Pellet power & performance – A hunter’s guide to shooting air rifles


Most people are introduced to shooting through
air rifles. Many are then eager to step up onto proper rifles – but there is a lot to
be said for endeavouring to master the art of one before moving onto a bigger bang. Roy has always been an airgun fan but for
a bit of an experiment and more importantly to improve his accuracy we are going to do
some back of envelope calculations – well actually back of cardboard box. As I have not used an air rifle for quite
some time, we thought it would be a good idea to just come out and have a bit of play on
the target. So we are going to put a series of dots on here and just figure out where
we are shooting at different ranges. Because obviously with a sub 12ftlb air rifle then
the tragectory can be quite steep. .35 and then we shall do one at .50. So we will just
see where our ranges are and exactly where the gun is shooting before we go out and use
it in anger. Roy has zeroed in at 25 yards but will start
at 10 and work backwards. A range finder is a vital bit of kit for this
sort of work. It is essential if we want to find out just what happens to our pellets
as they battle against gravity and the forces of nature. You are obviously trying to shoot head shots
on a lot of animals. So you have a very small target area. So what you are trying to do
is to make sure you can be as precise as possible. So having a range finder really does enable
you just with pin point accuracy to figure out where you are and with the mil dots in
the scope if you know where you are on the range then you can easily adjust up or down
just with a little bit of hold over or hold under and you should be smack on the target. And we will send the pellet on the way, like
that. So actually at .10 that is not too low at all. So we will just put another one in
just to make sure, and same hole. That is exactly what we should expect from an air
rifle of this sort of quality. So it is the same hole grouping. So we will move back to
.25 and see where we go. Right, ok so we are smack on 25, all focused
in. We shall just put one up the chamber, almost same position. So we will do it again.
And we are there again. So actually it is just a touch over to the left. At 35 yards things start to get a bit more
tricky and Roy has to compensate for drop off with hold over and there is the gusting
wind. So we are on .35 yards here and I am just
going to hit the recall button and I would have expected that we will get may be a mil
dot drop on here, but we shall soon found out. Hit that on the target. There you go.
Actually mil dot and a half and yet we are slightly to the left on here shooting through.
So we will put another one down. See if we get the same result. Down there like that,
so yes the wind is interfering. So that one is a little bit further down as well. So we
have just got to take into consideration that we have a bit of side wind. So what we would
do now at .35 yards is if we were aiming straight at that target with no wind, we would put
that mil dot straight on it at .35 yards and we then we should be straight onto it. But
we have also got a little bit of windage as well. So with the windage what we are going
to do is come across, a mil dot across like that. So we are going to aim off the target
like so and we will just see whether we can get anywhere near the target there. So what you saw on the shot there was a perfect
height. We had adjusted up, so we were absolutely spot on on line of where we wanted to be,
but obviously with the different wind strength it is going to always going to affect the
pellet depending if you hit or shoot in a gust or a lull in the wind. So that is what
you have always got to try and do. If you are having to go out and are shooting in the
wind always be aware of it especially with an air rifle. And then just make your compensations. At fifty the shot has dropped about 6 inches
– but a couple of shots with adjustment puts Roy bang on the money. You can see we have a huge drop off on .50
being zeroed at .25. So then we adjusted for it so we know where we need to be on that.
We came up here and then just adjusted for the windage and the height from that shot
to there so we knew where we were. Another final adjustment and we were smack on at the
.50 yards. So hopefully we know pretty much where we are going to be. So with a clear picture of where that pellet
is flying it is time for an airgun safari. Roy’s eccentric family home has a wide range
of bird life from eagles to doves to peacocks – so there is plenty of food about for crows,
pigeons, rabbits and squirrels. With the camera watching Roy’s every move
we can analyse where he’s putting the cross hairs and see just how the quarry reacts. OK so we have got a carrion crow which has
just landed in the tree there. I reckon he is about 20 yards. Oh, no way. That just parted his feathers
by the looks of that. I just want to look at that on replay. I think I just undercompensated
where he was sitting high up in the tree there. The shot looked like it just went straight
over the top of his head and skimmed it. And I think that must be down to the angle that
I was shooting at. I was aiming smack on, but the pellet went above. So I think I didn’t
compensate because we were shooting at quite a steep angle up. Oh well, hopefully another
one will come in. OK so about 40 yards. Ooh excellent. I want
to have a look at that. He was just on about 45 yards. And you can see that look. And it
just drops. I didn’t quite allow enough but with the angle of where the drop off was coming
it was directly in line of where his neck was. So luckily it took him out there. So
that was a nice clean kill. So he was done. Right let’s see if we can get a couple more.
