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Q: What does wind doping mean with regard to shooting?
Ray Garner says: Wind doping is an expression, probably of American origin, used to describe the ‘craft’ of shooting through the wind. Any bullet or pellet which travels through air will be affected by the wind. Wind moving at right angles to the line of fire (nine o’clock and three o’clock on a clock face) will cause the greatest deflection of the pellet.
Thus a wind blowing from left to right will push the pellet to the right of the target. Conversely. a breeze from the right will displace a shot to the left of the target. Wind from any other direction on the clock face will have a relatively reduced effect on the point of impact.
When shooting at extended ranges, even a light breeze will move the pellet off target. Judging wind strength comes with experience and observation. A 10 mile-per-hour wind will gently move leaves and grass; whereas a 15mph wind will ripple grass. Wind speeds greater than this make wind doping very difficult.
Equally difficult to read is the so-called ‘fishtailing’ wind, where the direction constantly changes left to right and then the other way. If you have the benefit of range flags, observe the one closest to the muzzle. It is at this point where the greatest angular deflection of the pellet due to wind occurs.
If you are shooting on a very hot day and using a high-magnification telescopic sight, it is often possible to see the mirage moving with the wind, giving an indication of speed and direction.
There is a lot of science involved in the field of ballistics and the effect of winds, but as only Dr Brian Cox and three other people understand it, experimentation is probably the most practical approach. Try different pellets to see how they go through the wind.
I find that H&N Baracuda Match in .177 have good wind-cheating properties. Try also shooting as close to the ground as is reasonably practical; wind speeds are generally slower the lower you get.
Q: I’ve just got a new break-barrel springer, but I’m not particularly strong and have trouble cocking it. Do you have any advice or techniques that can help?
Mike Morton says: The effort needed to cock a spring-powered air rifle can vary greatly between manufacturers and models – and there can even be a difference in cocking effort between two examples of the same model.
This effort will vary depending on a number of factors, including the length of the barrel and the type of linkage the manufacturer has used. The spring itself, the finish of the internal components, and the amount and type of lubrication can also have a bearing on the effort required.
But before you start tearing your gun apart, make sure you’ve got the basics right. While you should never cover the muzzle with your hand, even on a gun you know to be unloaded, try moving your cocking hand as near to the muzzle as possible to give yourself more leverage.
If your gun has the ability to fit a moderator, try cocking it this way – that extra length will provide even more leverage. If it’s not already threaded, you may want to consider getting it turned by a gunsmith so you can fit one.
In terms of technique, there are generally two ways, the first being to tap down sharply on the muzzle to break the barrel free, after which it will then be a bit easier to cock. Not all barrel lock-ups respond well to this technique however, so an alternative method is to bring the barrel down in one smooth, firm motion.
If your rifle is still proving hard to cock, it could simply be that it’s new and is still bedding in. This can take several hundred shots, and you may want to enlist the help of a friend during this running-in period. Alternatively, the rifle may respond well to a simple strip-down, clean and re-lube – but do make sure you know what you’re doing before taking your rifle apart.
This may well void your warranty if the rifle is new. Finally, the gun could benefit from one of the numerous tuning kits that are available. These can usually be fitted at home, but some custom tuners will carry out this work for you.
Q: What’s the best type of leather to use when making seals for older airguns?
Jonathan Young says: Breaking open an old airgun the other day revealed a piston seal that was of little use. The pistol worked, it had a strong spring and the gun let off with no clangs or boings, but it was very low on power. Looking inside revealed it was the piston seal.
At some time in the past it had actually been resealed, with an offcut of brightly coloured leather with a glossy surface: think handbag, circa 1972. The leather seal was in good condition, but was just too thin to be truly useful.
Many people carrying out home repairs years ago used whatever leather was to hand to make seals, just as in this example. There’s nothing wrong at all with homemade seals, but you do need to use the right leather. Using old belts or handbags is too hit and miss.
Maybe this was okay in the dim and distant past when good, thick natural leather could be found on these products. But the problem is that most leather over the past few decades has been chemically processed, which goes hand-in-hand with mass production.
Thinner waterproof shiny leather is ideal for fashion items like shoes, belts and handbags. Your leather shoes weigh next to nothing, are waterproof and don’t mark when scuffed – but that’s due to modern chemical leather processing.
Vegetable-tanned leather is totally different. This is what has been around for centuries, and the leather is processed much more naturally. It is flexible, even when thick, and malleable when wet. Wet the leather and scribe into it and the design will stay for a hundred years or so, as seen on old Wild West holsters and saddles.
Most seals in old vintage airguns will have been made from natural leather, and new seal kits that cost a decent amount of money will most likely be made from natural leather too.
You can make your own piston and breech seals, but make sure you use only natural and thick veg-tanned leather – no handbags allowed! Ask a traditional cobbler who may have a desirable thick slab used for soles. A craft market stall-holder can sell you a thick natural leather belt, or you can source some new leather yourself.
If you do this, decide if the real leather you are buying is natural veg-tanned leather or chemically processed. This is usually quite thin, but thicker pieces may simply be made from bonded layers.
Damping a piece of leather like this usually reveals it cannot absorb water and therefore the important lubricating oils needed for treating leather seals. A dead giveaway can be a hard or glossy surface.
#25: Wind meter
Suffering from a bout of the wind? Try a meter!
