Varmint hunting on the quiet
As much fun as firearms can be, there’s no disputing the fact that there are times when they just aren’t suitable. As fewer and fewer Americans live in rural areas, backyard firearm shooting becomes less practical, not to mention illegal. Yet, low-power BB guns get boring quickly, and are pretty much unsuitable for hunting anything bigger than a housefly (yeah, I do some of that). What to do? An excellent middle-ground alternative can be found in the products from Gamo USA of Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Gamo offers a huge array of high-powered air guns, in both .177 and .22 caliber, and with a variety of actions. For this article, I chose their Whisper .22. Gamo claims that the noise suppressor on their Whisper line reduces sound by up to 52%. While I didn’t try to verify this scientifically, I can vouch that the Whisper is considerably quieter than a conventional air rifle (which makes a surprising amount of noise) and can be used without hearing protection. Even more useful is that it can be used surreptitiously when you don’t want to announce to your ungrateful neighbors that you’re ridding the neighborhood of rodents and other pests.
The Whisper’s low noise output comes from an integral, baffle-style suppressor at the muzzle. While the suppressor looks a bit odd, it doesn’t add any noticeable weight to the barrel. The suppressor does give the Whisper a rather odd “boing” sound rather than the crackle one would expect from an air gun, but the reduced volume is well worth it.
The Whisper .22 features an 18″ barrel, a grippy synthetic stock with cheek welds on both sides (which is always appreciated by this southpaw), manual sights, and a scope of surprisingly good quality. Price is under $300, which seems a bargain for all you’re getting.
The Gamo Whispers are single shot, break-barrel, spring-cocking rifles. Cocking takes a fair amount of effort (30 lbs. according to Gamo), but this is probably a good thing, as it prevents the very young shooters from trying to use the gun without supervision. The Whisper .22 is not the highest-performance model that Gamo offers, but it will propel one of their PBA pellets at 950 fps. (I verified this factory claim over a chronograph.) Lead is a little pokier, at 750 fps, but still quite adequate for target shooting. My experience at the range gave me a high degree of confidence up to about 100 feet. There’s plenty of power, too — at 50 feet, a shot in my backyard easily took down a pretty fair sized crow.
One thing about a Gamo air rifle is that the mechanics do require a bit of break-in. My first trip to the range was rather forgettable. At 25 yards, my groups were probably 2-3″ depending on the ammunition I used. I spoke to their technical support, who advised me to get about 100 rounds through it. I did so, and found that my groups shrank quite a bit.
Making a good gun even better
The one thing I didn’t care for about my stock Gamo was its trigger; it had way too much take-up for my taste. Fortunately, there is an aftermarket trigger that radically improves the Gamo. A source called CharlieDaTuna makes a wonderful drop-in unit. Installation takes a few minutes, and there’s plenty of documentation if you hit a snag. For about 10% the price of the rifle, it makes for a much more shootable gun. Highly recommended.
For casual plinking or backyard varmint control, the Gamo Whisper .22 is hard to beat. It’s very affordable, fun to shoot, and (especially with the addition of the aftermarket trigger) easy to shoot accurately. It seems well-built, and I imagine it will last a long time. It’s also very inexpensive to shoot, which is especially appreciated in these times when even .22 LR ammunition is not dirt-cheap anymore. Try one…I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.