It’s a legitimate question but not easily answered. In this article, we’ll walk through ways to determine the effective range of your airgun.
Beyond power and accuracy at range, shooters need to consider the flight time of the projectile. If you are shooting paper, this is not an issue. But, if you are shooting game, then flight time is extremely critical. Fifty yards is about the max hunting range for unsuppressed, big-bore airguns shooting under 800 FPS at the muzzle. As the muzzle velocity increases, so does effective range, at least regarding flight time. Suppressed big-bore airguns can certainly stretch things further, provided they have the power and accuracy at range.
When it comes to suppressed small bore airguns, considering how well slugs are doing these days, the effective range can be a quarter-mile and beyond. The key to taking “flight time” out of the equation is to get the report as quiet as possible, shooting as fast as possible while maintaining appropriate accuracy. As a result, airgunners can stretch the effective range of their airguns more than ever before.
Accuracy and Power at Range
You probably think accuracy would be a “given” when talking about the effective range of your airgun. But accuracy can change dramatically at different ranges. So knowing when your accuracy goes from acceptable to unacceptable is critical.
In some recent tests, we found one product to shoot exceptionally well at 25 yards but completely fall apart at 50. This was not a low-power airgun but rather an over-the-top .22 pushing close to 100 FPE. If we only considered the 25-yard results, assuming we were good to go for our “hunting trip,” we’d be very disappointed when trying to shoot at longer ranges. You need to test your airgun at whatever ranges you expect to be shooting. Take the time at a range and verify before trying things out in the field. You’ll be happy you did.
Once you’ve verified the accuracy, you need to ensure that you still have enough power at range to get the job done. Many apps will take the ballistic coefficient, projectile weight, and muzzle velocity and then provide power levels (FPE) to a given distance. If all those numbers work, you know that, at least on paper, your airgun has the basics to be effective at those ranges.
The Human Factor
Once you’ve considered flight time, accuracy at range, and power at range, you need to consider the human factor. The harsh reality is that our airguns are probably far more accurate than we are. One of the most common mistakes airgun hunters make is NOT sighting in and testing their airguns under the same conditions as when they are out hunting.
If you set up and test your airgun from a stable bench at a range, but you’ll be hunting off shooting sticks, you’ll likely find yourself missing a lot of your shots. Rather, go ahead and do your basic setup from the bench, but then verify your results using the same methods you’ll be using when out in the field. That may require you to test freeholding, off sticks, or some sort of bi-pod. Whatever it may be, verifying your ability to put lead on target in the moment will be key.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, you’re the deciding factor in your airgun’s effective range. If you do your homework regarding flight time, accuracy, power at range, and personal capabilities, you’ll know exactly what your airgun can do and, more importantly, what you can do with your airgun.
If you are in the market for a new airgun, need it to perform at specific ranges but don’t know what to buy, give us a call. We’ll be able to walk you through the process of picking the right airgun for the job and making sure that you’ve got all you need to be successful.