Airgun answers

Our experts have your questions in their sights!

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!

Whether you’re looking for a quick fix to a nagging problem or simply want advice on your next piece of gear, email us at airgunshooter@futurenet.com 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,
Bromsgrove B60 3EX

Science

Q: I have a woodland permission with a good number of squirrels on it. I have a feeder set up at my zero range to make things easier, but I am concerned because sometimes the shot squirrel squirms and kicks, even though I have hit it in the head. What can I do to stop this, as it is very unsettling?

Simon says: I wouldn’t get yourself too worked up over this. If you are hitting your mark accurately you are getting humane kills. Even with clean brain shots there are some parts of the brain that do not switch off the nervous system in its entirety.

But I would ask you to question what angle you are taking the shot from. Whatever angle is presented, you need to draw an imaginary line through the head and brain of the squirrel and judge whether or not it is going through a vital area.

Your shot needs to pass through the cortex to perform the instant switch-off we all desire. If you hit the squirrel in the back of the head from the side, you can actually miss the main part of the brain, resulting in the symptoms you are seeing.

Pellet placement is vital for a clean kill – work out exactly where it needs to be placed for an instant switch-off

If you have hit close to the back of the eye and the wound tract is not going forwards, then you will have destroyed the main part of the brain.

The only way I can think of to give an analogy to what you sometimes encounter is the same as when you switch off a battery charger with LED indicator lights.

When you switch off the mains, the green LED continues to stay lit for a second or two while the residual electricity is either burned off or dissipates.

This is much the same in a quarry animal. The brain has been switched off, but the nervous energy in the system still needs to ‘drain away’. But rest assured, the squirrel is very much dead and is not suffering in any way.

Gun cleaning

Q: I love shooting my guns, and enjoy looking after them almost as much. I’ll clean the barrel after every use and will remove the stock too. But a friend told me I’m cleaning them too much. Is he right?

Mike says: It’s great to hear that you want to look after your guns. Our airguns will certainly soldier on for a while if they’ve been neglected, but will perform at their very best when they are being maintained to an optimal level and are being protected against rust or any other type of corrosion.

There are two potential issues with your own regime: are you carrying out any needless work, and are you doing more harm than good? It sounds like your cleaning method is thorough – but maybe a bit too much.

Patching the bore or shooting felt cleaning pellets will certainly help maintain the right degree of accuracy, but it does take a few shots to re-lead a perfectly clean bore afterwards – sometimes by as many as 50 shots.

Having said that, you can soon learn from experience exactly how many shots it takes for your particular barrel and pellet combination to come back on song. And your method also means you’re starting from a known baseline every time you shoot it.

For most people though, cleaning a barrel after every tin of pellets is usually sufficient, although some manufacturers recommend a clean after every 250 shots.

Prevention is always better than cure, and regular maintenance will keep your rifle shooting sweetly. How often you clean is down to you

Removing a stock to make sure the gun is clean where it can’t be seen, and more importantly, isn’t gathering any trapped water or condensation, is a great idea.

I’ll do this to my rifles at least once a year even if they’ve only been shot at an indoor range, and will remove the stock every time the gun’s been out in the rain, or if it’s seen particularly humid conditions.

Doing it any more than this will put some minor wear and tear on your stock screws, but more importantly, you run the risk of cross-threading the screw when reassembling your gun .

My own technique when screwing metal into metal (it doesn’t work as well when screwing into plastic or nylon) is to turn the screw anti-clockwise until you hear it go click as the threads engage. Then you can tighten it clockwise as usual.

As long as you’re careful not to cause any physical damage to your gun when cleaning it, the worst you’re doing is wasting your time. And even that’s a moot point if you enjoy the cleaning process.

It’s good to spend time with your gun, and that doesn’t always have to mean time behind the trigger.

Head position

Q: I’m new to airguns, but have been taught how to fit a scope properly by the guys at my club and everything seems fine. But when I shoot the gun off a bipod, I can’t see through the scope as well. Is it possible the scope is moving?

Mike says: The optimum distance between your shooting eye and the ocular lens – the lens that’s closest to your face – is known as eye relief. If the scope is either too close to your eye or too far away, you won’t get a perfect sight picture.

