How to get into air rifle shooting


Your garden can be an excellent air gun range if made pellet proof - Credit: Archant

Jamie Chandler gives his advice on how to go about getting involved in the wonderful world of airgun shooting

young boy shooting air rifle

Without new members, our modern tribe will dwindle - Credit: Archant

For years now, I have meandered around and through our fair community of airgunners, learning from some, helping others and basically feeling both at home and accepted as part of our wonderful tribe. The problem with modern hobby tribes, though, is that they can get stuck in ruts, doing the same accepted thing and to an extent, shunning both movement and change, which can be frustrating. 

The other thing that many tribes tend to fear is newcomers, who don’t understand the rules, but the fact is that without newcomers, tribes dwindle, numbers deplete and in time, they become extinct. No one wants to be a Mayan at the wrong end of their rise and disappearance, to be then culturally misappropriated by Mel Gibson, so it’s imperative that we encourage and welcome newcomers into our midst. If not, it’s Apocalypto for all of us, or worse still, The Patriot!
I can be as bad as anyone else in thinking that anyone reading this mag’ has a knowledge base somewhere near to mine and enjoys airguns in the same way I do, but before I ever bought an airgun – actually my dad because I was 13 – I bought a magazine and read ferociously. 

So, whether you’re reading on-line or holding an actual page in your hand, and still trying to decide if airguns and airgun sports are for you, let me give you a definitive list of the basics you’ll need to get in to our sport.

The Gamo Phox airgun

The Gamo Phox is excellent at any price point but at £500 for everything, proves quality can meet affordability - Credit: Archant

Firstly, an airgun – and peripherals such as scope, pump, if required – that’s obvious perhaps, but you can’t be a woodsman without an axe, or a drag act without sequins and heels, so you can’t really be an airgun enthusiast without one. 

There is a bewildering number of airguns out there and choice has never been so varied, but a lot of the decision of which one is for you should be based on these three key criteria; how much you want to spend, what you are intending to do with it, and who will be using it. 

How much you want to spend is the biggest factor in most purchasing decisions, and the airgun community is a large church, encompassing a vast array of people from different backgrounds. To some, £2000 is as much as £300 is to others, but there are excellent options out there at all price points. The good news is that unlike a 1-litre Fiesta compared to a 4.5-litre Range Rover, the power difference, thanks to UK law, between £300 air rifles and those £2000+ is negligible because we have to stay under 12 ft.lbs., without a firearm certificate.

As prices rise, you do tend to see higher quality triggers, regulators in PCP rifles, better finishes on the stock and action, smoother, better machined componentry and more advanced materials used, such as carbon-fibre in air bottles. That all said, a £300 air rifle can be just as accurate as anything else, in the right hands.

BSA Ultra SE air rifle

From £389 at the Air Gun Centre, the BSA Ultra SE is phenomenal and also light weight - Credit: Archant

What you intend to do with it is another important consideration. If it’s simply putting paid to chalk figures and tin cans in the garden, then fun comes over function, in my book. Pistols, semi-auto, CO2-powered, BB-firing rifles and mock-up rifles like the CO2-powered Lee Enfield SMLE are sure to put a smile on your face. If you are heading to a range, then it’s time to start to look at more serious options within your price range, and more so again if it’s for HFT. Finally, if you are aiming to go hunting, I would argue that this is when you should spend the most. We owe it to our quarry to ensure accuracy, so a scoped rifle with a minimum 10.5 energy is nothing short of essential.

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Finally, who will be using the air rifle? If it’s just you, buy the one that you love and that fits you best. You and a supervised 10-year-old junior, maybe? Consider something light, but deadly, such as a BSA Ultra or Air Arms S200. Neither of these are an accuracy compromise, but are lighter and so easier for smaller people to handle, as well as PCPs, and neither requires the strength to cock it that a springer would. 

airgun pellets

Don’t scrimp on the pellets, it’s the key to getting the most from your air gun - Credit: Archant

There’s no point in having an airgun without pellets, it’s like a G+T without tonic, or a car without a drive shaft. You’ll need to find which pellet matches your barrel best, although a premium, quality pellet such as Air Arms Field Diablo, JSB Exacts, or similar, are a great place to start. 

air gun range

A visit to an air gun range can offer hours of fun and you get to see other’s kit - Credit: Archant

Again, that’s essential. Whether it’s your back garden, a range or a hunting permission, there’s little point in having an airgun without somewhere to shoot it – you might as well have a boat without water. 

If you are just thinking about target practice in the back garden, then you must ensure that wherever you are shooting, no pellet will stray out of your garden. Our handsome pin-up of an Ed, Dave, did a fantastic video on the Shooting and Country YouTube channel, showing how to make a simple garden back-stop in minutes and well worth checking out, if not just to stare at his handsome mug.

air rifle range

Stretching your capabilities at the local range is a blast - Credit: Archant

If you are intending to head to a range, that’s a great option! You can see what’s there, get to know others with a similar interest and digest a wealth of knowledge in one place. Some ranges hire rifles which could be a place to start, even before you buy. Ranges are great and normally, a pretty well-priced afternoon of fun. If you go with an open mind and a friendly attitude, people will give you all the time in the world.

A lot of us want to pit our skills against live quarry – hunting – and for someone getting into airguns, this can be daunting unless you already have permission from a landowner, or know a few. That said, it’s not off the cards, if not. As I mentioned last month, there are more agents offering airgun hunting adventures now than ever before in the UK, to give you a taster. If you want somewhere to hunt without a fee, then it’s time to learn the noble art of door-knocking, which is almost a book in itself. 

man with binoculars looking down field margin

Finding permissions is not easy and I could write a book on the subject - Credit: Archant

So, that’s basically it, a smile helps, as does patience with yourself, but that’s part of the joy and discipline of airguns. Everything else can be bought later, learned as you go, or borrowed. There’s no uniform, no particular way to go about things, apart from safety being paramount. You can be as social or reclusive as you want; you can immerse yourself in the whole culture, or just dip in slightly. 

Airguns are for everyone. They may be a gateway to powder burners to some, or a slippery slope to obsessive fettling for others. There’s a discipline for most and a community for those who want to join one. 

So, if you are reading this and not sure whether to join us or get two new car tyres, then the answer’s obvious, I hope. If you have found somewhere to shoot safely and have bought this magazine, then with shops opening up, the next stop is your local gun shop, potentially followed by a lifetime of fun! 

airgun range clubhouse

Your local range, in many instances can offer far more than just targets to obliterate - Credit: Archant

pile of harvested crop in barn

What it’s all about for a lot of us, protecting farmers crops - Credit: Archant