The market for ammunition is in a precarious position for firearms owners so much so that many are laying down conventional guns to pick up air rifles.
Since early 2020, there has been an increase in demand for firearm ammunition which led to a shortage and subsequent increase in air rifle purchases.
The main difference between air rifles and firearms is the propulsion of the bullet. Firearms get their power from gunpowder whereas air rifles are powered by compressed air. Since an air rifle only needs a projectile, there are fewer components involved in firing and therefore ammunition is less expensive.
For example, 500 pellets of .22 caliber air gun ammunition, is about $20. The same box of 500 rounds of .22 caliber firearm ammunition is about double at $40.
Richard Turner has been with Umarex USA in Fort Smith for 15 years and is president of the Chaffee Crossing plant.
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“A firearm utilizes a cartridge and powder and normally, from that standpoint, you’re putting your round which is a cartridge, powder and a bullet or projectile and in that round and the ignition of powder actually creates the power going out,” Turner said. “On an air gun, we generate a burst of air behind a lead projectile.”
Air rifles are less powerful than traditional firearms, but people can still use them at the range and hunting.
“There’s an ammunition shortage in the market right now,” Turner said when asked about the state of the market and options for recreational shooting.
He also believes people are turning to air-powered guns so they can participate in a socially-distant activity and get out of the house.
According to Lucy Womack at Fort Chaffee Outfitters, air rifles are about half the price of a standard rifle firearm, but they have not seen a significant increase in sales in their store.
Turner said air guns are good for younger or inexperienced shooters learning to handle a gun for the first time.
There are currently 22 states that allow air rifles during specified hunting seasons. In Arkansas, air rifles are allowed during rifle season as long as they have 40 caliber rounds or above, 400-foot pounds (a measure of energy expanded by the gun), and are PCP (pre-charged pneumatic) driven.
A PCP gun uses compressed air rather than a pump to create the pressure needed for propulsion.
Rifle season is aimed at larger game like deer and with the requirements for the air rifles, they are able to take down the larger animals.
While there are recommended ages on air rifles, laws vary by state and Arkansas’ laws center around firearms rather than air guns. In Arkansas, citizens must be 18 years of age to purchase an air gun.
Umarex USA has had an increase of interest in their products from their paintballs guns to their air pistols since COVID-19 became prevalent.
Air rifles have provided the ultimate social distancing activity and Umarex provides a hometown option for purchasing rifles to participate in hunting and range practice.
Umarex USA sells 11 types of air-powered products, ranging from pepper spray to high-powered, Olympic-level rifles. In the Olympics, Air Rifle and Air Pistol 10m events and have been part of the games since the 1980s.
Umarex USA make their own products but also partner with various firearm companies to make matching air guns, so people can practice shooting with the feel of a firearm without the price or shortage of conventional ammunition. This is common with customers participating in shooting competitions.
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