Setting the scene
Of all the challenges facing the airgun shooter, wind has to rank pretty high up, if not actually top of the list. While we can work on our range estimation and know our holdover points, all that can be ruined in a heartbeat by a bad case of the wind. A pellet may be launched by the most competent shooter using the most accurate rig, but if wind is present and hasn’t been accounted for, that pellet will probably not hit where they intended it to.
Know your enemy
A wind meter, like the Kestrel model supplied by Edgar Brothers as seen here, will measure windspeed. More advanced models are available that include a ballistics calculator that can come up with a firing solution for any particular shot – but that’s probably a bit too advanced for us airgun shooters. Windspeed and direction are the most important data for our needs.
Using the knowledge
Shooting in the wind is one of the trickiest airgun skills to master. Even when you know the speed, it’s only through practice that you can start to factor in the wind and how it affects the flight of your pellet.
If you have the luxury of being able to take a sighting shot, make a note of where the pellet lands and adjust accordingly. In time, you’ll be able to build a database of aimpoints for different windspeeds – but there’s an important caveat to this, and that is the type of ground over which you’re currently shooting.
Inconsistent made consistent
Not all wind is created equal. A 5mph sidewind on one patch of land may require a different adjustment if you move to a different area. Factors like trees, bushes and the height of the grass will make the wind – and hence the pellet – behave differently. Take this into account when using a wind meter over different areas.
Q: I’ve always had trouble turning on the valve of my air tank when filling my PCP, and today I filled my gun to 250 bar instead of the 210 it should have been. Have I damaged my rifle? Is this dangerous?
Mike Morton says: Let’s talk about the danger aspect first. Your charging cylinder will have been filled to an absolute maximum of 300 bar by your local dive centre or gun shop. Both the charging cylinder and the air cylinder in your rifle are designed to withstand pressures far greater than this, so what you’ve done isn’t inherently dangerous.
Apart from potentially messing up the power curve on an unregulated PCP, the only undesirable effect overfilling may have had on your gun is to put excess pressure on the seals, which can shorten their life. But the fix is simple: ensure you’re gun isn’t loaded and dry-fire your gun until the level is down to the manufacturer’s standard working pressure.
Now let’s look at why you overfilled your rifle in the first place. If the valve feels graunchy, it’s probably worn or damaged and should be replaced immediately, even if the cylinder itself may still be in test.
Some valves, however, are just naturally stiff, and need to be opened slowly and carefully to avoid sending a massive surge of air down the fill line. In this case, try to build up plenty of torque with your hand before actually opening the valve.
Q: I was fitting a new scope when my Allen key slipped and scratched one of the mounts. Cam I cover it up? Would a black market pen be okay?
Mike Morton says: While some people aren’t bothered in the slightest by mild cosmetic damage, others find it infuriating. There is a fix, but a marker pen isn’t a long-term solution. If you run a pen like a Sharpie over a scratch, it will colour the bare metal black, but the ink will look quite thin and glossy, and will eventually get rubbed off.
You can get a better match by using paint, but it can be difficult to blend this in seamlessly, and even enamel paint will still rub off over time, especially on high-wear areas.
Birchwood Casey produces a number of refinishing products, one of which is Aluminum Black (with the US spelling).
As the name implies, this is made to cover up scratches on black-finished aluminium. This product won’t work on steel, which some centrefire mounts are made of, but generally work very well on our aluminium airgun mounts.
It’s not the most nature-friendly of products, so you might want to wear a pair of gloves when applying it, and make sure you don’t spill it. While it will blacken damaged finishes, it’s not a proper filler, so don’t expect it to be a miracle cure for deep gouges. It is, however, excellent for repairing minor damage.
It’s easy enough to use. The area to be treated must be cleaned with alcohol to remove any residual grease, and the alcohol allowed to dry. The Aluminum Black can then be applied to the damaged area and left there for 60 seconds or so, after which the excess can be dabbed away and the area wiped down with a moist paper towel or cloth.
The process can be repeated a number of times until you’re happy with the result. The finish can be handled immediately, but needs around a day to properly cure.
Although Birchwood Casey makes no mention of this, I’ve heard some users say the product works best on a heated metal surface; but be careful using heat around wood stocks, air cylinders, plastic or rubber parts, or any portion of a scope.
Some of the parts I’ve treated in the past have been a complete success, while others have only been partially improved. This may be down to the grade of aluminium I’ve been trying to treat, but in every case the end result has been a massive improvement over the scratch.
In our regular series in Airgun Shooter Magazine, the BASC Airgun Team answers your airgun shooting-related conundrums and queries…
Q: I’ve always been plinking safely in my garden for years with no trouble at all, but I had a visit from some new neighbours the other day who had presumably heard me shooting. They claimed what I was doing was dangerous, was against the law and they were going to report me to the council. As far as I’m concerned I haven’t done anything wrong. What do you think I should do?
A: If you are 18 or older you are allowed to shoot your airgun on your own property, or anywhere else you have permission, without any supervision. It is an offence to allow your pellets to travel over your boundary, and if it causes any damage it’s classed as criminal damage. It is also an offence in England and Wales to fire your airgun within 50 feet of the centre of the highway and when doing so someone is injured, interrupted or endangered.
It is always worth being on good terms with your neighbours, whether that’s the family next door to your home or the people living next to one of your hunting permissions, for example. But if, as in this case, someone expresses a specific concern, it’s probably worth inviting them round for a cup of tea and a biscuit to chat it over, show them what you are doing and the safety measures you are taking, such as a safe backstop for example.
For more information on airguns and the law, see www.basc.org.uk/firearms/airgun-guidance-and-fact-sheets