Posts Tagged ‘Air pistol’

Just last night I had an encounter with a fellow who is an experienced hunter, firearms user, and sportsman, and he knows very little about airguns. His lack of knowledge of about airguns about airguns isn’t a rare thing. Most of the experienced sportsmen that I know have very little conception of the world of adult precision airguns. Their knowledge is pretty much limited to what can be found on the shelves of the big-box stores, and there the packaging screams: 1200 feet per second, 1300 feet per second, 1500 feet per second! This leaves the consumer to assume that more feet per second is somehow better, and it does the consumer a gross dis-service in making a buying decision.

So let’s suppose that you think maybe it would be neat to try airgunning, but you really don’t have a clue what to buy.

392-397

First on my list would be a Benjamin 392. This is a solidly made single-shot, bolt-action, .22 caliber, multi-stroke pneumatic air rifle. It is easy to shoot well, delivers enough power for small game hunting or pest control, and with care should last for decades. I would buy one with a Williams peep sight. Scoping the 392, or its .177 caliber brother the 397, is difficult.

Model-34

Next up would be the highly respected RWS Model 34. This is a single-shot, break-barrel air rifle available in .177 or .22 with power enough for hunting or field targe. Like all spring-piston air rifles, it requires some care to shoot well. The build quality is excellent, and the trigger is far better than you will find in the typical big-box break-barrel springer. In addition, the Model 34 is easy to mount a scope on.

HW30S

Third is the Weihrauch HW30S. This is a lower-power break-air rifle that is easy to cock, offers excellent accuracy, and is perhaps the easiest springer to shoot well. Many airgunners I know say it is the last air rifle they would sell. It can be readily scoped, the build quality is outstanding, and it will deliver decades of service with the occasional rebuild. It can be used for pest control and garden defense with careful shot placement at close range.

WAL-LGV-Master

My favorite springer is the Walther LGV. These are break-barrel, single-shot spring-piston air rifles that are easy to cock and incredibly smooth to shoot. With a scope mounted, you could hunt, plink, shoot field target with a huge grin on your face. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend one to a friend.

When it comes to pre-charged pneumatic rifles, it’s hard to go wrong. Virtually all of them will deliver one-inch groups at fifty yards under good conditions with the right pellet.

L1377C

Turning to air pistols, the Crosman 1377c is an excellent starter pistol that people love to customize. It’s a single-shot, bolt-action, .177 caliber pistol that is fun to shoot and can be used for small pest control at close range. The rear sight, however, requires a safecracker’s touch to adjust.

Triumph%20747

If you want pure, accurate, air pistol shooting fun, the Daisy Avanti Triumph 747 http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/Daisy%20Triumph%20747.html can’t be beat. It’s a single-stroke pneumatic pistol that’s wimpy in power and no good for pest control or hunting but highly accurate, and people use them all the time in air pistol silhouette matches.

HW45

If you want more power and a challenge, I suggest any of the Weihrauch HW45 pistols. These are spring-pistol air pistols that are tricky to shoot well but are fun to shoot and master. They also offer enough power for defending the birdfeeder at short range.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

 

 

 

 

10 meter air pistol competitors. Photo courtesy of usashooting.org

10 meter air pistol competitors. Photo courtesy of usashooting.org

As I write this in the spring of 2014, just a few short weeks ago, the winter Olympics in Russia wrapped up. I am always inspired by the Olympics. The athletes work so hard – so very, very hard – to get to the highest level of competition, and they lay it all on the line against athletes from around the world. Quite frankly, it annoys me that the broadcasters who cover the Olympic games (either summer or winter, it makes no difference), put so much emphasis on winning the gold medals.

These athletes work for years – sometimes decades – to bring themselves to the level of Olympic competition, and to have some broadcaster say, in essence, “Well, he (or she) only won the bronze medal . . .” Don’t get me wrong; I think winning the gold is great, but I also believe that winning a spot on the Olympic team is an astonishing accomplishment in itself.

And did you know that 10 meter air rifle and 10 meter air pistol are part of the Olympic competition? They are, and today we’ll take a look at 10 meter air pistol, which was introduced into the world championships in 1970 and into the Olympics in 1988.

