A beginning shooter should strongly consider buying an “airgun”, a gun that uses compressed air to push a small projectile. The most classic example is a child’s BB gun. This is a basic introduction.
Airguns have a lot of advantages. They can cost as little as $60 (compared to $200 for a 22LR rifle). The ammo is cheaper, too. They can be shot in the backyard, basement, or even in the dining room if you’re careful. They have no kick and make very little noise, especially the low powered ones. If you just want to have fun, air guns also have the advantage of being a legal way to play with a fully-automatic machinegun.
.177 BB – This is a round steel ball, usually coated in copper. These are the cheapest and least accurate kind of ammunition. Only use them in guns designed to shoot BBs. Cheapest ammo: $8/4000
.177 lead pellet – This is a shaped lead pellet, not a round ball. They are more accurate, more powerful (heavier), and a little more expensive. Cheapest ammo: $7/500
Note that there are larger calibers of lead pellets, but they are significantly more expensive and have no advantage for recreational shooting.
6mm BB – These are plastic balls used in Airsoft type guns. Airsoft guns are different enough from traditional airguns to be classified separately.
Multi-Pump – A pumping system builds pressure to propel the projectile. More pumps increase the power. This is one of the cheapest systems to shoot, but it requires muscle power to operate. Also, it can only shoot a single shot before re-pumping.
Break-barrel/cocking lever – This system uses a single long pull to compress a spring. When fired, the spring pushes a plunger which provides air pressure to throw the projectile.
CO2 – Pressurized canisters are used to propel the projectile. They cost about $15 for 25 canisters and provide about 50 shots per canister. Hence, $15 gets you enough gas for at least 1,000 shots. That’s still pretty affordable, and even a little cheaper than 22LR.
Airsoft – Airsoft guns, sometimes called ‘soft air’, are realistic guns used in games similar to paintball. Almost all of them use 6mm platic balls. Some use batteries to power a motor that runs an air pump. Some use canisters of compressed gas. The cheapest ones use a manual spring cocking system. In general, airsoft guns are the least accurate, least powerful, shortest ranged airguns on the market. They have the advantage of being the most realistic air guns on the market, especially the gas-powered ones. Typical cost for a quality pistol are under $200 (mine was $165) while quality gas-powered rifles are often around $500. Shooting a gas-powered airsoft pistol is almost exactly the same as shooting a real gun, except they don’t use real ammo. Unfortunately, this realism makes them really complicated and therefore fragile. Mine leaks gas when I fill it, and the slide-lock broke until I fixed it with a screw. However, I still love it. Even with its problems, it’s still cheaper to shoot than a 22lr, and it’s safe to shoot in a back yard.
http://kwausa.com/products/2012-03-21-14-00-08/pistols – clones of Glock, Russian Makarov, Russian TT-33, CZ-75, and 1911
http://kwausa.com/products/professional-training/pistols – clones of Glock, Beretta, Sig, and 1911
recommended air rifles for beginners – most under $100 – checkout pyramydair.com
Umarex Morph (converts between pistol & rifle)
H&K MP5 K-PDW
IZH 60 $130 – this is a “cocking-lever” type system. It only holds 1 shot, but it’s accurate and only has a very light 10.5 pound cocking effort. It also has target style sights. It has the advantage that it doesn’t need CO2 gas, so it’s cheaper to shoot.
Smith & Wesson M&P R8 CO2 BB Revolver
Crosman 357W/3576 airgun revolver
Crosman 2240 – single shot, 22 caliber, very accurate
avoid semi-auto bb pistols unless they are “gas blow back” because they have terrible trigger pulls
multi-pump air pistols – accurate & affordable
Crosman 1377 – this is a classic pistol, and only costs around $60. However, it requires some muscle to pump up to high power. The instructions say the minimum is 3 pumps per shot, but mine works fine with just 1 pump. The sights are kinda crappy, the gun itself is very accurate. I’ve shot spiders with mine at short range.
Benjamin HB17 – costs about $150, hard to find, but basically the same as the Crosman 1377 but much nicer
Beeman P17 – I don’t know anything about this pistol except that it is cheap ($40), single shot, and is supposedly easy to cock.