Choosing an Air Rifle as a complete beginner
Trying to decide which air rifle to buy can be a total minefield. Beginners in particular will be inundated with too many options to found. Terminology like PCP, multi stroke pneumatic and under leaver will quickly confuse anyone. With that in mind, what do you or any beginner really need to get started? Depending on your circumstance, space or budget you may quickly rule out some of the options.
Air vs Spring
Air rifles are often powered in one of two ways, pressurised air or a compressed spring. There are some outliers that use other systems but this isn’t common. The systems that use compressed air will come with a canister or bottle to store the required energy for the shot. Those using a spring will not and will require a lever to be pulled to prepare the rifle between shots. The choice between the two often comes down to price and accuracy.
If the barrel doesn’t have to move to load a pellet then the shots will be more accurate. This can be done with spring powered guns but often comes in a more expensive under or side lever action rifle. To get an accurate spring powered rifle, the price will be comparable to an entry level Air or PCP powered rifle. Accuracy from an expensive PCP or Springer will be very comparable, the key is the PCP’s ability to offer a follow up shot without moving the rifle.
This quick follow up will pay dividends when you need high levels of accuracy. With your eye always down the scope, you can see where your shot landed and make adjustments. The decision most people will have to make is whether they want the hassle of charging the air system. Not only are the bottles expensive but they have to be maintained regularly and filled at dive shops. For those looking for occasional shooting, the springer is the ideal choice.
Scopes vs Iron Sights
The use of a scope can make shooting at any distance much easier. Zoom levels to as much as 24x make the target look very close allowing for fine accuracy adjustments. For shooting at targets or pests this makes shots beyond 20 meters feel incredibly comfortable. The cons to this is the weight that this adds to the top of the rifle. They are also susceptible to losing zero if they are bumped or magnification is changed.
Iron Sights on the other hand are painfully simple things that have been used for a long time. The front sight is often fixed or allows for minor adjustability. The rear sight can then be elevated up and down to allow for distance. These can be adjusted very easily to change the range on the fly. Being lightweight and hardwearing makes them perfect if weight and reliability are a priority. While they won’t offer pinpoint accuracy they can be used in any circumstance.
All in all these two options are down to personal preference. While Iron Sights are more rewarding they are harder to use with a steeper learning curve. Magnified scopes are much more user friendly and can be mounted to almost any air rifle. For perfecting high levels of accuracy then you will almost certainly be using a scoped set up. For knocking down tins or punching paper then iron sights are super dependable and offer enough accuracy to get you started.
.22 vs .177
The choice of air rifle calibre is an argument that often goes round in circles. In short, the .177 is a flatter shooting pellet while the .22 retains more energy downrange. In the sub 12 ft/lb category, the two calibres are perfectly useable. The 177 is much more forgiving when it comes to shooting under or over your zero distance. Should your target be too close shoot under and if too far aim over. You should test your shot arc before testing these types of shots but it’s easier done with the .177 than .22. The speed of the pellet and the light weight nature means the pellet gets downrange pretty quickly.
The .22 on the other hand is a slightly different beast. The pellets travel in a far more pronounced arc while carrying a much heavier payload. Looking down the sight you can often see the pellet leave the top of the view and then drop down onto the target. You have to know your zero with the .22 as previously mentioned, it can quite quickly drop a pellet too short or too long. For shooting pests its an ideal pellet as it packs a heavier punch downrange.
At this power level, both calibres can work just as well as one another. The .177 is more user friendly and more predictable while the .22 hits harder after more trial and error. I own one of each and have to say they both have their use cases. I enjoy the tricky nature of pushing the .22 at long range targets while the .177 is more get up and go. Both are just as effective on pest species from my experience with the .177 edging it only slightly on not needing to be so particular about ranged shots.
A visual guide
Now I’ve given a rundown of the basics it’s time for something a little more indepth. Andy here gives some fantastic advice on saftey, where to start and what to consider. The second video is a deep dive into the .177 and .22 conversation. While this will undoubtedly draw some disagreement from both sides does a great job of comparing the two side by side.
This second video is as we said an indepth look at two two big players in sub 12ft/lb air rifle calibres. Andy does a great job of exploring how differen’t pellet weights and designs can impact both calibres. There’s more data here than you’ll likely need but enough to make an informed decision on what may work best for you. Between the two videos there should be enough information to make a good buying decision.
As a beginner coming into the Air Rifle world can be a little daunting. Good marketing and nice reviews can point you straight towards a 2000£ setup but this isn’t the case. To dip your toes in the Air Rifle shooting pool this can be done for a lot less. A high performance spring powered gun can be had for less than that. There’s no doubt you can get started for under 500£ without compromising longevity and performance.
We’ve written a list of the best air guns available at the moment. This should give any beginner a head start in terms of what brands and models are worth considering. For a true beginner, we do recommend a spring powered gun, the best ones are fearsomely accurate and you needn’t worry about buying the additional peripherals. This allows you to have uninterrupted practice and fun without worrying about filling up bottles or tricky magazines.
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