10 ways to make 2018 your best airgunning year ever
PUBLISHED: 16:46 06 February 2018 | UPDATED: 17:02 06 February 2018
The editor comes up with a selection of suggestions for airgunners to consider
This magazine has a policy of not beating its readers about the head with seasonal hype, but the beginning of any year is always a good time to think about making positive changes. Thus, here I am with a bunch of suggestions which have either worked for me, or which I believe could work for you. The idea is to make 2018 your best airgunning year – ever.
Read these suggested resolutions, then, and see which ones could take you to that new level of performance, accomplishment, overall contribution, or plain old fun.
1. Learn to shoot a springer
For many, this could also read, ‘re-learn to shoot a springer’, because there will be plenty out there who began this glorious airgunning journey with a spring gun, then got into the pre-charged pneumatic style of things, and have since shied away from remaking the springer acquaintance. Here’s why I believe you should do that.
Yes, you’ll have heard it said so many times before, but studying at the spring-piston institute of advanced technique really will make you a better shot, especially with a PCP. Those recoilless pre-charged pneumatics, with their forgiving ways and tolerance of inconsistent technique, seem like your best friend, but in a long-term relationship, they’ll allow flaws to creep in and establish themselves. Ultimately, once those flaws become part of your technique, you’re on a slippery slope where, should your handling become sufficiently degraded, even PCPs won’t be able to save your results.
Bring a springer into your shooting life and those creeping flaws will be exposed, addressed and very soon expelled. Not only that, shooting a springer well is also incredibly rewarding, amounting as it does to a hearty ‘well-done’ and a pat on the back from a teacher with the highest standards. Give the spring thing a go, or another chance to be part of your shooting life. When you do, make the relationship a regular one and the benefits will appear before your very eyes.
2. Do something to make your rifle fit you better
In my extensively researched opinion, using a gun that fits is the single greatest advantage within our control, these days. Airgunners come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, with widely differing requirements when it comes to … pretty much everything. Shoes, trousers, hats, gloves, shirts, jackets, watch straps; you name it, we have our own fitting needs. Yet, when it comes to our rifles, for some it’s a ‘one size fits all’, so we compromise and get on with it. It’s like having a new car, but not being able to adjust the driving seat position. We’d be able to drive it, but nowhere near to its full potential.
Consider changing the game for yourself by fitting an adjustable butt pad, or having that done by a gunsmith. Think about an adjustable-height cheek piece, too, because the combination of these features can genuinely transform the way you interact with your rifle. Custom grips for pistols can have the same effect, too.
Whilst the whole ‘gun fit’ thing is in your head, pay particular attention to the way your head and eye lines up with your scope. Fit different mounts, or use raiser blocks, to align your sighting eye perfectly with the ocular lens of your scope. This will not only bring better eye position, but it will also relax your neck, and that has tremendous benefits for your entire stance. Don’t just accept compromise – do something positive to create perfection.
3. Re-jig your trigger set-up
Your trigger forms the link between you, your airgun, and the ‘authorisation’ of every shot. It’s the use of the trigger that signifies all is as it should be and that the shot may be taken. It’s a massively important phase in your shooting technique, yet far too many of us don’t give it the attention it deserves.
Change that by making certain your hand and trigger finger are in the perfect position to work correctly with your airgun’s trigger blade. Fitting a palm shelf is one of the easiest and most effective examples of DIY any shooter can carry out. A rested, relaxed trigger hand is a more efficient, controlled one. Now make sure the let-off, blade position and overtravel of your trigger unit is spot on, and fit a trigger shoe, or even a replacement trigger system, if there’s one available and it does a better job. Above all, make absolutely certain that your final authorisation of the shot is as good as it gets. This doesn’t mean ‘as light a trigger as possible’, either. Correctly set, safe, predictable and consistent triggers are part of our shooting foundation. Get yours right and you’ll be much the better for it.
4. Test some pellets
This one really couldn’t be any more simple. Even if you’re satisfied with the pellets you’re using, try a few different types to see if any of them offer you more. ‘More’ will usually mean ‘greater accuracy’, and testing at range on paper targets sorts this one out in no time at all. Should you discover a new pellet that out-performs your current brand, the next step is easy – buy loads! If the pellets you’re already using come out on top, then you have the extreme satisfaction of knowing you’re using the best, and that’s a significant advantage in itself.
