What is a ghost ring sight? Your questions answered in the latest Q&A

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!

Meet your team of airgun advisors

Getting stable

Question: How can I set up a new rifle and do some proper accuracy testing? There aren’t any gun clubs near me, but I do have a rural permission I could use.

Lee Perryman says: I can understand your predicament as I used to regularly test my rifles, scopes and pellets using nothing more than an old dusty farm table, sat on a bum-numbing chair. One day I thought to myself “there has to be something better than this” and I’ve now found something that works really well for me that might be just what you’re looking for – the Idleback chair.

After scanning the internet looking for something a little more professional than my farm table setup, I came across the Idleback and was immediately drawn to this seat, even though it wouldn’t look out of place strapped to the back of a US military Hummer.

My mind was made up and a few days later I managed to acquire an Idleback from a friend of mine, and straight away I fell in love with this 360 degree swivelling mechanical-looking monster. Having seen the Idleback for the first time in person, I could see that a lot of thought had gone into the design and manufacture of this seat.

There’s an absolutely fantastic array of features attached to this seat, nearly everything is quick release for rapid deployment, and it’s adjustable in height and length, with pins to stop any slippage of the set position. There’s a shoulder strap for carrying it, an arm rest, an adjustable gun cradle, a pellet tray and an option of hard-standing feet.

This seat is ergonomically designed to provide a good posture. After all, can we afford to risk damaging ourselves by sitting in an uncomfortable position for long periods of time when shooting? But there is a downside to owning such a well-rounded piece of kit.

Even though I bought mine second-hand, the Idleback premium setup is at the far end of the price range, but this seat isn’t just going to last you a day
or a year, as it’s been designed to stay with you throughout your shooting career.

I’m also sure there are plenty of shooters out there who would benefit from a seat like this, whether they are more serious shooters or just garden plinkers. Comfort is key, and this seat provides the shooter with both an ergonomic and a stable rest.

Sighting solutions

A large aperture is typical of a ghost ring sight, and being set nearer the eye the image will ‘ghost out’ as the shooter focuses on the foresight

Question: What’s a ‘ghost ring’ sight? It sounds spooky!

Ray Garner says: A wizard in the world of commerce counselled wisely one time: “All businesses are the same!” What was meant here is that all businesses exist to meet a requirement for either goods or services of one kind or another. In this respect there is commonality. 

Something similar might be said of rifle sights. Telescopic sights, red dots, open sights and apertures all do the same thing; they permit a pellet’s (or a bullet’s) flight to coincide with a target at a given range.

A ghost ring sight is simply a variation on the idea of a rear aperture sight as might be fitted to a rifle. Apart from the name there really is nothing at all spooky about them.

The ghost ring sight differs from a match-style dioptre in its simplicity and also in the size of the aperture. A ghost ring aperture is comparatively large, and the material forming the ring is of reduced thickness. This kind of sight is best mounted as close to the eye as possible.

In use, this causes the ring to become fuzzy (to ghost out), thus giving prominence of vision to the front sight (usually a post or bead). With this arrangement the ghost ring is subjugated to the point that the shooter is only marginally aware of it.

Here, the eye’s ability to centre the front sight within the rear sight ring allows for quick target acquisition, as might be desirable in snap shooting at moving targets. It is this overriding speed of sighting which makes the ghost ring attractive to combat-style shooting and big game hunting. 

Many years ago a shooting friend removed the aperture disc from the tang sight fitted to his Winchester Model 62 rimfire rifle to create his own ghost ring setup. Ghost ring apertures will work equally well on air rifles for fun shooting at a moving target such as a rolling tin can. Williams (USA) makes various ghost ring sights for simple attachment to the dovetail-type rails that are common to most air rifles.

Deformed ammunition

Question: I’ve heard people say that a pellet’s skirt will expand on firing to grip the rifling, but does this also apply to deformed skirts? Will they expand to their proper dimensions and can I shoot them as normal?

Mike Morton says: I think the answer to your question is “it depends”. I know that’s not very helpful, but several factors come into play – the type of lead alloy used to make the pellet, the thickness of the skirt, the muzzle energy of the airgun and how badly the skirt has been crushed in the first place.

If a skirt does expand to that degree upon the gun being fired, it could potentially lead to less waste in terms of having to get rid of damaged pellets. I decided to try a test of my own.

I’ve heard of people deliberately damaging a pellet to see what might happen, but I wanted a real-world example, so rummaged through a few tins until I found a .22 pellet that had suffered some moderate crush damage. This was also a true Goldilocks pellet, the metal being not too hard, the skirt being not too thick and everything being just right.