 Photo courtesy of usashooting.org

Photo courtesy of usashooting.org

On the surface, it appears to be an incredibly simple game. You stand in normal street clothes 10 meters – 32.8 feet – from a target. With one hand, you aim an air pistol at a 6.7 inch by 6.7 inch target. What you are really aiming at, of course, is the 7/16 inch 10 ring. The object is to put as many pellets as you can inside the 10 ring during the course of a 40 or 60 shot match. It’s not easy; no one has shot a perfect score (all 10s) in 10 meter air pistol competition.

As competitive ventures go, 10-meter air pistol is surprisingly affordable. You can purchase a Daisy 747 single-stroke pneumatic pistol , suitable for club competition, for under $200. Add to that a sleeve of wadcutter .177 pellets and some practice targets, and you’re good to get started. Competitors at the highest levels generally shoot precharged pneumatic match air pistols that cost close to $2,000. What these pistols offer is incredible shot-to-shot consistency and a large number of adjustments to grip, trigger, and sights so that the shooter can tweak the ergonomics of the pistol so that he or she can shoot with utmost accuracy from shot to shot. Nevertheless, I have heard, first hand, the story of a high level air pistol shooter who was visiting a match, borrowed a Daisy 747 Triumph pistol, and shot a very respectable score.

If you want to know more about how to get started in 10-meter air pistol competition, visit http://www.usashooting.org/ . Click on the Resources tab for useful information, and under the Events tab, you will find lots of helpful stuff, including how to locate a club near you and how to find a match that offers 10-meter air pistol competition.

A personal aside, I tried shooting a season of 10 meter air pistol, and I really enjoyed it. I wasn’t much good at it, but I found the competition to be gratifying, I learned a lot about the competition, and I found the other competitors to be friendly and generous of their time and expertise. Even if you never get beyond the club level of competition, it is a lot of fun, and I recommend it.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

          Jock Elliott

Your Humble Correspondent demonstrating one version of the Creedmoor position which is used in many air pistol silhouette classes.

Your Humble Correspondent demonstrating one version of the Creedmoor position which is used in many air pistol silhouette classes.

If you would like to engage in some spirited competition at a very wallet-friendly price, let me recommend air pistol silhouette. All you need is an accurate air pistol, some pellets, and a place to shoot. You can get started for a total outlay of $100-400.

Air pistol silhouette is one of those classic games that takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. You shoot at metal cutouts of chickens, pigs, turkeys, and rams at various distances. If you knock one down, you get a point. If you miss, you don’t. The person with the most points wins.

Chickens, which measure just 3/4 inch high and 1 inch wide, are shot at 10 yards, pigs at 12.5 yards, turkeys at 15 yards, and rams at 18 yards. A typical match involves shooting at 10 of each animal: 10 chickens, 10 pigs and so forth. In case of ties, additional targets are shot to determine the winner.

IHMSA – the International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association  http://www.ihmsa.org/ —  began sponsoring matches for air pistols in 2001. There are six categories of IHMSA air pistol silhouette competition.

Three are generally shot from the Creedmoor position (although other positions are allowed). Creedmoor looks pretty strange: competitors typically lie on their backs and brace the pistol against their calf or thigh. Some competitors  in these classes shoot from the “flop” position, which involves lying on the ground facing forward and elevating the pistol off the ground with the hands.

Uncle Jock's well loved and well used Daisy 747 match pistol with optional wooden grips.

Uncle Jock’s well loved and well used Daisy 747 match pistol with optional wooden grips.

Creedmoor classes include: Production, for open-sight pistols costing $375 or less suggested retail price; Unlimited (open sights only), for pistols with open sights above $375 SRP; and Unlimited Any Sight, for pistols of any price using any type of optical sighting device such as a scope or red dot sight. There are also three standing classes: Standing, for $375 (or less SRP) open sight guns, Unlimited Standing for any gun with any sighting device, and Unlimited Standing Iron Sight.

Competitors shooting in the Unlimited Any Sight class tend to shoot with long-eye-relief pistol scopes from the Creedmoor position. By contrast, Unlimited Standing competitors often equip their pistols with rifle scopes, shooting the air pistol close to their faces with one hand on the pistol grip and another on top of the scope.

