Richard Saunders takes us through his kit bag and reveals the essential shooting items he never leaves home without.
This is my essential list of the best airgun kit. I like to travel as light as possible when I go out with my air rifle. I begrudge taking anything with me other than my rifle and some airgun pellets. Every accessory has to earn its keep.
Some are expensive and others cost only a few quid. But what they all have in common is the ability to make my airgun shooting more successful, productive and enjoyable.
So this is the best airgun kit I keep in my bag.
Best for day and night performance
+ Excellent for night spotting
+ Ideal for distance work
At over £2,200, the Helion is easily my most expensive piece of kit and definitely falls into the ‘shooting luxury’ category. Yet it is the first item I make sure to take with me and definitely part of my best airgun kit.
The Helion performs just as well in daylight, helping to spot targets obscured by light undergrowth and confirm that what I think is a distant rabbit really is a rabbit and not just a lump of earth.
I find binoculars a real nuisance and resent taking them with me. If I can get by without them I most certainly will. However, some of my shooting permissions have footpaths running through or near them, and some that don’t are frequented by dog walkers. A set of binoculars is useful for spotting walkers in the distance so I can make sure I am safe and don’t scare them witless.
Best for simplicity
One of my cheapest accessories – I think it only cost a fiver – is also one of the most useful, and forgetting it is a real pain. If you’ve ever had to carry three or four rabbits in your hands, along with a rifle over your shoulder, and perhaps a set of sticks and bean bag, you’ll know what I mean.
A game carrier makes life a lot easier. Mine comprises a set of leather loops through which I put the rabbits’ legs. Of course, I could take a game bag with me, but I prefer not to.
Best for ease of use
+ Fits neatly into pocket
+ Can be used one-handed
Thanks to the loopy path pellets follow, knowing how far away your quarry is so you can apply the right amount of holdover or under is crucial. During the day I use a Hawke LRF 400 rangefinder which fits nicely into a pocket and can be used one-handed.
Best for rabbiting at night
+ Accurate distance reading
+ Bluetooth operation
At night it’s even harder to judge distances when using night vision (NV) gear. I use a NiteSite Viper RTEK system when night-time ratting. To help gauge distances I use it with a NiteSite Laser Rangefinder, which simply bolts on to the side of the infrared beamer and gives a constant read out of distances at the press of a button – perfect for scanning farmyards and outbuildings.
When it comes to rabbit shooting at night though, I have an ATN X-Sight 4K Pro 5-20 attached to one of my FAC rifles. It’s a tremendous piece of kit, except for the inbuilt rangefinder which I find too fiddly to use. Instead, I have fitted an ATN Auxiliary Ballistic Laser (ABL) rangefinder which attaches to a sunshade-type collar and screws onto the front of the scope. Not only does the ABL give an accurate distance reading, it also means I can use the ballistic calculator function on the X-Sight.
Having entered some basic information about my setup, such as feet per second, pellet weight and ballistic coefficient, the ABL talks to the X-Sight via Bluetooth, which then adjusts the aim point accordingly.
Best for uneven ground
+ Improves accuracy
+ Height adjustable
Like most shooters, I am significantly more accurate when shooting from a rest, and pretty much anything will do if it’s the right height and in the right place. And that’s the problem.
Gates, fence posts and trees are all well and good, but take a set of trigger sticks with you and you’ll always have the perfect rest to shoot from.
I prefer the tripod style which can be adjusted for height and angle with a trigger. I use them when stalking, ambushing, sitting in a hide or when sat in a barn after rats in the dark.
Best for blending in
+ Doubles up as head rest
Another bulky item that I resent having to carry, but wouldn’t be without, is my bean bag. During the spring and summer, when the grass is longer, ambushing rabbits from a prone position isn’t always practical and I usually find myself sitting against a tree or some other dark background behind my trigger sticks.
Being able to plonk myself down on the bean bag makes those often-long vigils more bearable. It’s a versatile piece of kit, making a great improvised gun rest when shooting from my truck.
Best for staying legal
+ Judges pellet performance
+ Warns of rifle issues
Manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure the non-FAC rifles they ship are tuned to just under the UK legal limit of 12 foot pounds. Despite this, as the owner of the rifle, you are responsible in the eyes of the law so it’s up to you to ensure your rifle is legal, so this is something to include in a best airgun kit list.
As well as helping you stay on the right side of the law, a chronograph will help determine the relative performance of different pellets and spot any emerging issues with your rifle.
Best for barrel cleaning
+ Improve accuracy on the move
+ Portable size
The barrels on some of my rifles never seem to need cleaning, they just keep performing the same, month after month. However, with others – especially the higher-powered FAC guns – a sudden drop in accuracy is usually a sign the barrel needs to be cleaned.
The bigger calibre rifles in particular, like my .25 Daystate Red Wolf and .30 FX Impact MkII, seem to be the worst, perhaps it’s a combination of higher velocities and bigger lumps of lead flying down the barrel.
The performance drop-off is usually pretty sudden, so I make sure to keep a pull-through kit in the truck so I can take care of the problem during a session. Fortunately, neither the Impact nor Red Wolf seem to need much in the way of leading up again, and following a quick zero check I’m usually up and running once more.
What else is in the best airgun kit?
9. ZARRS Balaclava,Breathable Lycra Full Face Mask Windproof Lightweight Balaclavas Men Women for Outdoors Motorcycle Cycling Sports Nylon Camouflage Green £8.69
Best for carrying in pocket
Nothing is more likely to spook your quarry than a flash of pale skin, so I’ll be sure to put on a face veil, especially when I’m using ambushing tactics.
Best for gun maintenance
+ Extra protection
+ Easy to use
There’s nothing worse than getting caught out in the rain. Although rifles and most other items of shooting kit are pretty resilient to water, you’ll want to dry everything off as soon as possible.
I keep a cloth and some oil-impregnated cleaning patches in the truck. After wiping off any rain or condensation, the patches provide extra protection. If you’re unlucky enough to get a real soaking, make sure you remove the stock, shroud and silencer when you get home and dry everything off properly before putting it all back together again.
11. Steril-eeze Kind to Hands Hypochlorous Hand Sanitiser. Alcohol Free. (Kills 99.99% of viruses & Bacteria/Kind on Skin/Suitable for Children & Sensitive Skin) 1 x 100ml £3.99
Best for spraying hands and surfaces
+ Quick drying
Handling lead, not to mention wild animals and poking about in woods and around farms, makes a bottle of hand sanitiser essential in my book. I keep a small bottle in my kit bag and a larger bottle in the truck as it’s not something I want to run out of in the field. It might seem odd but this is something that should be in the best airgun kit.
Best seller with walkers and stalkers
+ Easy spray on
On some of my permissions the mosquitoes are not only plentiful, but persistent and will find their way to a free lunch no matter how well covered up I am. I don’t tend to bother spraying up if I know I am going to be on the move, but if I plan on sitting in ambush I will take careful note of the wind direction and sacrifice a bit of concealment for the luxury of not being eaten alive.