Below appears an article on maximising air rifle accuracy which we came across on the ‘Charlie Da Tuna’ air rifle web site from the USA. Having applied these lessons I can vouch for them personally. Ed
MANY SHOOTERS using a spring gun for the first time complain they cannot get good groups with their guns. Rarely is this a problem with the gun. There have been many discussions amongst airgunners about Hold Sensitivity. What is hold sensitivity? What guns are hold sensitive? How do I deal with a hold sensitive rifle? What can be done to reduce hold sensitivity? Let’s look at a couple generalities, then get down to specifics.
Generally, guns that use precompressed gasses to develop power are not what we’d call hold sensitive. These include CO2, pump pneumatics and precharged pneumatics (PCP). Spring guns are nearly always more hold sensitive than the above mentioned types because of their recoiling nature. The moving mechanical mass jolts the gun when fired. Keeping the gun pointed at the desired target, while the pellet moves down the barrel is of utmost importance.
With a spring powered gun, the shooter must develop a VERY consistent method of shooting. This method has been called the ‘Artillery Hold’ by Tom Gaylord, and the ‘Howitzer Hold’ by Larry Durham. No matter which name you choose, it amounts to pretty much the same style of shooting. Another term used in conjunction with these is ‘follow through’, which really has nothing to do with the way the gun is held prior to the trigger being pulled. Follow Through is what you do after the sear is released, and is only part of the Howitzer Hold technique.
The technique itself involves having minimal contact with your gun while aiming and shooting. This means you don’t GRIP the forestock, but rather you let it just lay on top of your hand. The finger grooves and fancy checkering on spring airguns is more of a styling carryover from firearms, and doesn’t serve much purpose when firing a springer. This also means you rest your gun on your hand at the same point
on the forestock every time. Champion airgunner Nick Jenkinson wrote an article on choosing the best contact point for your gun, finding that it’s usually located at some point ranging from 2 to 5 inches in front of your trigger guard. Wherever your ‘sweetspot’ is, use it consistently. Changing from one contact point to another, can alter your point of impact.
The next thing to watch is your grip on the rifles pistol grip. I rarely wrap my thumb around the grip, but instead- just barely touch the back of the pistol grip. Some shooters like to point their thumb up the back of the grip, thumbtip aiming at the end cap of the receiver tube. The fingers wrapping around the grip should just have very light contact with the gun. I generally only allow the two centermost fingers to control the grip – more to keep the gun from leaning off the vertical plane than anything else.
Another important point is to just use the pad of your fingertip on the trigger. Don’t wrap the first finger joint around the trigger blade. When squeezing off the shot, apply no side pressure to the trigger blade – just ease it straight back towards the heel of your
thumb. Don’t rush the shot either! If you move off target, stop pulling the trigger. Regain the bullseye and start over with the firing sequence.
Next is cheek contact with the stock. It should be very light. Don’t lay your face down on the comb of the stock. Touch your cheek to the same spot with each shot.
Pull the gun up to your shoulder, then relax the ‘pull-in’ pressure to the point where the butt is merely touching your shoulder. After you’ve learned all this, you still have to ‘follow through’ with your aim, once the gun is fired. Proper follow through involves keeping your eyes on the target, as best you can, while allowing the gun to float straight back in its’ recoil. If you cannot master this follow through, everything else you’ve done, no matter how perfect, will place your pellets where you DON’T want them.
Other techniques to help master a hold sensitive gun are breathing and adjusting your trigger properly-when possible. Just because a gun is hold sensitive doesn’t make it inaccurate! Many extremely accurate springers can be hold sensitive, but to be precise, a shooter MUST be CONSISTENT. Without mastering consistency, the most expensive spring gun is only as mediocre as it shooter.
Another way to reduce hold sensitivity is to get the gun professionally tuned. A good tune removes excessive recoil and vibration, and improves the gun’s shot to shot consistency. Improved groups are almost always the result. The gun is also less fatiguing to shoot.
Even when the shooter is doing everything just right, they have the feeling the gun should be shooting smaller groups. This is usually an indication of the gun’s preference for a certain style or weight of pellet. Many airguns are pellet sensitive, not just spring guns. The quickest way to find your guns pellet reference is to ask other owners who have the same gun and caliber what works well for them. Because each gun is an individual, you may still need to experiment with pellets of various weights and skirt sizes to determine what is truly the best for your own gun.
Springers require a certain amount of finesse and experience before you can appreciate them. A shooter who is very good with a spring gun is usually an excellent firearms shot, but not necessarily vice versa.
This article was first published in Sporting Shooter, May 2009.