Why is my Air Rifle Inaccurate?

It may not be solely your fault that when you pull the trigger the pellet doesn’t hit the target. There are, perhaps rather surprisingly, a lot of variables involved and if you’re getting annoyed with yourself for continually missing the bullseye then perhaps you should stop beating yourself up. At least initially anyway. Once you’ve ruled out any environmental and mechanical potential causes then it could be time to look closer at your action.

If you’re firing a Spring Piston then hold on to the gun just an extra second, you may be moving the gun before the pellet has actually left the barrel! If you’re happy this isn’t the case then check for moisture, a loose sight mount, you’re using the right scope for your gun and your stock isn’t loose in any way. If all of this is in order, you can check the barrel tension before trying a higher quality, more weighty pellet.

Why is my Air Rifle Inaccurate?

We’ll assume first that the problem isn’t with you as you’ve probably thought about this already, however, we will return to it later. Also, many problems can be resolved at home and when this is possible I’ll tell you. Some problems may have to be resolved by a professional and if this isn’t you then leave it to the experts!

Most of the time when you purchase a new Air Rifle there’s little to no information included that would help you fix the vast majority of problems you might encounter with the Rifle. Hopefully, this article will fill in some of those blanks.

Typically, there are more things that can go wrong in a Spring-Piston than a Compressed Air / CO2 Air Rifle due to the amount of moving parts inside so we do find most of the problems we see are related to these. However, often the resolutions can be ported to other types but most of the time they’re just not relevant.

Moisture Related?

Not relevant to all Air Rifles but if yours has a wooden stock then consider whether it’s been exposed to any moisture. This, over time, can cause the stock to swell up a little. Is the bolt lock rubbing against the stock? If so, take a small file and rub down where the contact takes place until it’s free to move once more. If the bolt isn’t locked quite in place then this could cause your shots to be inconsistent. If you notice this but don’t believe you’ve ever left your Rifle out in the rain for long periods then check the humidity level of

Loose Sights

It may seem obvious but the number of times I’ve seen this, it’s worth checking. Is the sight loose? Of course, you may have more than one so check both of them. They should be tight so you should be able to touch them without any movement. If there’s any kind of play whatsoever then you’re shots are going to be all over the place. They may well group, but not where you want them to group and next time you load they may group somewhere else. It’s incredibly frustrating and for the beginner can be soul destroying. Make sure your sights are nice and tight, they shouldn’t become loose for a year or two if tightened correctly.

Sight Mount

Now, once you’ve checked your sight is nice and tight, consider the mount your sight is secured upon. I’m an amateur astronomer and when you have a telescope mount (the tripod bit) then you need to get the right type of bracket for the scope you’re using. It’s the same with an Air Rifle. You need to make sure that you get the right sight mount for your Air Rifle. If you don’t then there’s a good chance it won’t sit quite right. And if it doesn’t sit absolutely true then your shots aren’t going to go where you want them to. Particularly for Spring-Piston guns, the sight mount should be one that is specifically manufactured for that Air Rifle. These guns recoil backwards and also forwards so if you have a sight mount that isn’t properly attached then the vibrations that this can cause will generate inaccuracies.

Actually, whilst we’re on the subject on Sights, we also see a lot of people using non-airgun sights on their airgun. Although not always the case, fitting a non-airgun designed sight mount can damage your scope. You can spend a lot of money on a decent sight and it just doesn’t make sense to combine it with the wrong mount. Imagine buying a Lamborghini and fitting it with the cheapest tyres you can find, doesn’t make sense! What makes airgun mounts different? Well, remember that a Spring-Piston recoils back and forwards – you’ll find a typical firearm scope only has a brace at the rear whereas airgun scopes are braces at both the front and the rear. The double-recoil of a Spring-Piston (associated with the mainspring vibration) will, over time, cause damage to your nice new scope.

My last point related to this is that, of course, Air Rifles do shoot at distances less than firearms and the Air Rifle scopes will have an adjustable parallax ring that can be used down to shorter distances (plinking range) – this isn’t present on your typical firearm scope.

Stock-Related

Stock related problems are the most common cause of any inaccuracy with Air Rifles. Over time (or just poorly maintained) the screws that keep the stock in place can become loose. There are several in the stock (well, usually four) that keep the stock secured firmly to the Air Rifle action. These need to be tight as even a small amount of play can cause noticeable inaccuracies even at shorter ranges.

