Are there differences between low end, say $200 airguns, and the higher end $500 plus airguns? I mean is it really worth the extra money to purchase a European air rifle over a less expensive clone of the same gun? This is a very good question and one that I discuss all the time with new airgunners.
I’ve been shooting airguns for many years. I started with the inexpensive copies because they promised to be “just like” their European counterpart. After a lot of shooting under my belt, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that there are huge differences. Many of which you wouldn’t see at first glance, but that become more evident with time.
High End Airguns
Some of the big names in high end airguns are Walther, RWS, Hammerli, Air Arms, Weihrauch, Feinwerkbau, Anschutz, BSA, and the European Beeman models just to name a few. These guns not only look great, but are built to be handed down from generation to generation. I’ve seen many companies attempt to copy mainstays like the Beeman R9, or the RWS 34 & 350 Magnum. But in the end, while they may look similar and may promise similar performance to the real thing, they never actually shoot like the real thing.
There’s a misconception that you’ll need to spend several hundreds of dollars to get a “high end,” quality European airgun. But “high end” doesn’t always have to mean a high price tag. Sure there are some competition products from Air Arms, Anschutz, and Feinwerkbau, that will push the envelope costing nearly $4,000 dollars, but there are also great products from Walther and RWS that can fit into just about any budget, and actually come in priced under some of the non-European imports.
Perhaps my favorite example of an affordable yet “high end” airgun would have to be the Walther Terrus, built in Germany by Walther. It’s easy to cock, easy to shoot, delivers great accuracy and costs under $300 retail. When you get up close and shoot the Terrus side by side a similarly priced, non-European import, the difference is more than just a little dramatic. The cocking stroke is extremely smooth and tight with zero slop. The rifle is very well balanced and great for younger shooters as well as older shooters given its lighter weight and easy cocking stroke. Out of the box the Terrus has about a 2 pound trigger pull that’s more than suitable for bench shooting as well as hunting small game in the field. The shot cycle is also tight, without the usual “twang” or “ping” you would usually get from a spring or gas piston airgun. All in all, it’s perhaps the best “first airgun” for a new airgunners looking to get into the sport.
So What’s the Real Difference?
When it comes to the major differences, it generally starts with the raw materials and goes from there. The standards used by the higher end European airgun manufactures are simply higher than what’s expected from the non-European counterparts. Unfortunately, photos seldom do these products justice. You really need to see them in person and feel the metal and other materials to understand the contrast between high end products vs commodity products.
Once you get one in your hands you can see that the primary distinction is the overall fit and finish. This is most evident as you begin to work the mechanics of the gun. Less expensive guns may take hundreds of pellets to season the internals and get them through the “break in” period. By contrast, quality airguns generally only take a few shots to hit their stride. Some good examples are the Walther Rotek and the Walther LGU. In fact the Walther LGU may be my favorite spring powered airgun for bench shooting. In the right conditions I’ve shot sub 1” groups at 50 yards with my .22 cal Walther LGU. I even had the chance to prove that point on American Airgunner.
Why Should New Airgunners Consider a Better Airgun as Their First Airgun?
As I mentioned earlier, I started my life as an airgunner much like most folks just getting into the sport. I didn’t want to invest a lot because I wasn’t sure if I was really going to like it. Unfortunately my first couple of air rifles where really poor examples of what the sport had to offer. They were cheap, and they performed like it. I actually almost walked away from the sport because I was just not convinced that it had anything to offer me.
But then I had the chance to try something that actually lived up to the potential. That rifle was the RWS 350 Air Magnum. I’d shot many airguns that claimed to be “like” the 350, but there was nothing like shooting the real thing. It’s not a cheap airgun. But, it does everything it claims to do and is a real pleasure to shoot. Once I had experienced what a real airgun could do, I was hooked.
Having been in the sport professionally for almost ten years now, I’ve learned that it’s actually less expensive, and less frustrating, to buy the right airgun the first time. Trying to save money on lessor products just does not work out in the end. They seldom live up to the expectations and the real performance of the higher end options. So if you’re looking into airguns for the first time, or you’ve been frustrated trying to find something that really works as promised, go ahead and raise your sights a little bit and consider some of the higher end European airgun options. You’ll spend a little more up front, but I bet you’ll be glad you did in the end.
Rick Eutsler, Jr. of AirgunWeb & AirgunWebTV
Airgun Critic, Writer, Videographer, and all around lover of Airguns.