Topics covered here:
Airguns and the law, tips for buying a rifle, spring gun basics, power/fps calculators, shooting and accuracy tips,
pellets, scopes and terminology.
Is an Airgun a Firearm?
- Airguns with a calibre of 5.6 mm (.22 calibre) and higher AND where the power limit exceeds 6ft/lbs are still regarded as firearms and must, therefore, be licensed.
- Airguns with a calibre of less than 5.6 mm (.22) do not have to be licensed.
Regarding the law... WARNING
- Owners of airguns and antique firearms must take note that although these firearms no longer have to be licensed, the Act provides for various offences that can be committed with these firearms.
- Owners of the mentioned firearms can still be prosecuted if they use the firearms to commit crimes, to point such firearms at any other person without good reason to do so, to discharge such firearms in a built-up area or any public place without good reason to do so, to fire shots at another person, to injure another person, to damage property, to abuse animals, or handle any of these firearms while they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- The South African Police Service will investigate all cases of this nature. Offenders who are found guilty may be declared unfit to own a firearm.
- Parents have a duty to ensure that their children use airguns responsibly
When buying a rifle...
Always try to buy a from a dealer that knows what he is talking about. It may sound harsh, but at most gunshops, the guy behind the counter have no clue about airguns.
Always ask advise from somebody who is an expert, if you can't find one, try to contact your local airgun club or contact us.
Always ask yourself what you want to do with the rifle (hunt, FT competitions, just have some fun, etc.). There is nothing worse than buying a gun for a purpose, only to find out later that it does not meet your expectations. For more information, have a look on our Recommendations page.
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Always have a look at the second hand rifles. Sometimes a second hand rifle can be better than a new one. How is that possible? Well, some rifles can be tuned and improved to performed better than a "straight out of the box" rifle. Buying a second hand rifle, in good condition can save you a lot of money and can sometimes be the difference between shooting an average new rifle and shooting an awsome second hand rifle.
Never fall for the feet per second hype. Most rifles that is advertised at over 1000 ft/s can not hit the broadside of a barn, so rather buy a accurate 12 ft.lbs rifle. The Diana rifles is an exception to this rule, most of them have a lot of power, as well as being very accurate.
Spring gun basics:
Never dry fire a spring air rifle, it can seriously damage the gun.
Never cock the gun unless you are going to shoot it immediately, some pellet guns can only be uncocked by shooting. Leaving a spring gun cocked for long periods will weaken the spring.
Never insert anything in the chamber other than the proper caliber pellet.
Never oil the chamber of a synthetic seal spring air rifle. Synthetic seal guns never need chamber lube. You will only cause problems, maybe breaking the spring or ruining the seal. Leather seal guns occasionally need chamber oiling. Use only 3 drops of non detergent motor oil.
Always follow safe gun handling practices. Airguns can be dangerous and are not intended for sale to juveniles or use by juveniles except under strict adult supervision.
Always keep all pivot points of the cocking lever well oiled.
Always keep a firm grip on the cocking lever, don't let it fly loose from your grip.
Always put the gun on safe before loading a pellet.
Always take care when loading pellets, not to pull or bump the trigger of the gun.
Always think about where your shot will go if you miss your target. Be sure of your backstop.
Shooting and Accuracy:
How to hold a spring air rifle for best accuracy
Lay the forearm on your off hand (the one that doesn't touch the trigger). Never lay a spring rifle on anything but flesh — sandbags do not work well for spring guns. Do not grasp the stock with your off hand. With your shooting hand, touch the trigger and pistol grip as lightly as possible. Do not pull the butt into your shoulder and only touch the stock lightly with your cheek. The goal is to allow the rifle to recoil as much as it wants to. By doing this, you are influencing the rifle as little as possible, which allows the pellet to exit the muzzle at the same place in the rifle's recoil and vibration pattern every time. If you have ever watched a field artillery piece fire, you know that the gun recoils violently each time it is fired, yet the round strikes very close to the same place, even though it lands miles from the gun! For that reason, this method of shooting a spring airgun is called the artillery hold.