The Crosman 2300S is a CO2-powered production class silhouette pistol.

The Crosman 2300S is a CO2-powered production class silhouette pistol.

IHMSA’s air pistol silhouette competition is unique in that it offers a “production” class  in which the price of the air pistol cannot exceed $375 suggested retail price. (This limit was recently raised to allow the inclusion of Crosman’s 1701P precharged pneumatic silhouette pistol.) This upper price limit levels the playing field so people with less expensive pistols are not competing head-to-head against much more expensive match pistols that might cost a couple of thousand dollars. (An inexpensive pistol such as the Daisy Avanti or the Crosman 2300S is not necessarily a disadvantage. There are documented cases of shooters using these relatively inexpensive pistols to beat the high-buck pistols in the non-production classes.) At many matches, shooters are also classed based on their ability, so beginners aren’t forced to compete against experts.

The Crosman 1701P is a precharged pneumatic production class silhouette pistol.

The Crosman 1701P is a precharged pneumatic production class silhouette pistol.

I have even interviewed a shooter who participated successfully in IHMSA air pistol silhouette competition with a Crosman 1377  . the only serious disadvantage of the 1377 (besides all the pumping) is that the sights are difficult to adjust. With the right pellets, it can be wickedly accurate.

This pellet trap has silhouettes that dangle from a center rod and make a satisfying "ting" when you hit them.

This pellet trap has silhouettes that dangle from a center rod and make a satisfying “ting” when you hit them.

You can print air pistol silhouette targets off the internet, but it is also useful to have a pellet trap with silhouette targets, and I can recommend this one.

Until next time, aim true and shoot straight.

Jock Elliott

One of the great things about airguns is that the can be legally shot in many, many places where the discharging of firearms is strictly forbidden and is, in fact, illegal.

Be sure to check the situation where you live, but in a wide variety of venues across the United States, it’s perfectly legal to shoot airguns on your own property. That opens the door to outdoor fun with kids, or, with proper safety precautions, shooting indoors in, say, the basement.

Before we get into having airgun fun with kids, a couple of very important safety notes. (1) In all shooting situations (but particularly so with kids), you need to have a proper backdrop to your shooting. That means a target with a backstop that will stop the BBs or pellets you are shooting and behind that an area where the projectiles can safely go if any of the shooters miss the target completely. In addition, do not ever shoot BBs or non-lead pellets at a hard backstop. Unlike lead pellets that deform, dissipating energy and greatly reducing the probability of a ricochet when they hit a hard target, BBs and non-lead pellets will ricochet, possibly hitting you and others. With relatively low-power BB guns, nested cardboard boxes or cardboard boxes filled with old clothes will do the job. Make sure that everyone on the firing line has eye protection and be sure to review Airguns 101- Safety:  http://www.airgunsofarizona.com/blog/2013/12/airguns-101-the-basics-safety.html

(2) Review the safety rules with the kids and take particular note of the information about parental control. When my Dad introduced me to shooting with my first BB gun, he made me feel the safety lesson was an honor: “Son, you’re about to use a real gun that can hurt people and animals and damage property. It’s a step into adulthood. Use it properly, and it will give you a lifetime of fun and enjoyment. Use it improperly, and it can get you into a world of trouble, so be smart and shoot safely.”

Now on to the business at hand: having fun with kids and airguns. The keyword here is “fun.” Kids today live in a world of video games, texting and facebook, to say nothing of zillions of channels on TV, so it just makes sense to make the experience enjoyable.

I recommend starting with balloons. They are highly reactive targets – when you hit ‘em, they go Bang! and disappear. I’ve had good luck with blowing up five balloons pretty big and sticking them to an archery target with masking tape. Start at short distance – perhaps 15 feet – and pop the balloons. If that’s too easy, move back and/or reduce the size of the balloons. If that is still too easy, challenge your young shooters to place their shots as close as they can without popping the balloons.

Additional fun targets are animal crackers, cracker of all sizes, and other snacks like cheese puffs. You can stick them to the top of a cardboard carton using a bit of canned frosting – that way the debris from your shooting is biodegradable and edible by the animals that visit your yard.

