Airgun answers

Our experts have your questions in their sights, so make sure to read to the bottom to find out how to send them in!

Struggling with a scope? Having hassles with your hunting? Well, don’t despair because you’ve arrived at the right place to discover remedies for your airgun anxieties!


Q: What’s the difference between a silencer and a moderator, and which one’s best for an airgun?

Mike Morton says: In short: NOTHING. Both words are used to describe a tubular device that is attached to the barrel or shroud of an airgun that reduces noise when the gun is fired. The term ‘silencer’ is first believed to have been used back in 1902 when Hiram Percy Maxim developed the first functioning and commercially available suppressor. 

This device ended up being patented in 1909. Gun development was in the family – it was his father, Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim, who invented the Maxim Gun, the world’s first portable and fully automatic machine gun.

It’s interesting to note that when most people think of silencers, moderators or suppressors, they think of the sound-reducing capabilities the device has in relation to the quarry, while Maxim’s silencer was developed to help protect the shooter’s hearing. Fortunately for airgun shooters, a moderator will do both jobs very well. 

Whether you call it a silencer, moderator or suppressor, this device will protect your ears while also giving you an advantage in the hunting field

As someone who’s suffered slight hearing loss from shooting (in an incident that was completely of my own making), I’m a big fan of using moderators to protect our hearing, and also to prevent quarry animals from locating the origin of a shot.

While ‘silencer’, ‘moderator’ and ‘suppressor’ are pretty much interchangeable, the term ’silencer’ is used far less these days, possibly because of some obscure trades descriptions legislation. No ‘silencer’ will truly silence.

Airguns come the closest to being hushed down to a whisper, followed by .22 LR rimfires firing subsonic ammunition. A moderator will slow down and partially contain the blast of air from the muzzle of an airgun, or the gases produced by the combustion of the powder in a cartridge, but can do nothing to deaden the crack of a bullet gone supersonic.

One thing to watch out for when buying a moderator is the way it attaches to your gun. Most screw directly to the barrel or shroud with a thread size of ½” UNF (Unified National Fine), but other threads can sometimes be found. Some moderators push over the barrel and are secured with a grub screw, while others need a barrel adaptor.


Q: I’m a responsible shooter, and chronograph my gun regularly to make sure it’s within the legal limit. However, I’m always nervous about the potential of being stopped by the police on the way to or from shooting, or for a member of the public to report seeing me hunting. Is there anything else I can do to be prepared for such scenarios?

Richard Saunders says: It sounds like you’re doing all the right things. Certainly, a good knowledge of the law as it relates to the use of airguns is a must. No one likes the idea of being stopped by the police, even if they have done nothing wrong, but we have to accept that in this day and age using any kind of gun increases the chances of that happening.

I always call the 101 police number and register the fact that I will be going out controlling pests. After providing some personal details you’ll be given a Unique Reference Number (URN) in return. That way if a member of the public calls the police having seen you on your permission, the police will have a record of you being there.

Carrying details about your permissions, certifications and insurance will all help if you do get challenged by the police

The Home Office also now requires you to have written permission from landowners to shoot on their land. I’ve made up a folder which contains permission letters, BASC membership, certifications and insurance details, a copy of my Firearm Certificate and risk assessments for various different permissions. I also chronograph each of my guns every three months and include the printouts.

Armed response police are obliged to attend every report involving a gun. It’s happened to me on a couple of occasions and each time, thanks to these precautions, it’s been very amicable and undramatic.

Having called 101 and provided my mobile phone number, they’ve simply called me up and we’ve agreed to meet somewhere on the permission. I’ve then shown them my folder – whether they want to see it or not – and that’s been the end of the discussion. 

Once, we shared a flask of tea, and I gave the officer some advice on a rifle for his son!


Q: What’s the maximum range I can hunt at with my legal-limit air rifle?

Chris Wheeler says:

This is one of those ‘how long is a piece of string?’ questions for which there is no easy answer. The distance that an airgun pellet will travel is hard to assess, but at extreme range it will carry very little energy – certainly not enough to kill even a small animal cleanly. 

So we should limit ourselves to distances where the energy retained will kill quickly and humanely, generally well within 45 yards. The maximum range for a gun will be different for each individual shooter, however. Factors that need to be considered when evaluating your maximum hunting range should include the following:

• The muzzle energy produced by the rifle
• The weight of the ammunition to be used
• The precision of the fit of the pellet to the bore
• The quality of marksmanship of the shooter
• Wind strength and direction
• Whether or not you need to take an elevated shot

Your maximum hunting range can only be discovered by experiment. I recommend the following procedure. On a windless day, set out a target with some aiming dots marked on it. From 15 yards, shooting from a solid and stable rest, take five shots at the aiming mark.

Does your rifle and pellet combo pass the 20 pence piece test? If not, shorten the range, practise more – or do both

If all five shots form a group that will fit under a 20p piece, go back five yards and shoot another group. If all those shots are still inside the 20p piece then go back another five yards and try again. When your group opens out to more than the diameter of the 20p piece, you’ve discovered your maximum hunting range.

The most important thing is that your rifle consistently shoots your pellets to this predictable degree of accuracy. If your shots fall randomly and widely (shotgunning) there is likely to be a mismatch between the pellet and the barrel. Try a few different makes of ammo until better grouping is achieved.

Once you’ve found a pellet that you and your rifle can shoot to the 20mm standard, set your scope to a zero of 25 or 30 yards and shoot groups at a variety of ranges to learn the hold-over and hold-under corrections for your set-up.

Then practise, practise and practise some more until you can shoot from any distance out to your maximum and be certain of making a telling shot each time. Only then should you consider going hunting.

If you have a question, then get in contact by emailing us at or write to us at the address below: one of our experts will soon get you on the right track!

Airgun Shooter, Future Publishing,
Units 1 & 2,
Sugarbrook Court,
Aston Road,
B60 3EX

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