Simon Everett shares his expert advice on how to care and maintain your air rifle for optimum results…
1. Maintain your bluing
The outer metalwork of a traditional airgun has a finish on it called ‘bluing’. It needs protecting against rust caused through contact with moisture: not just water, but a damp atmosphere can be enough. Wipe the dry surfaces with an oily rag; mine is an old linen tea towel impregnated with Ballistol Gunex, but some people just use WD40 or 3-in-1. I have found that the Gunex doesn’t get washed off as much by heavy rain.
2. Get a rifle rest
You can buy, or make, a combined toolbox and rifle stand to make working on your gun easier. By having your air rifle supported, both hands are left free to work with. I use my rifle rest for the same purpose: it supports the rifle while I work away on it.
3. Treat your scope lenses
If you hunt in the woods in rain, it is inevitable that you will get rain on the front element at least, because you are looking up into the trees. Scope covers don’t work when they are open!
I treat my lenses with Rainex; the water beads off the glass and gives me a clear sight picture, despite the weather. Some modern scopes are given a special lens coating that does the same job. I always carry a lens cloth in a pouch with me.
4. Preserve your gun
A gun cabinet is the safest way of storing your airguns, but they can be prone to condensation, depending on where they are sited. Just to be on the safe side, I put a sachet of Napier VP90 corrosion inhibitor in the cabinet, and ensure my rifles are dry and oiled before locking them away.
5. Pick your barrel cleaning method
An airgun bore rarely needs cleaning, but when it does, there are two accepted methods of going about it: using a pull-through or using felt pellets fired through. A pull-through provides more control and is what should be used on piston-powered rifles; it does require more effort and technique. Felt pellets can only really be used through a PCP: they are not good for a piston-operated gun unless a pellet is loaded behind, which defeats the purpose.
6. Get a good rifle bag
My rifle came with a high-quality, sheepskin-lined bag, but beware of putting a damp rifle into one, or you will end up with a brown rifle! Smooth-lined rifle bags don’t store moisture in the fabric and dry much faster. When you come in from the cold, condensation will form on the cold metal: wait until your rifle reaches house temperature before drying, oiling and putting it away. It is easy to lock moisture in by being impatient.
7. Love your stock
A gun stock is worth looking after. Oil-finished stocks need to be oiled to retain their appearance. There are many variations of stock oil; all are a mixture of linseed oil and other wood oils. The wood needs to be free of moisture and the stock oil is applied by hand: the heat from your hand warms the oil and helps it penetrate the grain. A lacquered stock can be protected using furniture wax polish or beeswax.
8. Beware of camo wrap
Hunters love to cover their rifle in self-clinging bandage-style wraps – but these can be a source of trouble. The wraps store moisture when they get wet, which eats into the metal beneath, unseen until it is too late. Remove your wrap on a regular basis to check no damage is being done.
9. Try a flip-up lens cap
You will see plenty of airgun shooters using flip-up lens caps on their scopes. You have to buy the correct size for your scope, of course: they simply push-fit over the ends and provide a semi-permanent lens cover that can be easily opened in the field.
Flip-up lens caps protect the optics from dirt and rain whenever they are closed. They also keep the glass elements clean in your storage facility.
10. Preserve your pellets
Pellets are best stored in their tin. I found out the hard way that soft leather causes oxidation due to the tanning process. As an alternative to tins, though, I like the Wilkins hard pouches, and have glued the foam from pellet tins around the inside: this prevents rattling and gives the pellets a soft cushion. Many competition shooters use a pellet clam with just enough pellets for the day in it.