As an adult, I enjoy shooting at a bag full of plastic dinosaurs from the dollar store. With youngsters, you can hype it up a bit: “Look out! That tyrannosaurus is about to charge! Get him!”

There is virtually no end to the wide variety of targets that you might shoot at with kids: tin cans, pine cones, marshmallows, and so forth. The whole point is to have a safe, enjoyable time together.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Some years ago, two teenage boys were fooling around with a Daisy pump-up air rifle. At some point in their interaction, they pumped the gun, shot it, and nothing came out. They did this a few more times, with the same result: nothing came out. Then one of the boys decided that he would pump the gun, point it at his friend’s head, and pull the trigger to poof his friend’s hair. This time, something did come out, and the victim suffered brain damage.

A lawsuit ensued, and in 2001 the case made its way to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, propelled by the idea that the design of the gun was somehow defective. A settlement was proposed, and comments were solicited from the general public.

While doing some research on the Internet, I accidentally stumbled upon the comments I submitted to CPSC. It struck me that they are as applicable today as they were over a decade ago.

Below are my comments in their entirety.

“CPSC settlement comment

As a fulltime writer who has tested and written extensively about airguns over the past several years, I find the CPSC/Daisy settlement (indeed, the entire action) an affront to human reason and a travesty of what the CPSC is supposed to do. This settlement flies in the face of common sense, personal responsibility and the fundamental issues of product safety.

1.      Common sense. No one would argue for even a moment that it is a tragedy that a young man has been disabled for life. But the root cause for the injury was not that the airgun malfunctioned. The airgun did exactly what it is supposed to do: launch a projectile. The root cause of this misfortune is that the other individual involved violated the first law of gun safety: never point a gun (airgun or otherwise) at anything that you don’t want perforated, broken or destroyed. (The second law of gun safety is that all guns are loaded. The third: even unloaded guns are loaded.) This individual not only pointed the gun in an unsafe direction (at his friend), but further chose to pull the trigger when doing so. His intent – to make a joke by “poofing” his friend’s hair – is irrelevant. He performed a wantonly unsafe act. He should not be surprised by the results.

To assert that “. . . Children will be children. They grow up pointing toy guns at each other. To expect them not to point BB guns at each other when they believe they are empty of BB’s is to expect too much” raises four key issues. First, airguns are, emphatically, not toys. They are guns and should be treated with all the respect due any firearm. Children who do not understand the difference should not be allowed to use them. That brings us to the second point, responsible parents, guardians or caretakers will assess their children’s ability to understand and deal with the responsibility of properly handling airguns. Very often adult supervision is necessary to make sure that a child understands and observes proper gun safety. Daisy is specific in its age recommendations for its products. Third, (see above) the rules of gun safety dictate that all guns are to be treated as if they are loaded, even when everyone “knows” that a gun is unloaded. There are no exceptions. If a child or teenager doesn’t understand this, it would be inappropriate to allow them to use an airgun. Fourth, let’s apply this same line of reasoning to another type of product. Have you ever watched teenaged boys playing automobile-related video games? Spectacular crashes and reckless driving are common. Is it too much to expect them to do otherwise when they get their driver’s licenses? I think not.

2.      Personal responsibility. The proper use of products is the responsibility of the individual using them. People who wish to drive automobiles are expected to learn how – through various means such as parents, driving schools, or driver’s education. If you choose to run over your spouse, as a woman in New York did, it is scarcely the fault of the automobile manufacturer. It is a blatant misuse of the product. Pointing a gun at someone whom you do not intend to injure is likewise a blatant misuse of the product.

3.      The fundamental issues of product safety. According to its website, “The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction.” The key word is unreasonable. An airgun is a projectile launcher. If you point it at someone and pull the trigger, you should expect that a projectile will be launched at that person. Serious injury or death may result. It is completely unreasonable to expect that anything else will happen. Protecting against this sort of incident – in which the product functioned properly but was unconscionably misused – is not within the purview of the CPSC. Further, it is a waste of the Commission’s scarce resources and the taxpayer’s money.

Respectfully submitted,

Jock (John) Elliott”

As airgunners, let’s strive always to handle our air rifles and air pistols with utmost safety to teach our children, friends, and relatives to always do the same.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

— Jock Elliott

If you want to provoke a “spirited discussion” among airgunners, just raise the question: “Which caliber is best?” Pretty quick you’ll find yourself surrounded by enthusiasts, each passionately pleading the case of their favorite.

