Practicing and training with your carbine rifle is key to improving your gun-handling and shooting skills. Most of us packing up our gear and heading to the range, but that can be a hassle if we just feel like having a short shooting session after work.

You can practice in your backyard, but that’s generally frowned upon by homeowner’s associations, and it freaks out old lady Clutterbuck and the dachshunds next door.

Here’s an option for you to consider: Airguns. And no, I’m not talking about your grandfather’s spring-powered Daisy Red Ryder. I’m talking the real deal in terms of look, feel, function, and even weight. What if you could pick up air rifles, carbines, and pistols that were virtually identical to centerfire guns? Better yet, what if these air-powered wonders cost a small fraction of the price of their louder siblings and were way, way cheaper to shoot? And what if you could shoot such guns just about anywhere?

The folks at Sig Sauer may or may not be intent on global domination, but they are eying up backyards everywhere. Over the past two years, they’ve expanded out of their traditional rifle and pistol markets and launched entire new divisions for silencers, ammunition, optics—and quality airguns.

I’ve been testing three different Sig airguns, all of which are near exact replicas of the real thing. The Sig Sauer P226 air pistol is made from the same factory drawings as its 9mm big brother, so you can practice with your existing holster or other accessories. The other two guns are carbines based on the Sig Sauer MPX, which shoots pistol ammunition, and the MCX, which is chambered for rifle loads such as the .223 Remington and 300 Blackout (MCX). Their compressed-air-powered counterparts shoot tiny little .177 or .22 caliber lead pellets. Let’s take a closer look.

Sig Sauer Air Guns
The magazines hold internal belts that feed pellets into the chamber for firing. The included tool pushes them into the correct alignment and depth.

How They Compare to the Real Thing

The Sig Sauer MPX air rifle is a short, compact, fun-to-handle little carbine. It comes standard with iron sights that are adjustable like the real thing. The front sight is a post that can move up and down to adjust for elevation. That allows you to set how high or low you want the pellet to impact. The rear sight is an aperture style (also called a peep site) in two sizes. You simply look through the open ring to see your front sight. It’s fast and easy to use, because your eye will automatically center the front sight in the aperture opening. Flipping to the smaller aperture allows for precise shooting; the larger is designed for fast target acquisition. You can order the MPX with a Sig Sauer MRD red dot sight if you like.

Sig Sauer Air Guns
Once the belt is full, just feed it into the magazine.

Like the real thing, the MPX has a Picatinny rail along the top to which the sights are mounted. If you want to put a red dot sight or a scope on it instead of or in addition to the aperture sights, it takes just a couple of minutes. There are also two rail segments on the sides so you can mount lights or lasers up front too. You’ll notice a small hand stop on the lower portion of the frame just under the barrel. Since this carbine is short, that helps prevent your hand from slipping in front of the muzzle, because that would really hurt. In fact, it’s likely that one of those pellets would embed in, or go right through your hand, so treat these as carefully as you would a regular gun. All safety rules still apply – safety glasses too, although you don’t need ear protection.

The MCX airgun also looks and handles like the real thing, and this one comes complete with a simulated silencer. It’s not really a silencer, nor does the air version of the MCX need one. My sample MCX came with a Sig Sauer Airgun scope already installed. It’s a 1-4X variable, and the low magnification is plenty precise for airgun distances.

Sig Sauer Air Guns
The 90 gram CO2 canister fits into the interior of the stock.

The neat thing about both of these rifles is that they look, operate, and feel like their centerfire siblings. The receivers are metal, although the rails and handguards are made from polymer. Both are available in your choice of black or flat dark earth finish. Safety levers and magazine releases work like the real thing. All the gun manipulations you practice will directly transfer to the louder models.

The Ammo

Both of my sample carbines were .177 caliber, and will work with most any pellet ammunition of that caliber. I used Sig Sauer’s Match pellets. These have a flat face, and punch clean and easy-to-see holes in paper targets. This match pellet and four other target and hunting versions are made from a ballistic alloy. What’s in that alloy is not important. What’s NOT in it – lead – is a big deal. If you want something with more mass, Sig also makes four varieties of copper-coated lead pellets. Harder than pure lead and with reduced risk of lead contamination, these pellets are optimized for small game hunting applications.

Both rifles are powered by 88-gram or jumbo 90-gram CO2 cartridges. These look like greatly oversized versions of those small CO2 canisters you might have seen used in older air pistols. These modern cartridges are about the size of a tube of toothpaste and weigh quite a bit more. To install them on the air carbines, just pop the stock off and thread the canister into position. It attaches solidly without the stock in place, so the stock serves as a cover more than a support for the cartridge.

Sig Sauer Air Guns
The author’s nephew takes a break between shots.

The magazines are removable and feature an ingenious loading system. Inside the magazine is a linked “belt” that has cups for 30 pellets. Using a provided tool, you punch each pellet into its metal and plastic cup. When the belt is full, you thread it into the magazine and push the magazine into the gun. Feeding was reliable, and the guns will shoot as fast as you pull the trigger. Due to the nature of compressed CO2 cartridge airguns, velocity will start to slow down a little bit with extended rapid fire. Just pause now and then and you’ll notice no ill effects.

Shooting Results

I’ve been plinking with these two rifles around the house and yard, but they got a real workout over a three-day weekend at my nephew’s home, where we set up a backyard range using Sig’s Texas Star Target and the Quad Shooting Gallery. The Texas Star is purely evil and entirely addictive. Nine different spokes are arranged around a rotating center. At the end of each spoke is a small target about two inches across. The star is stationary right up to the point where you hit one of the targets. Then it starts to rock and spin. The more targets you hit, the faster it moves. After you hit a couple, you’ll be hard-pressed to finish out the nine with a single magazine. It’s great practice.

Sig Sauer Air Guns
The Texas Star and Quad Shooting Gallery give you a nice little range setup most anywhere.

The Quad Shooting Gallery is a steel trap with four knockdown targets inside. Because the target serves as its own backstop, it’s great for yard or even garage use. When you knock down all four interior targets, just shoot the reset plate, and they pop back up.

While hard to quantify the loudness in words, these rifles are significantly quieter than something like a cap gun. In fact, in our backyard escapades, the impact of the pellet against a wood backstop was often louder than the shot itself. (Here’s a tip: To keep your plinking sessions as quiet as possible, make a soft and squishy backstop such with phone books, if those even exist anymore, or fill up a cardboard box with stacks of magazines or newspapers.)

Sig Sauer Air Guns
Controls on the Sig air guns are just like those on their centerfire counterparts.

I love the possibilities with products like this. Yes, airguns have been around forever. What’s interesting is the interchangeability with the real Sig guns. As you might notice in the photos, we had a Sig Sauer P226 air pistol too. Like the MCX and MPX, the P226 is designed to look, feel, and operate as closely as possible to the real deal.

MSRP of the MCX with scope is $299.99. The MPX list price is $199.99. If you want to improve your shooting skills without using real ammo, check them out here.

Sig Sauer Air Guns
The Quad Shooting Gallery serves as both backstop and target. It helps avoid a mess too as the angled front direct all the pellets inside. You can just dump them out when finished.