Airgun answers

It’s that time again, as 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

Pellets

Q: I keep hearing that one day we’re going to see lead airgun pellets phased out. Is this really likely to happen? And if so, what are the options?

Simon says: This is a thorny subject that crops up occasionally, but your question is very timely as the EU started a public consultation on the subject of lead ammunition very recently. 

This followed a statement by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which put lead at the top of their agenda as a ‘substance of very high concern’. This doesn’t just mean making lead illegal for use in airguns, but for all ammo, including rimfire and centrefire.

Germany has already got restrictions on the use of lead pellets, which is why RWS and H&N have invested in designing and producing alternatives of non-lead pellets based on zinc or tin.

The Gun Trade Association are gathering as much information as possible to challenge any forthcoming directive, to be armed to get the UK Government to negotiate a derogation from the restriction. There may be requirements for the grant of a derogation – we shall have to wait and see.

Lead-free alternatives already exist, with manufacturers such as RWS and H&N leading the way due to the current legislation in Germany

Regarding what options we have, that will depend upon the level of restriction placed upon the use of lead pellets. It might be that using lead pellets is prohibited from any public range, and that could include private clubs such as FT, HFT and possibly indoor competition use too.

For the lone user shooting in their garden or quietly going about a permission, then perhaps stockpiling is going to be the answer. Hopefully, the responses from the gun trade across Europe will mean it won’t come to that.

Accuracy

Q: Will lubricating pellets really improve their accuracy?

Chris says: It’s probably true to say that lubricating pellets was both more popular and more effective in the days of smoothbore airguns than it is today.

Early spring-powered air rifles were often fairly low in power compared with today’s rifles, and any additional slickness added to the pellet’s surface would have acted to lower the retarding effect of friction, helping to maintain muzzle velocity and improve range.

Nowadays, rifles easily achieve higher power, but while the emphasis is on maximising accuracy, a little lube will rarely make that worse. The only part of the pellet to touch the bore is, of course, the periphery of the pellet’s head and skirt, so your ammo need only be rolled around in a tin lid with a light smear of lube in it.

Products like Napier Power Pellet Lube are just the ticket when preparing your ammunition for an accurate launch

The lands in the barrel’s bore will cut through this into the underlying lead, leaving most of the lube near the breech. But with successive shots, the high-pressure air blast will carry some of this lube along the bore to ease the passage of subsequent pellets.

Any improvement in accuracy is probably only going to be small, and will not help much if there is a basic mismatch between your rifle and your chosen ammo.

Lubing is still part of the ritual of pellet preparation of many highly skilled FT and HFT shooters, though. In order to rule out any ammo malfunction, these shooters will wash and lubricate their ammo, before sorting their pellets into tight, weight-controlled groups of around one tenth of a grain difference.

Ensuring that all your pellets are the same weight will ensure that they all have the same trajectory, and a little slickness may help towards ultimate accuracy.

If nothing else, all this meticulous handling ensures that any less-than-perfect pellets are found and discarded. 

There is also a point of view that says using lube decreases the build-up of lead in your rifle’s barrel, and will therefore maintain accuracy for longer and increase the intervals between bore cleaning, so its benefits are manifold.

If you are keen to try lubricating your lead, make sure to use a product made for the job, such as Napier Power Pellet Lube or Lubro-Teknik LT-1, rather than any petroleum derivatives, which could cause damage to the delicate O-ring seals, or cause dieseling.

Cylinders

Q: I’ve just got my first PCP and am using a stirrup pump, but I’m thinking of changing to a scuba tank as I’ve heard it’s much easier. But I’m a bit worried about having all that high-pressure air in the house. Are they really safe?

Mike says: It’s good to have a healthy respect for the guns and equipment we’re using, especially regarding the sort of pressures that are being contained within the cylinders or buddy bottles of our guns, or the charging cylinder (scuba tank) itself.

If you think about it, you are already storing extremely high-pressure air in your home within the gun, typically anywhere from 180 bar to 220 bar, whereas most modern scuba tanks can be filled up to 300 bar.

All types of cylinder are built to withstand greater pressures than these to incorporate an additional level of safety, and they are also designed to have a deliberate weak point – usually a burst disc – which is designed to vent excess air safely, rather than cause the cylinder to rupture.

But there are certainly some safety precautions we can all take to make sure our cylinders don’t get damaged – and they don’t damage us. Perhaps the most overlooked safety procedure is to lie the charging cylinder down rather than stand it upright – and this is especially important when it’s being used to fill a gun.

A cradle like this is ideal for keeping your cylinder secure at home, and also when transporting it to your local dive shop for a refill or test

Unless the cylinder is properly secured when upright, such as by using something like a heavy-duty bungee, it’s an accident that is just waiting to happen. If it topples over, it could fall on you or your gun, and the air gauge could also get damaged.

It’s far better to lie a cylinder down and stop it from rolling by using a homemade cradle or some sort of chock. Dive weights are perfect for this, especially the cordura pouch type, which are filled with lead shot and can be wedged in place very easily. A secure cylinder is a safe cylinder!

Finally, do keep your eyes and ears well away from the valve at all times. If you can’t hear any air coming out, please don’t bend down to listen, as you may be rewarded with a sharp blast of high-pressure air.

If you are ever in any doubt about either the functionality or integrity of your charging cylinder, then take it to a dive shop and get it professionally tested.

For the best field sports news, reviews, industry and feature content, don’t forget to visit our sister publications Clay Shooting Magazine, Sporting Rifle, Bow International, and Gun Trade News. And our YouTube shows The Shooting Show and The Airgun Shooter. For subscriptions, please visit https://www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk/

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