Right off, I’m going to defuse all that by saying there is no “best” caliber; there is only the caliber that works best for your intended purpose at the time. Right now, the fourmain calibers in airguns are .177, .20, .22 and .25, with .30 being introduced to the consumer market in the past couple of years ago and growing in popularity. There are even larger calibers available, but these fall pretty much into the category of specialty items.

Having said that, here are some of the things you might want to think about regarding caliber.

Accuracy — Accuracy is everything as far as I’m concerned; it’s one of the main reasons I shoot airguns. As one airgunner put it: “If you miss, it doesn’t matter if you missed faster or with more power, you still missed!”

Now, here’s a trick question: what increases the odds of achieving high accuracy? Stumped? Here’s a hint – every airgun will have a particular pellet that it “likes” and will produce the best accuracy. As a result, having a wide spectrum of pellets from which to choose increases the odds of finding at least one pellet that will work well in your airgun.

So, if accuracy is your sole criterion, .177 would be the best caliber, because it offers the greatest variety of pellets.  Twenty-two caliber would be close behind with the next best selection of pellets from which to choose.

Another thing to remember when considering accuracy is the range at which you plan to shoot. If you are competing in 10-meter air rifle or air pistol, the behavior of the pellet beyond 10 meters isn’t really a concern. But if you are trying to knock down field targets at 55 yards or clobber varmints at 90 yards, accuracy at long range is a clearly a factor.

Weight and weight within caliber – The lightest pellets (between 4 and 5 grains) available are .177, but it is rare to find a .177 pellet heavier than about 16 grains. By contrast, .25 caliber pellets are available as heavy as 34.9 grains and usually not lighter than 17.7 grains. To understand why this makes a difference, see the next item.

Speed and trajectory – Shot from the same airgun powerplant, a light pellet will generally fly faster than a heavy pellet. But at any given velocity, a heavier pellet will carry more energy down range and will usually retain it longer than a light pellet that was launched at the same initial speed. Because of these considerations, for a really fast, flat trajectory out to, say, 50 yards or so, you might want to select .177. But beyond that, you might want to go for a bigger caliber with heavier pellets. I have noticed, for example, that airgunners who are engaged in high-accuracy long-range shooting at 100 yards usually select .25 caliber or even bigger.

Power and impact – Launched at equal velocities, a heavy pellet will typically deliver more foot-pounds of energy to the target than a light pellet. If you want hitting power and if velocity and accuracy are equal, chose the heaviest pellet and largest caliber.

Wound ballistics – Bigger pellets produce bigger holes, but smaller diameter pellets may penetrate deeper.

Availability – In local retail establishments, you’re likely to find .177 pellets are more readily available than any other caliber, with .22 coming in a close second. .20 pellets are rarely available in ordinary retail outlets, and I’ve never seen .25 caliber pellets available anywhere except for in an online airgun store. Airguns of Arizona tells me that the bulk of their pellet sales are split roughly equally between .177 and .22. They add that sales of .20 appear to be waning, while demand for .25 pellets and .30 pellets is rising.

As a rule of thumb, airgunners typically select .177 for target shooting and the larger calibers for hunting, but all have been used successfully for either activity. Personally, I shoot .177 most of the time, because I am primarily a target shooter, but I use .20 or .22 for pest control.

I spoke to Shane at www.airgunsofarizona.com, and he said that, at the time of this writing (January, 2014), among airgunners who shoot pre-charged pneumatic rifles, .25 caliber is rapidly gaining popularity. The reasons are pretty clear: in a PCP rifle, .25 caliber delivers nearly twice the power of .22 caliber while offering a much higher shot count per fill than, say, a .30 caliber precharged rifle. “Right now,” he said, “when we receive a shipment of pellets from JSB, the first caliber to go out of stock is .25.”

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

— Jock Elliott

Robert Buchanan, proprietor of Airguns of Arizona, told me the he was awakened in the wee hours of the morning by a customer who had taken his brandnew air rifle apart and now was having trouble getting it back together. The customer was outraged when Robert told the customer to send the air rifle back and that there would be a fee for putting it back in working order.

