Newcomers to airguns have years of enjoyment ahead of them, and Mike Morton shares 10 top tips to give them the best possible start.
1. Find Out What You Like
While many new shooters enter the sport via an organisation like the scouts or cadets, plenty more will discover it for themselves and decide that they just want to get an air rifle. This is great, but before heading out to the gun shop to lay down some cash, have a think about what you want to use that rifle for once you’ve bought it. There are three basic categories: hunting, plinking and target shooting, and much pleasure can be had from any or all of them.
2. Find Somewhere To Shoot
You can certainly get started in your garden, but you’ll probably get more enjoyment from your shooting by joining a club or going to a range, where in addition to being able to use their facilities, you’ll be able to tap into the wealth of experience available from fellow club and staff members. You won’t need to have your own gun straight away, as most clubs and ranges will be able to lend you a rifle or let you hire one. This not only keeps your start-up costs down, but gives you hands-on experience with several different types of rifle.
3. Put Your Wallet Away (For Now)
Newcomers to any sport are usually excited to go out and acquire their own kit as soon as possible, and that’s true of plenty of new shooters, but it will pay you in the long-run not to pay out in the short-term. Instead, spend plenty of time looking at what’s out there, which rifles you might want to put on your shortlist and then set yourself a budget. Think of the wider picture too: not just the cost of the rifle itself, but extras like optics, ammo and clothing as well as accessories like a bipod or shooting sticks.
4. Look At What Your Fellow Shooters Are Using
If you join a club or visit a range you’ll be able to speak to more experienced shooters who will be only too happy to chat about their own guns – and they’ll probably let you shoot them too. You’ll also get a better appreciation of the different types of rifle that are available, what powers them and how to operate them properly.
5. Ask Specific Questions
As well as asking your fellow shooters what they’re shooting, ask them why they bought their particular rifle and what they enjoy using it for. One shooter may have bought a BSA Gold Star because they want to take part in an outdoor discipline called HFT, while another may be shooting a BSA R-10 because they want to carry out some pest control for a farmer friend. While either rifle could be used for both types of shooting, they’re optimised for their intended use.
6. Get To Know The Power Plants
A huge part of choosing, and successfully and safely operating an air rifle is understanding what powers it. Most air rifles generate the pressure needed to shoot a pellet using one of three different types of power plant, these being the springer, the gas-ram and the pre-charged pneumatic. The springer and gas-ram are self-contained units, while the PCP needs additional charging gear to fill the onboard reservoir with compressed air. In general, springers and gas-rams are cheaper than PCPs, and can be every bit as accurate. But because these rifles have a lot more recoil, they demand more skill to shoot well, however this can arguably make them more fun to shoot.
7. Get To Know The Calibres
Air rifles are available in a number of calibres, with the most common being .177 and .22. As a very general rule, .177 is a good choice for target shooting and plinking, while would-be hunters can choose either calibre, just being aware that the heavier .22 pellet will have a more loopy trajectory, although both calibres are equally accurate.
8. Get Safe
Shooting is one of the safest sports in the world, and that’s down to responsible shooters paying attention to gun safety at all times. Anyone starting out should learn how to get safe and stay safe. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) has a simple assessment carried out by accredited assessors called the Airgun Safe Shot Award. The assessment takes just 20 minutes and can be done at a game fair or organised by you anywhere in England and Wales.
To find out more about the Airgun Safe Shot Award contact BASC’s Training and Education department on 01244 573018.
9. Practice Makes Perfect
Go shooting as often as you can, and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve the level of accuracy you’re hoping for straight away. Shooting is an ongoing learning process, that’s one of the reasons it’s so enjoyable, and expertise will come with plenty of trigger time. Try to practise when you’re fresh – perhaps visit the range at the weekend rather than on a weekday evening after a long and tiring day at work.
10. Get Insured
It’s always advisable to have adequate legal liability (third party) insurance when you go shooting, and becoming a member of BASC provides this. If you’re hoping to acquire some land for hunting, many landowners will insist on you being insured, and even if they don’t, having your own insurance sends out a positive message that you’re a responsible shooter who takes their sport seriously.