I photographed the pellet so I would have a point of reference, then shot it into a block of ballistic gel placed 30 yards away. On recovering the pellet from the gel it became clear that there had been no expansion of the skirt whatsoever.

The head had engaged with the rifling in the bore as usual, but only those areas of the skirt that retained the original undamaged shape had touched the rifling.

It may well be the case that a softer pellet with less skirt deformation that’s fired from an FAC-rated air rifle will reform inside the bore. But with a sub-12 foot pound airgun, at least in this instance, the answer is clearly a ‘No’.

It may seem wasteful to have to discard damaged pellets, but airgun ammo remains relatively inexpensive, and it’s better to stick to shooting perfect pellets that you know are both accurate and reliable.

The balance of power

Here are an old pop-out pistol and a modern CO2 blaster – they may look worlds apart, but the law treats them exactly the same

Question: Are the terms ‘high power’ and ‘maximum power’ the same? There are some confusing terms being bandied about with regard to airguns.

Jonathon Young says: An airgun can be licence-free or licensed as a firearm depending on its muzzle energy. There are two power limits for licence-free airguns. For air rifles it’s a healthy 12 ft-lb, while it’s lower at 6 ft-lb for air pistols.

Kept within these confines, airguns are legally classed in their own special category as low powered air weapons. Incidentally, this still applies in Scotland where the recent Air Weapons Certificate is not a Firearm Certificate, but thankfully only a warrant to own airguns in the low power category, without the need to record any serial numbers, only the owner’s name.

If an air rifle is over 12 ft-lb, that’s a totally different ballgame entering into FAC, or Firearm Certificate, territory. Since the late 1990s when fullbore and rimfire pistols were banned, special provisions were made for the ban on pneumatic air-cartridge weapons, most of which were air pistols in the low power category.

Owners had a deadline to apply for an FAC ticket for these Tandem Air Cartridge (TAC) and Brocock Air Cartridge (BAC) pistols and rifles, or hand them in for destruction. Keeping up with changes in the law is like chasing rabbits. Life is just so much simpler with our low powered air weapons category.

The issue, however, has been that our legal limits are not benchmarks to work to. It’s a bit like driving at the 70mph maximum speed limit when a steady 60mph is better for the driver and the car. Airgun power limits were introduced in the 1960s, but the reality is that the new limits were more than adequate as we have since proved.

As for how people refer to the power of an airgun within our licence-free realm, take everything with a pinch of salt, especially now that chronoscopes and accurate power readings are easily achieved.

An air rifle recorded as being 11.5 ft-lb is certainly of higher power than one recorded at 9.5 ft-lb. That the difference is negligible if shooting at say only 20-25m in a back garden or club range escapes some people, however.

It is not that easy to make and keep an airgun to a precise fixed power output, especially with spring and CO2 airguns. Out of the box, a new springer may have been fired for only a few test shots. With use, everything beds in and as many spring gun owners will know, the power can rise slightly before becoming consistent shot to shot.

Starting too near the maximum limit could create a problem later. Some specialised tuners now even decline to tune guns above 11.5 ft-lb, which
is very sensible. CO2 is temperature-sensitive, so any manufacturer must be sure to test CO2 designs in hotter temperatures to assess their maximum output.

If used in the cold, that naturally means that the power will be lower, but this creates a  happy legal medium. This, unfortunately, has led to the old chestnuts that CO2 cannot be used in winter or for hunting, both of which are inaccurate.

Today’s regulated PCPs are not everyone’s cup of tea, but they may
well be more stable at higher outputs, especially as many come fitted with anti-tamper devices to keep the gun at a very precise factory preset. Incidentally, it is still not feasible to have an airgun running at 11.99 ft-lb, especially as ammo choice still has so much impact on muzzle velocity
and energy.

What people have described as high power can differ immensely. It has not been uncommon to see indications of questionable prowess with terms such as ‘high power’, ‘max power’ and the ‘highest power possible’, which sound better than ‘low power’. In reality these terms mean little.

The legal limit is the only figure of importance: black and white it has to be, as nothing else matters. In the distant past owners had no ability to chrono their guns to verify muzzle energy, but today there are no excuses.

Access to a decent chrono is so easy and it’s an absolute must for anyone going airgun shooting. Things have come full circle now, and recently only FAC-rated air rifles are now being described very sensibly as High Power. No kidding!


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