71 Gary Chilling­worth an­swers a reader’s let­ter about mod­ern air­guns

Gary Chilling­worth dis­cusses the what and why of our air­guns

Air Gunner - - Contents -

“you have to re­search what sort of style of shoot­ing you want to do, be­fore you spend your hard-earned money”

Afew weeks ago, I re­ceived an email from reader, Tony Wood­ward. Now, this email was dif­fer­ent from the vast ma­jor­ity of emails I get be­cause it wasn’t threat­ing my life and it didn’t fin­ish with the line, ‘ I know where you live’, but to be hon­est, most of those emails come from Phill, the edi­tor, and not you fine read­ers of Air Gun­ner.

Tony asked if I could pro­vide a brief out­line of a mod­ern air ri­fle, some­thing that could ex­plain all the parts of a mod­ern airgun, and also what they do and why we use them. He went on to say that there are a lot of peo­ple com­ing into the sport, and even though words like ‘ ham­ster’ and ‘comb’ are the norm to hacks like me, not ev­ery­one knows what I’m on about, so here is my at­tempt at air­guns 101.


To start, let’s have a look at the wood­work. A mod­ern air ri­fle’s stock is as com­plex as it is sim­ple and you have to re­search what sort of style of shoot­ing you want to do, be­fore you spend your hard- earned money.

When we look at a ri­fle like the HW100, you can see that the cheek piece – the area where you rest your cheek­bone – is at al­most the same level as the scope’s dove­tail. This is the area on top of the main body of the gun, where the scope at­taches. So, when you at­tach a scope to the rail, the cen­tre of the scopes rear lens will be a good two to three inches above the top of the cheek piece; the cheek piece is also called ‘ the comb’. Ri­fles like this are de­signed to be shot with the ri­fle in the shoul­der and the shooter’s neck in a ver­ti­cal po­si­tion. So, if your shoot­ing will be from a bi­pod – kneel­ing, sit­ting or stand­ing – or if you are an HFT shooter who will be shoot­ing high up the peg, then this sort of stock is per­fect for you. These types of stock are of­ten re­ferred to as hunter-style stocks.


The next style of stock is where all the bells and whis­tles start get­ting added and these are tar­get stocks. Now, for Hunter Field Tar­get (HFT) the vast ma­jor­ity of shoot­ers choose to rest the toe of the butt of the ri­fle on the ground be­cause this gives the ri­fle a huge amount of sta­bil­ity. HFT is pre­dom­i­nantly shot from the prone ( ly­ing down) po­si­tion and when you lie down, it is hard, nigh- on im­pos­si­ble, to have your neck in the ver­ti­cal po­si­tion. Your head will need to be tipped back and if you have a hunter-style stock with the butt on the floor – the

butt is the rub­ber butt pad that goes into the shoul­der, your eye will be lo­cated about two to three inches above the scope, un­less you are a su­per­model and are only 8” thick. So, to com­bat this, you need to lift up the rear of the ri­fle and to do this, we use an ad­justable butt pad.

These pads come in many dif­fer­ent guises, from the stan­dard ad­justable, which just goes up and down, to a butt hook that has pad­dles, which for HFT can’t be more then 2¼” long. An ad­justable pad will en­able you to lift the back end of the ri­fle by a few inches and this makes the ri­fle much eas­ier to shoot. There is also a good chance that even with an ad­justable pad, you will strug­gle to place your cheek­bone on the ri­fle’s comb (cheek­piece) be­cause it might still be too low. This is where the next piece of kit comes in.


In my opin­ion, the ad­justable cheek piece is the most im­por­tant part on a mod­ern air ri­fle and should come as stan­dard with all high per­for­mance ri­fles. When you are ly­ing down with the butt on the deck, you can raise the cheek piece to just be­low the level of the scope. This way you can rest your cheek­bone on the ri­fle’s comb, and with some minute ad­just­ments, you can en­sure that your eye will al­ways be in the cen­tre of the scope. This re­peata­bil­ity is the key to ac­cu­rate and con­sis­tent shoot­ing. How­ever, if you have pur­chased a ri­fle with­out an ad­justable cheek piece, then you can make one from pipe lag­ging or Ky­dex. Check out how to do this in back is­sues of Air Gun­ner.

Now that the back end of the ri­fle has been lifted and the cheek piece has been ad­justed, you might find that the fore end is too shal­low and that you either have to grip high up a peg or branch, in­stead of rest­ing your lead­ing hand on the ground and plac­ing the ri­fle on top. To give your­self ex­tra depth at the front of the gun, you can fit a palm shelf, also re­ferred to a as a ham­ster. If you have a ri­fle like an HFT 500 then this is sim­ple; you can buy a stock palm shelf and at­tach it to the ri­fle rail. Some ri­fles have a metal chan­nel lo­cated un­der the stock. This is known as ‘an ac­ces­sory rail’ and can be used to fit ham­sters, bipods and even torches, but if you have a gun with­out a rail, you will need to at­tach the ham­ster by drilling the stock and in­stalling some in­sert nuts. This will give you some­thing into which to screw a ham­ster. Es­sen­tially, all a ham­ster does is help the shooter ad­just the depth of the ri­fle by vary­ing the length of the bolts you use to at­tach it to the stock.


The next item that causes some con­fu­sion is the dif­fer­ence be­tween a reg­u­lated and un­reg­u­lated ri­fle.

Ri­fles like the stun­ning Air Arms S400 are the ul­ti­mate un­reg­u­lated ri­fle. It has

“shoot­ers choose to rest the toe of the butt of the ri­fle on the ground be­cause this gives the ri­fle a huge amount of sta­bil­ity”

a cylin­der of air and a valve. When you pull the trig­ger, the valve opens and a chunk of air is re­leased – ‘chunck’ is the tech­ni­cal term – and this forces the pel­let down the bar­rel. The only real prob­lem with a stan­dard valve, or ‘ knock open’ valve, as it is bet­ter known, is that in the past, when you filled the ri­fle be­fore a shoot there could be a dif­fer­ence in ve­loc­ity of the pel­let de­pend­ing on how much air you had in the ri­fle. For ex­am­ple, let’s say we fill the gun to 190bar and af­ter 60 shots it had 110bar at the end of the shoot. If you shot past that 110bar, then the pel­let speed could drop and change your point of im­pact.

Shoot­ers would take a ri­fle and learn where the sweet spot was and you would of­ten find that a ri­fle would give a con­sis­tent speed be­tween say 175bar and 120bar, so you would fill to 180bar, then fire three or four shots off, then you would have 40 shots within the ri­fles sweet spot. So, as long as you knew your gun, hav­ing an un­reg­u­lated ri­fle was never an is­sue.

A reg­u­la­tor, how­ever, in its most ba­sic sense, is a se­cond air cylin­der called ‘a fir­ing cham­ber’. It is placed be­tween the main cylin­der and the bar­rel. Us­ing a sys­tem of springs and valves, this se­cond cylin­der is filled from the pri­mary cylin­der and af­ter a pel­let is fired. As the air to fire the pel­let only ever comes from the fir­ing cham­ber, you have a much more con­sis­tent source, and by ad­just­ing the ten­sion of the ad­juster spring, you can ad­just the power of your ri­fle up to 12 ft.lbs. This is the ba­sics of a me­chan­i­cal reg­u­la­tor, but Daystate have an elec­tronic reg­u­la­tor sys­tem that they re­fer to as ‘ MCT tech­nol­ogy’, and Weihrauch have an air me­ter­ing sys­tem, but they are all es­sen­tially the same thing.


Si­lencers are a great thing. They en­able us to shoot qui­etly, and if you are shoot­ing at home or you want to bag a few bun­nies, then buy­ing a ri­fle with a si­lencer can be a real boon. If you think you might want a quiet ri­fle then pur­chase a car­bine. This is a ri­fle with a shorter bar­rel and then when you at­tach the si­lencer, you will have a gun that is quiet and still as ac­cu­rate as a full-length ri­fle. The only down­side is that a car­bine some­times uses slightly more air.

Strippers are a dif­fer­ent beast; they are loud and are all about per­for­mance. When you fire an air ri­fle, the pel­lets leave the bar­rel and su­per­sonic air over­takes the pel­let al­most im­me­di­ately, caus­ing it to wob­ble in flight. This will slow the pel­let down and a slower pel­let will be more af­fected by the wind. An air strip­per has a set of vents that forces the su­per­sonic air away and thus en­ables the pel­let to fly flat­ter and truer.

A si­lencer ac­tu­ally does a very sim­i­lar job, it just uses baf­fles in­stead of vents, but there is no doubt that on a ri­fle that has a slightly less than per­fect bar­rel, a well­fit­ted strip­per or si­lencer can cer­tainly help ac­cu­racy.

We will cover scopes in the next is­sue and let me know if there is any­thing else you want me to look at.

This HW100 is be­ing shot from the shoul­der and this is the per­fect way to use a hunter stock

This is my spare spring ri­fle with all my home­made mods

Here you see Paul’s face on the ad­justable cheek­piece and it is per­fectly cen­tred on the scope

A be­spoke stock en­ables the shooter to rest his cheek on the comb and the ri­fle on his planted hand

The sci­ence of the airstrip­per is con­fus­ing, but they do work

The blue line in­di­cates pel­let flight. The red line in­di­cates air blast

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