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Units 1 & 2,Sugarbrook Court,
Bromsgrove B60 3EX
Q: I have just bought a new air rifle in .177, but as it didn’t come with a moderator I fitted a .22 version that I already had. Will it make much difference to use this instead of a calibre-specific one?
Simon Everette says: The use of a sound moderator fitted to an airgun, along with muzzle brakes and air strippers for that matter, is a hotly debated subject. Certainly the difference between makes and models of moderator are audible, and the more precision that’s been applied to the internal dimensions and shape of the baffles can make an obvious difference.
The tighter the tolerance on the calibre bore you can get, the quieter the muzzle report will be. The more room there is around the pellet for air to escape quickly, the louder it will be, and so it’s usually described as being less efficient.
While there is no detriment to using a moderator with a slightly larger exit aperture, it isn’t making the best use of the equipment. It isn’t just the noise level that’s affected by the use of a moderator, as I have found that a good moderator also helps me shoot tighter groups. I think this is because it takes the pressure off the back of the pellet, and helps to manage the barrel harmonics.
An interesting experiment would be to take a known good rifle and pellet combination and then try different moderators in turn to see if the groups are affected. You may well find there’s no difference with your combo. But in my experience a calibre-specific moderator has a slight edge over a general one, and this is why custom-built moderators are held in such high regard.
Any other name
Q: What does the term ‘tactical’ mean? It seems to be used a lot these days.
Mike Morton says: All this refers to is a style of gun, or a feature of a particular gun, that would normally be associated with a firearm used by the armed forces or police.
Years ago if an airgun featured an overall black finish it was different enough to traditional air rifles to be branded ‘tactical’, but these days the term is more to do with a gun’s styling and features, such as a drop-down pistol grip.
‘Tactical’ can be a divisive term. I’ve met a fair few airgun shooters who see tactical guns – or rather their users – as a bunch of Walter Mitty-style SAS wannabes. But this is an unfair label to give your fellow shooters, especially when you look at the features offered by a tactical airgun.
What are the most desirable features of a modern combat rifle like the British L85 or the US M4 or M16? It’s got to be as compact as possible, while maintaining decent accuracy, and has to be fast-handling too. Ideally it will accept a range of sighting systems for different shooting scenarios, and can usually take a sling or bipod.
Have a read of that list again and see if there are any features that you wouldn’t want on your own airgun. In my book, a ‘tactical’ gun very much means a ’practical’ gun!
What is it good for?
A sling is used on a rifle to free up your hands, take the weight from your arms, and spread it over your back and shoulders instead. Having both your hands free can be invaluable when navigating a farmyard gate, pinging a distance with your rangefinder, or glassing an area with your binoculars.
How do I fit one?
A sling will be attached to a rifle with sling swivels, which in turn slot into sling swivel studs. Many slings come with swivels already fitted, but some don’t, in which case you’ll need to buy them separately. US and European sling fittings used to differ in size, but nowadays most swivels are designed to take both types, so get whichever sling appeals to you the most.
What should I look for?
You need to decide what material you want your sling to be made out of, and what features it has. Slings are traditionally made of leather, but this will need to be treated periodically to make sure it doesn’t dry out or crack. Neoprene is a common modern alternative to leather. Some slings also offer extra features, such as zip-up pockets, and the sling seen in the bottom of the picture even has a pouch to carry a bipod.
Are they really comfortable?
Although it’s nice to transfer the weight of a rifle from your hands and onto one of your shoulders, it can still feel uncomfortable after a while if you have a particularly long way to trek over your permission. Some slings, such as the Niggeloh Ruck-Sling seen at the top of the picture, let you carry your rifle like a rucksack. It’s not so fast to deploy, but is far more comfortable to use and is truly hands-free.
Q: I’m getting quite a few jams with my magazine. It had been absolutely fine for years, but I recently changed pellets. Could this be the reason?
Mike Morton says: Most airgun magazines are of a rotary type, where the drum into which the pellets are loaded is either seated within its own housing, like the Brocock Bantam magazine seen here, or are the ‘naked’ type which slot directly into the action, like the mags used on the Weihrauch HW 100 and HW 110.
It may simply be the case that your magazine has got dirty after handling thousands of pellets and just needs a spring clean. I like to brush the housing and drum with a small toothbrush after every 500 shots or so, using a tiny amount of pellet lube, and wiping off any gunk that may have been dislodged with a microfibre cloth or paper towel.
