Airgun FAQ – All Your Airgun Questions – Answered

Here are the answers to the most common questions asked about airguns. I’ve been asked so many times the same questions about Air Rifles, Air Pistols, BB Guns etc. I thought it must be worth creating an article that simply addresses the most common questions I’ve had over the last 40 years or so. The biggest questions and simple answers, all in one place – enjoy!

Can you dry-fire an Airgun?

Yes, you can. You can also drive your car into a brick wall but it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea! Dry-Firing an airgun is not recommended, especially if you have a Spring Piston variety. If you don’t have a pellet in the breech then there won’t be a cushion of air protecting the piston from slamming hard into the internals of your gun. This does your seals no good at all and will shorten the life-span of your gun. There is at least one manufacturer (Gamo) who create most of their rifles in such a way that it doesn’t matter as much if you accidentally do this but they still don’t recommend it. If you’d like to know more about why you shouldn’t dry-fire your airgun, take a look here

What Types of Airgun Can I Buy?

There are several different types of Airgun that you can buy:

  • Spring-Piston / Break-Barrel – these are the most common type of airgun and are powered by a spring and a piston. The action of ‘breaking the barrel’ is when you snap either the barrel of the gun or a level back, this cocks the gun by compressing the spring.
  • Gas-Ram – these are pretty much identical to the spring-piston, minus the spring! Here, the mainspring is replaced with a sealed gas unit and it is the compressed gas that pushes the piston forward, not a spring.
  • CO2 – the CO2 air rifle (or air pistol) is powered by a carbon dioxide (CO2) canister that is inserted into the gun. Typically, with a pistol, this will be a 12 g canister and with a rifle it will accommodate an 88 g canister, that’s usually inserted into the stock. 
  • PCP – a reservoir within the gun is filled up manually with air, either via a scuba tank or a hand-pump. The air will continue to be filled until it is at the correct pressure for shooting. It is the compressed air from this reservoir that drives the pellet out of the barrel.
  • Multi-Pump – these are similar to PCP in some ways, air is compressed by pumping the airgun a number of times, typically between 3 and 10. The more times you pump it, the more powerful the gun will be.
  • BB gun – well, arguably these shouldn’t be listed here but they are powered by the similar methods of an airgun. They have less power though and don’t shoot pellets, they shoot BBs!

If you’d like more detail about the advantages and disadvantages of each type of gun, feel free to check out my post here

What’s The Most Powerful Type Of Airgun?

Arguably, the most powerful type of airgun is the Pre-Charged Pneumatic (PCP). Depending on the gun, the pressure can be up to around 3000 psi which can deliver .177 caliber pellets at supersonic speeds. Of course, the higher the caliber pellet, the more mass it carries and the slower it will be (but the more stopping power it will have). My most recommended PCP rifle (and why) can be found here if you like.

How Far Will An Airgun shoot?

Ooh I hate this question as there’s no simple answer. It depends on so many variables such as the type of gun, how old it is, what type of pellet, the weather etc. etc. I could go on. However, I want to give you an answer and it needs to be at least roughly right. So, I estimate .177 pellet can travel around 400 yards with an average rifle. It’s not going to have much power when it gets there though! If you’d like to know more, then click here.

How Do I Re-Sight (zero) My Air Rifle?

There are (quite literally) hundreds of videos on how to do this online. It’s really simple though and doesn’t take long (even less when you’ve done it a few times). Anyway, you can just follow these very simple 9 steps:

