Posts Tagged ‘help for newbies’

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

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.

Breaking In

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

Mounting a Scope

 When you’re mounting a scope on your air rifle, the first thing you need to do is to determine where your eye relief is. To do that, you mount the rings loosely on the gun – firm enough to stay on but not so loose as to fall off. Put the scope on, set it on the highest power (because that’s where eye relief is most critical), and gently position it for your eye relief when you are in correct shooting position.

Here’s how to make sure you have the eye relief set correctly: mount the gun with your eyes closed. Relax your head and neck, then open our eyes. If you move your head forward, the scope needs to come back. If you move your head back, the scope needs to go forward. And, if you don’t move your head at all, the scope is positioned properly. If you’re not sure if you’re moving, ask a friend to observe you.

Once you get the eye relief properly set, tighten down the bolts that hold the scope rings to the scope rail on the rifle. At that point, it’s time to get the crosshairs aligned straight up and down.

Don’t try to do this by pulling the gun to your shoulder. That’s because tight handed shooters will tend to cant the rifle to the left, and lefthanders will tend to cant to the right. Instead, set the gun in a solid rest, make sure the gun is level, and sight on a plumb bob or the corner of a wall to get the crosshairs vertical.

When the crosshairs are squared away, it’s time to tighten the scope in the rings. Tighten all the top strap screws until they are just barely snug, with an even gap on the left and the right side of the scope. Then tighten each screw in an X pattern, one-eighth of a turn at a time. Do four cycles of tightening on the front mount, then four cycles on the rear mount, then repeat as needed. Make sure you are maintaining an even gap from side to side as you complete your tightening cycles. You want to get them as tight as you can on a spring gun.

If you find you don’t have enough vertical adjustment to get the scope sighted in, you can place a shim under the scope on the rear mount to compensate. You can use brass sheeting from a hardware store or plastic cut out of standard water bottles. Better yet, ask your airgun dealer for a scope mount that is adjustable for elevation.

Sighting In

Finally, whether you have an airgun with iron sights or a scope, you’ll want to sight it in. Sighting in is simply the process of making sure that, at a given distance (ten yards, for instance), the sights are pointed at the same spot where pellet or BB hits.

The easiest way is to start at a distance of 10 feet (That’s right, 10 feet, not 10 yards. A tip of the hat to Tom Gaylord, former Editor of the Airgun Letter for this suggestion.) Shoot one shot with the sights centered on the bull’s-eye.

Look at where the shot hit. Ideally, the point of impact should be no more than 3 inches below the bull’s-eye and centered from side to side. If the shot is too high or too low, or to the right or to the left, consult your airgun or scope manual and adjust the sights accordingly.

Take another shot from ten feet and see if your adjustments are getting you closer to where you want to be. Make small changes at first until you get a sense for how changes in the sight settings affect the point of impact. The windage adjustment changes where pellets strike from side to side, and the elevation knob or screw adjusts the height. Continue making shots and changes until your pellets or BBs are striking the target 1-3 inches below the bull’s-eye and centered side to side.

Next, move back to ten yards, and shoot again. Your shot should hit the target a little higher and should remain generally centered left to right. All that remains is to fine-tune the windage and to adjust the elevation so your shots hit the center of the bull’s-eye. That’s it – your air pistol or rifle is now sighted-in for ten yards. If you shoot from a distance other than 10 yards, you’ll notice that your pellets or BBs will strike higher or lower, depending upon the range.

A couple of notes: if you back up to 10 yards, and find your shots are going wild, return to 10 feet, check to make sure the fasteners holding your scope or sights haven’t worked loose, and try again. If you are shooting a multi-stroke pneumatic air rifle or pistol, be sure to use the same number of pumping strokes each time.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott

Before you enjoy your first shooting session with your new air rifle or air pistol, there are a few things you need to do.

The first is to identify a safe place to shoot. It could be in your basement, your side yard or your back yard, but it needs to be a place where, if your pellets or BBs miss their target, no people, animals, or property will be damaged. This is particularly important for first time shooters who may be more prone to miss.

