Hunting with Air Rifles: A Beginner’s Guide to the Basics

Hunting with Air Rifles

So you’ve decided to give air rifles a try. What do you need to know? You will find out how to choose and use an air rifle and what accuracy level you can expect online, but we can also give some tips.

1. Air rifle accuracy

When using an air rifle for hunting, you should always get a scope with good optics and reliable, repeatable adjustments. Generally, the more accurate rifles and ammunition will be more expensive and can shoot longer ranges (expect 50-100 yards). The shooter’s skill is far more important than his equipment. In fact, if you have the best 308 rifle in good shape, go ahead and use it! This is a great rifle, and there is even an additional screw placement designed on top of the receiver that gives a secure and solid rail attachment.

2. Ammunition

All air rifles have a specific caliber or bore that they are designed for. You should use this type of ammunition only in the gun that you own. If you use .177 pellets in a .22 rifle, not only will they not shoot very accurately, but the pressure inside the barrel could be severely affected and damage your gun! A bit larger bore is called a “Big Bore.” Ammo for these firearms usually comes as a series of sabot slugs, which can travel at greater velocities than any pellet. Air gun hunters frequently favor Big Bores as their first choice, although it does require more experience to learn how to shoot them accurately.

3. Pellets

Air gun hunters shoot pellets because they are the most accurate projectiles. Most air rifles come with a scope that can be removed by loosening two screws or bolts that hold them in place. Once the screws are out, you simply remove the scope and replace it with one of your choices by clamping it firmly into its dovetail mount rails. Hunting pellets are manufactured to be as accurate as possible, which makes them ideal hunting ammunition. They are also available in many shapes, sizes, weights, types, designs, and brands. These variations within pellet types make them suitable for specific purposes such as target shooting or hunting small game animals. There are too many calibers, weights, and designs to list here, but there’s always someone at your local gun shop. Talk to him and get his advice on what would be best for your gun and your purpose.

4. Air Rifle Size

Air rifles are available in a wide variety of configurations from single-shot break barrel models to multi-pump pneumatics, gas ram, or springers that will shoot several times without reloading. However, there is one universal truth that applies across the board: small air guns have less power than larger airguns.

This means less shooting distance and reduced terminal energy at the target, which can result in insufficient penetration to kill the game humanely. Nevertheless, if you’re only hunting small game like squirrels or crows, you don’t need much power at all! Generally speaking, anything under 1 joule of energy is considered safe for pest control.

5. Pellet weight

The weight of the pellet has a direct effect on how much kinetic energy or “knockdown power” it will have at the target. The physics is simple: the more mass, the more damage. Hunting pellets come in many weights, however, so you can choose one that suits your hunting needs for any given day.

Of course, there are other variables that factor into the equation such as shooting distance and wind conditions, but if you’re just starting out don’t become overwhelmed with trying to figure out what’s best for every situation because it’s almost impossible unless you have all of this information available to you precisely. As mentioned above, no matter which weight pellet you choose, if you’re hunting a small game under 1 joule of energy then the weight is not that important.

6. Pellet Shape

The shape of a pellet also has an effect on its accuracy at longer distances, so some hunters who shoot targets in their backyards will use wadcutters exclusively because they are able to hit one ragged hole all day long at 50 yards or more! However, bird hunters usually prefer pointed pellets because they have less resistance when passing through bushy areas and also offer deeper penetration into the vitals, which helps to prevent crippling losses.

7. Shooting Distance

Most hunters don’t realize that there is such thing as shooting too far with an air rifle! This might be hard for some readers to swallow, but they will thank me in the long run. Here’s why: when you shoot a pellet at a target that is too far away, it exhibits excessive time in flight, which means it drops below the sight plane and is therefore difficult to aim with precision because there is no way to tell where exactly it will hit.

8. Terminal velocity

Shooting at targets that are too small and too close isn’t a problem because it doesn’t take very long for the pellet to hit them. However, when you shoot at larger targets such as squirrels or rabbits the pellet has plenty of time in flight to drop below the sight plane and therefore difficult to aim with precision. This can result in poor shooting accuracy and no kills!

That’s why most hunters prefer shooting at their intended game animal from 40 yards or fewer, where gravity is working with them instead of against them. Do your best to visualize how far away this target distance is and hold accordingly so that your point-of-impact accurately matches where you’re aiming. Remember, even an air rifle capable of shooting up to 800 fps will be reduced to a much slower 350 fps by the time it reaches a target 100 yards away, which is why you should only shoot at targets within that range.

9. The Right Scope

The right scope will make the task of shooting at distant targets much easier, which is why it’s important to get the best as your money can buy. The scope should be able to compensate for any drop in velocity and allow you to clearly see your intended target at all times from high noon until sunset. Just because a scope looks good on paper doesn’t mean it’s up to the task, however, so beware of false advertising! Do your research before making a purchase and don’t get sucked into buying the most expensive one either because there are plenty of quality scopes available that won’t break the bank.

Hunting with Air Rifles

Air rifles are a wonderful way to introduce young hunters into the sport of hunting because they don’t require any licensing fees and can be used by hunters of all ages. Always do your best to follow these basic guidelines, and you should have a successful and enjoyable time behind the trigger of your air rifle. Having a good experience is important for enjoying this sport, so remember to have fun!



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