Back to basics: What to shoot through your rifle

It's important to clean the barrel each time you test a new pellet

It's important to clean the barrel each time you test a new pellet - Credit: Archant

Neil Price offers some important advice about what to shoot through your air rifle

A proper barrel cleaning kit is a 'must have'

A proper barrel cleaning kit is a 'must have' - Credit: Archant

I remember when I was young and stupid, when I had no one to tell or show me any better, that whenever I had run out of pellets then I would shove anything into the breech of my (cheapish) spring-powered air rifle just so that I could shoot something out of the barrel. I used matches, bits of screwed up paper that I had moistened in my mouth and rolled into balls, bits of plasticine, lead slugs which are just a plain diameter piece of lead with no skirt to offer any resistance to the power stroke, and steel darts. Any of these would have caused the piston to slam into the end of the compression chamber, with the resulting chance of damaging components in the rifle. Even worse, the steel darts would rapidly cause excessive wear in the barrel, to the point where it would be extremely inaccurate. The point that I am making is that the only thing that should go through the barrel of your gun is the correct calibre of pellet.

Another thing to remember is that not all makes of pellets perform to give the same results through the barrel of your gun. A lot of testing with different makes of pellet has to be done to find out which brand gives you the best results out of your gun in regard to accuracy and consistency.

A silocone cloth is ideal to protect your gun's finish

A silocone cloth is ideal to protect your gun's finish - Credit: Archant

Testing times

When testing, to find the make of pellet that suits your barrel and gives the best results, the barrel should be cleaned whenever you change pellet brands, and then the clean barrel has to be ‘conditioned’ to the new pellets by putting ten or more shots through it. This is because different brands of pellets have different percentages of elements in them which affect hardness, coefficient of friction, ballistic coefficients, and so on, all of which will have an effect on how they leave the barrel. If you try to test a different brand of pellets without cleaning and conditioning the barrel, then accuracy can be severely affected. The ‘conditioning’ part of this is that the new brand of pellets lay down a microscopic layer of the new brand of lead in the barrel. I always use a proprietary brand of barrel-cleaning kit to clean the barrel, like the Napier kit, which has everything included to achieve the desired effect. The cleaning of the barrel only takes a few minutes and is well worth doing to achieve the best results.

If you have put things other than pellets down your barrel and got them stuck, then never try to get them out with something like a straightened out, wire coat hanger or some other such metallic object because the rifling in the barrel can be easily damaged and again, the accuracy can be ruined. Take the gun to a local gunsmith or gun shop and they will have the correct equipment to clear the barrel without damaging it. It is much better to spend a little money having this done correctly that having to pay out for a replacement barrel or a new rifle.

Steel BBs and darts can damage rifling permanently

Steel BBs and darts can damage rifling permanently - Credit: Archant

You Have Got Your Gun Wet

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This has happened to all of us, at one time or another. You are out in the middle of nowhere, enjoying a pleasant day’s shooting, the heavens open and you and the gun get soaking wet. If you have to put it in a gun slip to get it home, do not just forget about it and leave it inside. Take the gun out of the gun slip and leave the slip open in a nice warm environment, because placing a wet gun inside the slip will transfer the moisture from the gun to the inside of the slip, and we have to dry this out.

Please don't put things like these down your delicate barrel!

Please don't put things like these down your delicate barrel! - Credit: Archant

Oh dry up!

The gun itself has to be thoroughly dried now. Ideally, the action should be removed from the stock. This is usually very quick and easy to do with just the removal of a few screws. The excess moisture can then be dabbed off the inside and outside of the stock with some kitchen towelling or tissues. Then both the stock and action should be left in a warm, yet secure environment, preferably overnight, so that any remaining moisture can evaporate. When thoroughly dried out, the metalwork should be wiped over with a lightly oiled rag to put just the slightest coating of oil over it. I use a Birchwood Casey Gun and Reel cloth purchased from either my local gun shop or fishing shop. These are impregnated with silicone and last for many, many years.

When refitting the action to the stock, make sure that you do not over-tighten the fixing screws. You do not need to imitate the Incredible Hulk when using screwdrivers or hexagon drive keys.

Keep up-to-date with Neil Price’s ‘Back to Basics’ in Airgunner - order your copy here.