Want to shoot your airgun better? Expert Matt Manning shows you how to improve your technique - because it may not be your airgun that's at fault ...
Poor airgun accuracy could be due to these three things:
- A weak shooting style
- A badly set trigger
- Mismatched pellets
Airguns are picky about pellets
- Don’t spend your money on a good quality airgun, fill it with cheap ammunition and then why you’re falling short of the accuracy listed by the manufacturer or in a review.
- Airguns are fussy about the pellets used and some are more particular than others. It’s a matter of trial and error – you need to test different brands through your airgun to learn which produce the tightest groups.
- For accuracy, the classic domed or roundhead design turns in the best results.
- Don’t get bamboozled by all the different shapes of modern airgun pellets.
- Experiment with tried and tested performers such as air arms, JSB, H&N, RWS and Daystate.
- Forget about cheap pellets, even for practice.
- Quality ammo costs less than 3p a pop.
- Downgrade and you won’t find out about the downrange performance of your airgun.
- You really do get what you pay for.
Think of your body as the platform from which your air rifle is operating. Then think of all the factors that will detract from your steadiness – like your pulse, how you’re breathing and how your muscles will react to holding a heavy gun. Then you’ll realise just how much this influences the downrange accuracy.
Standing shots are always the trickiest. You’re shifting your weight to stand straight (and you could well be buffeted by the wind as well). This is probably why most air rifle hunters only take standing shots at close range. As with most things however, practice will help you to improve. Practise your standing stance and as it improves, it’ll help you put more quarry in the bag. This is particularly true of locations when you’re unable to kneel or sit due to low cover – which often happens when stalking rabbits.
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Most experienced airgun shooters have the best hit rate from kneeling shots. It is stable, fairly easy to adopt and also provides reasonable clearance of ground obstacles. When you are kneeling, tuck the elbow of your leading hand over your knee or behind it if placed directly on the flat surface of your knee. Otherwise the hard, round point of your elbow will roll all over the place, making it very difficult to hold a steady aim.
A sitting stance is good static shooting, such as ambushing quarry from a hide, but is usually too much hassle to bother with when stalking. Keep your elbows just behind or in front of your knees to keep you on target.
The most stable stance
The most stable and accurate stance is when you lie flat on your stomach (nettles, weather and vegetation view permitting). In this position you should be able to pick off rabbits out to 40m with a 12ft/lb air rifle in windless conditions.
Hold your airgun gently
Holding your airgun tight will put your muscles under more pressure and they will complain by twitching and making you wobble. You want to achieve a good gunfit that ensures your airgun locks steadily and effortlessly into your shoulder. Handle it lightly. A gentle hold is even more important if you shoot a spring-powered or gas-ram airgun. Shockwaves from the moving parts that create the blast of air which drives the pellet are still in effect as the projectile travels down the barrel. There’s nothing you can do to stop this recoil, so you have to manage it. Hold your airgun with a light, consistent grip every time and the movement will follow the same course for every shot, thus ensuring that the pellet always follows the same path.
No risk of unpredictable recoil
Previous generations would envy our choice of modern precharged airguns. Their lack of recoil means you can take leaning shots without the risk of unpredictable recoil sending pellets astray. Make the most of leaning on a tree, gate or fence to improve your chances of putting the shot just where you want to. I lean on something whenever I get the opportunity.
If there are few natural rests around, take a bipod, tripod or shooting stick.
I have my bipod fitted when targeting rabbits as it enables me to take rock-steady shots when I ambush a busy warren.
Spring-powered airguns don’t shoot as well as PCPs when rested because of the aforementioned kick. Lean them on a hard surface such as a fence rail, and the point of impact bounces away from where it was when the gun was supported by your hand. Nonetheless, you can still lean your arm or shoulder against trees, gates and fences to help steady the shot — just make sure the gun is cradled in the same way as ever so the recoil can follow its usual course.
Poorly set triggers
A poorly set trigger could also have a damaging effect on your accuracy and an airgun’s performance. A trigger should be crisp and predictable with no hint of creep. It shouldn’t be set dangerously light nor should it be so heavy that you pull the cross-hairs off aim as you heave it towards breaking point.
- Only the pad of your finger should be in contact with the blade.
- As the cross-hairs settle, push back through the first stage until you feel the trigger stop.
- When the shot is good, touch off the second stage to send the pellet on its way.
- The movement caused by the firing cycle is still in effect and, even if you shoot a PCP, you can yank the shot off aim before the pellet leaves the barrel.
- Stay on aim and try to keep your sights trained on the target until the pellet hits home.
- Get out practising it on the range a few times so that it becomes automatic.