Long-range accuracy isn’t the only factor, though. If you have specific jobs for your pellets, say close-range effectiveness on rats or feral pigeons, then you’ll find different designs perform in different ways, in terms of penetration and the transmitting of ‘shock-energy’ to your quarry’s central nervous system. As ever, doing your own homework is the best way to match specific pellets with specific tasks.
5. Join a club
I won’t waste much space selling this one to you; the fact is, you can learn more, improve more and enjoy more at a good club in six months, than you will in three years shooting on your own - make that 20 years, in my case. Joining a club was the single greatest positive influence on my shooting, and the same goes for thousands of airgunners. Good clubs are wonderful places, and if you don’t have one withing reasonable range of you, seriously consider starting one. It’s challenging, it takes hard work, but the rewards are incredible. Get yourself involved at club level and see how your shooting life improves.
6. Introduce someone to airgunning
Among the many rewards on offer to we airgun shooters, passing on what we’ve learned has to be right up there with the best of them. Seeing someone discover the pleasures we’ve enjoyed, and then increase those pleasures through greater accomplishment, is a feeling that’s hard to beat. I know this magazine has helped to introduce countless thousands of newcomers to our sport, and we couldn’t be more proud of that. On an individual level, that pride is no less intense, I assure you. Please, if you know anyone who could benefit from being part of this amazing pastime, share what you know and encourage them to join us.
7. Increase your fitness
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you take up jogging, or become a gym bunny, or anything as drastic as that. All I’m saying is, your life, and especially the part of it that involves your shooting, will be significantly better if you get yourself a bit fitter. One of the benefits of my illness of 2015 and last year, was a gradual weight loss, and now I’m all but fully recovered, I’ve resolved to get back to my ‘ill’ weight, now that I’m no longer ill. I hope that makes sense.
Being a bit fitter will help you in so many ways, including mastering the new stances I’m suggesting in resolution 9, controlling your heartrate, walking miles over fields, and pretty much every other aspect of your sport.
As someone connected with sporty sloguns once said, ‘just do it’.
8. Get back in touch with an old shooting buddy...or two
If you haven’t already, please read February’s issue of Airgun World’s Letter Of The Month. That letter says it all, really, and demonstrates what most of us already knew, that some fellow airgunners out there could do with a bit of contact and support. As we keep on saying, our sport is about far more than shooting. Let’s do our best to prove that this year.
9. Work on new stances
Far too many of us stick to what we know and to where we’re most comfortable. This especially applies to our shooting stances, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this mindset costs us dearly in terms of shooting performance. To compound this problem, the most popular stance of all, especially among hunters, is the standing stance, which is the least stable of them all.
This year, do yourself a huge favour and learn at least one more shooting stance, then train regularly with it until it becomes as ‘natural’ as standing, or whichever stance you favour now. For hunters, the kneeling stance is incredibly useful, and the sitting position is perfect for static hunting and zeroing. The prone stance, possibly the most stable, yet least-used, of them all, can be the foundation of maximum accuracy and is entirely worth developing.
Using the best stance available for a particular shot is, along with optimum gun fit, represents the most effective way we can close the ‘performance gap’ between us and our hardware – and developing new stances is free!
10. Resolve to have more fun!
Let’s finish on the happiest note of all, by resolving to get as much enjoyment as possible from our marvellous sport. The whole essence of airgunning is enjoyment, and that precious commodity can arrive from all sorts of directions. There’s the pure fun of blatting at tin cans or home made targets, through the satisfaction of a successful stalk after quarry, to the intense pleasure of winning silverware on the competition circuit, plus a zillion points between.
The essential factor is the enjoyment, and sometimes we need to remind ourselves that our glorious pastime is, above all, supposed to be fun. Yes, there will be disappointment, frustration, and the usual negatives life lobs at us, but the overall effect must be one of ‘I’m so happy to be part of this’. If that’s not the case, we’re doing something wrong. Airgunning is tremendously enjoyable, and that’s exactly how it should be, for 2018 and every year.