Holding an Air Rifle

Five types of air weapons are in common use.
Spring Piston
Air Ram (a self contained compressed air or gas piston).
CO2 powered (Disposable cartridges)
Pump up (Slow and noisy to reload, often underpowered)
Pre-Charged Pneumatic (Accurate BUT you need a high pressure air pump).

When it comes to survival, a spring piston air rifle has to be the weapon of choice as it is self contained, easy to use and maintain, and can be powerful enough for most hunting. However, if it powerful enough (35 ft lbs upwards) , and you are accurate enough, it can be an effective weapon against ‘soft targets’.

However, the spring piston air rifle is the hardest weapon to master because of it’s unique double recoil where it pushes itself into your shoulder as most firearms do BUT it then tries to fly forward out of your hands as the flying piston hits the end of it’s travel. This is sometimes known as a ‘snap recoil’, and that sudden reversal of recoil has enough power to destroy not ‘air weapon’ rated cheaper optics.

Note: If anything the gas ram’s recoil is faster and harsher than the spring piston BUT, unlike the springer, when an air ram fails, it’s normally sudden and irreparable in the field. This is my sole reason for concentrating on a spring piston rifle.

So, how do you cope with a weapon that even man mountains can’t completely control by brute force? Firstly, you NEVER FIGHT A SPRING-PISTON WEAPON, as it will win every time.

For accurate shooting you have to HOLD IT SOFTLY.
You must let the rifle recoil in it’s own way.
As to restrict it will cause you to miss.
Imagine it as a tuning fork.
To make a pure tone, it needs to not be dampened by heavy handling.

  1. Let the rifle rest ON your supporting hand. OPEN PALM.
    Don’t grasp the stock with your fingers. You can cup your fingers round the fore stock BUT DON’T GRIP IT!
  2. Don’t EVER change the position of your hand along the fore stock as this position affects how the rifle ‘rings’ or recoils.
    To that end, NEVER rest your air rifle fore end directly on sandbags or a support as your groups will suffer. This also applies to those who use a mono, bi, tripod or sling.Slings should only be used for carrying, never for support. You can however lay your supporting wrist or forearm on a rest if you like. BUT, always remember to rest your forearm / wrist on the SAME PLACE EVERY TIME.
  3. Only TOUCH your shoulder lightly with the rifle’s butt pad and don’t try to pull it back hard into your shoulder. It’s OK to ‘snuggle in’ but don’t smother it.
  4. Rest your cheek LIGHTLY on the comb of the stock.
    (That’s called making a cheek-weld). Don’t ever mash your face onto the stock.
    Put your cheek on the SAME place on the comb EVERY TIME!
  5. Curl your fingers round the neck of the stock using the lightest grip you can. The trigger finger is all you want to move. Everything else you have done to this point is purely to help control the jittery effect your breathing, heart, and muscles working to keep everything still.
  6. Airguns and firearms all call for you to squeeze the trigger.
    Control is everything because you have to keep the weapon in line with the target fighting it’s weight and your body tremor which is present in all humans. To that end, I use a simple acronym to help, B.R.A.S.S

BRASS stands for Breathing, Relax, Aim, Stop, Squeeze.
Breathing
Stop breathing for during the natural pause between inhalation and exhalation. The natural pause between breaths is typically 2-3 seconds. You should not extend that past 8 seconds as your body will fight to draw breath.
This is when you fire I.e. when the diaphragm and breathing muscles are relaxed.
If it takes longer to make the shot after 8 seconds, stop the release, relax, and try again.

Relax
Your position should be relaxed and the weapon NATURALLY aligned with the target i.e. you do not need to push the sights to align with the target. This applies to any weapon but especially a spring-piston rifle as to push or pull one will definitely affect the way it recoils.

Aiming
Make sure you are aiming correctly i.e. the correct sight pattern for the targets range, and elevation.

Stop
You are in that 8 second window. If all is in order i.e. Breathing, Relaxation, and Aiming you can proceed to release the shot. BUT, IF ANYTHING IS INCORRECT, THIS IS WHEN TO STOP, RELAX, AND START AGAIN.

Releasing the Shot aka squeezing off the shot.
There are two ways of squeezing the trigger and releasing the shot.

Uninterrupted Trigger Control.
Smooth is the term that comes to mind.
Take up the first pressure on the trigger and when the sights are in line and are steady on the target, increase the pressure to the trigger at a gentle rate until the weapon fires.
No stopping, pauses, snatching, just a constant squeeze.

Interrupted Trigger Control
Basically whenever you can’t settle on a target.
Think windy conditions, poor support or standing.
In short you release when the target comes onto the sights.
Then, when it does, you pull the trigger until the shot breaks.
Here you still don’t force the weapon on target, the rifle will be swaying the whole time. When the rifle starts to sway towards the target, second trigger pressure is applied and you release the shot as the sights align.

However this is a really poor state to be in.
Over distance, a waving about air weapon is actually being subtly over controlled. It’s human nature. Gun moves off target, you sub consciously try and re-align it. It takes a lot of training to get out of this habit.

My personal advice? Always shoot from a supported position.
Lying down is best, sitting second, kneeling takes a lot of practice, and standing. . . . why would you do something so stupid?

Follow Through.
Possibly the most important thing of all because the bodies reflex action as you release the shot is to relax.

Hand gunners, rifle shooters, it’s all the same.
Your body was under strict control, BOOM, you relax.
Your grip would have changed subtly so the air gun doesn’t “ring” or recoil the same way. Also, in that ‘slump’ moment, the bullet may still be travelling down the barrel towards a target that is no longer aligned with the rifle.

End result?
Everything goes to pot and all because your brain said “Glad that’s over with”.

So, I’ve got a golden rule. Watch careful where your sights end up AFTER you have fired. If they have moved, that’s probably where your bullet went. Another tactic is to watch the bullet strike the target.

The follow through is something you have to train yourself to do.
With a spring-piston or gas ram weapon, it’s positively vital.

A few other notes applicable to airgun shooting.

Effective range.
Shoot to a 1″ (one inch) of accuracy.
The range that you can consistently hit within a one inch circle.
The safe range for me to do that EVERY TIME is 50 yards.

Power, i.e. how hard do you need to hit something to kill it.
The UK limit for unlicensed air weapons is only 12ft-lbs of power.
0.22 pellets weigh anything between 12 and 30 grains and have ballistic coefficients (it’s shape  more than anything else) between 0.01 and 0.04
To kill a rabbit you need a minimum of 5 ft-lbs, and a bird 3 ft-lbs.
Using a propriety software program i.e. Chairgun 3,
The average ranges to achieve a decent hit of around 5 ft-lbs is:-
35 yards for those with a ballistic coefficient of 0.01,
75 yards for those with a ballistic coefficient of 0.04
(75 yards shooting into, or across the wind? Good luck with that.)