We have got a feral pigeon sitting up here. We will see if we can put a few ferals in
the bag. Keep the ferrets going for a few days. See if we can get him. He is about 20
yards. So that should be aiming smack on. Ok just wait for his head to come round. And,
yes, ok, perfect, excellent. Right any more. No nothing there at the moment. The reason we are shooting the ferals is that
we have quite a big population of white doves here and with the white doves obviously they
attract in a lot of other pigeons. When they come in they can bring disease and whatever
else in so we are constantly trimming the feral pigeons and what have you as they come
in. And we also trim up the white doves as well, because we end up with a flock of about
2 or 300 come the winter otherwise. It is always a good source of food for the ferrets
and what ever else through the season. So when we get the opportunity to pop a few off,
we certainly take it. This is a shot we had a bit earlier and it
was a miss on a rabbit. I just want to see exactly what happened. I am presuming I must
have hit over the top. So that is the wonderful thing with this camera. It shows you your
mistakes and where you went wrong. Hopefully we can see the muzzle go in a second. Wow
look at that. That is phenomenal. You actually see the pellet arcing just over the top of
his head and him ducking down. I don’t know whether he saw that coming or just felt it.
I think he just felt it as it went over his head. Again that really just hightlights how
effective you have got to be on your range finding. You have got to really either take
a range finder out with you, or be as good or as accurate as you can in getting your
ranges. It is probably worth going out and trying beforehand, because that rabbit was,
I think, 35 yards and I had allowed for a 40 yard shot. So I just aimed a little bit
too far above his ears. This was a rabbit shot by a young friend of mine Jordan and
it really does demonstrate how bad the windage can be or
your windage adjustment needs to be, as we showed when shooting at the target. So when
the pellet goes, you can see it was taken by the wind. So on this shot we have got a
left to right wind. You can see it taking the pellet right over and rather than hitting
in the head of the rabbit it goes in and hits it square in the chest. Still a very clean
kill shot, but not the one he was after. So you can see that he had already come forward.
He had come forward to allow for the windage, but just not quite enough. Luckily the pellet
still found its mark. We’ve had some success but Roy is not overly
happy. He thinks that some fine tuning could improve his accuracy. One of the problems
has been changing the magnification on the scope – this has been putting the mil dots
out, which means the adjustments he has making are not precise. He also wants to re zero at 35 yards and work
through the ranges again. He believes this will deliver a flatter trajectory, which means
less time worrying about compensating for the shot in the field. That is about right, level wise we are just
a touch off , but that is ok. Ok and spot on. So we are now at 20 yards. Just make sure
we are on. See where it is going at .20 give us some sort of idea. Just to make sure, always
take a couple of shots. That one is exactly, one mil dot high there. On to the .40, again
the wind is taking a little bit there. On to the .50, it seems to be more in line, but
the wind stops there, we didn’t get any windage issues. This is out to .60 and we will see
how much more drop away we get with just that extra 10 yards. So let’s now look at the complete picture
for four different scenarios. .22 zeroed at 25 yards there and we have got
a huge curve off and drop off like that. So from the very start all the way through we
were just trying to catch our tails all the time. The pellet from the moment it was leaving
the barrel was curving away from us. With a .22 zeroed at 35 yards, excuse my writing
it is awful. You can see here we started off at 10 a little bit high at 10, then we have
got the curve going up, over, round, dropping off and then really dropping away there. This
is .22 zeroed at 30 yards. Slightly low at 10, but not enough off to really matter then
we just go up a bit to 20, through 30 perfectly, and drop down to 50. So that is almost a more
useable curve of the trajectory on there. And then just to show the differences. What
we have got here we shot the same targets, the same ranges with a .177. So we have got
a .177 that was zeroed at 40 yards. So you can see spot on at 10, little bit high at
20, still rising at 30, smack on at 40, down through to 50. It was dropping off there.
But throughout the range of 10 to 40 a much better
trajectory. Interesting stuff and with this is mind Roy
chooses to zero at 30 and head off after some more bunnies – The first is at 30 yards so
in theory should be spot on. Even though it takes some grass seeds with it, the pellet
finds its target, exactly where the cross hairs came to rest. The second rabbit Roy has since described
as a “ninja” – This shot is at 17 yards – again remembering we are zeroed at 30 Roy puts the
cross hairs level with the eye. He expects the pellet to be rising so will find the target
between centre and the first mil dot. However, this rabbits has other ideas and ducks – not
in response to a low flying object soaring over his head but just before the pellet reaches
its target. Slowing the shot down further it clearly shows the ear being clipped – did
it hear the shot? – did it see the pellet? – you tell us – whatever you think it is a
great excuse if you miss!!!!

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