Advice on buying your first rifle (or upgrading your gun)
PUBLISHED: 10:56 16 January 2019
Buying your first serious rifle needs good advice, as the editor witnesses
I guess it’s fair to assume that you like shooting airguns because you’re reading the UK’s number one magazine online right now. It’s also possible that you’re considering upgrading your rifle. I’ve spoken to many people who bought an inexpensive break-barrel springer and fell in love with the sport, but soon began to wonder what all those more expensive rifles could do for their shooting. Sure, they look great, and for some people that’s reason enough to buy them, but the wise shooter chooses a rifle to suit their needs. One of the best things you can do when thinking of changing is to visit a high-quality gun shop because not only will they have a good selection of serious guns to handle, but they’ll also offer great advice to enable you to choose the best rifle for your needs.
John had been shooting for only a few months when he asked me about upgrading, so I directed him to Tackle Up, a shop not too far from his home, and one I’d heard lots of good things about. They were primarily a fishing shop, but the airgun side of their business is growing rapidly and becoming a huge part of their income. Their in-house expert is Mick, a man with a long and proud military service who loves his airguns, which is clear as soon as you hear him speak.
Springer v PCP
After the usual niceties and hellos, he quickly began to ask John about the type of shooting he likes now and perhaps more importantly, the kind of shooting he hopes to get into. Unsurprisingly, John is a back garden plinker, as most of us were once upon a time, and has accounted for a few troublesome rats in a friend’s chicken feeders, but he was beginning to feel a little dissatisfied with the simple springer he’d bought to start his shooting career.
Quite naturally, the conversation moved towards the springer versus pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) debate and I had to keep my counsel because I didn’t want my influence to alter the balance of the discussion. I was much interested to hear Mick let John work through his own thinking to arrive at what was best for him. This is when great gun shop staff are a real treasure, and a huge asset to the industry. My personal bias could have spoilt the whole experience.
It soon became clear that John had a growing interest in hunter field target (HFT) competition and that a club near to his home could accommodate him. Again, I had to bite my tongue because I could see competition PCP models from BSA and Air Arms on the wall to his left, that I was sure would be ideal for his needs – he still hadn’t decided between a PCP and a springer. To help John decide, I asked Mick if he could cover the procedures and costs associated with feeding a PCP, so Mick took a pump and a diver’s bottle out and walked John through the process. Filling systems add a good chunk of extra cost to the PCP experience, so that must be taken into account before any decision can be made.
While he was digesting that information, we had a little discussion about calibres and the relative merits of .177 and .22. Mick said that he’d just had a customer asking for a Daystate Huntsman Regal in .20, a calibre that I thought had shuffled off this mortal coil. It’s a funny old game! Anyway, back to reality. I finally succumbed to the urge to offer my two penn’orth and made the case for .177 and, of course, any high-quality rifle would be available in that calibre.
Mick had a sense that John was struggling to take in all the information and offered us a cup of tea as an opportunity for John to have a break and gather his thoughts. I think that was a quite brilliant thing to do and a sign of Mick’s understanding of his customer’s needs. At no time did I hear any pressure to buy, just a gentle delivery of useful and relevant information so that John could make up his mind.
Once Mick was in the kitchen, I asked John what he was thinking and I was delighted and relieved to hear that he was 99% confident that a PCP was what he needed. We ran though the merits of a standard, multi-shot, hunting model versus a single-shot, pure competition gun and again, models from Air Arms and BSA headed the top choices. Both companies offer guns that bridge the gap between hunting and competition in the form of the Gold Star and the Ultimate Sporter. The question was, which would fit him best, feel best in his hands and finally, have that sex appeal that makes you part with your money?
On top of this, literally, was the question of which scope to choose – another in-depth discussion, followed up by the choice of mounts and a silencer. Perhaps the best part of the whole day for me was when Mick said, “Have you made a decision?” and John replied, “Not yet”. Mick smiled and said, “Go away and think it through and we’ll see you soon.” I sensed no frustration at all. I think he wanted John to make the right decision, whether it was that day, the day after, or a week later. If I ever learned anything from my time working in a gun shop it was that a happy customer always comes back, and in my view, that’s why Tackle Up’s business if going from strength to strength.