US AIRGUNS

Stephen Archer gazes into his air­gun in­dus­try crys­tal ball

Airgun World - - Contents -

ARCHER’S AL­MANAC

This month, the editor asked me to look into my crys­tal ball. “Steve,” he said, “think about the 2018 SHOT Show and tell us where you be­lieve the air­gun mar­ket is go­ing in fu­ture.”

Firstly, it should be said that if I were any good at this pre­dic­tion game, I would long ago have made a packet on the stock mar­ket and re­tired to a pri­vate is­land some­where beau­ti­ful and sunny. That has em­phat­i­cally NOT hap­pened! Any­how, let’s try. Give me a chance, read along and see what you think.

As Air­gun World’s US cor­re­spon­dent, I’m mak­ing th­ese pre­dic­tions based on what I see hap­pen­ing on this side of the Pond, and I’ll stick to US dol­lars for pric­ing. Yes, there will be some dif­fer­ences com­pared to a UK­fo­cused view, but I hope they’ll be in­ter­est­ing, re­mem­ber­ing that, of course, the air­gun mar­ket here is not lim­ited by re­stric­tions on muz­zle en­ergy or rapid-fire sys­tems.

THE FU­TURE FOR PCP AIR RI­FLES

At the 2017 SHOT Show, ev­ery­one was talk­ing about the Umarex Gaunt­let, a rev­o­lu­tion­ary $300, mag­a­zine-fed, reg­u­lated PCP air ri­fle with a great shot count. The an­nounce­ment of this gun cre­ated a huge buzz among air­gun­ners and air­gun com­pa­nies across the US and be­yond.

What the Umarex Gaunt­let es­tab­lished was the $300 price floor for a good qual­ity, reg­u­lated PCP air ri­fle. Dur­ing 2017, we saw Gamo, Ben­jamin and oth­ers re­duc­ing the prices of their PCPs to get close to that magic $300 num­ber and at the 2018 SHOT Show, there were more $300 mag­a­zine-fed PCPs launched - the Ben­jamin For­ti­tude and Hat­san Flash among them.

Fur­ther­more, just about every new $300-plus PCP launched at the 2018 SHOT Show was reg­u­lated.

So, it seems pretty clear that Gaunt­let has caused a ‘step change’ in the PCP air ri­fle mar­ket. I’ll pre­dict that PCPs with­out a reg­u­la­tor are go­ing the way of di­nosaurs – ex­cept for the very cheap­est, $200-ish guns.

I’ll also pre­dict that there will be pres­sure on high-end PCP man­u­fac­tur­ers to re­duce the prices of their air ri­fles, or to in­tro­duce lower-cost mod­els that can fight the price war

that Gaunt­let is lead­ing.

Cur­rently, th­ese guns have bolt-ac­tions, but semi-autos will be­come more com­mon over here in fu­ture, I be­lieve. In a few years time, the typ­i­cal $300 reg­u­lated, mag­a­zine-fed PCP air ri­fle will also be semi-au­to­matic, in the USA, at least.

THE HPA FILL­ING GAME

My sec­ond pre­dic­tion is that the next revo­lu­tion will be in high pres­sure air charg­ing de­vices. At the 2017 IWA Show in Ger­many, sev­eral com­pa­nies were start­ing to look at low­er­ing the fill­ing costs of PCPs. That trend con­tin­ued at the 2018 SHOT Show. For ex­am­ple, Crosman an­nounced the Ben­jamin Trav­eler, in Las Ve­gas. This is a black box weigh­ing 16lbs that can at­tach to your car battery, or mains power at home, and be used to fill a PCP air­gun. At $675, it’s much cheaper than other elec­tro-me­chan­i­cal HPA com­pres­sors, and con­sid­er­ably more por­ta­ble. It’s de­signed to fill the gun di­rectly, with no need for an ex­pen­sive in­ter­me­di­ate tank.

It cer­tainly beats the high-pres­sure hand pump out of sight as a con­ve­nient, trans­portable fill­ing de­vice for your PCP air ri­fle!

Now, con­sider this 16b, $675 com­pres­sor as ‘Ver­sion One’. My guess is that the next few years will see lighter and cheaper ver­sions of por­ta­ble HPA charg­ing tech­nol­ogy. In three to five years’ time, we’ll have an 8lb, $300 com­pres­sor to match those $300 reg­u­lated PCP air ri­fles. Which­ever com­pany gets there first will make the next ‘step change’ in the air­gun mar­ket.

WHAT ABOUT BREAK-BAR­RELS?

As HPA com­pres­sors be­come smaller, lighter and cheaper, the bar­ri­ers to PCP own­er­ship will clearly be re­duced. In fact, I be­lieve that they will cause that long-term staple of the air­gun mar­ket, the tra­di­tional, sin­gle-shot, break-bar­rel air ri­fle, to be­come an en­dan­gered species.

Now, I do not think that break-bar­rel, sin­gle-shot springers, or gas-rams will ever dis­ap­pear, but I do pre­dict that there will be far fewer of them sold in fu­ture. They will re­treat slowly back down to the low­est reaches of the US air­gun mar­ket at prices of $150 or less and, even there, they will be chal­lenged by multi-shot, CO2-pow­ered guns.

I also pre­dict that a few, spe­cial­ist, break-bar­rel or un­der-lever, sin­gle-shot springers will sur­vive at the top end of the mar­ket, say $500 and above, but th­ese will be the choice of some hunters and a few diehard tra­di­tion­al­ists; those ‘real men’ who want to ex­pe­ri­ence ‘airguns as they used to be’.

So, I pre­dict the cur­rent huge range of springers in the $150 - $300 range will fade away and die out over the next few years. They will be steadily squeezed out by in­creas­ingly easy-to-use – and cheap – rapid­fir­ing PCP and CO2 guns.

CO2 STRIKES BACK

You see, CO2-pow­ered airguns are mak­ing a big come­back in the USA. Many, many air­gun­ners are fall­ing for the charms of rapid-fir­ing firearm replica airguns. Yes, many of th­ese are BB guns and most of them are pis­tols.

CO2-pow­ered airguns of­fer ‘re­al­ism’ and they of­fer rapid-fire ca­pa­bil­ity. The Umarex Leg­ends MP40 is a prime ex­am­ple of this trend. It’s hugely suc­cess­ful be­cause it re­ally looks the part, fires full auto – at least in the USA – and does not re­quire ex­pen­sive HPA charg­ing kit.

Ditto for the SIG SAUER MPX and MCX mod­els, al­though they’re semi-auto only.

The new Umarex Leg­ends Cow­boy will be an­other sure-fire hit in this vein. It was launched at the 2018 SHOT Show. The

Bradley Bur­gin from Umarex USA is de­lighted to show us the new Ham­mer big-bore PCP air ri­fle.

Jay Dun­can of Crosman shows off the new $300, reg­u­lated PCP, Ben­jamin For­ti­tude.

Bradley Bur­gin with the Umarex Leg­ends Cow­boy BB gun.

The Ben­jamin Trav­eler por­ta­ble com­pres­sor. The sil­ver box on the right is the trans­former for use with mains elec­tric­ity.

Load­ing the new Umarex Leg­ends Cow­boy BB gun.

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