only make once.
Admittedly, the gradual movement back to something vaguely resembling the normality we suddenly find ourselves longing for is likely to happen at a time of year when shooters don’t usually tend to spend a lot of money on clothing.
Nonetheless, I can still see plenty of people treating themselves to some new clobber when they see the latest lines are hanging from the rails of their local gun shop. With airgun shooters favouring affordable but reliable clothing, I can see Ridgeline, Seeland and Percussion being popular.
However, those who have been saving up during their enforced domestic dig-in may want to push the boat out and stretch to the likes of Deerhunter, Harkila and Ariat.
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Lead be having you
Some of the biggest sellers are sure to be the things that shooters found themselves really ploughing through during the lockdown. Many airgunners with moderately sized gardens were still able to enjoy their shooting in the backyard, and most of them will be desperate to replenish their supplies of pellets and targets.
A heck of a lot of airgun shooters have been taking advantage of the rare abundance of free time to do serious pellet testing on their garden ranges, and the vast majority of them will no doubt have discovered that cheap ammo is a false economy.
The better-quality brands are likely to be in high demand as a result and gun shops would do well to steer all their customers towards them; it’s surprising how many people make do with poor performance from affordable airguns when they would probably achieve surprisingly good results simply by spending an extra 1p per pop and running better pellets through them.
Airgunners who demand reliable ammo (and they all should) can usually be relied upon to gravitate towards offerings from JSB, H&N, Air Arms, Daystate and RWS, although QYS has also established itself as a serious player in the top-flight ammo ranks over the last year or so.
On the target front, the thousands of backyard airgunners must have punched their way through an unimaginable amount of paper and card targets—I know I have. These are by far the best thing to use when zeroing an airgun, testing different ammo and working out how to use hold-over and hold-under because you can easily see where every pellet strikes.
The only downside is that while paper targets are useful, they are also pretty boring, and, once they have replenished their stocks, many shooters will also want to add something more challenging to their garden setup.
When it comes to making backyard airgun shooting more exciting, reactive targets are hard to beat—who wants to punch holes in paper when they could be clobbering a crow, rolling over a rat or zapping a zombie?
Clever design and ever-advancing production techniques are churning out a seemingly endless array of entertaining and challenging targets that fall over, whizz around and, best of all, reset themselves so you don’t have to get off your backside to make them ready to blast again. Some of the best ones even feature reducers so you can make the kill zone smaller as your marksmanship improves.
Even the best reactive targets have a shelf-life and many will be looking rather poorly after weeks of frustrated lockdown blasting. Like me, many shooters will want to replace their battered targets while others will be looking to add more variety to their garden setup. Makers like Custom Targets, Gr8Fun, Gamo, Bisley and Caldwell have all sorts of weird and wonderful targets to keep them occupied.
Pump up the airgun
I don’t want to end on a downer but lots of shooters will probably, and rightly, use their first visits to the gun shop to stock up in readiness for the possibility of another lockdown.
The targets and ammo listed here are very likely to be on their shopping list but I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them also added cheap spring-powered airguns such as a Hatsan, Remington or similar to their arsenals, just to be sure that there’s something to play with in the garden.
Having the latest high-end PCP is all very well but their owners probably weren’t feeling quite so smug when their air bottles started to run dry after a few weeks of backyard target-shredding.
Now that I think of it, savvy gun shop owners probably wouldn’t struggle to convince me and my fellow pre-charged airgun shooters of the great gains to be enjoyed by investing in a stirrup pump so we can keep our rifles charged, come what may.