Mike Morton explains some of the basics when it comes to springers…
Q: How can I tell if a springer has been cocked, and how can I reset the safety?
A: One of the essential safety precautions we all need to know when handling an airgun is whether or not it’s been cocked. Even if no pellet is present, a cocked airgun can still be dangerous. An unintentional squeeze of the trigger can send a blast of high-pressure air down the barrel. In addition to this, in the case of a break-barrel springer or gas-ram, an open barrel will snap closed with intense force, potentially damaging the barrel by bending it upwards – not to mention damaging any fingers that may be present in the breech area. The latter possibility is also true of underlevers and sidelevers, which can be equally efficient at crushing fingers should they be caught by the sliding compression tube.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to check if a springer has been cocked or not: tentatively begin the cocking cycle by either breaking the barrel or activating the lever, depending on your type of gun, and see whether or not there’s any resistance. If your cocking stroke meets resistance, the gun has not been cocked, so stop right there – unless you intend to carry on and fully cock it. If your cocking stroke meets no resistance, however, that means the gun has already been cocked and is in a potentially dangerous state. Check to see whether or not a pellet’s been loaded: if not, load one to prevent any piston damage due to dry-firing, then shoot towards a safe backstop.
Some spring guns will have a manual safety, which can be set to ‘fire’ and back to ‘safe’ again at will, but those with an automatic safety behave differently. In this case, the safety will automatically engage when the rifle is cocked and must be manually disengaged when you’re ready to fire. If you then decide you do not want to take the shot – for example if a quarry animal has been spooked and run off – the safety can be reapplied by ‘recocking’ the already-cocked gun while pointing it in a safe direction. Although you won’t be compressing the spring, the last part of the cocking stroke will still activate the safety. Alternatively, aftermarket safety catches can be fitted to some guns that can be reset by rotating a small lever built into the catch, avoiding the need to recock the gun.