A question about ammo accuracy is among the latest to be put to our panel of experts in the latest Airgun Shooter Q&A.
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Q&A: ammo accuracy
Q: I’ve been given completely different advice from my mates regarding damaged pellets when it comes to ammo accuracy. Some say I should bin them, while others say it makes no difference at all. Who’s right?
Mike Morton says: It may sound odd, but both pieces of advice are correct, depending on variables. Your friends may have had different ammo accuracy experiences when shooting damaged ammo in their own airguns, and are passing on their own findings.
The quality of modern pellet manufacture has never been better, but you may find damaged pellets in the tin. The worst kind of ‘damage’ isn’t damage at all, but occurs when a significant amount of pellet material is missing, which sometimes happens during the manufacturing process.
I’ve had pellets with malformed heads and others with only partially formed skirts. While this is rare, it’s severe, and will have a massive effect on the pellet’s flightpath. Any pellets with a problem like this should be discarded as they will not fly true at all.
More common damage is a partially crushed skirt, usually due to the weight of the neighbouring pellets. How much this affects their accuracy will depend upon how much damage they have suffered and how well your gun barrel copes with this.
I opened a tin of pellets and found one or two that had suffered some slight crush damage. I loaded the magazine of my Brocock Bantam Sniper HR with five pellets, the fourth being one of the damaged projectiles, and took a five-shot group, aiming at an old pellet hole on a piece of card at 30 yards.
I’ll be the first to admit that a better test would have been for someone else to have loaded the magazine for me to eliminate any expected bias, but nevertheless the fourth shot was a little off, although the amount was negligible.
Even allowing for this errant pellet, this was still one of the best 30-yard groups I’ve ever shot. I followed up this test by deliberately deforming a pellet more severely, and this one was way off my point of aim.
While some barrel and pellet combinations will handle damaged ammo with a degree of success, common sense plays a part too. If you come across any pellets showing clear signs of damage then I’d certainly not use them in competition or for hunting.
But these pellets can still be used to help hone shooting techniques during a practice session, and can even be shot effectively if the target is big enough, such as a tin can on the plinking range. So while they do need to be treated differently, they don’t necessarily need to be disposed of.
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Q: Match rifle shooters always seem to use a glove or mitt on the supporting hand. Are there wider advantages to be gained by their use?
Quite a lot depends on the type of shooting you wish to undertake. For example, the use of a target glove for plinking at tin cans in your back garden would likely not yield any substantive benefit.
Equally, sport shooting with a lightweight rifle would return only a marginal advantage, and indeed may get in the way of the fine handling characteristics of a nicely balanced rifle. Obversely, those engaged in any kind of target shooting discipline, indoor or outdoor, stand to gain increased accuracy and consistency through the use of a target glove.
True target shooting gloves and mitts tend to be very specialised, high-quality items from the likes of Anschutz, Gehmann, Sauer, Schulz, Kustermann and others may cost £60 and sometimes more. For those shooters who are involved in ISSF matches, the rules are very definite concerning the make-up and dimensions of gloves.
The glove must be of a flexible material and must not extend more than 50mm above the wrist. The total thickness of the glove must not be more than 12mm, and no strap or closure at the wrist is allowed. For Field Target shooting and for Hunter Field Target events, gloves are allowed and are generally free of control.
The main advantages of a dedicated shooting glove are the fact that it isolates the rifle from the shooter’s pulse beat and reduces the pressure of a sling when one is used.
A glove also encourages a relaxed hold of the rifle’s forestock when shooting with an open palm style of support. Some gloves have a grippy material attached to prevent the forestock from slipping. This may be particularly useful when shooting in the standing position with the rifle supported on a closed fist.
If you do want to experiment with a target mitt, but do not initially want to spend a lot of money, then try an oven mitt instead. These can be had for four or five pounds, and do work remarkably well for the open palm method of rifle shooting.
Q: I’m not a hunter, so do I really need a moderator? Most of my airgun barrels are not threaded, so how would I fit one in any case?
Jonathan Young says: Some people swear by their silencer, while others swear they have no use for them. Generations of spring guns users never even had the choice, and this has largely carried forward to the present. But a silencer can muffle the crack you get with CO2 and PCP airguns. If you do a lot of back garden plinking with air pistols, a silencer may help calm the neighbours.
Silencers fit to the airgun’s barrel either directly or with the use of a sleeved interconnecting part or adapter. The most obvious point is that the silencer has to have a wobble-free fit on the barrel and be in line with the bore.
A badly fitted silencer is a hindrance, and the longer the silencer the more deviation away from true will be the front hole where the pellet exits. Your accuracy will be all over the place if this is off-centre. When alignment is really bad, silencers can get hit by the pellet which shatters inside against the front end cap or the internal baffles.
To avoid any problems, know the measurement of your barrel. Airgun engineers know the manufacturers’ factory-made dimensions, but it’s best to check, especially if your gun is not standard or has been customised. A modern digital caliper will give a reading to work with to help select the correct adapter if buying off the shelf.
This is also especially useful if you know someone who is willing to make the silencer adapter themselves on a lathe. The most common thread for the other end to accept a silencer is ½” UNF, a measurement that most retail airgun silencers come with, but there have been other threads over the years, so it pays to check.
Adapters tend to be secured by one or two grub screws. Grub screws can mark the barrel’s surface, however. You can wrap tape around the barrel, but if done poorly this could affect how the setup sits on the barrel and also introduce moisture and corrosion.
A few manufacturers have attempted to make user friendly multi-purpose adapters. The Webley Pro System silencer used a set of nylon baffles that allowed the two-part silencer to be tightened over them. The baffles adapt to a number of diameters, so can swap between guns with only one silencer.
Use a slip-on adapter, a slip-on silencer without an adapter, or a barrel threaded to match the silencer’s threads. No marks to the barrel’s bluing, no accidental slip-offs in the long grass late in the evening, but this latter method obviously takes time and money.
Not everyone can dismantle their gun to remove the barrel, machine and thread the muzzle, and most importantly do this work with some degree of accuracy. Off-centre may well be worse than using a £10 slip-on adapter!
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