An Airgunner’s Myth

Monday, September 26, 2016

Like you guys, I love to spend time on the forums learning all I can about airguns, the people that enjoy them, and their experiences. For years I’ve been a member of several forums, and one thing they’ve all got in spades is fact, fiction, and opinion. This is a good thing, right? Well, yes… but not always. Ya see, it’s human nature to want to be a part of something special and to be heard, but to knowingly sacrifice truth for acceptance is also what it means to be human. That’s where the line gets blurred and that’s where we all have a responsibility to one another to do a better job with our airgun evangelism.

When I was new to all of this, if it was in print, I was taking it as gospel… even some of the preposterous stuff. At that time I just didn’t have the experience to know any better. As my involvement developed, I began to build my own repository and it was then I realized that smart, seasoned airgunners were rampantly spreading misinformation to a very credulous audience. Born out of social responsibility and a passion for airgunning, two things swiftly happened: One, I woke up and two, I started sharing my own experiences. It was in this moment of realization that my mission was laid before me… truth.

Myth # 1: Never clean your airgun barrel

Arguably this one of the most popular debates in the history of airgunning… to clean or not to clean. Some don’t ever and still claim good accuracy. Back in the old days, most were of the opinion that airgun barrels were soft… in fact, so soft were these bores that word on the street was, don’t ever clean!At one time that may have been quite true, but in my experience it isn’t any longer and may not have been as big a concern in the first place. As a teen (25+ years ago) I would sometimes scrub out my Crosmans & RWS’ with a brass bore brush and automotive valve lapping compound. I’d finish with a bore mop, more lapping compound, and finally a good cleaning… and it was these tabooed practices that eventually got em’ shooting exceptionally well.

Today, the barrel manufacturing process across all price points is much improved. It’s rare that I ever need to put the old cane down one anymore but if I do, we’ve been blessed with wonder cleaners like JB bore paste and Dewey plastic coated cleaning rods. Together with Otis brass brushes, they work like a charm to deburr breeches, transfer ports, riffling, and crowns. In fact it was the use of these techniques that got my Kalibrgun .22 shooting straight… so don’t be afraid to experiment, just be gentle and remove the barrel and any o-rings before you begin.

Outside of general tuneup, I thoroughly clean my personal airgun barrels and those that are about to be reviewed on the channel. It’s been my experience that a dirty barrel can still perform well at 20-30 yards yards but never at 100. My methodology is simple… using a Patchworm, I’ll pull Ballistol soaked patches through the bore from breech to muzzle until they come out clean, dry-fire ten times to clear the transfer port and valving of any oil (PCP only), then begin to pull dry patches through until they emerge clean and oil free. It takes some time but in doing so, I can get most every gun shooting well at great distances… regardless of price. If nothing else, it’s a good practice to get the anti corrosion shipping grease out of the bore before you get to shooting for groups, or coat the bore in preservative before you shelf it long term.

So if you want better accuracy out past 50 yards and aren’t seeing it, try thoroughly cleaning your barrel and see what happens… break barrels included. Start with gentle patches and if need be, move to more aggressive methods. If there’s not immediate improvement, be patient. It’s not uncommon for some guns to require 25-50 shots to re-season the bore before you’ll see your groups come together.

Myth #2: My airgun isn’t accurate

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, especially if you’re already at the juncture of disappointment & frustration but it’s almost never the gun. Hey, I’ve been there… ya just can’t get the darn thing to group no matter what you do and it never shoots as well as the ones you see on YouTube. I used to wonder if the social media sharing system was rigged and if the mainstream reviewers were given only the very best performing rigs to put out there in front of the world. Then… I became one. Years ago, I wrote over 20 reviews for Airgun Depot, and I was surprised to find that there was no screening of the product before they sent it off for me to evaluate. Occasionally the shipping companies would destroy one and the replacement would drop ship from the out-of-state warehouse, to arrive with the barrel still coated in the overseas preservative we all see on new airguns today. I’m not picking on AGD. They’re a solid organization and their practices are on par with the industry standards I’ve experienced through other sponsors on the channel. The point is that what you get is what I get, and that is a good thing.

Rather than going back to the vendor for a replacement, start by getting the barrel good and clean and once done, make sure it’s dry of any residual oil or cleaner. Then go to town finding the right pellet for it. You don’t need every brand of lead out there but as a general rule you’ll always find a winner by having on hand all the weights & offshoots of the JSB brand (Air Arms, Falcon, Straton, Predator International) etc. You’ll also want to have around all the variants of H&N Sports‘ Baracuda and Field Target, to include their Hunter and Hunter Extreme lines. On occasion, Crosman Premiers will be the one, but in my experience, aren’t as consistent as the above mentioned.

From here, we fine tune. Once you narrow it down to the best 2-3 pellets, clean the barrel again and get it good & dry of any residual. Season if necessary and test at a good distance like 50 yards or more. Poor pellet choices for your airgun will corkscrew into a single ragged hole inside of 35 yards but will open up considerably out past 50, so move your target back to make sure. Shoot your top picks again, this time experimenting with pellet lube. An incredibly small amount lightly misted into a baggie with a handful of pellets is all you need. There are several good ones out there but I’ve done well with Slick50 Supercharged 1-Lube. When you repeat the exercise with your lubed pellets, re-season the bore so it gets good & oiled up before you get to taking the the micrometer to those groups.

