Nick Stanning talks you through springer shooting: how to pick out your gun, prep and get practising!
1. Choose the right gun
This may seem obvious, but many people check internet reviews and ask on online forums for advice on what gun to buy and base their choice on that. OK, so it’s a good place to start, but if you’re 5’3”, weigh 7st wet and aim to wander the hillsides in pursuit of rabbits, a heavy underlever with a huge scope may not be the right gun for you! If possible, go to a local club and try as many guns as you can: the club members are usually more than happy to show off their pride and joy to enthisiastic newcomers.
Alternatively, good gun shops should have a decent range of quality air rifles, and you can shoulder some to check for weight and fit. Remember the gun will be heavier and the balance will change with a scope mounted. If possible, try it with a scope in place.
2. Make every shot count!
Unlike a multi-shot PCP or the new Gamo Maxxim Elite, you will not have a quick second shot available without losing sight of the target. Focus on making this shot ‘the one’!
3. Lube your gun
A spring-powered rifle is one big mass of moving parts, so proper lubrication is key to performance and longevity. Many spring rifles are inappropriately lubed from the factory: some are full of thick grease and others are far too dry.
If you can, strip the gun down, degrease the internal parts and rebuild with small amounts of a quality Lithium Molybdenum-based grease. Some high-moly content pastes are also available, which give excellent protection.
4. Tune it up
Tuning is a catch-all term and can mean anything from fitting a set of £20 custom guides to having the gun entirely re-engineered at a cost of hundreds of pounds. While not always strictly necessary, improving the shooting characteristics of your rifle is something many springer shooters enjoy as much as actually shooting their guns.
5. Be trigger happy
Mastering trigger technique is far more important with a springer than any other type of rifle. The reach should be correct, with the pad of your finger comfortably rested on the blade. First-stage can be long or short to your preference, but the stop where the second-stage starts should be positive and consistent.
Finally, the let-off wants to come after gentle pressure, with no creep followed by a crisp shot – a sensation often likened to breaking a small rod of glass. Adjusting your trigger to its best potential can reap huge rewards.
6. Practise, practise
As with most things, the phrase “Practice makes perfect” applies. Regularly drilling your techniques will help you do them instinctively – but as soon as you start to feel tired, take a break. Don’t overdo it.
7. Be consistent
The unique thing with spring-powered airguns is the fact that the pellet is still in the barrel during the recoil stage. This means that if you change the way you hold your rifle, it will be in a different position when the pellet actually leaves the gun.
So if you hold the rifle tight and stifle it, the gun will be in a different position when the pellet exits the muzzle to where it would be if it had been allowed to move freely.
If possible, go to a local club and try as many guns as you can
The trick here is repetition. As long as you hold the rifle the same every single time, the pellet will exit along the same path. Find a feature on your stock that your finger can recognise to ensure identical placement each time. Cocking slots, checkering panels and stock screws are all useful to this.
If you’re shooting from a bench, make sure you have your hand between the rifle and the rest you are shooting from.
8. Go hunting
The PCP is the more popular choice for pest control nowadays, mainly due to the forgiving nature of its recoilless action. But that doesn’t mean the springer isn’t a useful hunting tool. There is nothing to compare to an evening’s walk with your springer and a few pellets in your pouch, spying a rabbit 100 yards away and using all available cover to get within 30 yards for a clean, effective shot. For sure you will need to improve your fieldcraft skills and respect a shorter maximum range; but if anything, the enjoyment of the stalk adds to the experience.
9. Pick your pellets
Springers are usually more efficient with lighter pellets. Try a range of brands and go with the most accurate, but look towards the lighter end of the market rather than the heavyweights PCPs prefer.
10. Try an artillery hold
You will hear the artillery hold mentioned often in springer circles: it has been around since the 1890s, but was only named relatively recently and adopted by springer shooters worldwide. It is a hold that can be used to allow the rifle to recoil freely from standing or kneeling positions.
Support the rifle at the point of balance, usually just ahead of the trigger. Allow the rifle to rest on your palm or fingertips: do not grip it, just support the weight. Your trigger hand should have a gentle hold around the grip.