What is airgun shooting?

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10-meter air pistol
Airgun shooting is an Olympic sport!
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An introduction to airgun shooting

You may have overheard people mention airguns, air pistols or BB guns and wondered what is airgun shooting. Airgun shooting is a popular hobby which utilizes equipment that fires projectiles by using either compressed air or other gases (such as carbon dioxide). This differs from regular firearm shooting which uses a propellant, like gunpowder.

Airgun Fact

"BB" is a term frequently associated with airgun shooting, and you might wonder what it actually means. Some people believe it means "Ball Bearing" but this is not necessarily correct - as ball bearings are parts of a machine element. The BB arguably comes from the size of pellet used by a shotgun. American standard birdshot sizes range from FF to 12 (FF is the largest), with BB being one of the sizes. It is also thought to stand for "Bulleted Breech."


Airguns come in all shapes and sizes: from pistols to rifles, shotguns and sniper rifles, and even grenade launchers (these fire off a huge number of pellets). Ammunition for airguns is usually either a form of pellet or a BB which can be made from a number of substances, including plastic, metal and rubber.


It's probably important to point out another facet of airgun shooting, which is Airsoft. Airsoft is based on the same principles; however, practitioners of this sport use realistic-looking guns that fire plastic Airsoft pellets. These small pellets are designed to be safe for people who want to shoot at other human beings during Airsoft games. Naturally, they can still be dangerous if shot into soft exposed areas such as eyes and ears, but they should only sting if used in the correct manner.

Purposes of Airgun Shooting

As Airsoft uses special plastic pellets so airgun enthusiasts can shoot at each other during Airsoft events, then what is the purpose of creating pellets or BB ammunition made from metal? Obviously, hunting is one specific use of metal ammunition for airguns. Airguns are often chosen by hunters over traditional firearms for a variety of reasons. Airguns are generally considered safer (a loose pellet has less of a range than a firearm-shot bullet), airguns are quieter and some hunters even see using an airgun as simply more of a challenge.

However, it is the numerous shooting events that demand metal pellets, which are usually made of lead (or similar malleable material). Match events for professional airgun shooting have exact rules for what type of ammunition is permitted.

Developing a Hobby

So, airgun shooting can be a part-time hobby or a full-time profession, depending on how skilled and accurate your shooting is! But once you start getting into it, you might be surprised by just how much equipment is available for potential enthusiasts. Obviously you will need targets and ammunition, as well as the airgun itself. But you can also purchase sights, stands, tools, sprays, extensions - the list goes on! Naturally, protective gear should be an essential purchase; airgun shooting can be hazardous without appropriate training.

Airgun Fact

Air pistols and air rifles are used in some shooting events at the Summer Olympics, with competitors firing at a target 10 meters away (32.8 ft). 2012 Olympic airgun champions came from South Korea, China and Romania.

Getting Trained

If airgun shooting sounds like an ideal hobby then getting trained is essential. Joining a local airgun club or association will help you discover important knowledge, such as choosing the right equipment, caring for your airgun, utilizing safe practices and entering events.

Finding out what is airgun shooting opens up doors for an interesting hobby that can become a full-time passion. New skills can be developed, whilst old skills are kept sharp and constantly maintained. Now all you have to do is learn the difference between spring-powered Airsoft guns, compressed gas Airsoft guns and electric Airsoft guns!

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