  1. Most importantly, make sure you have a firm base to shoot from. Ideally, you’ll be using a rifle rest. I can recommend the Caldwell Deadshot (click to get the current price, which opens in a new window). It’s cheap, has been around for ages and everyone loves it.
  2. You’ll need a target with a pellet trap (ideally) and a safe location to shoot without fear of your pellet going somewhere it shouldn’t. You should set this target up 10 yards (30 feet) away from the rifle. It should be a windless day (or as best as you can get).
  3. If you have an AO (Adjustable Objective) then it should be set for 10 yards. This is to cater for parallax errors.
  4. If your scope has a zoom, then set it to maximum magnification.
  5. Focus the eyepiece until the target is crystal clear.
  6. Load a pellet, aim for the centre and fire. Note where the pellet hits the target (if it hits directly in the centre, there’s obviously no need to continue).
  7. Re-point the gun and again, aim at the centre of the target. You should now adjust the elevation and windage until the crosshairs of your reticle are directly over the hole you just made with the last pellet. The tricky bit here is to make sure the gun doesn’t move at all whilst you’re adjusting the scope!
  8. Once complete, aim the gun at the centre of the target again and fire again. 
  9. If you’re still a bit out (it won’t be as much as last time), repeat the process from step 7.

Can I legally Pest Control with my Air Rifle?

Yes, or to be a little more precise, No. Well, maybe. It’s frustrating, right? You just can’t seem to get a clear picture of this, well nor can I. I can tell you this though. If you live in France, then no, you can’t. In the UK, you don’t need a firearm certificate if your air rifle has less than 12ft lb of power or if you’re interested in air pistols, it has up to 6ft lb in power. As in many places, the UK rules are not exactly clear – your best bet is to take a look at their government website on pest control here. In the US, it varies. Not only between state-to-state but also within the City! So, to answer your question I have to tell you that there is no definitive answer to your question. It depends where you are – best bet is to speak to your local (if you have one) airgun dealer and ask their advice.

How Much Do Airguns Cost?

I’m tempted to say as much as you want but I won’t. You can spend less than $100 on a good rifle though for sure. In fact, you can get into this sport for less than $50 if you like. However, you can always spend over $1500 on a PCP if you like. It just depends on what you want and how much you’re prepared to spend. Damn it, I was determined not to say stuff like that in this article. So, here’s what you want to know – airguns will cost typically between $50 and $1500.

What Ammunition Is Used In An Airgun?

There are 7 different types of pellets available for your airgun and depending on what type of shooting you’re doing will dictate what type you use:

  • Wadcutter Pellets
  • Pointed Pellets
  • Hollow Point Pellets
  • Domed Pellets
  • High-Velocity Pellets
  • Hybrid Pellets
  • Modified Bullet-Pellets

To get more information on pellets, take a look at the article here

What Pellet Should I Use For Pest Control?

A lot of people use hollow-point pellets when either hunting or using an airgun for pest control. However, if you’re close enough then pretty much any pellet will do the job. If you’re interested in understanding more about pest control and how pellets can make a difference, check out the article here

What Pellet Should I Use For Plinking?

For plinking, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on your pellets. This is the opportunity to get those old pellets out that you found at the back of your drawer. The preferred choice is the Wadcutter, however – it’s like a general purpose pellet that can be used for multiple activities.

Can An Air Rifle Kill?

Unfortunately, they can and there have been instances where fatalities have occurred. Serious safety malfunctions can occur when children aren’t supervised or when people make simple mistakes. Often, injuries occur when assumptions are made – for instance, the biggest one, assuming the gun is not loaded, when it is. If you’d like to know more about how to use an air rifle safely, then please check this article out.

What’s The Difference Between Airsoft and an Airgun?

There are many differences between an airsoft gun and an airgun. Primarily, an airsoft has a lot less power and is more of a toy than an airgun. For instance, airsoft users primarily shoot at each other whereas this is the very last thing you would do with an airgun. To see all the differences between an airsoft gun and an airgun, check out the article here

Do I need Safety Equipment When Using An Airgun?

The only safety equipment you need when using an airgun is safety glasses. These should be worn at all times, not just by the shooter but by anyone else in the vicinity. Most injuries caused by airguns are to the unprotected eye. Several of these are caused by ricochets. The pellet will miss the intended target (or go through it) hit something that doesn’t dissipate enough energy (wood has this problem) and the pellet will re-bound back, still at some speed. I was out with my son a few weeks back, he was shooting at some cans and targets at around 30 feet with a relatively low-powered .177 CO2 rifle. A pellet bounced off the tree, which was behind the target, bounced back and hit me on the side of the head. It didn’t break the skin but it did hurt. If it had hit one of my eyes it would have caused damage. So, just wear goggles – get these.

