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

Technique

Q: I have heard target shooters refer to the unconscious shot – what do they mean by this?

Ray Garner says: This is a tough one, but here goes! The event known as the unconscious shot, or subconscious shot as it is sometimes called, is one where the shooter is not consciously aware of having released the pellet.

There is a sequence in the film American Sniper where the Navy Sniper School instructor counsels: “Pulling the trigger will be unconscious. You will be directing it, but not aware of it.”

What he is referring to here is the unconscious shot. Americans at times call this ‘surprise fire’ – theoretically, the rifle discharges without the shooter being aware until after shot release, when a conscious state returns.

The technical aspects of shooting, such as mounting the rifle (or pistol), controlling breathing and trigger movement, and attaining the correct sight picture are the repetitive processes which we regularly practise in a conscious manner. 

The shot release at the end of this process is, ideally, where the unconscious part occurs. Oddly, this unconscious part is the one which seems the most difficult to teach, and indeed some of the much older shooters, after their long shooting experience, achieve this ability quite naturally and without tuition in their pursuit of the ‘perfect shot’.

The shooter should be directing the shot, but not aware of it – Mike freely admits he hasn’t yet reached this zen-like state!

If you have endless patience you might want to read Eugen Herrigel’s book Zen in the Art of Archery. Published in 1948, it tells of the author’s time in Japan and his journey towards the self-detached release of the bow string, its “beguiling affinity with the technique of rifle shooting” and the final realisation of the “right shot”.

Kit

Q: I want to buy my first chronograph, but don’t really know which one to go for or how to use it. Can you offer any advice?

Mike Morton says: Chronographs are brilliant devices that measure velocity by using two optical sensors that detect the passage of a pellet. The pellet is fired so it passes through or over both sensors, and the time it takes for the pellet to travel the distance between the screens is measured electronically.

If the reading is taken at the muzzle and the weight of the pellet is known, then muzzle energy can be calculated, letting the shooter know whether or not their gun is on the right side of the law.

But a chrono offers much more than a simple test of a gun’s legality. It can be used to determine how consistent a rifle is, how consistent a particular pellet is, how to find the sweet spot on the power curve of an unregulated PCP, and whether or not any servicing or modification work has affected the consistency of a gun.

And if a chrono is placed downrange, the device can also determine how velocity, and therefore energy, bleeds off at different distances.

If you want a versatile chronograph that can do all these things, you’ll need to choose a device that can be positioned at range, not just at the muzzle. I use a venerable Shooting Chrony F1, which is a bit of a pain to set up due to its sky screens, but is otherwise very simple to operate. Other models offering similar features are available from Skan, Caldwell and AirForceOne.

The Combro cb-625 can be mounted either directly to the barrel or to a moderator using a couple of elastic bands – it’s basic, but it works!

However, if you only want to measure muzzle velocity and have no need for downrange data, you could consider the cheaper and more portable Combro cb-625, which is attached directly to the barrel or moderator and is then centred to the bore.

One thing to bear in mind when shooting a regulated PCP over a chrono, particularly if you’re using a magazine, is your rate of fire. It’s important to take a slight pause between shots, rather than try to cycle the action as quickly as you can.

A regulator needs a few seconds to come back to its correct working pressure, having suddenly dumped out all its air for the previous shot. If you shoot too quickly, your chrono won’t be recording the gun’s ‘true’ muzzle velocity.

Q: I really like the look of laminated wood stocks, but I’ve heard they are not as strong as solid wood because of the way they are made. Is this true and should I just get one anyway?

Mike Morton says: Actually, it’s the other way round, but let’s come back to that in a minute! A solid wood like walnut is an almost perfect natural material from which to make a stock, because it’s extremely strong relative to its weight, plus many shooters simply love the way it looks and feels.

A beautifully figured walnut stock is a pleasure to look at, as well as to hold, while still being very practical.

But not all wooden stocks are made of walnut. Beech is a cheaper alternative, and laminated stocks are becoming more and more popular. Many people think laminates are just there to look nice, but that’s not the only reason they’re so popular these days, as a quick trip back in time will hopefully demonstrate.

Germany’s main battle rifle of the Second World War, the Mauser Kar 98K, was initially fitted with a solid walnut stock, and sometimes solid oak. But as far back as 1937, these rifles began to be produced with laminated wood stocks.