This is a superb example of what not to do with an airgun, and I’ve had similar experiences confirmed to me by other airgun dealers. This had lead me to come up with some Airgun Commandments (violate them at your peril):

Be thou not a Jerk: If you are fortunate enough to have a brand new airgun, do not take it apart. You will void the warranty, and it is extremely likely that the vendor who sold it to you will charge you a fee to fix the problem that you created.

Be thou competent or be thou hands-off: Do not attempt repairs or modifications to any airgun unless you are absolutely certain that you know what you are doing. This means if you have any doubts about your ability to complete the task safety, seek qualified help.

Be thou smart or learn to duck: Do not shoot at resilient spherical objects. I was shooting with my brother-in-law one Sunday afternoon. We got a little bored and decided to see what would happen if we shot at a “super ball,” one of those really resilient, super bouncy balls.

With the first shot, nothing happened, except we heard this really weird sound: pah-whaaaaaaaang! We couldn’t figure out what it was, so we tried again. Pah-whaaaaaaaaang-whack! A spent pellet slammed into the deck just above my brother-in-law’s head. The resilient sphere was returning the pellets directly back at us, and with a good deal of velocity. I’ve also heard of field target shooters getting similar results plinking at tennis balls hung from a tree.

Be thou sensible about thy backstop: Do not shoot BBs or non-lead ammo into a metal pellet trap or other similar hard target; richoching BBs or pellets may come flying back at you. The reason that lead pellets work in pellet traps is that, when the lead pellet hits the hard metal of the trap, the lead greatly deforms, absorbing energy and greatly reducing the likelihood of a bounce-back.

Keepest thine fingers from dangerous orifices: Do not put your finger over the muzzle of a PCP, multi-stroke pneumatic, or single-stroke pneumatic and pull the trigger to see if there is any air left in it. If there is residual air left in it, the result may be a trip to the emergency room.

Thou shalt not fire a break barrel springer before the breech is fully closed: Make sure that the barrel on your break barrel springer (or cocking lever on your sidelever springer or underlever springer) has been completely returned to its original position before you put your finger anywhere near the trigger. Triggering a shot before your spring-piston airgun is in firing position can have catastrophic results, the least of which can be a bent barrel and a broken stock, and the worst of which can be crushed or severed fingers. Further, thou shalt not dry fire a springer (fire it without a pellet in the breech), lest thou damage it.

Common Newbie Mistakes

“Why Won’t the Pellets Fit Anymore?” Check to make sure you have the right caliber pellets — .22 pellets will not fit in a .177 airgun.

“Why Is My Gun Suddenly Shooting All Over the Place?”  Again: check to make sure you have the right pellets. I once carped in my back yard about the “loose” .22 pellets I was using (and how inaccurate they were) when I figured out that the pellets I was using were .20 caliber.

“Why Is My Gun Suddenly Shooting All Over the Place?”  Make sure that all of your scope mounting screws and screws holding the action in the stock are properly tightened.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

— Jock Elliott

Shooting Your Groups

First, make certain that your airgun is at least roughly sighted-in and “on the paper.” Now, carefully maintaining the same point of aim, fire five shots at the target. Don’t worry whether you are hitting the bull’s eye; just make dead certain that you are keeping the sights pointed at the same spot on the target.

As you shoot, pay attention to the little details of how you are shooting: how hard you pull the rifle into your shoulder, how you squeeze the trigger, how you position your fingers, even how you breath (Most of the really good shooters I know draw in a full breath, let out half, then squeeeeeeze off the shot.). Try to repeat the same shooting technique each time, then make small changes to see if your groups improve. Last year, I was shooting some groups but the shots kept jumping to the right. By keeping my thumb on the right side of the stock (rather than wrapping it around the pistol grip), I was able to cure this problem. Paying close attention to your technique will produce handsome dividends in improved accuracy.

Be mindful of how your gun is behaving as well. Some air rifles, particularly springers, are notorious for being “hold sensitive.” When this is the case, changing the place where the stock of the gun presses against the rest can also change where the pellets hit the target. If your gun is hold sensitive, you may have to apply a piece of masking tape marked in half-inch increments to the stock, then shoot groups from different positions on the stock to discover “the sweet spot” that allows your gun to shoot best.