What Are Air Pistol’s Used For?

Now, I’ve often been asked this as most people opt for rifles and don’t really understand the point of a pistol. But pistols are great fun, depending on what you want to do with them of course. First and foremost, pistols are used for fun. A bit of plinking in the backyard, pistols typically come in .177 or .22 variety and these days most seem to be powered by CO2. They can also be used for pest control, although this would most likely be with a .22 caliber and would be used at short range. If you’d like to check out my favourite pistols then please take a look over here.

What’s The Best Air Rifle?

Now, this is a question that many people won’t agree with as it’s firstly, a very personal thing and secondly, totally dependent on what you want to do with it and how much you want to spend. Take a look at my favourites over here – however, let me try and give you an answer. However, to give you an answer I need to make some assumptions. I’m going to assume that you’re looking at Spring Pistons and you don’t mind spending over $200. What would I go for? Well, you couldn’t go wrong with the RWS 54 (click to check the current price). Not only does it look great but it’s incredibly capable.

What’s The Best Air Pistol?

I’ve always found recommending a pistol a little easier. Most people aren’t so bothered about how a pistol looks, compared to a rifle. So, it makes my job easier. I recommend the Crosman American Classic, every time. It’s been around for years, it’s a .177 caliber and will probably be around for longer than you.

What’s A Chronograph?

If you’re a bit of a geek, like me, then you’ll like these. A chronograph will tell you how fast your airgun shoots its pellet. There are quite a few out there, many that are designed for airsoft guns (lower velocities) so you need to be sure you get one that’s suitable for an airgun. Why would you want one? Well, you might just be interested in the velocity of your rifle and how changing the pellet impacts the velocity. Or maybe you have a PCP or CO2 rifle and want to find the ‘sweet spot’. These are the shots that your rifle will fire that are consistently at the same velocity. You’ll find the shots at the start and at the finish will be either higher or lower (which impacts accuracy). Take a look at the ones I recommend here.

What’s The Best CO2 Powered Air Rifle?

Again, it depends on what you’re wanting to do with it, but for me – the best means ‘the most fun’ so that’s the Sig Sauer MCX Semi-Automatic rifle. I have one and you can see my review of it here. It’s a CO2 powered .177 rifle and for plinking, I’m not sure it can be beaten at the moment. Not only does it feel like quality and look like the real thing but it’s reliable too. It hasn’t jammed or let me down once.

What’s The Best PCP Powered Air Rifle?

When I think of PCP air rifles, I’m thinking the shooter is after something with a lot of power. When they’re looking at a lot of power, they’re probably thinking of hunting. Which is why the Benjamin Crosman comes out top for me. It delivers more, for less. What do I mean by that? Where some PCP rifles are trying to hit higher psi levels, the Crosman can achieve the same at 2000 psi. It’s .22 caliber and it is also dual-fuel so, with an adapter it can also accommodate CO2 canisters, which is just awesome.

What’s The Best Air Rifle Scope?

If you’re a bit geeky like me then a rifle scope is something you’ll end up buying, even if you don’t necessarily need one! People buy scopes for different reasons and you can see my personal favourites here. I basically went for the UTG BugBuster in the end though. You get a lot of scope for your money and it’s been around for ages. Just check out all the positive Amazon reviews and you’ll see why it’s so popular. Not only that, it’s one of the cheapest!

How Many Pellets Will A 12 g CO2 Canister Shoot?

Good question and it depends on the gun – if it’s a blow-back then it will be on the lower side but typically between 30 and 50 shots per 12 g canister.

How Many Pellets Will A 88 g CO2 Canister Shoot?

In my experience, an 88 g CO2 canister will allow you to get through an average tin of pellets? How much is that? Well, about 250 but realistically you should get a little over than that, at least I do with mine. This number will go down though if you store your rifle with the CO2 canister plugged in as they all leak just a bit.

Can I Use A BB Gun For Self Defense?

