Like most things, airguns can be tweaked to get that “something” extra in either accuracy, power, and shootability. Sometimes you can get two of those and, on rare occasions, all three. In this article, we’ll look at some of the top tweaks you can use to get the most out of almost any airgun.
Know Your Gun
Before you start turning screws and twisting knobs, you must know what your airgun can do out of the box. This is very important. If you don’t know what you have, how do you know if the changes you make actually improve anything? Whenever possible, work to determine your factory starting point. Every gun is different, and some airguns will be more difficult than others. But if you can document that starting point, there’s always the opportunity to turn things back to factory settings if your attempts to improve things go south.
So, here’s step one. Start with getting chrony data on your gun. For this you’ll need a chronograph, and you’ll need to spend some time shooting various pellets over your chrony to see if there are any anomalies. Some pellets may deliver a better extreme spread, for example. You’re going to want to know that before you start doing any tweaks.
Once you have your chrony data, it’s time to test the inherent accuracy of your gun. We recommend getting in some trigger time before doing ANYTHING, even cleaning the barrel. This helps you set a real baseline for your performance. Why do we say don’t clean the barrel first? Because a lot of modern airguns simply don’t need it. And if you are new or have poor equipment, you can damage your barrel before you even know if your gun’s out of the box accuracy is any good. Shoot some pellets. Get your baseline. And then, you can start tweaking from there.
Decide What You Want
Some folks want all power. Others want all shot count. And most want both. The reality is that you will generally get one or the other. If you go for power, you’ll use more air, reducing your shot count. If you want more shots, you generally do so by reducing the air used for each shot which in turn decreases the power.
Tuning for Power & Shot Counts
Some typical adjustments would be adjusting the regulator to a higher or lower pressure. A higher pressure should yield more power, and a lower pressure should yield more shots.
Combined with the reg pressure adjustment will be adjustments to your hammer spring. The hammer spring controls how hard the hammer hits the valve. Hitting it harder generally causes the valve to open more which also means that it will be open longer. Both deliver more air to drive the pellet. Lightening the hammer spring does the opposite. When you increase or decrease the reg pressure, you will want to adjust the hammer to match. This is where your baseline data really matters.
There are times when guns are simply not optimized well from the factory. They can be wasting air volume because of mismatched hammer tension and throw. The Benjamin Marauders were famous for this. Spending some time at the bench would often yield significantly better power output with minimal impact on usable shots.
Lastly, some airguns have adjustable ports. Take our Benjamin Marauder example above; there’s a hidden valve port adjuster that can creep from normal use. It’s common to find a poor performing Marauder simply choked out because the valve port screw has walked all the way in.
The other port to watch for is the transfer port. Most airguns with an adjustable transfer port have an easily accessible adjustment knob. Air Arms is a great example. Simply by opening or closing the transfer port, you can raise or lower the output of the airgun and help dial in the best FPS for the current pellet you are shooting.
Check All Your Screws
The second to last tip for this article applies to just about every airgun, but possibly for different reasons. Loose screws are one of the most common culprits for poor accuracy in spring and gas piston air rifles. Loose screws cause the gun to behave inconsistently, causing each shot to vary, sometimes wildly. Keeping your stock screws, scope ring screws, and scope rings tight will go a long way on a springer.
For PCP airguns, loose screws can cause loose barrels, loose optics, and many other ailments. A simple walk around your airgun every once in a while will do wonders for your repeatable accuracy.
Change & Record
The last tip is really important. Only change one component at a time. If you are going for power and start with the reg, then adjust the reg till you get to the max power you can achieve. Once you’ve established your max power, then start turning the hammer spring. You may find that you’ll need to go back and see if more reg pressure helps or hurts, but if you adjust them both out of the gate, you won’t know which did what. This also applies to port tuning. Only work on one adjustment at a time. It’s a slow process, but it’s deliberate and easy to track.
And track you must. If you want to know if your tweaks are actually helping, you need to test each adjustment along the way. Did it help in the direction you intended? Did you improve power only to see a massive drop in shot count and accuracy? You will only be able to answer these questions if you start with good data and continue to keep good records along the way.
There are certainly more tips and tricks that go into improving the performance of your airgun. Some are more maintenance related, while others are additions and subtractions of various OEM and 3rd party components. Airguns are just fun to play with, and they allow for a wide range of tinkering. If you like that aspect of things, you’ll love airgunning. If you need some help finding the right airgun for the kind of tinkering that interests you, just give us a call. We are always happy to help.