You may see a black corona appear in the image, which means you’re looking at a portion of the inside of the scope tube. The problem is made much worse if you increase the magnification of your scope.

This can certainly happen if the scope is shifting, either in its mounts or the whole assembly is shifting on the scope rail, with the scope usually creeping back towards you, especially if you’re shooting a recoiling a rifle and you’re not using an arrestor pin. But I suspect in your case it’s more to do with the shooting stance you’ve adopted.

Shooting standing, kneeling, sitting, prone or off a bench, which is becoming more and more popular, will all affect the way your head is positioned behind the rifle.

Mike’s adopted a kneeling stance and a prone stance – notice how his head’s closer to the scope when he’s down on the ground behind the rifle

When you go prone, your head will naturally sit slightly further forward due to the angle your neck is being craned at and the way your shoulders are hunched up. This may be enough to spoil your sight picture.

There are two ways around this problem, the first being the way you mount your scope. If you know you are going to take most of your shots from a certain shooting stance, then it makes sense to set up your scope so eye relief is perfect for that specific stance.

If you’re not sure, or want the option to shoot in various stances, then you’ll have to set eye relief at a happy medium that will work reasonably well for all the stances you want to use.

The second method is simply to dial down the magnification on your scope. Poor eye relief is exacerbated by a higher setting, so reducing magnification is often enough to restore a decent sight picture. 

Seal service

Q: How do I care for the seals on my CO2 gun? I’ve heard they are easy to damage.

Jonathan says: Care of CO2 airguns is nothing to get fazed about. People mutter on about “the seals, the seals” like it’s some portent of doom. Air rifles can be straightforward enough to reseal, but admittedly air pistols can be a bit of a fiddle.

A little lubricant applied to a fresh CO2 capsule before being inserted into your rifle or pistol will work wonders in extending the life of the seals

Nevertheless, seal kits can be bought fairly easily, or can even be made up from separate O-rings using high-grade materials. As a temporary measure cheap O-rings can be used instead, but being made from softer material may not last very long, especially if they are kept under compression.

Keeping any seal in good nick is important, and using a seal lubricant is essential. Luckily, it’s very easy to do, with a simple drop or two being placed directly onto the top of the gas bulb before it gets pierced.

Custom Knives

Q: I was at the recent British Shooting Show and saw some fantastic hunting knives. I’ve always wanted a custom knife, so should I just go ahead and buy one for the field?

Mike says: Custom knives run into dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of pounds, but I’m assuming you already know this and can afford one. I don’t own a full custom myself, but do have a couple of semi-custom knives that I’ve assembled from separate blades, liners and grips.

Let’s look at what you’re getting for your money when you buy a custom knife. There are three basic features – very much like airguns – these being, fit, performance and (whether you like to admit it or not) looks.

Unless you want your knife to be a display piece, fit is the most important factor. You need to be able to properly control the blade, whether it’s fixed or a folder, and it has to feel comfortable in your hand.

In terms of performance – and let’s not get into blade shape here – more expensive steels will retain a sharp cutting edge for longer, but they are harder to sharpen in the first place.

Any blade can be made sharp – there’s even a man on YouTube who makes sharp knives out of silly items like cardboard and pasta – but the key is how long they stay sharp.

The semi-custom Wilkins/Benchmade knife at the top of the photo is slicker to operate and nicer to use, but is no sharper than the far cheaper RAT 2

Finally there’s the way a knife looks. Some custom knives really are works of art, and I imagine there’s a lot of pleasure to be had in just owning one as well as using it.

So if you want a custom knife and can afford it, then go for it. If you’ve bought wisely, you’ll be rewarded with years of good service in the field, it’ll carry out any job you ask of it for which it was designed, and it will be a joy to use.

But do remember knives can get lost. I use an Ontario RAT 2, which costs less than £40, and other brands like Opinel are even cheaper. I certainly wouldn’t want to lose my RAT, but it wouldn’t mean financial ruin if it did get left in a clump of long grass by accident.

Also, a sharp blade can be made to stay sharp by stropping it after each use, keeping it ready for next time and massively extending the time taken between full-on sharpenings.

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