Bruce Potts advises

Air rifle or a rimfire

Q: I am thinking of buying an FAC-rated air rifle for pest control. Would this be better than a .22 rimfire?

A: I like FAC-rated air rifles for certain pest control duties. They offer a significantly higher energy rating over the legal standard 12ft/lb energy. While this does not increase the range potential, the higher velocity will flatten the trajectory so that a hit is more certain.

It also means that if you are shooting an airgun pellet at half the weight of a typical .22 rimfire, then ‘overkill’, by which I mean expansion on impact, is less. This also means it’s a bit safer to shoot around barns, equipment and so on, whereas a .22 rimfire would be prohibitive. But safety is still vital and correct backdrops mandatory.

Most pre-charge air rifles of 30ft/lb are about right, because at this rating the heavier air gun pellets are still accurate. Lighter ones tend to deform. You can achieve much higher 
energy figures but this means fewer shots per charge. I have used the Daystate .30 at 
100ft/lb, which is an effective pest control tool.

From the archives

Q: I shoot rabbits with an air rifle, but am now thinking of applying for a firearm certificate to buy a rimfire. I have been told that a .17 HMR is safer than a .22 but I thought it had a longer range. Why is it considered safer? 

A: Graham Downing replies. The conventional hollow point lead bullet fired by the .22 rifle has stood the test of time and is still immensely popular. However, it is known to have a tendency to ricochet if it hits a flint or stone. The .17 HMR, on the other hand, fires a lighter, polycarbonate-tipped bullet at a considerably higher velocity. This means that the bullet is likely to break up immediately upon contact with any hard object such as a stone and so is far less prone to ricochet. For this reason, it is regarded as being safer. Because the .17 bullet is travelling at a higher velocity, it strikes the target closer to point of aim, farther downrange than a .22, and this is why the smaller calibre can be so accurate at longer ranges. Being a smaller bullet, however, it is also more affected by the wind, and it is also prone to de ection by the smallest obstacle, such as a grass or nettle stem.