Top Tips for Shooting an Air Rifle

By Published On: 26 June 2023Categories: Air Rifle UK

Air rifles offer a great way to indulge in some shooting sport, whether you’re hunting, plinking or aiming at competition targets. Shooting an air rifle can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience, but if you’re new to the hobby, there may be a bit of a learning curve involved.

Here at The Wolfman, we want everyone to get the most out of their air gun, which is why we’ve put together these handy air rifle shooting tips. We’ll cover everything from the importance of choosing the right pellets to practising good trigger control. Whether you’re a complete beginner or simply want to learn how to shoot an air rifle better, read on to learn how to take your shot with confidence and precision.

Understanding Your Air Rifle

The first of our air rifle tips is to acquaint yourself with your weapon. It’s important to understand its mechanism, the kind of ammunition it takes, its muzzle velocity and power.

Air rifles come in various types, including spring piston, gas ram, CO2 and pre-charged pneumatic (PCP). Each power source affects the operation and maintenance of the air rifle differently. You should also familiarise yourself with your rifle’s calibre and muzzle energy (measured in foot-pounds or ft/lbs) to understand its potential.

Furthermore, the type of firing mechanism (break barrel, underlever, sidelever, or bolt action) can affect how you load and fire your rifle. Make sure to do your research before buying an air rifle, and read the user’s manual thoroughly before you start shooting.

Choosing the Right Pellets

The air gun ammunition you choose can considerably influence your shooting performance. The ‘perfect pellet’ is a myth, as every air rifle behaves differently with different ammunition. It’s imperative to try out various options to find the best match for your air rifle. Factors to consider include:

  • Pellet Type: domed, pointed, hollow-point or wadcutter. Each has its own characteristic and purpose. Domed pellets, for example, are well-rounded and often used for general shooting and hunting. Wadcutters, with their flat heads, are typically used for paper target shooting.
  • Pellet Weight: Pellets come in different weights, and the right weight will depend on your gun. Lighter pellets can reach greater velocities, while heavier pellets have more knockdown power. However, low-powered airguns may struggle to shoot heavy pellets accurately.

By choosing the right pellet, you’ll often find a dramatic improvement in your rifle’s accuracy and your overall shooting performance.

Handling Your Weapon Safely

Safety should always be your top priority when handling an air rifle. It is a potentially dangerous weapon if not handled correctly.

First and foremost, always assume the air rifle is loaded, even if you believe it isn’t. Ensure the muzzle is aimed in a safe direction, and never point the rifle at anything you do not intend to shoot.

Be aware of your environment: ensure that there are no people, animals or property downrange that could be hit by a stray pellet. Always keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until you are ready to take your shot.

Additionally, familiarise yourself with UK airgun regulations so that you know when, where and what you can shoot.

Adjusting the Trigger

One of the most important but often overlooked air rifle accuracy tips is setting the trigger correctly. Most modern air rifles allow you to adjust the trigger for both pull weight (the amount of force required to pull the trigger) and travel (the distance the trigger must move before the gun fires). This allows you to customise the trigger to your liking, making it more intuitive and responsive to your touch.

A too heavy trigger pull can cause your aim to waver while firing, causing you to shoot off-target. Conversely, a too light trigger can be sensitive and lead to accidental discharges. The ideal is to have a trigger that requires deliberate force to pull, but not so much that it disrupts your aim.

Mastering Air Gun Shooting Positions

Each air rifle shooting position offers different levels of stability, and the best position for you will depend on your environment, the shot’s required accuracy, and personal comfort. The most common shooting positions are:

  • Standing: This is the least stable but most versatile position. If you want to learn how to shoot an air rifle standing, it’s crucial to maintain a good balance. Place your feet shoulder-width apart, aligning your body to the target, and secure a solid grip on the rifle. A sling can add extra support.
  • Kneeling: This offers more stability than standing while still allowing clearance over obstacles. Use your forward knee to support your forward elbow, forming a secure platform for the rifle.
  • Sitting: Ideal for taking static shots. You can rest your elbows on your knees to create a firm and steady shooting platform.
  • Prone: The least flexible but most stable position, offering the best shooting accuracy. This involves lying flat on your stomach. Use your elbows and a rolled-up jacket or bipod for support.

