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Why do you always use a scope and shoot from a rest?

Another common question from the Email Bag...

I have to say that I really debated whether or not to respond to this next Email Bag question. But, it comes up often enough that I think it requires a response. So here’s the comment, as it wasn’t really a question but more of an accusation: “Rick can only shoot with scopes from a rest. His reviews reflect only rifles with a scope. A nice little gun like this (speaking of the stoeger x5) will perform very differently without Rick’s scope. His reviews are truly worthless…” etc., etc.

Stoeger X-5 Hardwood Monte Carlo Stock w/4×32 Scope – A great, accurate, youth oriented airgun.

I’ve been reviewing airguns for almost 8 years now. I’ve learned over the years that it’s generally best to let comments like this just go by the wayside.  But, since it speaks to the integrity of the process, I figured I go ahead and address it here.

Do you want to know how I shoot, or how the airgun shoots?

When it comes right down to it, I consider myself an average shot. I would be embarrassed to even consider trying to compete on any serious level. I’m happy to shoot airguns in my yard and down at our local range, simply for the enjoyment of the activity. I’m perfectly satisfied competing with myself.

I began reviewing airguns to help people see how the products could potentially perform, if given the most optimal set of circumstances. This was a strategic decision on my part about how I wanted to operate in this business. As far as I’m concerned, people want to know how well the gun can shoot, not how well I shoot. Sometimes its easy for viewers and readers to miss this very important point.

Physical limitations…

I learned right away that even some of the least expensive airguns can shoot better than I can. The human element is a monstrous variable in any sort of legitimate product testing. That’s expressly why manufacturers use robotic systems to  test their products. It’s also why gun manufacturers vice their guns to test their potential accuracy. The point is to remove as many variables out of the equation as possible; so that you can get the most accurate representation of its potential performance.

For me, this includes many different devices, techniques, and tricks. I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous articles that I always like to test an airgun’s base performance with open sights when possible. I do this because it’s the best way to learn the airgun’s potential accuracy as quickly as possible. With just the airgun, open sights, and the target on my indoor 10 yard range, it should be able to put lead right on point. Unfortunately, my eyesight gives me real fits when trying to shoot with open sights. I know I’m not the only one that has this physical limitation. I can see the back sight, front sight, or the target, but trying to see even two out of three just doesn’t work all the time. As a side note, the Hatsan 125 line is great to shoot with open sights, as the receiver is really long and places the rear sight far enough from my eyes so that I can actually get a decent sight picture.

Hatsan Model 125TH .25 Caliber Air Rifle with 3-9×32 Scope – Massive power in a spring airgun. Bring your “big boy” muscles to shoot this airgun!

The easiest way to overcome the physical limitation of my poor eyesight, is to simply mount a scope and most airguns these days come with a bundled scope. I always try the included scope first. If I can get some reasonable success with it, I stick with it and complete the review with the factory bundled scope. If the airgun’s potential is being really limited by the bundled optic, which happens often enough, I’ll mount a suitable optic based on the price point of the airgun, and continue my testing. All of this data is always disclosed during my reviews so that you, as the readers, know exactly what brought me to the various decisions I make during the process.

Hawke Optics Sport HD 4-12X50 AO Scope w/ Mil Dot IR Reticle – Etched Glass Illuminated Reticle holds up to the harshest recoil. Backed by a limited lifetime warranty.

When you go out to shoot 50 shots or so, it’s not a big deal to shoot from the shoulder or even rested against a post. But, if you had to shoot 100 to 200 shots each day for several days in a row, you’re going to want a different solution. This brings me to the next set of devices that I rely on in my review process. I have several different types of rifle rests, sand bags, bi-pods, etc., all for the purpose of reducing fatigue during the testing process and stabilizing the airgun for the best possible accuracy. Again, it’s about how well the product can perform, not about how well I can shoot. Each airgun is a little bit different, and a fun part of the challenge is finding that right setup that really brings the airgun’s best potential to light.

MTM Case-Gard Predator Shooting Rest, for Rifles & Pistols

Techniques and tricks…

Truth be told, I don’t have any tricks, but I do rely heavily on various shooting techniques. Mastering the Artillery Hold is one of the most critical airgun shooting techniques that someone could have as part of their shooting skills. Learning how to setup at the bench and shoot with a high level of stability has taken a while to work out, and learning how to setup the scope on the rifle properly is also really important. Maintaining a large variety of pellets in all calibers is essential. And lastly, having the patience to push through all the options and variations while not giving up is maybe the hardest part of the overall process.

I hate to lose…

There have been very few airguns over the years that I’ve not been able to make shoot straight. I feel like I’ve been beaten when it happens and I really hate it. To me, reviewing airgun products is like having a new puzzle delivered to my door every day; and I really love the unique challenges they provide. That’s why I take the time to work out all the variables so that I can relay how to get the absolute most out of an airgun.

I hope this has been a useful article about the why and how I review the way I do. It’s really timely as I’ll be spending a lot of time in the upcoming weeks on airgun accuracy, what it is, and how to get the most of it, out of your favorite airgun.

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I have to say that I really debated whether or not to respond to this next Email Bag question. But, it comes up often enough that I think it requires a response. So here’s the comment, as it wasn’t really a question but more of an accusation: “Rick can only shoot with scopes from a […]