A cotton bud moistened with a little lube can be used to clean the inside of each individual pellet chamber. It’s really important not to use too much lube, as over time this can get mixed together with any lead deposits, creating a sticky slurry. Less is definitely more.
You said you had changed to a different type of pellet, and this could well be the reason if you are now using longer ones. Longer pellets that protrude from the magazine may stop it indexing correctly. You can get a feel for this yourself when feeding the pellets into the mag. If you have a spare magazine, try this too and see if it misbehaves like your other one.
Some magazines contain a little spring that will automatically index the magazine when the rifle is cocked. These can weaken over time and sometimes get dislodged.
You can either service these yourself (don’t do this over thick carpet as you may lose the spring forever!), or better yet, return it to the manufacturer for a service. Other magazines use O-rings to hold the pellets in place, and these can also degrade over time or get damaged. Again, you can either fit new rings or send the mag back for a service.
If none of these methods work then you may need to return both the rifle and magazine to the manufacturer – it could be a problem with the indexing system in the action.
Q: Why does my rifle need to be ‘warmed up’ at the beginning of a shooting session to ensure it will shoot properly?
Chris Wheeler says: We have probably all noticed that our rifles do not shoot to their usual level of accuracy until we have put a few shots through them if they have not been used for a few days.
The most usual explanation for this has been that the spring needs to be exercised to bring it up to its working potential, or in the case of a PCP, that the air valves need a few cycles to release them from a bit of ‘stiction’ which restricts the movement of the valve elements.
Both of these may be true, but it could be that the common problem applicable to both spring-powered and PCP rifles is the lead ammunition that they are shooting. Lead pellets are the standard ammo for air rifles as the metal is heavy for its volume, and because of its softness, the rifling in the steel barrel will easily impart spin, which aids accuracy.
Lead also acts as its own lubricant, but oxidises pretty quickly, especially the microscopically thin layers that are deposited in the bore. If the rifle is rested without the bore being oiled to protect the fresh lead, it will soon start to oxidise.
This, in turn, will produce a high-friction surface that will slow the progress of the first few pellets and spoil the rifle’s usual accuracy. However, the gun’s accuracy will return after a few shots when all that lead ‘fluff’ has been scoured away.
It is good practice to take a few sighting shots before commencing any hunting or target shooting venture. This habit will ensure that your sights have not shifted, and you know that the bore has been purged of lead oxide too.
Benefits of brushing?
Q: I’ve just bought a break-barrel springer and a friend at my gun club told me to give it a good clean with a bore brush. I was a bit sceptical about this, but found some YouTube videos saying this was a good thing. Is it really okay?
Mike Morton says: The use of a bore brush, along with its associated cleaning rod, jags and patches, can certainly let you carry out a deep clean of a bore, getting into the grooves of the rifling and removing any old oil or packing grease, along with excess lead deposits. But is it really necessary – and does it do any harm?
I’ve seen a few YouTube videos like you’ve described, and they are mainly American, where power levels are almost always in excess of 12 foot pounds. I’ve even heard of big-bore airguns with power levels up to 800 foot pounds.
When a lead projectile is fired down a barrel, the bore will pick up a thin coating of lead – and just the right amount of lead is beneficial to accuracy. When lead projectiles are fired at higher velocities, the lead will build up more quickly and, if left unchecked, this deposit can harden into a glassy finish that is detrimental to accuracy and is very difficult to remove.
But this will not happen at lesser power levels, and there are two potential problems with using a rod and brush in any case. The first is with the brush itself, where the bristles may be made of either brass or nylon.
If you use a brass brush, it is essential to push the brush down the bore and fully clear of the muzzle before drawing it back on the return stroke. If you reverse direction when the brush is still in the bore, you run the risk of the brass bristles damaging the rifling. Nylon bristles do not suffer from this problem.
The second problem is with the rod, where the brush screws into it, which is usually bare metal. If used carelessly, this can clip the bore at the breech end or damage the crown at the muzzle end.
I’m a bit of a cleaning zealot when it comes to my centrefires, but for me, there is no need to use a rod, brush or jag on a sub-12 foot pound air rifle, as a pull-through or BoreSnake is more than adequate to keep everything clean and shooting sweetly.