Accuracy matters: Choosing the right rifle
PUBLISHED: 15:20 10 April 2018 | UPDATED: 15:20 10 April 2018
Mark Camoccio continues his series on choosing the right rifle
Many rifles may have to be rejected on the raw accuracy stakes alone, at least until the shooter’s skills are well and truly honed. If a gun can only manage a 1.75inch group at 30 yards, say, when all the conditions are right, then the chances are that again, when the heat is on in the field, the effective range, governed by our self imposed target of hitting an inch circle, is severely limited. Hence a rifle that is ideal as a plinking/practise tool, might have to be deemed unsuitable against live stuff – or at the very least, kept for ultra-close work.
By contrast, top-class hunting rifles from the big names, capable of drilling five shots in a tight cluster at the zero range, might be more likely to reproduce an acceptable group when shot away from the comfort zone. Being able to print ‘one-hole groups’ from a rest, stands for nothing at the end of the day. Shoot the chosen gun again and again, from the standing, kneeling and sitting positions that we are forced to adopt when the quarry presents itself, and that same one-inch rule applies when it matters.
With time, and with the right kit, confidence and results will come, but until then, self-regulation has to be the key.
Remember to use the technology now available to us, too. Mil-dot reticles have come of age and most manufacturers now build these into their scope designs. For the uninitiated, these offer spaced reference dots on the reticle that allow the shooter to bracket a target, where the size is roughly known, in order to gauge the approximate distance. In addition, the market is now awash with hand-held, laser rangefinding devices that are both extremely accurate, and relatively cheap. When I hunt, I try not to forget mine, and the confidence it brings is enormous because it helps to eliminate more human error. It can even close the advantage gap in regard to .22 vs .177, since once the range is known, the trajectory can be simply factored into the shot. Absurdly, I’ve heard calls of ‘unsporting’ from some quarters regarding these devices, (yes really!) yet as stated before, anything that minimises the chance of a misplaced shot, and us wounding the quarry, has to be a good idea.
As it turns out then, hunting isn’t a God-given right after all; and given the parameters of acceptable accuracy required, are we all actually up to the task? Just keep practising and as your skills increase, so will that effective range. Until then, you owe it to yourself and most importantly, the quarry to stay strictly within the limits of your own ability!
Making that selection
Aspects such as rangefinders I’m sure will be dealt with in more detail, further down the line, but for now, we are concerned with the end goal of selecting the kit for the job. So, as I hope has been demonstrated, much thought needs to be applied where hunting is concerned. Whichever gun we take out into the field needs to be sufficiently powerful and accurate to maximise the chance of a clean kill. This has to discount very cheap bottom end fare, and to a large extent, CO2-powered guns, given their low power and propensity for power fluctuation due to temperature change. So what sort of airgun is best suited to hunting? Well, the answer is pretty well a variety across the board.
Spring-power still accounts for a huge slice of airgun sales, and the quality varies enormously, but the traditional break-barrel design can be ideal; super-fast to cock and reload, and often quite lightweight, so easy to carry for extended periods in the field. A time-honoured design indeed, and whilst there are undoubtedly many cheaper options on the market that are well up to the job, the break-barrels that have made my short list here, are quite special. Webley’s Stingray Hunter OS Quantum is a bold, robust gun, that just handles really well, has plenty of downrange performance and features where it matters. Whilst the super-compact Diana 280 Classic is just one of the very best break-barrels available, coming as it does with a quality trigger, good build quality, and superb accuracy potential. The Walther Terrus is another slick model, scaled down and well proportioned, yet extremely well made and finished. Weihrauch, of course, feature here and I’ve picked their HW95K model for its relative lightweight, superb finish, and great accuracy, but if weight isn’t an issue, then their mighty HW80 is another obvious choice.
Next month, I’ll conclude the process, cover PCPs multi-shots, and confirm my selection of favourites that are worth serious consideration.