Second, you need a good, safe backstop on which you can mount your target. It could be a bale of hay, a commercial pellet trap, or a backstop that you make yourself such as a cardboard box filled with old phone books. You can even improvise a pellet trap by stuffing a cardboard box roughly 1 foot x 1 foot x 2 foot and stuffing jam tight full of old clothes.  Shoot down the long axis and put some old shoes at the far end. If you make your own backstop, test it under safe conditions to make sure that it will stop the projectile as intended. Just because you think that a particular material will stop a pellet doesn’t mean that it will. A friend was amazed and chagrined when he found that his air rifle would easily blow through a sheet of plywood.

Third, if you have neighbors – particularly if they may be concerned when they see you shooting an air rifle or air pistol – take the time to talk to them. Explain that you will be shooting an air rifle (or pistol), that it doesn’t make much noise, that you are shooting at a safe backstop, and that you will not take aim at or shoot anything they value. A little bit of pre-shooting conversation with your neighbors can prevent a whole lot of misunderstanding and explanation later. Before you have that conversation with your neighbor, it’s a good idea to check the law to see if it is legal to shoot an airgun at your location.

Remember, too, that a little bit of consideration can go a long way to maintaining good neighbor relations. If you know, for example, that the guy next door works the night shift and sleeps in the mornings, you might want to schedule your shooting so you don’t disrupt his sleep.

Selecting a Scope

If you want to maximize, the fun, enjoyment and accuracy you get out of your air rifle, put a scope on it. Most airgunners I know shoot with a scope.

Why a scope? The short answer is that a scope will help you to see better and aim more precisely. The magnification provided by the scope helps you to view the target more clearly, and the crosshairs will help you pinpoint where you want to put the shot. By contrast, if you are shooting with iron sights, you will quickly discover that, beyond a certain distance, no matter what your target is, the front sight will be bigger than the thing you are aiming at, and that make precise shot placement very difficult.

If you have a precharged pneumatic, CO2, or multi-stroke pneumatic air rifle, you can use just about any telescopic sight that you prefer. But if you are shooting a spring-piston air rifle, often called a “springer,” you have to make certain that your scope is “airgun rated.”

Spring-piston airguns use a lever (sometimes the barrel, sometimes a lever under the barrel) to cock a spring. When you pull the trigger, the spring rockets forward, shoving the piston down the cylinder, compressing the air in front of it. The air rifle recoils backwards. As the piston reaches the far end of the cylinder, it rebounds off the wall of compressed air that it is pushing ahead of it, and the air rifle recoils in the opposite direction. The result is the weird forward-and-reverse double recoil that is characteristic of spring-piston airguns.

This bucking bronco action not only disturbs the point of aim, but also tortures scopes. Many scopes are braced for the typical rearward recoil of firearms but not for the additional forward recoil of a spring-piston airgun. The whipsaw motion can pop the reticle and other optical elements loose in a scope that is not designed to handle them. (I’m not talking “theoretical” here, either. I, personally, trashed a scope in less than 2 dozen shots. The reticle fell over like a drunken sailor.) As a result, the only scopes that should be mounted on spring-piston airguns are those that are high-quality and specifically “airgun rated.”

While you’re looking for a scope, make sure that you get one that has an adjustable objective that focuses down to 10 yards. Most air rifle shooting is done at ranges between 10 and 50 yards, and an adjustable objective that focuses precisely will eliminate something called “parallax error” that can throw your shot off.

With your scope, you’ll need a set of mounting rings that fit the scope tube (usually 1-inch, but sometimes 30 mm) and also fits the mounting rail on your air rifle. Most air rifles have a 3/8 inch (11 mm) mounting rail. If you have a spring-piston air rifle, be sure to get scope rings that have an anti-recoil pin. This pin drops into a hole on the air rifle’s receiver and prevents the recoil from causing scope and rings to “walk” off the back of the rifle.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight

–          Jock Elliott

Merrrrry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all the readers of this blog. May your celebrations be filled with peace, joy, and the good company of the people you love!