Absolutely not. It’s not powerful enough and will most likely just annoy the attacker, actually, it will probably do more harm than good. Check out my article about this very subject, here.

Why Does My Airgun Leak CO2?

All CO2 airguns will leak a little. However, if yours is leaking more than it should then it’s most likely a problem with the seal. You can fix this by taping over each CO2 canister before it’s inserted to give it a better fit. I have an article on this with some more information, feel free to check it out.

How Do I Clean My Airgun?

I would argue that you might not actually need to. However, if you’ve had your gun (particularly a spring piston) for some time and have noticed a drop-off in performance, perhaps it’s time. 
The best way to clean your Air Rifle is to use a couple of cleaning pellets every time you get through a tin. This will clean the inside of the barrel. You should also ensure the gun is only stored when perfectly dry and not kept in humid conditions, which can damage any wood. For more information, take a look at this article.

Why Doesn’t My Air Rifle fire?

Well, there could be a few reasons.  The main reason why an Air Rifle doesn’t fire is typically caused by a mechanical related failure of the inner mechanism. This can be caused by normal wear or tear, excess lubrication (dieseling), poor manufacturing or servicing. Replacement parts are easy to find and if the gun is disassembled then the seal should be inspected and changed if required. The internals can then be cleaned before the airgun is put back together. Take a look at my article here that explains more. 

Why Is My Air Rifle So Loud?

One thing to realise is it might sound loud to you but it’s probably not as loud as you think. Get someone else to shoot it and stand around 20 feet away, how bad is it now? The noise is caused primarily by the air escaping from the barrel, in the same way that a cork goes ‘pop’ when you remove it from a bottle. Other reasons could be that you have a spring piston air rifle and the noise is coming from the internal mechanism. Or, you have a powerful rifle and the pellet is going supersonic! There are some things you can do about it, take a look at the article written here

Who Does My Airgun Smoke?

It’s most likely smoking as there is an excess of lubrication inside or it has been improperly lubricated (there’s a word for this: dieseling). However, don’t be fooled into thinking the steam, generated from the compressed air that is first heated and then cooled quickly is actually smoke! For further information on this, take a look here

Why Is My Air Rifle Inaccurate?

I’m sorry to say it’s more likely to be you! Spring Pistons are notoriously difficult to become proficient at. The vibrations caused by the internal mechanism means the barrel could move a fraction before the pellet has left the barrel! There are ways to get around this though, particularly by not gripping too hard on the gun when shooting. Alternatively, you may have problems with your scope or your pellets of course. For further information, have a look here

What’s The Recommended Age For A BB Gun?

I hate it when I get asked this question. The main reason is it depends on where you live and also the regulations seem to change so quickly. In the UK you can’t legally use one until you’re 14 (then you need to be supervised) – for the US, best check this article out that gives some more information.

What Pests Can I Shoot With My Air Rifle?

There are all kinds, but the most popular pests that are eliminated with airguns are rats, birds, snakes, squirrels, racoons, groundhogs and woodchucks. You do need to be mindful of local laws though. For instance, in France, pest control is a no-go with airguns. In the US, it depends on what State you’re in and can also depend on what City! For more information on this, check out the article here.

Can I Upgrade My Air Rifle?

Yes, you can. However, should you? The most common kits are typically for spring-pistons and can involve a stronger spring. There are drawbacks though. For instance, a stronger spring will mean the cocking process is harder, will this take some of the enjoyment out of it? Also, bear in mind that these guns were designed for the spring that came with it. If you’re changing that then you’re most likely going to (at least) invalidate any warranty you had on it and at the worst, cause your gun to disintegrate in front of you. You’d be better off saving the money and trading your existing rifle in for a new one.

What’s A Break Barrel Air Rifle?

Good question. A Break Barrel is another name for a Spring Piston airgun. The ‘Break Barrel’ refers to the action of cocking, when you snap the barrel (or a lever) which compresses the spring backwards. Pulling the trigger then releases the lock on the spring which allows it to uncompress, pushing the piston forward, compressing the air in front of it and shooting the pellet out of the barrel.

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