I did a short “head count” of the various airguns that I have, either hanging on the wall or on a shelf, here in the shop. The number hit over 80 pieces. That’s a lot of airguns for my little studio / office. One thing that I’ve learned over the years of reviewing airguns is how to get the most out of whatever it is that I’m testing. In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the basics to get the most accuracy out of your airgun, regardless of the type of airgun you have.
Accuracy 101, let’s get started…
You may think that the first thing you need to do when you get a new gun is jump right in and start fiddling with it. The internet is loaded with information from various “experts” that describe all manner of tips and tricks about modifying your airgun before you ever take your first shot. Please allow me to explain why that’s a bad idea. If you never work with your airgun in its “out of the box” condition, how do you ever know if the “fiddling” made it better or worse? This is why I always test products as I receive them. If I find issues with the performance or accuracy, then I address them in a measured fashion.
One of the most critical pieces of equipment for any airgunner is a reliable chronograph. Without this vital tool, you’ll never really know how your airgun is performing. It would be like trying to build a house without a tape measure. You may be able to do it, but you might not want to actually live in it. A chronograph is going to tell you many things. It’s going to give you REAL performance numbers; and also help you measure consistency. Consistency is critical to airgun accuracy.
Break in is critical…
All airguns require some level of break in. Some airguns require more than others, and it’d not always just the inexpensive guns that require more. Most modern airguns all come from some sort of mass production manufacturing and assembly. There are tolerances that have to be met to maintain ISO certifications, but that doesn’t mean that EVERY airgun is going to be a perfect fit. It’s during this break in period that all the various moving parts begin to really mold to each other and become a more efficient mechanism. You can feel it with springers and bolt action PCP / CO2 airguns alike. Initially, cocking may be a little rough around the edges, but eventually things smooth out the more you shoot them. Firearms are not that different. A new firearm is often very “tight” feeling until you put a couple of hundred rounds through it, sometimes they need a lot more.
The break in period will vary with every airgun. If you check your airgun’s documentation, you may find a general reference to how many shots are recommended. Generally speaking, I like to put at least 200 pellets down range before looking at any sort of accuracy test. In fact, I generally don’t even clean the barrel until I’ve passed at least 100 shots (at a minimum) down the bore of the gun. I’ve found that you need to give the product a chance to work out some of those “brand new” factory rough spots before you’ll see it start to perform as intended.
Less is more…
After the break in period, you can finally start to see the basic accuracy potential of your airgun. One important suggestion that I would like to make is to always shoot with open sights, if your airgun has them, at close range BEFORE you mount the bundled optic. I know that we all want to mount that glass to the gun and start shooting at 100 yards, but that’s just not practical. It’s critical to prove the airgun’s up close accuracy potential before trying to stretch things out. Shooting up close with open sights will do just that. I’m not terribly accurate with open sights, but I know if the gun’s getting the job done nonetheless. If I can keep all my shots in a sub .5″ group, then I’m happy. This may take trying several pellets, another critical point to airgun accuracy that I’ll be covering in an upcoming article.
What’s the next step?
If you’ve followed all the above and your airgun is close but not quite there yet, there are some additional steps that may be able to get you where you want to be regarding accuracy. In the next segment of this series, I’ll talk about how to properly clean your airgun barrel and perform some basic maintenance. It’s critical that you do it correctly or you may actually damage your airgun and make matters worse.
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