How to hold a spring air pistol for best accuracy
Spring air pistols recoil just like spring rifles. A few exceptions to the strong forward lunge are guns like the Beeman P1 Magnum (Weihrauch 45) that have the piston moving in the opposite direction. Those guns recoil to the rear more strongly than to the front. For all of them, though, the hold is the same. Squeeze the pistol back into the web of your hand with the middle finger. No other fingers should put pressure on the gun, especially the thumb. Let the bun bounce in your hand when it fires. Don't try to fight the recoil. If you hold the gun this way consistently, the pellet will exit the muzzle at the same point in the recoil cycle every time and your accuracy will be as good as that gun can produce.
Taking care of your rifle:
Always clean a brand new rifle before using it. You will be surprised at the amount of sticky grease that is inside the barrel. Take care not to damage the rifling inside the barrel. Don't lubricate the barrel or pellets with oil. The oil can cause dieseling witch will negatively affect accuracy. Never use petroleum based oils on rubber seals, it will perish.
Should you clean the bore?
Usually, the bore of an airgun should not be cleaned (however, it is good advise to clean the barrel of a new gun before using it). There is no combustion to foul it, nor do lead pellets deposit on the walls of the bore like bullets normally do. The only thing that does happen is a small amount of anti-oxidant compound from each pellet is deposited. This is usually a graphite compound, though some pellets use an oil-based treatment. This stuff is scraped out with every pellet, but more is deposited at the same time. In other words, the barrel remains in a steady state, once it gets some buildup. Cleaning removes the material, but after ten shots it's back again. You can shoot for thousands of shots like the Olympians do and never clean your bore, or if you do clean it, you'll probably have to keep cleaning it frequently from the scratches you introduce from the cleaning rod and brush.
There's a whole range of pellets available on the market which differs in weight as well as shape.
The flat tipped pellets are very good at short distances, and ideal for punching neat round holes in paper targets, but pretty useless for anything else, especialy at longer distances. Sharp tipped pellets are the worst as far as accuracy goes. The most usefull of the bunch is the domed shape pellets. They are the most accurate at longer distances, and is also ideal for hunting.
Most shooters have their own favourites that they swear by. So who do you believe? Well the answer is NOBODY.
No two rifles are the same, so the best way of finding the perfect ammo is to try different pellets until you find the one that is right for your rifle. Just stay far away from cheap pellets. Cheap pellets, even from the same batch, can differ in weight and shape, making it impossible to optain any consistancy.
Also remember that pellets that are to light or to heavy will cause premature spring failure. A safe bet is to stick to pellets weighing between 8 and 9gr. If you have a high power rifle, stay away from hyper velocity pellets!!!
Whatever scope you buy, make sure it is airgun rated. Magnum powered springers are scope killers! Get yourself a good set of mounts, preferably a one piece mount with a scope stop. Mounts may seem expensive, but the cheap ones just don't last.
Scopes must be properly secured before you attempt to zero it. Make sure you know how to set and mount the scope, as well as knowing how everything work before you start fiddling with it.
n. When light passes into a lens, the highly polished glass surface of the lens reflects light at each air-lens interface (lens surface). The erratic reflected light mixes with usable light, detracting from the image. (This is called diffusion.) Lens coatings seek to eliminate this phenomenon, but each coating typically affects only a limited frequency range (color) of light. Older single coatings like Magnesium Fluoride (MgF2) can do a lot in one coating but multiple coatings are better. Multi-coatings have a seperate layer for each part of the visible spectrum. Since the coating reduces reflection it affects the amount of light transmission. For a quality multi-coated riflescope, total light transmission should be over 95%. No multi-coating is 100% efficient. Since each extra lens introduces more light-reflecting surfaces, simpler fixed-power scopes are often brighter and sharper than variables with more lenses.
n. The distance from the scope to the human eye that the scope must be held in order to get a full, clear view. Eye Relief is determined by power of magnification and quality of design and construction. The higher the power, and the shorter the scope, typically, the shorter the eye relief. Eye relief is both a safety and usability consideration. A high-power rifle can cut the user's face with the scope under recoil.
