Airing out haters with history, facts, and fun.
It’s tough to fathom where modern society’s perspective of airguns went awry. When and where exactly did the toxic distrust, misinformation, and outright dismissals of history and science rise against technology that had been trusted for centuries before?
While accuracy and numbers surrounding airgun momentum and kinetic energy don’t lie, neither did the undeniable successes of Captain Merriwether Lewis’ shooting demonstrations throughout the Lewis and Clark Expedition. You read that right. The gun trusted to facilitate safe passage for the Lewis and Clark expedition was an air rifle—more specifically, a Girandoni .46-caliber repeater capable of firing 22 shots accurately in less than 30 seconds. The airgun was mentioned 39 times through 13 volumes of the Lewis and Clark Journal.
August 11, 1803 – “Went on shore and being invited on by some of the gentlemen present to try my airgun which I had purchased brought it on shore charged it and fired myself seven times at 55 yards with pretty good success.”
October 10, 1804 – “After the Council was over we shot the air gun, which astonished them, and they all left us.”
October 29, 1804 – “Shot the air gun which both surprised and astonished the natives, and soon dispersed.”
While airguns had extensive history in combat with the Austrian Army through the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Captain Lewis trusted his life to his air rifle in what he believed to be an ambush on August 11, 1806. Lewis learned soon after that a shot he took to the leg was from friendly fire.
“I now got back to the pirogue as well as I could and prepared myself with a pistol, my rifle and air gun being determined as a retreat was impracticable to sell my life as dearly as possible.”
While it has taken decades to educate folks and to right legislative wrongs from coast to coast, we are winning legislators and the public over—big thanks to modern airgun educators like Rossi Morreale, host of American Airgunner TV, and Justin Jacobson, owner of Utah Airguns, for their efforts. Recently, I had the privilege of one-on-one time with Rossi for a short Q&A.
Born and raised in Arkansas and a graduate and starting wide-receiver for the University of Arkansas—yes, the Razorbacks—Rossi Morreale considers himself a “good ol’ Southern boy.” After earning his degree, Rossi launched his entertainment career in California. Since then, he has hosted over 40 nationally airing television shows, including American Airgunner and American Airgunner Challenge.
Q&A with Rossi Morreale
Kevin Reese (KR): How did you get into airguns?
Rossi Morreale (RM): Like most kids, I got into airguns at eight years old when I received a Red Ryder BB gun. I graduated to a Crosman pump-action pellet gun and then moved on to a .22LR and 410 shotgun. It wasn’t until this show reached out to me in 2012 that I found a love and passion for adult airguns. I never knew airguns had evolved so much over the years. When I met with the producers about the show and they put a .50 cal airgun in my hand… my mind was blown.
KR: What keeps you passionate about airguns?
RM: EVERY year, there are bigger, badder, more precise guns—full-auto, arrow shooters, shotguns, and slugs for every caliber from .177 to .82-caliber. The growth and changes that are happening in the airgun world are astonishing.
KR: What do you say to people who think airguns should not be used for hunting?
RM: I would say they are uneducated or don’t understand the power and accuracy of today’s airguns. The airguns we use for big game hunting, at 700-800 ft.-lbs. of energy, are as powerful as many muzzleloaders and any bow or crossbow setup. In the 50s, firearm hunters complained about bowhunters—funny since Native Americans bowhunted for centuries before guns were introduced.
KR: Do you think airguns are wrongfully thought of as small-caliber and low-powered?
RM: One hundred percent. Most people really just don’t know what we’re talking about when we say airgun.They think Red Ryder or small bore.
KR: How has airgun technology and innovation improved precision-shooting accuracy?
RM: It’s changed everything, from PSI capacity and hammer springs to barrels and liners created for slugs. Today’s airguns are works of art capable of quarter-size groups at 100 yards, and they continue to improve.
KR: What is your best airgunning memory?
RM: My favorites are the hunts I used to go on with my dad, Roscoe. We’ve been on some epic ones, but my favorite all-time memory is when I shot a hog out of a helicopter with a .50-cal Umarex Hammer. I couldn’t believe it!
KR: How do you share share airgunning’s good news with people?