If by now you still haven’t been able to turn your off the shelf airgun into a one of a kind wonder-gun then something is likely off with your setup, shooting technique, gun’s mechanics, or pellet condition. These are all topics that warrant their own blogs but for you springer guys & gals, just be sure that your stock screws are tight and that your scope hasn’t jarred loose or bit the dust. For the PCP crowd, be sure you haven’t maxed out your scope’s turrets and that you haven’t a burr on the breech opening, transfer port, or crown, or have a torn breech seal. Embrace the above folks and you’ll be surprised at just how rare & glamorous a team you and your popgun can become.

Myth #3 More expensive equals greater accuracy

As with automobiles, more money doesn’t necessarily equal more speed but the increased investment can buy you a more fulfilling journey.

“$1,750 for that… my $250 blah-blah-blah is just as accurate.”

This misunderstanding is one of the more common chirps I see on my YouTube channel. I used to scratch my head and wonder why someone would feel that accuracy was the only variable to consider when choosing an airgun… after all, most airguns today are accurate, no matter what the cost. Then it occurred to me… perhaps they’ve no frame of reference. Maybe they haven’t had an opportunity or need to experience better so haven’t cause to try and get comfortable with the extra dollars.

So what’s all that extra cheddar gettin’ spent on? Are the hi-line manufacturers just padding their pockets and giggling all the way to the Yacht Club? I don’t think so. Airguns that cost more, cost more to make. I’ve only had the privilege of visiting one high end airgun manufacturer but what I came away with was that an insane amount of resources had been committed to trial and erroring their way to an exquisitely balanced union between shooter & shootie. The first time I handled one, I was immediately taken aback by how different it sounded… not the muzzle report but rather everything else. The cycling of the arm or lever, the rotation of the magazine, the movements of the trigger… they all had a timepiece-like precision and the sounds & vibrations reminded me of a watchmaker’s symphony. It felt different in hand too. Light, balanced, and smooth in all the right places; to embrace one was to slow down time & pay deeper attention to the senses. Then there was the shooting experience and extra performance. Firing & cycling was like taking a sip of a drink you just discovered you loved for the very first time… there’s the initial “Mmm,” then you right away want to go back for more and just can’t seem to ever get enough. Wrap it all up in a box and garnish it with an incredible amount of regulated shots, adjustable power, super silencing, superb triggers, and repeatable accuracy… and you’ve now got a general understanding of why people are willing to pay a premium for them.

At the end of the day, if you want to own an accurate airgun, fear not… there are plenty of options in all price points. Align with a good manufacturer, break it in, get the barrel clean, find the right pellet and enjoy. If you’ve been there and done that, and find yourself yearning for more… raise your sights and get comfortable parting with those dollars. There’s a whole other level of gentility available that will have your more reasonably priced pieces collecting dust.

YouTuber & Columnist,

Steve Scialli

AEAC

7 Comments

  1. Tom King says:

    I’ve been using airguns only for the last ten years or so. The fact that I’m a cheapskate has not helped my AG shooting much. It took awhile but I now realize that, in the long run, I get better results by buying good quality to begin with.
    As good as some are, aftermarket replacement triggers are not the equal of a TO6 or Rekord. The same seems to apply to sights and finish in general.

    1. Hi Tom. Thanks for your insight. I still find myself torn on this one. I tend to get excited about the inexpensive shooters as much as I do the Cadillacs so long as they don’t require much more than a cleaning to perform. There was a time when I used to love buying for less, tuning up, and reaping the reward of all the hard work. I’m sure I’ll get back to it one day but for the momentime I’m enjoying the pampering. Best, Steve

  2. Mark Nash-Ford says:

    Steve as always your insights leave me much to ponder! I have never been reluctant to pay a bit more for a quality product. I have yet to be disappointed when I do so and in the AG world the reward for me is pride of ownership (can I say that?). It is always a joy to hand one of my air guns to a powder burner friend and watch them react. I am well on my way to thinning out my center/rim fire rifles and moving to air. I will always have some powder guns however! Thanks Again!!

    1. You can say that Mark. Pride in ownership is a big piece of the upper enchelant for me as well. As you can tell from my style of vids, I love to celebrate the journey as much as I do the tangible results. It’s all good in airgunland… dreamers and data lovers welcome. Best, Steve

  3. RidgeRunner says:

    Great write up Steve!

    You have exposed some of the biggest myths to light and given all a hope that their dollar two ninety-eight air rifle can perform. You also have given an excellent explanation as to why the more expensive air rifles exist.

    Thank you!

    1. I feel like they’re all important and have their place brother. I’m glad you liked what you read here and thanks for the encouraging note. Best, Steve

  4. Martin O' says:

    Another nice thing about purchasing a quality airgun, is that in most instances, I’m a temporary owner, using and learning from the gun until ready to move onto something else. A quality airgun is a delight to own as a first , second or third owner- the joy of good craftsmanship, on well cared for airguns, is transferable to the next owners gun rack. A cheaply made, tin pot springer can be fun, but as the years accumulate, it becomes only a symbol of its former glory.

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