A note: some airgunners shoot only three-shot groups, but I normally shoot at least five pellets to a group, and frequently I shoot ten. With just three shots, it’s not uncommon to produce a really small group as the result of sheer luck. With five shots, a lucky group can still happen, but it almost never happens with ten-shot groups.

In real life, the difference between five-shot and ten-shot groups can reveal itself in funny ways. I remember well the day when the first four shots from a particular air rifle went virtually in the same hole. Boy, this is really an accurate rifle, I remember thinking. The next shot, the fifth, punched a hole half an inch away. A flyer, I thought. But of the next five shots, three more were at a distance from the main group. The ten shots revealed that this combination of gun and ammo was not very accurate after all.

Evaluating the Results

            As you shoot groups with different pellets and compare targets, you’ll quickly see that your airgun is much more accurate – producing smaller groups – with some pellets than others. If you find that there are two or three pellets that produce very similar results, try shooting groups with those pellets at longer ranges. As you stretch out the yardage, you’ll see that there is one clear winner among your pellet choices.

When checking the size of groups, measure from the outside edge to the outside edge of the two most widely separated shots. This is called an edge-to-edge measurement, and if you’re just getting started, it will meet your needs just fine. Once you start shooting little tiny single-hole groups, you’ll want to measure from edge to edge, but then subtract the diameter of the pellet. This is called a center-to-center group, and it is the best way to measure groups when you are shooting with one-hole accuracy.

Whichever measurement method you use, write the result down on the target, along with the name of the pellets that you shot at this target, the distance, the gun and the date. Next, put a fresh target on your backstop or pellet trap and repeat the process at the same distance with each different type of pellet that you want to test.

 

Now, I can guess what you’re thinking: Aren’t pellets really pretty much the same? Will any of them really make that big a difference? Trust me on this: finding the right pellet is critical, and the results can be absolutely spectacular.

Recently, I was testing a very powerful spring-piston air rifle. At 50 yards, some of the pellets produced groups that were huge – 3.5 to 5 inches! But with the right pellet, the same air rifle was transformed, putting five shots into a group that measured only 1.25 inches, edge-to-edge. In another case, an airgunning buddy called, heartbroken because his new gun was producing very large groups. We changed pellets and shrunk the group size by two-thirds.

The bottom line: accuracy is everything. It’s worth the trouble to find the pellet that delivers the best accuracy in your airgun, and it will add immeasurably to your enjoyment of shooting it.

Finally, after you have become proficient groups from a rest, you may also want to see how well you do shooting groups from your favorite field position – for example, from a sitting, standing, or kneeling position.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

— Jock Elliott

If you want to get the absolute best out of your airgun, you have to do one thing: you have to find the right pellet. By the right pellet, I mean the pellet that (a) produces the highest accuracy and (b) is suited for the type of shooting you intend to do.

Before we dive into finding the right pellet for your air rifle or air pistol, let’s agree that accuracy is critical. As one airgunner put it: “It doesn’t’ matter how big a pellet you’re shooting, how fast it left the muzzle, or how much energy it retains downrange; if you miss, everything else is immaterial.”

The Pellet

If you look at your air rifle (or air pistol) as a system comprised of a powerplant (spring piston, precharged, multi-stroke pneumatic, etc.), an aiming device (scope and rings, iron sights, or peep sights) and a projectile, the most important part of the system (all other things being equal) is the pellet.

The pellet is the only part of the system that goes downrange toward the target. Once the pellet leaves the muzzle, you have no control over it. If the pellet doesn’t behave itself in its lonely flight toward what you aimed at, you’re going to miss.

Here’s the key: different airguns work better with some pellets than with others. In the years that I have been writing about airguns, and I have had the opportunity to interview some outstanding airgun designers and airgunsmiths, no one has been able to tell me how to predict which rifle will shoot best with which pellet. Oh sure, some of them might say “Well you might want to try this pellet or that pellet,” and certainly some dealers may have a pretty good idea which pellet is likely to work well with a particular gun, but in the end, it all comes down to “try a bunch of different pellets and see which one works best.”

