Gary Chilling­worth is ask­ing if a .22 is bet­ter suited to the long-range hunter

Air Gunner - - Contents -

Gary Chilling­worth an­swers the ques­tion: Do you need a .22 ri­fle for long-range hunt­ing?

Afew months ago, I wrote a piece about long-range hunt­ing. I looked at whether or not it is gen­uinely pos­si­ble to hunt at ranges be­yond 45 yards with a sub 12ft.lbs. air ri­fle, and still get a clean kill ev­ery time you pull the trig­ger.

I used the best kit I had, a HW100 tar­get ri­fle and Hawke Varmint scope with a bi­pod, an anemome­ter – de­vice for read­ing wind speed – and a laser rangefinder. I found that, for me, a dis­tance of about 40 yards was the max­i­mum that I could ac­cu­rately hunt at, pro­vided the weather con­di­tions were per­fect. This ar­ti­cle caused a big de­bate on shoot­ing fo­rums like Shoot­ingthe-Breeze and on many of the Face­book sites that I fre­quent.

The vast ma­jor­ity of this de­bate was very pos­i­tive and I am glad to say that most of the ded­i­cated hunters I know agreed that shoot­ing at a tar­get the size of a rab­bit’s brain (20mm) is only pos­si­ble out to about 40 yards, to guar­an­tee a 100% clean kill rate, but a few things came up that I thought would be worth look­ing into.


The first of these is our per­cep­tion of what is OK and hu­mane. I had a mas­sive ar­gu­ment with one chap who very force­fully told me that he shoots rab­bits at 60 yards with his BSA Light­ning XL, free-stand­ing, and he never misses. He went on to ex­plain that he only ever went for a head shot and this was fine. Af­ter bang­ing my head against a wall, I tried to ex­plain to him that a head shot was not good enough, and that for a clean kill you need to aim at an area that was be­tween the eye and the base of the ear, but he would not lis­ten. He told me that it was all down to the skill of the shooter – he had it, and I did not.

So, this was my mes­sage to him. Set out a piece of pa­per, try to shoot a 20mm group at 30 yards and then get back to me.

“one chap who very force­fully told me that he shoots rab­bits at 60 yards with his BSA Light­ning XL free- stand­ing”

Strangely enough, he re­fused to do this and I haven’t heard from him since. This per­son ob­vi­ously had a case of the Wal­ter Mit­tys, but there is a dan­ger with this sort of sto­ry­telling. We all know the per­son who caught a mas­sive fish, just as their cam­era broke, and this sort of brag­ging does no real harm, but if we, as shoot­ers, talk about these su­per-long-range shots, peo­ple with lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence in the field might be tempted to em­u­late what they hear and read. So, this is my re­quest; if you see any­one on the fo­rums or hear any­one telling tall tales about leg­endary hunt­ing ranges, ask them to prove it, ques­tion what they claim, then see how quickly they back down.


The next thing that came up was my choice of cal­i­bre. Most of the ded­i­cated hunters stated that I should have been us­ing a .22 in­stead of a .177 be­cause they trans­fer more en­ergy into the quarry and give a cleaner kill. There is no doubt that .22 will cer­tainly make a big­ger wound, (not nec­es­sar­ily so, Ed.) so I un­der­stand the the­ory, and as I didn’t own a .22 it was a per­fect ex­cuse to go to the Air­gun Cen­tre in Rayleigh and give my credit card a good ham­mer­ing. I asked Ben and Terry there

“Most of the ded­i­cated hunters stated that I should have been us­ing a .22 in­stead of a .177”

what they would rec­om­mend, and both pointed me to­ward the HW100 lam­i­nate in .22. I must ad­mit, it is a stun­ning ri­fle.

I de­cided to scope my new ri­fle with Hawke Sport Op­tic’s very lat­est of­fer­ing, the Sidewinder FFP 4-16 x 50. Now, the im­por­tant part about this scope is the ini­tials FFP, which stand for (First Fo­cal Plane) and for the hunter this can be a real boon. This means, when you in­crease the mag­ni­fi­ca­tion of the scope the ret­i­cle stays the same size and just the im­age gets big­ger. With a first fo­cal plane scope, the ret­i­cle changes size rel­a­tive to the im­age. The ad­van­tage is, if you see a longer range tar­get, you can in­crease the mag­ni­fi­ca­tion to get a bet­ter sight pic­ture and all your aim points will re­main the same.

The first thing that I needed to look at was pel­let choice. I have al­ways favoured ei­ther JSB or Air Arms Di­ablo Field pel­lets, and for this test I de­cided to go with JSB Jumbo RS (weigh­ing in at 13.43grn) these are some of the light­est .22 pel­lets on the mar­ket and af­ter a small amount of leadin­gin of the bar­rel, I was get­ting some tight groups out at 40 yards.


The is­sue I found was go­ing out past 45 yards. A .177 pel­let flies flat and fast and this is mainly be­cause the .177, 8.44grn pel­let is trav­el­ling at just un­der 800fps, and the pel­let is slap­ping into the tar­get al­most be­fore you have fin­ished pulling the trig­ger. The .22 is a dif­fer­ent beast, though, be­cause the flight time is con­sid­er­ably longer and so the wind has more time to af­fect the way

the pel­let flies.

My ini­tial test­ing was done just be­fore dusk and my anemome­ter showed a wind speed of just 2mph. I logged my aim points and I was happy with my set-up, but the fol­low­ing day, the wind had picked up and I had a head­wind and con­stant speed of about 13mph. With my .177 this made a dif­fer­ence at 45 yards, the pel­let drop­ping about a pel­let width be­low my nor­mal aim point. With the .22 the ex­tra drop at 45 yards was over ½”. I quickly changed ends so I was now shoot­ing with a tail wind, and again, the .177 had very lit­tle change, but the .22 was now hit­ting high, this time only about ¼”.


When I started to write this ar­ti­cle, I thought I knew which way it would go, but this wind ef­fect has me con­cerned be­cause I am not 100% sure of what is hap­pen­ing. I’ve spo­ken to Phill, our ed­i­tor, who has spent a vast num­ber of hours do­ing air­gun bal­lis­tics re­search, and he told me that the longer flight time of the .22 com­pared to a .177 pel­let means the wind has more time to af­fect the tra­jec­tory.

I hoped that this piece would be easy to write be­cause I thought I knew what the an­swer would be, but as I have al­ways said, we never stop learn­ing and this is one of those cases when I hope you can ed­u­cate me and I will pass it on. So drop me a line at: garychilling­worth36@gmail.com and let me know your ex­pe­ri­ence when us­ing a .22 to hunt, and how the wind af­fects you. If you can add a pic­ture of you with your ri­fle, that would be even bet­ter. Next month, I’ll bring you my fi­nal test re­sults and wrap this all up.

Us­ing a bi­pod for max­i­mum sta­bil­ity and re­duced hu­man er­ror

Only the black area will give a clean kill, any­thing else is a wound

Me and Terry from the Air­gun Cen­tre, I’m a happy chappy

An anemome­ter is a great piece of kit for a com­peti­tor and a hunter alike

I have some in­ter­est­ing ideas for next month’s test­ing

I won­dered what caused the dif­fer­ence in im­pact point be­tween the two cal­i­bres

This is my 5- shot string at 45 yards, the shot be­low was when I shot into a head­wind

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