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Controlling rabbits with firearms certificated air rifles (FAC)

Ed Cook offers some tips gained from experience

firearms certificated air rifle

So you need to carry out some rabbit control. But what’s the best way to do it? That will depend on:

  • Local habitat
  • Use of land
  • Neighbouring land

So there’s unlikely to be just one way to control rabbits – there should be a variety of methods at play.

In the past I’ve used firearms certificated air rifles (FAC) to good effect on farms and from gardens to golf courses.

Rimfire rifle

Rimfires are more likely to ricochet and cross the land boundaries

So why not a rimfire?

You might ask why I don’t use a .22 rimfire for more power. Well, rimfires are more likely to ricochet and cross the land boundaries, a big no-no. So I often opt for an airgun because I feel it is safer, particularly on a small bit of land.  In a limited area the relatively low power of a legal limit airgun means you can keep pellets  well inside the property’s boundary.

The legal limit of a non-FAC air rifle is 12ft/lbs, which is plenty good enough to kill rabbits at 30m. An FAC version can “whack” a rabbit over 60m away being, on average, three times more powerful. That said, you do still need to point it in the right direction and head shots are preferred.

Firearms certificated air rifles – lethal tools

An airgun pellet drops a lot more than a .22 or 17hmr bullet, so you need to learn that at certain distances the pellet will drop by a certain amount, so you have to allow for that (hold-over) and hit your target. All this comes with practice. Once you have mastered this, a legal limit or FAC-rated airgun can be deadly.

Evenings tend to be when I am busy on the rabbits as they like to feed in low light conditions, presumably because they feel safer. I have also worked through the night with night vision “plinking away”. In the summer you’re unlikely to see rabbits feeding between 1am and 3am, but this changes as September approaches.

For this work I use an FAC-rated Air Arms S410 in .22 calibre. Once it’s dark I fit a night vision monocular to my scope along with an infrared (IR) system. This, combined with a thermal imager as a spotter, is a good system for rabbit control once it is dark.

Judging range

This can be a real issue when you’re using night vision with an air rifle. Being able to judge range is crucial for accuracy with airguns because of the “loopy” trajectory. When you look through the scope it’s hard to judge whether you’re seeing an adult rabbit at a distance or a baby rabbit close up. This isn’t an issue when using a .17hmr. They have a much flatter trajectory than an air rifle and your aim point at 50m is the same at 150m.

Seeking to solve this problem I bought a rangefinder. This fits on my gun so it is easy to manage than a hand held device. As a result I can ignore the banana shaped projectory of my air rifle because as I know the precise range I can make

My rangefinder cost around £140 and fits to the side of the scope. It can be zeroed to the crosshairs of the telescopic sight. I get the distance read out of my target on a small LED screen. Now This controlling rabbits in the dark with an airgun is a deadly affair.

My kit

  • Air Arms S410 FAC-rated air rifle in .22 calibre
  • Air Arms Diablo Field Pellets
  • Guide IR517 hand-held thermal imaging monocular
  • Weapon mountable laser rangefinder 5-700m