Not every rifle has to be clad in solid beech or walnut, as laminated stocks, like the one on this FX Crown, offer function as well as form

These stocks were cheaper and resisted warping better than a solid wood stock – perfect for use in a variety of climates and weather conditions. The main drawback was the fact that these laminated stocks were a bit heavier than walnut.

Those findings from eight decades ago still largely hold true today, although modern production techniques using dyes and resins have transformed simple ‘wood’ coloured laminates into true works of airgun art.

So if you like the appearance of a particular rifle in a laminate stock, then you can rest assured it will be every bit as hard-wearing as its solid wood stablemate, even if it is a tad heavier. 

Advice

Q: Where is the best place to store my air rifle?

Chris Wheeler says: Most shooters will have bought a case or slip in which to carry their precious air rifle to and from their shooting venues, but these are not always the best place for long-term storage.

The problem is that they provide a static atmosphere, within which any damp that may be on the rifle when the shooting stops stays on and around the gun.

Many of your rifle parts may well be made of alloy, but there will usually be a wooden stock, as well as plenty of steel parts too, including the all-important barrel, and you do not want these to stay in a moist environment for long.

When you come in from shooting, dry off any obvious surface moisture with paper towels, not neglecting to separate the action from the stock to seek out any damp that has got inside.

Typical wood stocks will soon fade and the surface grain will lift if they’re left damp, so dry the woodwork with care, and apply some protective treatment or stock oil to help maintain the grain.

Leave the rifle to stand for a few hours to air-dry before wiping it over with a lightly oiled rag or a silicone-impregnated cleaning cloth, such as the ones made by Bisley or Birchwood Casey.

If you were caught in any rain, it may even be necessary to pull a few dry patches through the bore and finish with a lightly oiled patch to ensure that the barrel does not develop any surface rust while it’s in storage.

After treatment, your rifle can be reassembled and put away, but try to ensure that there is some air movement around the rifle. 

If you intend to store your rifle in a gun bag, make sure some fresh air is able to circulate around it after it’s come home from a shoot

The best places to store a sub-12 ft-lb air rifle are in a gun safe, locked into a gun rack that is securely wall-mounted, or locked inside a cupboard in a warm, dry and secure room.

This is a legal requirement if you live in a house where children might have access. But if you do have to keep your rifle in its gun slip or case, then remember to include a couple of sachets of silica gel desiccant to keep the moisture levels at bay.

Q: I only have a couple of spinners and shoot them a lot. One’s become bent, so do I need to replace it? And do you have any tips on shooting and maintaining them?

Mike Morton: Whether we consider ourselves to primarily be hunters or target shooters, there’s a massive amount of satisfaction to be had by shooting a simple reactive target like a spinner.

For many people, this is just one of the many joys to be had from shooting an airgun. Who says it’s only video games that provide instant gratification?!

Most spinners are capable of being shot at power levels up to 12 foot pounds. If you have an FAC-rated airgun, be careful to shoot targets that are specifically designed for rifles with a higher muzzle energy. But even a sub-12 foot pound gun can cause some damage to a spinner if it’s being hit repeatedly in the same place time and time again.

As long as your spinner is merely bent, rather than cracked, you can simply bend it back straight again, but a more enjoyable way is to just turn the spinner round and shoot it from the other side. It will eventually be shot back into shape.

Once the spinner is back to normal, keep turning it round on a regular basis so both sides of the spinner are being shot evenly. If a fracture ever does start to appear, discard the spinner and get a new one.

I have a collection of more expensive knockdown targets that are shot at various locations, and these are kept indoors when they’re not being used. I’m not so kind to the spinners I shoot on my garden range, however, but they don’t seem to mind too much.

I always remove any surface rust from moving parts with a wire brush and grease the area afterwards, and apart from the occasional coat of spray paint, that’s the extent of my spinner maintenance.

As far as shooting them goes, I have a double spinner with counterweights, and enjoy shooting the smaller counterweights as much as the proper targets. If I’m feeling lazy and am shooting off a bench, I’ll at least try to make the spinners a bit more challenging by threading a pellet through the cut-out for the eye.

It’s hard with the rabbit, and .177 is a must in order to thread a pellet through the eye of the pigeon! But please note I’m doing this as a fun test of marksmanship on my metal spinners – the eye is definitely not a valid killzone on any quarry animal.

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