In the last article I outlined 4 classes of accuracy: Combat Accuracy, Plinking Accuracy, Hunting Accuracy, and Target Accuracy. In part 2, I’ll add some meat to the bones and see if I can finish up this series.
Combat Accuracy is a vague term generally used to make someone feel better about the terrible group they just shot. Actually, that’s not really true, but it was fun to say. There are certain airguns such as action pistols and rifles that are not built for shooting match grade shot groups or taking down game. They are designed to mimic the actual firearms they resemble. These can shoot BBs or pellets and are not known for accuracy. The exception would be Airsoft Products as they all shoot BBs. They leverage what I like to call the “fun factor.” Many can fire semi or even full automatic, and may have huge magazines. If you’ve never had the chance to pull the trigger on some of these, make the time. They are more fun than you might think.
I have a lot of these types of guns such as; Game Face M4 AEG Airsoft Rifle, Beretta CX4 Storm, Walther PPK, Crosman c11, Umarex Steel Force, etc. They all easily achieve “Combat Accuracy,” which is to say they can keep all their shots on an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper even under full auto. Many also double as good plinking airguns as long as you keep the distances relatively close.
Plinking Accuracy is a step up from Combat Accuracy. I like to think of Plinking Accuracy as “tin can” accurate at 20 yards, give or take a few. Airguns that fit in this category are great for shooting reactive targets like eggs, soda cans, fruit, clay pigeons, water balloons, etc. These are some of the most popular airguns on the market. Most “off the shelf” airguns are built for this this kind of accuracy and include airguns like: Crosman MTR 77, Gamo Big Cat, Hatsan Striker 1000x, etc. What you’ll get out of these airguns is semi-consistent target and huting accuracy, but always consistent tin can accuracy. Remember you measure an airgun’s accuracy based on what it can consistently produce, not what it can do once in a while.
Most casual shooters fit into this category, and why it’s arguably the most popular. These airguns are relatively inexpensive to purchase and shoot and are a great way to get your feet wet with airguns.
Things become more defined as we get into the Hunting Accuracy and Target Accuracy groups. Hunting Accuracy is less about group size, and all about consistently hitting the kill zone on your prey with sufficient energy to make a clean, ethical kill. If you are after typical small game, then you are looking at about a 1″ kill zone with a .22 caliber airgun. Maybe a fraction smaller with a .177. There are many great airguns that really do well in the Hunting accuracy class. They will focus a bit more on power over pinpoint accuracy. Airguns like the Sumatra 2500, Hatsan BT65SB Quiet Energy, and the Benjamin Marauder, are great examples of hunting class airguns.
Hunting class airguns don’t have to be overly powerful, they just need to put power in the right place, for the right game, and at the required distance. While testing the BSA GRT Lighting, I noticed that while many of the 10 yard groups shot with various pellets were pretty ugly, all of them fell within a 1″ grouping. If it were only about putting lead on small game at that yardage, any of them would have been a suitable option. As I moved to 20 yards, marginal pellets became “inaccurate” from a hunting perspective, because they could no longer keep that 1″ kill zone requirement. The best pellets, the RWS Superpoint Extras, held their own at 20 yards posting consistent sub 1″ inch groups once I learned the required techniques.
So, with Hunting Accuracy you have to keep in mind both average group size as related to the game you are hunting, and the maximum distance you can maintain the required accuracy. Having an honest assessment of your abilities along with the abilities of your airgun is critical when making choices about taking a shot on small game. There’s not a lot of margin for error.
The last type of Accuracy I’m going to talk about today is called “Target Accuracy.” Target Accuracy has nothing to do with hunting, plinking, or even combat accuracy. It’s all about shooting the tightest group possible on paper. As with Hunting Accuracy, range is a secondary factor. For example, 10 meter competition target guns like these: Avanti 888 Medalist, Crosman Challenger, or the Baikal IZH-46 Match Pistol, all shoot relatively slowly and are extremely accurate at 10 yards. Trying to shoot these out to 50 yards would yield unsatisfactory results.
If you are looking for Target Accuracy, then you need to determine at what maximum distance you wish to consistently maintain accuracy. 50 yards is a typical standard that I use to determine a really good target airgun. An airgun that can consistently group under .5″ at 50 yards is harder to find then you might think. There are very few spring or gas ram airguns that come close at any price. Most airguns in this category are going to be PCP guns and will really stretch your wallet. Although, there are an increasing number of mid-level PCP airguns that can routinely put lead on target at that range.
Time to wrap it up…
I hope this helps identify a way to quantify airguns based on their purpose. One thing to note is that each group will supersede the other. For example; target guns, can often make great hunting guns provided they have the required energy. Hunting guns can make great plinking guns, and plinking guns generally have excellent combat accuracy. Airguns can definitely do double duty and will cross over between accuracy classes.
Now that we have an idea of what’s out there in the way of accuracy, I’ll look at some different ways to get more accuracy from the airguns you may already own, and what you may want to do with the new airguns that you have in your sights.