I was on my way to a meeting when an acquaintance and colleague of some 20 years – who shall henceforth be known as Agent X – motioned me into his office.
“You know about airguns, right?” he said.
“Yes, a bit.”
“What would you recommend in .22 caliber for killing squirrels?” he asked.
“How far are you shooting?”
“Oh, maybe twenty yards,” Agent X said.
I recommended a pump-up Benjamin 392 or Webley Rebel, on the basis that they are very easy to shoot well, but as we chatted, it became apparent to me that Agent X had more on his mind. After further conversation, it developed that he had already purchased a Nitro Piston rifle from one of the big box stores, and he wasn’t having very good success with it.
Had he tested it with different pellets? Yes. Had he tested it for accuracy. Yes. What kind of results was he getting? “At twenty feet, I’m getting groups that you couldn’t cover with a quarter,” he said.
That’s terrible, I told him. At twenty feet, you ought to be able to stack one pellet on top of another, or very close to it. I made him an offer: the next time you get a free day, give me a call. If the weather’s decent, and I’m free, we’ll get together at my place and see if we can sort out your rifle. Deal, he said.
On the appointed day, Agent X arrived with his gun case containing a Benjamin Titan GP. He pointed at the scope. “I changed the scope because the one that came with it wasn’t very good.” I looked at the new scope. It was a Leapers 4 power non-adjustable objective.
Using my usual test rig – a bum bag and some old boat cushions on top of a WorkMate – I banged off a few shots with Crosman Premier pellets at a target 13 yards away. Two shots grouped together pretty well, but the third jumped away by half an inch.
“Let’s change to a scope with an adjustable objective,” I said. “I want to eliminate parallax as a possible source of accuracy problems.” If you would like to know more about parallax as a source of shooting error, check out this blog: http://220.127.116.11/blog/2009/07/parallax.html
So we switched to a Leapers 3-12 Mini Tactical sidewheel scope. I tried a few more shots with Crosman Premier pellets and got decent results but perhaps we could do better. So I tried JSB pellets. Nope, this rifle didn’t like them.
Then Agent X said, “Would you like to try the pellets I had hoped to shoot?” He waggled a tin of H&N Baracuda Green lead free pellets. I started feeding them to the Benjamin Titan GP, and it liked them! But as I was cocking the Benjamin Titan, I felt a subtle movement, as if something were loose. I check the scope rings and the scope mount, and all were snug. Then I check the two screws on either side of the forestock and, while they weren’t outright loose, I found I could snug them up a bit more. Finally, I checked the screw at the rear of the trigger guard. It was very loose, and I snugged it up.
After tightening the stock screws, we got dime-sized groups at 13 yards with the Baracuda Green pellets. “Looks like we have a winner,” I said.
We put a woodchuck paper target in the pellet trap and moved it out to 20 yards. After adjusting the elevation, I asked Agent X to shoot the chuck. He did just that, plugging him in the chest and in the head. It looked to me like he was ready to send some squirrels to that Big Acorn Patch in the Sky.
“But what if I want to shoot indoors at 20 feet? How do I adjust the scope?” he said.
“That’s the beauty of the mil-dot scope we mounted on your rifle. You can use the mil-dots as different aiming points for different ranges,” I said. Then I asked him what kind of pellet trap he was using. “A Boston phone book, backed by a piece of ply wood,” came the answer.
That’s not good enough, I said. “You start putting pellet after pellet in the same hole, you’re going to blow through the phone book and the plywood.”
To demonstrate, I drew a cross on a seasoned piece of 2 x 6 board and shot it at 13 yards. The pellet penetrated more than three-quarters of an inch. Agent X made immediate plans to build or obtain a more substantial pellet trap.
So what did we accomplish? By swapping scopes, tightening stock screws, and finding the right pellet, we were able to shrink Agent X’s groups from “larger than a quarter at 20 feet” to nickel-sized at 20 yards. He should be in good shape to take care of his squirrel problem, and I’m pretty sure that he was smiling as he drove away.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
– Jock Elliott