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An air rifle is the perfect choice for quiet, accurate and humane pest control – Mat Manning shares 10 top tips to help you pick the right one
1. What do you want it for?
Different airguns lend themselves to different applications, so think very carefully about the type of quarry you will be targeting, the places where you will be shooting and the methods you will be using. If you’re planning to rove the fields you’ll probably want a lightweight model, whereas something heavier could be more appropriate for static hunting.
2. What can you afford?
The most advanced airguns cost serious money, but you don’t have to break the bank to get a decent air rifle for hunting. Stick to brands with a reputation for reliability, focus on overall quality and be prepared to compromise on fancy features.
3. Spring or PCP?
Spring-powered airguns tend to be more affordable and, despite their recoil, can be very accurate once you learn how to shoot them properly. PCPs are easier to shoot accurately because of their lack of recoil, but don’t forget that you also have to factor in the cost of charging gear.
4. Calibre conundrum
The most popular calibres for sub-12 foot pound airguns are .177 and .22. The former flies faster and flatter, while the latter tends to hit with more clout. The choice really does boil down to personal preference, but both will deliver clean kills if you land them in the right place.
5. Pumping up the power
High-powered FAC-rated airguns, which need to be licensed, are gaining in popularity. The extra grunt can be useful, but their effective range isn’t a great deal further than a sub-12 ft-lb air rifle. High-powered airguns can also be less versatile as their increased power can create problems when shooting around the farmyard and in other confined spaces. They also make more noise.
6. Accuracy is everything
Precision is the prime consideration when it comes to ensuring clean kills on small pests. Choose a model that has a reputation for accurate shooting and match it with a quality pellet for best results.
7. Getting triggered
Predictable shot release is a very important factor in accurate shot placement. The best airguns have a crisp and consistent trigger let-off that is easy to pre-empt. Avoid guns with lots of creep in their trigger action.
8. Keep it quiet
A very quiet airgun is a great advantage when targeting wary quarry. Some air rifles feature barrel shrouds that help to stifle muzzle report, but attaching a specialist sound moderator is usually the best way to hush it down to a whisper – airguns that are threaded for silencer attachment are a versatile option.
9. Multi-shot or not?
Many airguns, especially PCPs, come with multi-shot magazines. This is a handy feature that ensures rapid follow-up shots and saves you from having to fumble with pellets when you need to quickly reload in the dark. The FX Impact MkII pictured here has a huge magazine capacity.
10. The right fit
The way a gun fits you is very important when it comes to shooting accurately and with comfort. Some airguns come with adjustable stocks so you can tweak their proportions to suit you, but nothing beats actually trying one to find out for sure. If the gun you had your heart set on doesn’t fit you well when you try it in the shop, you could be better off with something different.