My brother-in-law and I each own identical air rifles, and each of them prefers a different pellet. So, just because another fellow has an air rifle like yours and it shoots well with a particular pellet, that doesn’t mean yours will also shoot well with the same pellet. It might, but then again it might not. I’m not trying to be arbitrary or weird here; I’m just stating the truth: the only way to know for sure if a particular type of pellet is going to work well in your gun is to try it and see.

And because the pellet is the most important part of your shooting system, if you’re serious about airgunning, it’s worth taking the time to experiment with a bunch of different pellets and see which one works best for you in a particular gun. Don’t worry about fashion or what seems to be “in,” just shoot what works well in your gun.

How to Find the Right Pellet

The easiest way to discover which pellet works best in your air rifle is to shoot groups from a rest. You shoot multiple shots at a target at a fixed distance and examine how well the pellet holes cluster – or group – together.

You need a rest on which you can place your air rifle and hold it steady on the target. The rest doesn’t have to be fancy so long as it allows you to point your air rifle securely at the target without wobbling around.  In addition, the rest must allow you to look comfortably through the sights. You don’t have to buy one of those nifty portable varminting benches or professional bench rests to get the job done. My brother-in-law uses a toolbox placed on a picnic table and padded with a jacket. For a lot of my testing, I use a Workmate portable work bench topped with a couple of old foam boat cushions.

In addition to a rest, you’ll need a pellet trap or safe backstop and some paper targets. Put a paper target on the backstop or pellet trap at a measured distance. With new guns, I generally start at 10 or 15 yards, then move to longer distances as needs dictate. With some very powerful, highly accurate airguns, I shoot groups at distances out to 50 yards.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

— Jock Elliott

Routine Maintenance

To be honest, the jury is still out on routine barrel cleaning for airguns. Many top-notch shooters only clean their barrels when they notice a decrease in accuracy. If you simply must clean your barrel regularly, do so at 500-round intervals, using a pull-through and a cleaner-degreaser.

With a springer, tighten the stock screws, wipe down the finish with a gun rag, and regularly apply a drop of lubricant to the cocking link and cocking slider. Most modern springers do NOT require chamber oil. Older guns with leather seals may benefit from a couple of drops of chamber oil every tin of pellets or so.

With a pneumatic, all you need to do is lubricate the bolt surface with synthetic gun oil and use your normal lube on your pellets, unless the manufacturer’s recommendations say differently.

With springers, store your gun uncocked and never discharge the gun without a pellet. Springers rely on the back pressure provided by the pellet to prevent the piston from slamming into the end of the cylinder and causing damage. If you absolutely must discharge a springer without a pellet, press the muzzle tightly against a phone book and then pull the trigger. On the other hand, pneumatics should be stored uncocked with air in them.

When is it Time to Send Your Gun to the Service Shop?

With precharged pneumatics, usually the only reason for sending a gun to the shop is a leak – you may have an inlet or exhaust valve or o-ring that is bad. The other cause for concern is deteriorating accuracy that isn’t cured by cleaning the barrel.

With spring-piston rifles, there are several symptoms that may suggest sending the gun to the shop: harsh firing behavior (after the gun is broken in), loss in accuracy, noise or increased effort on cocking, loss in velocity, or problems with consistency in velocity. The first thing you should do, however, is check and tighten the stock screws.

If the springer has been sitting around without being fired for a long time, the seals – particularly older synthetic seals – may deteriorate with age. As a result, if you have an old gun that hasn’t been shot and is behaving strangely, it may need to be resealed.

Supplies You‘ll Need to Maintain Your Airgun

Fortunately, the list of necessary equipment for airgun maintenance is short:

  • A quality toolkit, with gunsmith-style bits.
  • A quality cleaning kit with pull-through or coated rod, dictated by your type of rifle.
  • Some cleaner-degreaser.
  • Lubricant for the cocking linkage for springers.
  • Chamber oil for springers – but only if your gun absolutely requires it.
  • Lubricant for the bolt surface for pneumatics.
  • Pellet lube for pneumatics.

If you don’t already have these supplies, order them when you purchase your gun. Then you’ll be ready for many happy years of shooting.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott