No matter whether your pride-and-joy is a springer or a precharged pneumatic, CO2 powered or a multi-stroke pneumatic, the very first thing you want to do –before you shoot it for the first time – is give the barrel a good cleaning. That’s because there may be greases and oils left in the barrel from the manufacturing process.
The best way is to use a flexible boresnake-style cleaner – a pull-through. Pull a patch with a cleaner-degreaser like Simple Green or AOA Cleaner/Degreaser through from the breech to muzzle, followed by several dry patches until the patches come through looking clean or almost clean. If you’re still getting a lot of dark stuff out of the barrel, run another patch with Simple Green, followed by more clean patches.
If you can’t use a pull-through, then use a synthetic coated rod. Never use an uncoated metal rod or metal brush in your airgun’s barrel – you can damage the rifling. (If you are cleaning the barrel of a springer that has been stored for a long time, you may have to use a nylon bristle brush and Beeman’s MP-5 oil to clear oil and grease that has congealed and dried.) [A special note to firearms shooters new to airguns: most of what you know about cleaning and maintaining firearms will do you no good when it comes to airguns. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.]
If your new air rifle is a springer, then the other thing that absolutely must do is to tighten the stock screws. These screws may have loosened in transport or because the wood of the stock has compressed or shrunk slightly. Whatever the reason, make sure that the stock screws are snug.
You won’t be wasting money if you invest in good tool kit with gunsmith-style bits. They will allow you to get better purchase on the screw heads in your airgun, so you can tighten them well without stripping the fastener heads or slipping and inadvertently causing damage to your rifle’s stock.
Loose stock screws can cause serious accuracy problems with spring-piston air rifles. In addition, there have been cases, involving high-power springers, in which very loose stock screws have been snapped by the gun’s recoil. So snug those screws down! It’s a good idea to check those screws every hundred rounds or so, particularly when your gun is new.
The other thing you’ll want to do with your springer is put a drop of lubricating oil on the pivot point of a break barrel or underlever air rifle. The factory may have done it, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure.
With a precharged pneumatic, once you have cleaned the barrel, it’s wise to cock the gun before your first fill (some guns will allow air to leak out the muzzle if you don’t). When you fill your precharged pneumatic, do so slowly – take about 30 seconds to fill the gun. Compressed air coming into the gun’s reservoir tends to heat the gun. If you simply open the valve full and allow compressed air to rush into the gun, you can heat the valve and may actually melt it. Slow and easy is best.
With pneumatics, you’ll probably want to shoot pellets that are lubricated with pellet lube http://airgunsofarizona.com/Napier.html, unless the manufacturer says otherwise.
All airguns need to be broken in. Some require more shots than others, but the initial break in with all guns will be about 30-40 shots. During that time, particularly with springers, you may notice somewhat erratic firing behavior and accuracy, but that is to be expected. Complete serious break in will probably take a full tin of pellets to happen.
With springers, after 30-40 shots, clean the barrel again and check the stock screws. As you go through the rest of the tin of pellets, you’ll notice that the cocking will become easier and smoother; the trigger will smooth out; the gun will get quieter, and the vibration will settle down.
With pneumatics, the break in period is not as critical, but, like a springer, the barrel has to get seasoned as small pockets in the barrel are filled with lead. The trigger and hammer will smooth out; cocking will become easier and smoother; valves with operate with more freedom and faster; the regulator (if there is one) and the entire gun will become smoother and more consistent as you complete that first tin of pellets.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott