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Air Rifles Explained

Calibre

Air rifles are generally available in 22 (5.5mm) or 177 (4.5mm) calibre. This relates to the internal diameter of the barrel and hence the diameter of the pellet. 22 rifles are generally more popular for hunting and pest control due to their hard hitting ability. However 177 calibre can be just as effective. Target shooters generally prefer 177 calibre air rifles as the lighter pellet will have a 'flatter' trajectory over a greater distance resulting in increased accuracy.

Types of Air Rifle

There are three main types of air rifle: Spring, CO2 and Pre-Charge.

Spring (Break Action or Underlever)

Break action rifles use a spring to generate the force required to propel the pellet through the barrel. After each shot is fired the spring must be re-compressed and a pellet reloaded. There are two forms of spring powered air rifles: Break Action, where the rifle is cocked by folding back the barrel and Underlever, where the rifle is cocked by a lever that lies underneath the barrel.

CO2

CO2 powered air rifles employ capsules or cylinders of liquid CO2. When the trigger is pulled a small amount of liquid CO2 is vaporised into gas creating a force that is used to propel the pellet down the barrel. These air rifles, although convenient are generally lower in power than conventional spring and pre-charged air rifles although some modern CO2 rifles are beginning to offer comparable power.

Pre Charge

Pre-charged air rifles use a supply of compressed air as the source of power. This is predominately located under the barrel or in a buddy bottle replacing the traditional wooden stock. In short, when the trigger is pulled a valve opens to release a burst of compressed air, thus propelling the pellet down the barrel of the rifle at great velocity. The absence of a spring allows this type of air rifle to operate without recoil and with minimal noise making it a popular choice where accuracy or stealthiness are essential. The introduction of this system has allowed many air rifles to become multi-shot, greatly increasing their versatility and usability.

Which Type is Best for Me?

The type of air rifle that is best for you depends on your usage and your budget. Spring air rifles are generally the cheapest option and can be very effective for hunting, pest control and target shooting. However, due to the spring they are also the noisiest and have the most recoil. Recoil is a 'jolt' that occurs when the rifle is fired and results from the sudden decompression of the spring. CO2 air rifles overcome the problem of recoil as they have no spring but have the disadvantage that the CO2 capsule is gradually emptied as shots are fired and needs to be continuously replaced. Pre-charged air rifles also have no spring and therefore no recoil. They are also very quiet in comparison making them a good choice for close hunting work but they are the most expensive option.

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