Whether you’re shooting from a bench or standing, supports such as gun rests and shooting bags can make a significant difference. Supports help eliminate human error by minimising movements from breathing or muscle fatigue.

Estimating Range

Judging the distance to your target is one of the most crucial tips for air rifle shooting, especially at longer ranges. As pellets travel relatively slowly compared to bullets, they are subject to significant drop over distance. Hence, knowing the distance to your target allows you to adjust your aim or your scope to compensate.

One method to estimate range is using the scope’s mil-dot reticle, where you compare the size of a known object against the scale provided by the markings. Alternatively, you can use a laser rangefinder for more accurate results. As you become a more proficient shooter, you’ll also learn how to judge distances naturally. Remember, practice makes perfect.

Mounting and Zeroing Your Scope

A quality rifle scope can make a world of difference to your shooting accuracy. However, learning how to shoot an air rifle with a scope takes some skill.

First, the scope must be mounted securely on the rifle, ensuring it’s levelled and at the right distance from your eye (this is called the eye relief).

Once mounted, you need to zero your scope. This process involves adjusting the scope so that the point of aim (the crosshair in the scope) matches the point of impact at your preferred distance. It’s a process of iteration – shooting, adjusting the turrets, and shooting again until your scope is perfectly aligned.

If you don’t have one, you will need to learn how to shoot an air rifle without a scope. This involves using iron sights, which rely on the naked eye. To aim correctly with iron sights, align the front sight within the rear sight and then place this alignment on your target.

Maintaining consistent cheek weld (how your cheek rests against the gunstock) is also crucial. This ensures your eye is always at the same spot relative to the sights, which aids in maintaining accuracy.

Practising Proper Shooting Techniques

Like any skill, improving your air rifle shooting proficiency requires regular practice. However, it’s not only about the quantity but also the quality of practice. If you want to learn how to shoot an air rifle accurately, focus on mastering the fundamentals of shooting:

  • Aiming: This refers to lining up your scope or iron sights on the target. The key is to maintain a consistent sight picture for every shot.
  • Breathing: Your breathing can cause your rifle to move, disrupting your aim. Learn to fire during your natural respiratory pause, after breathing out and before breathing in again.
  • Trigger control: This involves squeezing the trigger in a smooth, steady motion with the pad of your finger, not the joint. Your shot should almost come as a surprise. Jerking the trigger can cause your shot to miss its mark.
  • Follow-through: This means maintaining your aim and sight picture even after you’ve fired the shot. It ensures that you don’t disrupt your shot by moving the rifle prematurely.

Start by shooting at close range, and as your skill improves, move on to smaller, more distant targets. You can also practise these aspects separately, allowing you to integrate them seamlessly later. For instance, dry-firing (practising the shooting process without a pellet) can help you work on your trigger control and follow-through.

The Wolfman: Your One Stop Air Gun Shop

To get the most out of your air rifle, the right equipment is just as crucial as understanding the techniques. At The Wolfman, we are here to help you find the right tools to elevate your shooting experience.

As the UK’s one-stop air gun shop, we stock a comprehensive selection of air guns, ammunition, scopes and shooting accessories tailored to both beginners and seasoned enthusiasts alike. Explore a wide range of quality products on our website, from air rifles and pistols to gun slips and bags.

For questions, advice or product recommendations, contact The Wolfman today – our friendly team will be happy to help.

About the Author: The Wolfman Store

After over 30 years experience in the Airgun trade, The Wolfman Store are delighted to announce our new website, enabling us to supply direct to the shooting community for the first time. Combining a vast stock of established favourites with exciting products new to the UK, The Wolfman Store will be striving to provide unparalleled service at the most competitive prices.

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