RM: Mostly, I get people excited about getting outdoors with their family. My eight-year-old daughter can shoot all my airguns and loves them because they are less intimidating. There’s no kick in the small bores, and she can hit targets all day long.
KR: Do you think airgunning is trending upward? In what category?
RM: I see airgunning trending upward the most in hunting and competition. It’s close now, but I think hunting will grow the most. As states continue to become aware of the effectiveness of airguns for hunting and legalize use in in all 50 states for big game, I believe we’ll have our own hunting season, and it will attract a WHOLE NEW generation of shooters!
The Final Shot
Somehow, an article would not feel complete without an incredibly valuable two-cents worth of opinion from airgunning icon, Justin Jacobson, owner of Utah Airguns. When the same question about trend was posed to Jacobson, he offered a similarly positive perspective: “The airgun industry is trending upward at a rapid pace, and opening up airgun hunting regulations is bolstering sales. For competition, air rifles are growing in popularity, including in PRS and NRL rimfire matches. Ammo prices and availability for powder-burners, and the capability to shoot slugs in small-bore calibers, means airguns that can hang with high-end rimfires are enticing. Airguns are perfect for practice trainers, hunting, competition or just plinking.”
Launched in 2008, American Airgunner was the first and only TV show exclusively centered on airguns. Rossi took the American Airgunner reins in 2013 (airing on Pursuit Channel) as host and executive producer and grew the show enough to spin it into another series, American Airgunner Challenge. With the spinoff, American Airgunner returned to Sportsman Channel while American Airgunner Challenge began airing on Outdoor Channel.
Rossi is quick to point to American Airgunner Challenge as “the greatest shooting competition on air today.” With two seasons in the rearview mirror, Season 3 begins in July 2022, and is sure to be a must-watch. Speaking for the producers, production crew and show personalities, the mission of American Airgunner and American Airgunner Challenge is the same, “to promote non-powder guns (airguns) as safe, recreational, hunting, and sport-shooting products while informing and educating viewers about the safe and effective uses of airguns and related products.” Of course, American Airgunner Challenge has quickly become Rossi’s favorite series event. “We pit eight contestants against each other in a series of CRAZY shooting challenges for a $25,000 Cash prize.”
Tune into American Airgunner TV on Outdoor Channel every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. EST and on Sportsman Channel every Thursday at 9:30 p.m. EST. Episodes repeat three hours later on the same evenings. You can also find American Airgunner on Instagram (@AmericanAirgunner) at YouTube.com/AmericanAirgunner and at www.AmericanAirgunner.com. Utah Airguns can be found on Instagram at @Utah_Airguns and at www.UtahAirguns.com.
Airgun Round Up
By CAMERON BRINKERHOFF
So, you’re ready to make the jump into airgunning? You’ve read this article and seen the videos online or maybe even an episode or two of American Airgunner on The Outdoor Channel, and it seems like something you’d want to try. When one first wades into the world of airgunning, it can be somewhat daunting. Which air rifle is the right one? Is the airgun I’m looking at going to do what I expect it to do.? Most importantly: Am I buying a rifle that is worth the money? Here is a quick look at four rifles making big waves in the airgun world.
FX Impact M3
Few air rifles have had more influence on modern airgunning than the Swedish-made FX Impact. First released in 2015, FX brought features like end-user tuning, the ability to quickly swap barrels to change either caliber or twist rate, and modular design to the forefront of its development of the Impact. Today, the rifle is supported by stout aftermarket support and a legion of dedicated shooters who have used the rifle for everything from small-game hunting to competition benchrest shooting. Available in .177, .22, .25, .30, and .35 caliber an impact can be set up specifically to meet the end-users goals. Want high shot count at a power level adequate to do some backyard plinking and deal with the occasional garden pest? The Impact in a compact configuration shooting .22 caliber pellets is a fantastic option. Want to go for long-range shots on prairie dogs? Set up an impact with a .25 caliber 700mm slug barrel kit in 1:18 twist, a tungsten hammer, and a power plenum kit, and you can push 46-grain slugs from H&N at nearly 1040 fps! With that setup, shots on prairie dogs out to 300 yards or more are achievable if the shooter does his/her part. Ready to dominate the local 100-yard benchrest match? The FX Impact in .30 cal shooting 44.75 grain pellets is a proven match winner. The Impact is basically a blank slate that can be configured to whatever the shooter needs. A tunable hammer spring, valve return spring, and easily adjustable pressure regulator allow experienced airgun tuners to dial in the rifle for the exact projectile, muzzle velocity, and shot-to-shot efficiency. If you are more the trigger pulling type and want to leave the tuning up to the pro’s, Utah Airguns, the largest FX Airguns dealer in the world, can set up your gun for success before shipping it to your door so it’s ready for your intended purpose right out of the box. With so many options, aftermarket parts, and custom tunes, the FX Impact M3 is about as close to airgun Legos as it gets.
Umarex Gauntlet 2
The Umarex Gauntlet is one of just a few airguns that can take credit for bringing pre-charged pneumatic airguns to the masses. In 2017, when the Gauntlet was released at SHOT Show, features like a pressure regulator, adjustable trigger, and an adjustable stock were previously found only on much more expensive rifles. Umarex took what used to be premium features and made them the standard, incorporating them into the Gauntlet. Since then, they have doubled down on that venture with the release of an updated version, the Gauntlet 2. The Gauntlet 2 added features like a larger onboard air cylinder (from 13-ci. in. to 24-ci. in.), an improved sound moderator, a tunable hammer spring, and a more ergonomic stock and still manages to come to market at a price point under $500. And just because the Gauntlet 2 doesn’t break the bank, don’t expect it to be low on performance. The new for 2022 Gauntlet 2 in .30 caliber boasts muzzle energy of 99 foot-pounds. That’s enough punch for small and even some softer-skinned medium-game hunting. If you’re intrigued by pre-charged pneumatic airguns, the Gauntlet 2 is one of the best starting points out there.
Benjamin Bulldog .457
To some new to air guns, their looks are often described as “space-age,” the Benjamin Bulldog .457 is no exception. This big-bore bullpup air rifle looks like it’s straight out of a science fiction film. Take this air rifle anywhere, and it’s sure to catch some glances when you pull it out of the case. Let loose with a 350-grain flat nose projectile leaving the muzzle at nearly 800 feet per second powered only by compressed air, and this thing is sure to turn heads. Producing up to 450 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, the Benjamin Bulldog .457 is most at home in the hunting blind and is capable of taking deer, hogs, and other medium to large game. Big power is not the only standout feature of the Bulldog .457, this thing is dang accurate. Using Benjamin’s 279-grain flat nose projectile, the Bulldog was capable of sub-1-inch groups at 50 yards and held just over 1.5-inch groups at 100 yards during testing. That accuracy can be attributed to Benjamin’s use of German-made Lothar Walter barrels in the Bulldog. The Bulldog .457 also features a three-shot, gravity-fed shot tray, a threaded muzzle for aftermarket moderators, and the ability to switch its cocking handle from right to left-handed operation. The big bore airgun hunting scene has grown exponentially over the last four or five years with more states legalizing their use each year. If you are looking to take up the challenge of hunting with an air rifle, check out the Benjamin Bulldog .457.
AirMaks Arms Katran
AirMaks Arms is a fairly newcomer to the U.S. market, but since their arrival, these innovative air rifles have quickly become favorites among airgun die-hards. Imported exclusively through Utah Airguns, who are known for being trendsetters in the airgun world, the AirMaks Katran is a lightweight, do-all air rifle available with a handful of barrel length options, air reservoir sizes, and caliber choices available to shooters. Taking customization to an even deeper level, the Katran can be ordered through the Utah Airguns Custom Shop with nearly limitless variety when it comes to custom touches like Cerakote, hydro dipping, or accessories. The Katran is not all just good looks, this rifle’s heart is a fully regulated design and a CZ barrel, yup, the same CZ that makes some of the most accurate factory rimfire rifles on the market. The Katran’s magazine features an innovative built-in anti-double feed mechanism ensuring that shooters don’t accidentally double load pellets into the breach when cycling the rifle. Combine those innovative features with a lightweight aluminum chassis, a folding stock, ambidextrous charging handle, and a fantastic trigger, and the Katran is a winner for everything from plinking to varmint hunting right out of the box.
Buy these guns at UtahAirguns.com