It was 1978 when I first lay eyes on my first ever air rifle and had dreams of airgun hunting, it was on a cool spring day and I was visiting my Nan and Grandad who lived out in the country. I was brought up and lived in the city of Southampton and if it hadn't have been for my grandparents moving to the country to work at Lockerly Hall estate, just outside Romsey, then I would have probably never been bitten by the airgun bug.
Normally my cousin Dean and I would get up to our usual mischief that we always got up to when we went out to visit our grandparents, running around the woods scaring the pheasants and deer and playing hunters with sharpened sticks, running away from my little brother Ian and hiding up trees and in bushes and generally making a nuisance of ourselves. But not this day, this day was different!
There were a couple of cottages that surrounded the paddock where my uncle used to rear hundreds of pheasants for the shooting season, on one side was the high wall which ran around the gardens of my grandad and uncles house's which made up the surroundings of the stable yard and clock tower. The big mansion house that belonged to the estate owner was nearby but we rarely ever went there. It was the teenage boy who lived in the cottage at the end of the paddock that caught our attention this day, because he had an air rifle. It was a BSA meteor and it was awesome! It was the plinking sound of tin cans being hit by pellets that actually caught our attention and that was it for the day. No running around the woods pretending to hunt today, this was the real thing and we were beside ourselves with excitement.
Now for nine and ten year old city boys who had never seen an airgun before, this was just the best thing ever. The teenage boy wouldn't let us touch his new pride and joy but he did show us and just to sit close by and watch him knocking tins cans over was just brilliant and when they were all knocked over he would let us run over and stand the cans up again. At the time this was great and seeing all the holes in the can amazed us both. I left my grandparents house that day wanting and dreaming of owning an air rifle of my own, however, that was not to be the case until my next encounter with air rifles at the age of 23.
Now at the age of 23 and serving in the Royal Air Force, It was during a day shift when I spotted an airgun magazine in the hands of one of my fellow shift mates. I was stunned, I had no idea that there were magazines for airguns. I had completely forgotten about how I had wanted one as a boy and how it had made me feel. I had a look through my friends magazine and I was instantly filled with that passion and excitement that I had felt all those years before. I had to have an air rifle and this time I was old enough and I had my own money.
For the next few weeks I trawled through the local free add newspapers looking for second hand air rifles and it was while i was back in Southampton visiting my parents that I found what was to be my first ever air rifle. It was a.22 Weihrauch HW35 and it was proper heavy and beautiful. It had some cheap un-named scope on top which was pretty tatty and moved along the scope rails every time it was fired due to the severe recoil, but I loved it and together we went on to become quite a formidable team against the local rabbit population were I lived in Oxfordshire. I never realized how effective hunting with an airgun could be until I got that first rifle. It was while serving with the RAF in Oxfordshire that I joined the station shooting club and by doing so, got automatic rights to shoot over several thousand acres of farmland nearby. During my first Rook shooting season, I shot more than 60 Rooks in one day, it was practically raining Rooks in the wood where I was shooting.
My next airgun came in the form of an old antique airgun called a Gem which my Grandad gave to me, its a.25 with an octagonal barrel and smooth inside the barrel. It still fires brilliantly and has enough power to kill rats at 20 yards. Next I had to have an air pistol, not sure why really but I suppose I just wanted one, so it was off to the gun smiths in Reading to buy a.177 Webley Hurricane to shoot at tin cans with in the garden.
Several of my friends had by this time bought various types of brand new airguns and I was beginning to feel the urge to buy a brand new one too. I couldn't really afford it but within 2 years of getting my first airgun I ordered a brand new.22 Theoben Scirroco Classic Carbine with a huge Tasco scope, and so the airgun love affair continued. This was a beautiful gas ram powered air rifle with a stunning walnut stock and I still have this one today although it has now been superceded by a brand new.177 Theoben MFR which is adorned with an amazing Simmons whitetail classic scope. The MFR is a pre-charged pneumatic air rifle which uses a 17 shot magazine and gives me approximately 250 or more shots per charge. I use Crossman Premier airgun pellets which you can actually see in flight when shooting at night due to the flat shiny underside and the lack of any recoil due to the rifle being a pneumatic.
So here I am at 42 years old, I still have the vintage Gem airgun and the Webley Hurricane pistol and I still have both of my Theoben rifles. I can't remember where the Weihrauch HW35 went, but I assume I either sold it or it gave up the ghost and got thrown away. I'm lucky enough to have a good size garden now where I can shoot at tin cans or targets or even bag the odd rabbit or wood pigeon that wonders in to eat from my veggie plot. One things for certain though, I will always have airguns and I will always go airgun hunting because I was bitten by the airgun bug when I was ten years old and it's still with me as strong today as it ever was.