Pete Brookes is a dedicated airgun hunter and always uses a PCP, but if that’s the case, why did he go rogue and buy a brand new springer?
The first airgun I ever picked up as a teenager was my mate’s BSA Meteor, and while the local vermin population – or our own familiar adversary, the barn door for that matter – had very little to fear, that all changed with the arrival of two further BSA thoroughbreds. I went for the Mercury and my buddy the Airsporter, the former staying with open sights, while the latter carried a then-modern 4×32 Tasco scope.
My mate lived on a smallholding on the Staffordshire/Shropshire border and with other family members owning adjoining farms we had plenty of land to roam freely with our two BSA classics.
Warfarin was in abundant use on the farms at that time, so rats were not really a necessary quarry for us. Neither, in fact, were grey squirrels really on our hit list as the local Forestry Commission was using poison on a large scale in the area to keep their numbers down. Although poison was impactive on non-target species, it was perfectly legal and considered very much acceptable at that time.
Consequently, our foremost quarry was Oryctolagus cuniculus, the European rabbit. While they had been knocked back by the vile myxomatosis over the past few decades, and RHD had yet to rear its equally ugly head, there were plenty of bunnies scattered around the hedgerows of our permissions.
This gave us ample incentive to improve our accuracy by shooting (empty) shotgun cartridges off logs, make plenty of mistakes, but ultimately learn our craft and begin to reduce the local rabbit population.
Nowadays, PCP air rifles have become my first choice out of the gun cabinet when going hunting. The technical brilliance, reliability and handling of PCPs give me so much enjoyment out in the field, and that is why airgunning is my favourite.
We are obliged to take our chosen quarry humanely, and if the modern PCP completes that task more efficiently and consistently, then it will always wear the crown in my book. By choice, the hunting can be made hard, but the actual dispatch of quarry must always be easy.
So why did I go rogue and add a break-barrel, spring-powered air rifle to my gun cabinet? I have no desire to collect rifles that are not used on a regular basis.
Along with other contributors, I set myself the “three gun only” rule, one for hunting, one for target shooting and the third a wildcard for whatever I fancy.
Perhaps it’s a yearning to return to the basics, a desire to keep the memory of old-style engineering alive and to unshackle the chains of a cumbersome diver’s bottle, reconnecting in some way new technology with the past?
Or was it to test myself, a decision to push me into the challenge of becoming a better shot with improved accuracy across the board, hopefully fulfilling the satisfaction of knowing that what I love doing, I ultimately do very well?
Having spent a large portion of my working life around firearms and munitions I have consumed hours on ranges loading up magazines of centrefire ammunition before winging it down into rotating AAA targets, silhouettes of bank robbers with sawn-offs and the kneeling female holding a camera that always caught you out.
This was no relaxed shooting from the bench or lying prone on a shooting mat, but was instead a multitude of demanding disciplines and scenarios that was mostly “on the hoof”.
The principles of marksmanship were very much drilled into you and so was the pressure to ensure that you developed the appropriate skills and abilities to hopefully produce the right decision on the streets when you took the shot (or not). Then it was practice, practice and more practice.
Coupled with a large portion of operational experience (where things ultimately never go to plan) that is what got you match-fit, ready to take on the bad dudes and hopefully got you back home for tea and biscuits with the family, hopefully with all limbs intact and no large holes.
We all know that when we are out hunting that then is not the time to practise our shooting. We can certainly look to develop our fieldcraft every time we set foot in the field, but on a live animal this is not the time to improve our accuracy. That comes well before, when we need to know that we have the confidence to place the pellet where we intend every time.
If we can’t do it in a practice session, then we shouldn’t be trying it for real.
Subsequently, that is why I chose a German-built springer, but questionably, why am I assuming it will assist me in becoming a better shot?
Yes, I could have chosen a target PCP, as there are some current beauties on the market that caught my eye.
The more learned amongst us may even suggest that I should ultimately practise with the rifle that I hunt with, and most certainly I will, but perhaps I am setting myself up for a bit of a check here with the challenge of recoil again.
If I can nail a target with a springer, then I should be able to nail it just as well with a PCP, shouldn’t I?
The Weihrauch HW98 that I went for certainly is a nice bit of kit and does lend itself to HFT, although with me not having a competitive bone in my body, mine probably will not be setting foot on the competition field.
With the new laminate stock, it certainly looks like a modern design and dare I say even looks comparable with top-end PCPs, although ultimately that is more of an “apple and oranges” comparison.
It is weighted quite heavily to the front, but with its adjustable cheekpiece and butt pad it holds pretty nicely for me.
Effort is required to cock any springer, but loading a single pellet is much easier with the presentation angle of a break-barrel compared with the fiddling of a single shot into a PCP chamber, or even underlever for that matter.
Of course, the elephant in the room for all PCPs is the unwieldy, rather non-user-friendly dive bottle (why don’t they make them square), so with that negated that does save effort and cost, both initially and for future use.
When the internal piston accelerates forward within the HW98 on trigger release, it certainly throws out the resounding twang of a springer distinct from the comparative stealth of a PCP, but with a couple of tins of pellets put through it and a little bit of expert tuning, this rifle should smooth itself out quite nicely if given enough time.
Initially, while there are PCPs in my gun cabinet straining at the leash to get out, I do not think I will be taking the HW98 out on any hunting trips early on. In all fairness, that is probably down to my own ability and confidence with a springer than any fault with the rifle itself, but if I can cut the mustard with it then who knows?
Ultimately as a break-barrel sporting air rifle, I love it, and really that is all that is important to me as a rifleman these days. Perhaps now I am ready to return to something different. Maybe it’s just a case of an old dog back to his old tricks.