Discussing brands in air rifles can be tricky, since often the quality of a given brand varies widely among their models. That being said, there are a number of different traits that seem to run throughout production, regardless of the model in question. When considering a rifle purchase, its wise to be mindful of these differences.
Gamo is a fairly middle of the road company. It’s based in Spain and has a decent number of solid guns coming out of it. The Bone Collector Bull Whisper IGT is a good example of one of the weapons that they produce, and it’s without question one of the better break barrels available on the market today.
The problem with Gamo is that they are great starter guns, but not really built to last (for years and years). What you’re getting when you buy a Gamo is something that will work very well for a little while, then start facing rapid decline. This is part of how the company keeps their prices so low, by using more affordable materials that don’t necessarily last very long. It’s a tradeoff that a lot of people are willing to make, though, since a Gamo is a good way to get into the sport.
How the mighty have fallen. There was a time when Beeman was one of the few companies actually making pellet guns, and they were actually quite good back then. However, as technology has advanced and guns have gotten better, the Beeman brand has fallen behind.
Part of their problem, ironically enough, is that they’ve been trying to innovate without thinking through potential issues. They came up with an idea and forgot to test it, or cynically assumed that people just wouldn’t notice what was wrong. There is no better example than the Beeman RS1 Dual-Caliber, which tries to be clever by letting you change out barrels between a .177 and a .22.
This is a good idea, and one I endorse. However, the execution was an absolute mess, with the gun being powerful enough to shake the screw that holds the barrel in loose, making you lose accuracy as it starts to droop and wiggle around with every shot.
Beeman could be great again, but for now be a bit more critical when evaluating their guns.
Crosman is hard to pin down as a company. On one hand, they have produced some absolutely miserable models that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone, like the Crosman M4-177 Pneumatic Pump Air Rifle. This model is something I can only describe as a novelty gun aimed at aging Baby Boomers who want to relive the fantasies they had of themselves during the 80s when John McLean was the go-to action hero for regular guys.
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On the other hand, they have managed to produce my favorite PCP rifle and the one I keep going back to for target shooting, the Benjamin Marauder. It is a seriously solid .22 that will last forever. So it really is impossible to tell, based on brand alone, whether a Crosman is going to be any good or not.
One of the most famous names in rifles, the Winchester brand is consistently a good buy with great results. I don’t know how they have gone this long without a major flop, but it seems that every gun that they come out with has the same standard of design and use as every one before. It’s good to see that level of continuity in a company, especially one that has been around as long as Winchester has.
This is not a gun for beginners, though. Winchesters are designed for people who know what they’re doing and have been at this for a while. Take a look at the Winchester 1100WS break barrel, for example.
Sure, it’s pretty easy to use, but it also has a lot of places where it can be adjusted. The scope, particularly, is really complex. And, while it will give you a great shot, it is not something that an inexperienced person can just pick up and set properly.
Perhaps my favorite brand of the them all, RWS is very consistent in making some of the best weapons that money can buy. The Model 34 is one of the best selling air rifles on the market, and for good reason. It’s solid, it’s beautiful, it’s easy to use, easy to load, easy to clean, and easy to fire. It comes with great sights that make accuracy much better and can work with a number of different types of pellets.
And that can be said of almost any product made by this company. They are the very definition of the precision of German engineering.
Moreover, they stand by their products for life. If something breaks on your RWS rifle, even years later, call the company and they will figure out some way to make it right. I’ve known people who have had parts break after four or five years, have called the company to buy a replacement, and were sent one for free because RWS parts shouldn’t break at all. They are a little more expensive than a Gamo or a Crosman, but they are well worth it. Perfect for budding enthusiasts.
Ultimately, the air rifle you want is the one that you are most comfortable with. For all my praise of RWS, I know people who hold one and can’t get it to sit comfortably in their hand or rest well against their shoulder. We’re all made different, and that’s one of the reasons why there are so many different weapons available. Some companies design with you in mind, some don’t, and finding the ones that make guns that work for you will make all the difference.
If you have the option, try a number of different guns before making a purchase to find the best air rifles for you, and when you do, stick with them as long as they keep feeling good.