As kids most boys would have dreamed of owning a real gun. Imagine the fun you could have if you had one, trying to shoot with pinpoint accuracy or hunting down small game. Unfortunately for most of us, we do not have a great gun culture. Few people own or know how to use a gun. The gun laws in our country are largely to blame. They are so restrictive that it is very difficult for a common man to own a gun. However for the gun enthusiasts who do not have the clout to get a license or the money to buy an expensive firearm, the airgun is a cheaper option and the best part of the deal is that it does not require a license to operate.
The air guns in kerala, that are available range from air rifles to air pistols. The air rifles are better for hunting small game and can be purchased off the shelf in armories. I have a Sujin classic air rifle which i had purchased for around Rs. 3500 in 2008. The gun is still in good condition even after 4 years. I had to replace the spring and washer which just cost me around Rs. 500. Air guns do need occasional service such as in changing the springs and washer to retain the guns power.
Most of the air guns in Kerala are break barrel types. This means that the rifle is cocked by breaking the barrel and bending it. This moves a piston inside the cylinder of the rifle compressing and storing the air to be released when the trigger is pressed. The air rifles are accurate and able to shoot to several hundreds of yards, which is as far as the naked eye can see to some degree of detail. The rifle calibre is mostly .22 though i believe smaller calibers such as the .17 are available. However i am yet to come across a higher caliber air rifle in Indian market.
The pellets are hollow lead with either pointed or round heads. Pointed heads are better for small game and have a neat penetration. Round heads are used for bigger game and have a shattering effect which can be seen when shot at thin wooden frames. If you use a coconut shell for target practise you can see that the pointed heads leave a perfectly rounded hole through the shell. However if you use a round head you can see that the shell is shattered. The rifle accuracy is higher than a non rifled air gun as the pellet rotates and due to the gyroscopic effect the pellet maintains its direction. It is easy to check whether a gun is a rifle or not. Rifles have their bore rifled and this can be seen if you observe the inside of the rifle in light. To do this in an air rifle, first break the barrel and put eye to the butt end of the rifle barrel and lift the other end so that light can come through it. If you see a helical grove inside the bore which runs along the whole length of the barrel then the gun is a rifle. The helical grove is usually a single pitch helix and when the pellet is fired, the air expands the pellet and it catched the ends of the helical grove and spins as it passes though the barrel.
Air gun or any gun needs maintenance. The maintenance however is neither expensive or difficult to do. The gun needs to be kept oiled when not in use because the metallic parts are often subject to corrosion. For this, pour around 4 drops of oil (gun oils are available in the armory) in the barrel and keep the gun with the butt end facing down and the barrel in an upwards position. The gun should be kept uncocked at all times when not in use. This is because the spring is the most important component of the gun and if kept cocked for large durations of time the tension in the spring can be lost. It is also important to note that the air gun should not be fired without the pellet as this can seriously affect the spring and cylinder assembly due to the force with which the piston is realeased inside the cylinder without the resistance offered by the pellet in its path.