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Air rifle muzzle energy – should it be adjustable?

Is it important to have adjustable power on an air rifle? Mat Manning advises

Air rifle muzzle energy switch

Adjustable power output is a feature that is of most use on FAC-rated airguns

Air rifle muzzle energy

Q:I am planning to buy a new airgun and have noticed that quite a few models have adjustable power. Is it important to be able to turn air rifle muzzle energy up and down?

A: Adjustable output is more beneficial on FAC-rated airguns, especially if you intend to use slug-type ammunition. A lot of the ammunition used with high-power airguns is more accurate when used at a specific velocity and adjustable power will enable you to get that right. (Read our guide to the best airgun pellets here.)

The feature is less useful on sub-12ft/lb airguns. Maximum output obviously has to be set below the legal limit and it could be argued that it is useful to be able to turn the power down even lower when shooting in the garden or for controlling pests around farm buildings. In my opinion, full power is safe in both these scenarios if used with common sense and suitable backstops. Remember that the pellet’s point of impact will shift every time the power is changed, so you need to re-zero after making any adjustments.’Is it worth trying out slugs?’’

Airgun slugs

Q: I have read a lot about the exceptional long-range performance of airgun slugs. Most people seem to use them with high-power air rifles, but I only shoot a sub-12ft/lb model. Is it worth me giving them a try or is my gun too weak?

A: It seems that slug ammunition does work best when driven at the high muzzle velocities achieved by high-power airguns. That said, more and more manufacturers are making slugs specifically for use with sub-12ft/lb models and plenty of shooters seem to be getting decent results with them. There is no harm in giving slugs a try, but take care because their improved ballistic coefficient means they carry further and are more likely to ricochet than pellets. You should also remember to use a chronograph to make sure they don’t push your airgun’s muzzle energy over the legal limit. (Read our guide to the best chronographs here.)

Air rifle rules

  • You must know where the muzzle of your air rifle is pointing at all times
  • Never point your air rifle where it is unsafe
  • Following the air rifle code of practice and show respect for the countryside
  • Always make sure that there is a safe backstop
  • Do not take chance shots or shoot beyond your abilities
  • Your air rifle must be powerful enough to achieve a clean kill of the quarry
  • Do not attempt to shoot anything beyond 30 metres
  • Buy an air rifle suitable for what you will use it for, whether that is hunting or shooting targets.
  • Maintain your air rifle properly
  • Always choose pellets designed for the job in hand, whether hunting or target shooting.
  • Check pellets before loading to ensure that they are not damaged