An air rifle can deliver enough terminal energy to take small game (such as rabbits, birds, and squirrels) with the benefit of increased stealth. While I don’t have rigorous sound level test results, in the video I provide a real-world comparison of the sound level produced by the Gamo Silent Cat air rifle versus a .22 rifle.
Sound Level Test Conditions
I compared the loudness of an unmodified Ruger 1022 and the Gamo Silent Cat air rifle. My purpose here was not to produce a technical report (actual dB levels are not reported), but to create a viewer experience that gives you an accurate idea of the relative loudness of these two guns in real life.
- For the sound level tests the video camera was positioned 20 yards from the shooter at a 45 degree angle behind the line of fire. Ambient temperature was about 85 F, and humidity at or near 100% (it had just rained and was still drizzling).
- The audio was recorded into two channels; one from a camera-mounted boom mic (for directional audio), and the other from the built-in camera mic (which captures audio from a broader angle).
- This way you get both a focused mic on the initial shot, plus a realistic rendition of the lingering echo and ambient (environmental) sounds.
- The two channels were combined in post into one audio track, but were not compressed.* Both channels were set to the identical manual gain, but the reading is a straight integral scale, not a decibel reading, so I can’t report the precise amount of audio gain reduction.
- Nonetheless, because I didn’t compress the audio in post, as I do the dialogue, the sound comparison is still relevant and informative.
*(Note: By compression I mean the post-process of dynamic range compression, not audio file data compression. The audio file you’re listening to in the video has been data compressed, but the dynamic range has not been compressed, so it accurately reflects the relative loudness of the live test events.)
Sound Level Test Results
The .22 rifle produced a distinctive “crack” characteristic of that caliber, with a lingering echo resonating throughout the valley. In stark contrast, the Silent Cat’s report was much quieter. Having stood there in person to record the event, I can tell you that the video accurately reflects the dramatic difference in sound level between the two guns. Your experience in listening to the video is proportional to the experience of hearing it live. The air rifle really is as much quieter as it seems in the video.
For precise ballistics, you’ll need to search the Internet for information about your specific ammunition. Here I can offer some general observations:
- There’s no question that a .22 rifle will perform better than an air rifle, but an air rifle can be had without a federal background check and can be delivered in the mail.
- .22 caliber ammo will deliver, on average, 9 times the impact energy of a .177 caliber lead pellet at about 25 yards. If you’re shooting a deer, this makes all the difference in the world, but if you’re shooting rabbits, birds, and squirrels, dead is dead.
- The Ruger 1022 will shoot 3/4 inch groups at 50 yards straight out of the box. You might expect that at 25, maybe 30 yards with the Silent Cat and good ammo.
- A Ruger 1022 is semi-auto with a 10-round magazine. Followup shots with the air rifle are much more difficult because of the reloading time, but are compensated somewhat by the quieter performance.
My Assessment of the Silent Cat
The user experience is good enough for the money. Construction is solid, except for the scope, which is merely adequate — it’s good enough for the effective range of the gun. The eye relief is short and has a narrow range, but since there is no recoil it’s not an issue. The 4x magnification is appropriate for the effective range, and the 32 mm objective is ample. The optics quality on the gun I tested is OK; we shot in mid-afternoon on an overcast day, so lighting was not an issue during the test. We had no trouble sighting it in.
The cocking mechanism feels strong and smooth, and while the manufacturer reports a 30 lb cocking weight, I have to say it feels lighter than this, which is a good thing.
The barrel is a polymer-jacketed, rifled steel tube, but there’s no heat, so I suppose it’s fine. The fluting on the barrel is probably more a cool-factor feature than anything else; maybe it reduces the forward weight a bit, but I’m not sure how significant it is since the polymer is already light. I can’t speak to the quality control on the barrel machining, but the particular gun we got shoots well enough.
I choose my words deliberately when I say the skeletonized stock “permits” an AR-type grip. There’s room to poke your thumb through the stock to hold it like a pistol grip, but the lack of bevel and contour make it seem like a bit of an afterthought. Still, it works. It does provide additional stability, and it is an ambidextrous feature.
I’ve read the occasional complaint on the forums about the safety, but I like it. To me, it is intuitive — you push the safety latch forward to fire, which makes sense because you have to move it out of the way to get your finger on the trigger. There’s an argument out there that you might accidentally pull the trigger when you think you’re pulling the safety back to make it safe, and it’s a valid point, but after an hour’s use you get used to the different feel of the safety latch and trigger. Look, guns are very dangerous things anyway. Treat them as such; learn how your gun works. Become skilled with it, but never get too comfortable with it.
The trigger mechanism is not by any means match grade. It’s a bit squishy. But to be fair, the trigger on a Springfield XD is much worse, and that gun still gets a lot of action. Set your scope, and you’ll be popping pennies at 20 yards routinely. That’s good enough for a head shot on a dove.
So does an air rifle have a place in your survival kit? I’d say yes, and specifically if you’re considering this gun. It certainly is an inexpensive way to put small game on the table (we eat everything we kill), and you can practice basic shooting technique very cheaply. And as quiet as it is, you can do all this without attracting as much attention as you would with a .22 rifle.
Gamo Silent Cat Air Rifle Manufacturer Information
-Velocity: 1200 feet per second (fps) with PBA, 1000 fps with Lead
-Break Barrel: Single Cocking System, Spring piston
-Automatic Cocking Safety system
-Manual Trigger safety
-Barrel: Fluted, Polymer Jacketed Rifled Steel
-Non-removable noise dampener (with up to 52% reduction)
-Cocking Effort: 30 lbs
-Trigger: Second Stage adjustable
-Stock: Tough all-weather synthetic stock
-Cheekpiece: Twin cheek pads (comfortable for ambidextrous shooting)
-Butt Plate: Ventilated rubber pad for recoil absorption
-Fiber optic front and rear sights
-Grooved receiver to accomodate airgun scope
-Scope Ramp: Raised Rail
-Scope: 4×32 air rifle scope with 1 pc mount
-Weight: 5.28 lbs
-Spring piston break barrel air rifle
-Trigger Pull: 3.79 lbs
-Cocking effort:30 lbs
-Barrel Length: 18 in