As the holiday season approaches, many of us recall “A Christmas Story,” the fan-favorite classic movie set in the 1940s about a young boy named Ralphie who tried to convince his parents and Santa that a Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle would make the perfect Christmas gift. Of course, the adults kept warning Ralphie “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” Well, air rifles have come a long way since the Red Ryder BB gun Ralphie so desperately wanted.
Most of us remember the Daisy BB gun we used to target practice or to plink cans as a youngster. However, several companies have taken the concept of air-powered firearms to a whole new level, developing powerful big bore rifles suitable for hunting big game. Crossman Arms and Airforce Airguns are some of the companies that have developed air rifles capable of bringing down large game animals.
Can You Hunt with an Air Rifle in Texas?
In Texas, an air gun is considered a non-powder gun. Under federal law, air guns are not considered firearms due to the fact that their projectiles are expelled by the force of air, a non-explosive force, rather than by the energy created by the explosive force of gunpowder.
Only recently did Texas Parks and Wildlife Division (TPWD) permit the use of air guns to hunt squirrels, subject to certain restrictions. The air rifle must be designed to be shot from the shoulder, expelling a projectile, bullet, or pellet of at least .177 caliber (4.5 mm) with a minimum velocity of 600 feet per second.
It is illegal to hunt game birds or game animals with an air gun in the Lone Star State. If, however, the animal is a non-game animal (non-protected), such as a bobcat, coyote, rabbit, or armadillo to name but a few, it can be hunted with an air gun. Hunting exotics and other nongame animals, such as feral hogs, is also permissible using air guns.
However, the restriction on hunting big game animals in Texas may change next year.
Meet the “Texan”
A few years ago when TPWD approved air rifles for hunting squirrels, the possibility of allowing their use for larger game was raised. About the same time as TPWD’s decision, a company introduced a .45 caliber big bore rifle. Airforce Airguns brought out its “Texan” air rifle charged with 3,000 psi of air pressure, capable of firing a 350-grain lead bullet at 500 foot-pounds of energy.
The Texan uses an external air supply to pressurize the rifle. This technology is referred to as a PCP (Pre-Charged Pneumatic) system that releases pressurized air into the barrel to propel the bullet at a velocity up to 1,100 feet per second with 500 foot-pounds of energy, depending on pellet weight. It can be chambered in .45, .308, and .357 calibers.
The Texan proved effective in hunting feral hogs and exotic animals cleanly. In fact, the Texan was used for a demonstration of the lethal power of modern air rifles in bringing down big game for the benefit of TPWD. During the test hunt, spike bucks were harvested cleanly up to 120 yards.
Other manufacturers, began developing their own big bore air rifles. Crossman Arms developed the Bulldog .357 PCP hunting rifle ($850) capable of bringing down wild hogs, whitetail deer and “African plains game,” according to its website.
PCP air guns may cost more than a regular firearm, but the ammunition, typically cast lead, is reasonable and becoming more readily available.
Coming to a Hunt Near You?
Crossman Arms petitioned TPWD to review existing regulations that limited the use of air guns for hunting with the goal of expanding the permissible game that may be legally hunted using big bore air rifles.
Today’s more powerful, big bore air rifles may find their way into the realm of acceptable firearms for hunting deer. In January of 2018, TWPD will conduct public meetings to review current restrictions on air rifles with the possibility of allowing hunting deer with big bore air rifle in the 2018 deer hunting season.
If that comes to pass, you can be assured that TPWD will impose restrictions on minimum caliber projectiles and muzzle velocity greater than is currently required for hunting squirrels with air rifles.
One of the optional legal protection coverages available with a U.S. and Texas LawShield® legal defense program membership is HunterShield, which provides legal defense for hunters and anglers for criminal and civil violations of hunting laws. This is in addition to the “Legal Defense for Self-Defense” coverage included in the core U.S. and Texas LawShield membership.
Members with HunterShield coverage are provided access 24/7/365 to an attorney-answered emergency hotline experienced in hunting and fishing laws.
For more information or to sign up, call (877)448-6839 or click here.