Field of view
n. The width (usually in feet) of viewed area at a given distance, usually 100 meters. Field of view decreases with magnification, and increases with viewing distance and lens size. This is why astronomical telescopes have small "spotting scopes" attached. The small, low-power scope has a wide-angle view used to find the star, and then it can be found with the large, narrow-angle hi-power telescope. Big-game hunters typically need a large field of view, as they view game that is moving, and they are not steadied by any bench, bipod or rest. The closer the game, the larger the field of view should be.
n. One one-thousandths of a Radian. Scopes with mil-dot reticles, or graduated range-finding reticles are typically calibrated in Milliradians, not in Minutes of Angle as is sometimes thought.
Minute of Angle
n. One sixtieth of one degree or 1/21600th of a circle. Subtended to 100 meters one MOA is just slightly over one inch. Riflescope's reticle adjustments are usually calibrated in fractions of MOA, for example, 1/2MOA or 1/4MOA. Since even expensive scopes are not really that precise, this can be thought of as 1/2 inch and 1/4 inch at 100 meters, respectively. MOA is a more convenient term, however, since it is not tied to a particular distance.
n. Viewing error that represents the reticle and the target as being parallel, not in line. Parallax is influenced by two factors, the angle of the viewer's eye, and the internal design. It can be seen by leaving the gun at rest with a scope centered on the target, and then moving the one's head left, right, and up, down. Apparent movement of the reticles across the target is parallax error.
Parallax can be corrected for, but only at a set distance. Most scopes have fixed parallax correction at 100 or 150 meters. Shotgun scopes are usually set to 50 meters. Target scopes have Adjustable Objectives with range markings for correction. Cheap scopes, very high power scopes and variable scopes with a very large range of power adjustment typically have the most problems with parallax. Cheap scopes often experience zero shift when adjusting the parallax.
n. Known informally as sharpness. Resolution of optics can be measured in lines per millimeter, or compared objectively in terms of viewing figures of known size (such as alphabetic letters or geometric) at a given distance. Since measuring optical quality might involve angering advertisers, most scope comparisons are made in terms of subjective terms like Sharpness.
n. The convergence of two lines, one representing the center of the rifle bore, the other the sights or scope. The Mechanical Zero can be found by use of optical/mechanical tools like a bore scope or collimator. True zero, being subject to the vagaries of ballistics, varies for each type of load used, and must be found experimentally. Scopes are first mounted to Mechanical Zero, and then test fired and adjusted to a true zero. (The Brits call this "regulating the sights").
How to sight-in a scoped air rifle
Start with a scoped rifle. Place a target in a safe backstop ten feet away. Wear safety glasses because high-speed pellet fragments, this close to the backstop, will hit you. Aim the scope at the center of a small black dot, one-quarter to one-half inch in diameter. The target paper should be at least nine inches tall and five inches wide, with the dot as close to the center as possible. The dot will be blurry in the scope. If the scope is adjustable, use the lowest scope power setting. When you shoot, your goal is to have the pellet strike the paper in line with the center of the dot and as far below the center as the center of the scope is separated from the center of the barrel. In other words, if the center of the scope is 2-3/4 inches above the center of the barrel, which is approximately how far below the aim points you want the pellet to strike the paper. Adjust the scope until you get the pellet striking where you want it, then move the target out to 10 meters and shoot again. The pellet should now strike in line and approximately one inch below the center of the dot. If not, adjust the scope until it is. Once it is striking there, you are sighted-in for distances approximately 20 to 30 meters away. Closer or further and the pellet will land below the aim point.