The screws can come in all shapes and sizes, they may well be flat-head or cross-headed but just a word of caution as many are still that stupid hexagon shaped thing. Why manufactures use this shape I have no idea, why not just usual a normal flat-head? Anyway, don’t be tempted to try and tighten one of these hex screws with your flat-head screwdriver as you’ll just end up rounding it out and may well have to end up drilling the stupid thing out. Not sure if you can sense that I might be a bit touchy about this subject and I can neither confirm nor deny that I’ve had to drill any screws out in the past! If you get to that point you risk damaging the gun beyond repair so be careful.

Barrel Tension

If you have a barrel-cocking airgun then perhaps the pivot tension has been set incorrectly. Either too much or not enough will cause inconsistent grouping. This may be something that you want an expert to deal with but if you do want to have a go yourself make sure you do it when the gun isn’t cocked!

Pellets

Are you using the right pellet? Manufacturers like to be able to say that theirs has the highest velocity pellet. To do this, they need to be very light. Indeed, these pellets may well achieve these high speeds (some quoting in excess of 1,000 fps) but the downside to this is the loss of accuracy. Depending on your airgun you may need to use a heavier slug, especially if you’re using a more powerful Spring-Piston rifle. The extra mass of the pellet will, of course, decrease the velocity but is this really a problem? I’m sure that most of the time you would prefer accuracy over velocity. You can get Pellet Samplers so try a few different types and stick with the ones that suit your requirements and your airgun.

One last point about pellets. Don’t go for the cheapest variety! With pellets, a lot like so many other things, you get what you pay for. Buy from respected, known manufacturers and make sure they are high quality. If you have some old pellets that you found in a cupboard, check to see if they have become oxidized and if this is the case, discard them. Or if you use them, just use them for plinking over shorter distances.

Is Your Bore Dirty?

Not something that can happen as much as in your traditional firearm but it is possible over time that tiny traces of lead from the pellet and also from the internal lubricants used can build up within your bore. Don’t try and just blow this stuff out with compressed air or try and manufactures something yourself. The proper cleaning kits aren’t expensive and will ensure you don’t damage or scratch anything you shouldn’t. Although it is unlikely that this is the cause of your inconsistent groupings it is possible if you use your gun a lot or it’s old and hasn’t been cared for in the way it probably should be. Definitely, something to check first if you acquire a second-hand rifle.

It’s not you, it’s me…

I’ve heard this a few times but enough about my early adulthood. I actually wasn’t sure if I should put this section at the very start of the article or not really. I made the assumption that it was a mechanical problem but if you’ve checked all the above and are still having problems then why not re-check how you’re shooting? It could be that you have a regular firearm background, adopting the same techniques you acquired from this will not necessarily hold you in good stead with your Air Rifle. You tend to find that shooters of Air Rifles can make excellent progress with regular firearms but it’s not the same the other way around. A couple of tips:

  1. An airgun pellet will leave the gun at typically slower velocities than a firearm. When you feel the pellet has been shot you need to continue to hold still, it may only be a fraction of a second but if you’re moving the airgun whilst the pellet is just leaving the barrel, of course, your aiming will be off. With a firearm literally as you feel the initial response the projectile has left the barrel so it doesn’t matter so much.
  2. Hold the Air Rifle firmly but don’t strangle it. Give it some room to be flexible and don’t use a firm surface to rest your leading arm. When the rifle recoils, both backwards and forwards, don’t work against it – let it do its thing without you trying to restrict its movement.
  3. If you have a tendency to shake then take a couple of deep breaths and on your third one hold it, compose yourself and squeeze the trigger gently.

There are loads of books and information online to help you with your posture and regulate your breathing to ensure you deliver a consistent shot each time so I don’t think I need to go into this here in any more detail.

Interested In A Scope Yourself?

If you are, then feel free to check out my latest reviews on both budget and regular Air Rifle Scopes.

Final Thoughts

Usually, it’s something obvious and you’ll end up kicking yourself that you didn’t find it sooner! Make sure you’re shooting the Air Rifle correctly, especially if it’s a Spring-Piston, just hold onto the gun a little longer than you’re doing at the moment and see if that helps your grouping accuracy. If you think you’re doing everything right and have checked all of the above points then it’s probably time to seek a gunsmith. Give the shop a call from where you bought the thing. I’d not recommend taking it to bits yourself as you will most likely not get it all back together again and end up having to buy a new one!

Is your Air Rifle smoking? If so, you may want to check out the article here on why! Alternatively, has your airgun become louder over time? Then you may want to read this (opens in a new tab).

Happy shooting everyone, stay safe and have fun! Remember, if you have any thoughts on the above then I’d love to hear from you – please drop me a comment below!

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