I found out about .22s as a boy, but for whatever reason I've never got into airguns.
Maybe it just took me this long to really think about that. I'm pretty thickheaded when it comes down to it, and the more I do think about it, the more inexplicable and dumb it seems.
Oddly, what may have caused the change in me is the concept of pest control. We've been talking about culling some of the rabbits and snowshoe hares around the house--get this, one of our neighbors is said to feed the critters on purpose--and as rural as the area is, even a .22 somehow seems rude to me.
An airgun, though, might be a completely different story.
Then we went on a camping trip to Captain Cook State Park, about 90 miles up the road, in order to give our one-year-old her first multi-night camp. That went famously, despite the conspicuous presence of a brazen field mouse who quite clearly knew the drill with visiting campers and the freebie meals that attend their cook-sites. It was pretty humorous, as the lightest thing I had with me was the pistol I was wearing, and the concept of hitting a maybe-four-ounce critter with nearly a half-ounce of lead, while scaring the bejeezus out of all the Backpacker Magazine types in the surrounding campsites...well, let's just say that we studied our adversary in preparation for a future contact.
Because an airgun, now, that would have been just about right.
Okay, so then I did some looking into airguns, both for this specific utility and also (because this is me we're talking about) for the concept of the airgun itself, and despite it all* I'm learning a great deal of considerable interest.
I'm seeing at least three serious uses for airguns, and will post further details here as they coalesce.
First, pest control. Even a lowly .177 BB from a compact, $30 air pistol would have neatly scuttled the clearly-habituated mouse with no fuss at all. The rabbits and hares should get a little more powerful attention--I don't want a wounded animal to get back to the guy who might be feeding them; much better that they simply vanish, silently--but this problem can be solved. I can see a variety of "powerplants" working here: pump-up pneumatics, CO2 cartridge pistols, spring- and gas-piston breakbarrel designs, and even the high-pressure gas-tank concept.
Next, small game. More importantly: small game, silently. More importantly: small game, silently, with no long-term dependencies on tricky consumables such as powder or primers. (Let's say I am suddenly interested in acquiring the capacity to self-cast BBs and pellets in .177, .22, and possibly .20 and .25.) And I'd never really thought of pursuing birds with an airgun, but why not? If TS ever really does hit TF, there are a whole lot of birds around here, and wholly aside from reducing my noise footprint against undesirable human attention, compressed air is a whole lot less likely to spook the next target than even a .22 would be. Lots of possibilities here, and although I'd like to retain the capacity to have at least one rifle and pistol unburdened by supporting equipment dependencies (such as gas recharge, CO2 capsules, external pumps, etc.), almost any "powerplant" would serve the purpose.
Finally, training. This is where Airsoft comes in. There are a few "BB guns" and "pellet rifles" that do a little to try and emulate how a "real" firearm counterpart would work, but Airsoft guns are designed to do that from the beginning. Magazines insert normally, and (like the pistols) may well work with existing leather. Pistol slides often reciporocate, cocking hammers and even locking open when run dry. There are some pretty creative designs, including some spring-charged bolt-action rifles that--imagine this--force you not to baby the action when running the bolt. The standard "powerplant" seems to be compressed gas, charged by an external source and sometimes supplemented by batteries.
Airsoft is not going to replace standard training, but for a whole lot of fundamental mechanics--presentation, trigger control, sight management, turns and movement, stance and position, etc., it is going to allow much more cost-effective practice than live-fire, and much more realistic training than simple dry-fire. Arguably, it may also enable realistic practice in places that wouldn't be possible or practicable with a firearm. Very interesting possibilities here, for the little plastic .20-caliber pellets.
We'll see how it goes, then. Should be fun!
* Special note: while researching the Airsoft concept for the viability of using airguns for training, I ran across many a YouTube video review of this or that Airsoft gun. Now I consider YouTube to be one of the great resources of this magnificent tool called the internet, and I fully understand that one of the costs of any truly free marketplace is that there will always be a goodly amount of drek floating around, through which one must wade in order to find the gold nuggets, or at least what the hell you're looking for.
That said...I am not quite sure how I managed to get through some of these videos to find what I needed to know; the quality of gunhandling alone could only make it up to "appalling" with a considerable amount of dedicated attention. One can only tolerate just so many adrenaline junkies "explaining" the manual of arms of a 1911 pistol (so...fucking...badly) while twirling the freshly-charged piece around like a Christmas ornament to give the 360-degree view...before it becomes impossible not to throw up a little in your mouth. I did finally get to see what I needed to see, but I paid a heavy price that I'll not soon forget.
I think I see a great potential value in Airsoft for personal training maintenance, but I may never be able to play the games; I'm just not going to hang around anyone who can't get his damn booger hook off the bang switch. It's better this way for both of us; I'm less likely to get shot by him for violating Rules One through Four at pretty much all times, and he's less likely to get shot by me (and not with an Airsoft either) because he's waving his muzzle all over the place and generally making the ghost of poor Jeff Cooper wonder why he even bothered.
Please pardon the rant; a whole lot of that shit is just awful beyond my capacity to imagine--and I'm not often accused of having a dull imagination!