There’s no substitute for accuracy, says the editor.
The editor looks at high-power
“I’ve found that 900fps seems to be at the upper end of the speed an airgun pellet can be launched at and still keep its accuracy”
I’m often asked about the amount of power an FAC-rated rifle needs to be effective, and it’s one of those questions that begs many more. For example, what do you hope it will offer you that your existing sub 12 ft.lbs. rifles do not? There’s a common misunderstanding that doubling the power means doubling the range, and it’s the ability to reach further that I think most people want. However, it’s far from being that simple. Airguns kill with precise shot placement and no amount of power can make up for a bad shot, although it does help with shots that are just a little bit off. I recently hit a rabbit with a 46 ft.lbs. .25 rifle, but my shot placement was poor and it was only the speed of my dog retrieving it that allowed me to dispatch it, so please don’t see tons of power as the answer to all your problems.
I have heard some people say that they were going to apply for their firearm certificate and then have their old gun modified to make perhaps 18ft.lbs., and I think this is a bad idea. When you look at the increase in performance that the extra 6 ft.lbs. gives you, it’s very small indeed. Take a typical breakbarrel .22. At 12 ft.lbs; when shooting the excellent H& N FTT, it will have a muzzle velocity of just under 600fps and when zeroed at 28 yards it will keep the pellet within ½” of your sight line (PBR) out to 32 yards. At 18 ft.lbs. the muzzle velocity is 740 fps and the PBR is stretched to 39 yards.
The wind is always a factor in airgun shooting and fast-flying pellets are often less affected, so let’s see how much the extra power benefits us in a 5mph wind coming at 90 degrees. The standard gun will be blown off course 1.2” at 30 yards whilst the high-power one will be 1.5” and 0.3” isn’t much to write home about.
Then we come to how the gun shoots. When you wring every drop of performance from a spring-piston rifle they can be pretty tricky to shoot, and sometimes downright unpleasant. Going back to the point I made earlier about precision being the most important thing for airgun hunters, then I’d rather shoot a docile 12 ft.lbs. gun well, than a difficult 18ft.lbs. gun badly.
Tried them all
Having tried just about every highpower rifle I’ve ever seen, I’ve come to
the conclusion that if you’re going to make the effort and spend the money to go down the route of getting your firearm certificate then you should make a bigger step up in power to the 28 to 30ft.lbs. mark. This means using a pre- charged pneumatic rifle and all the attendant equipment that requires, but the step up in performance is well worth the effort.
Like many people around the world with whom I’ve discussed this, I’ve found that 900fps seems to be at the upper end of the speed an airgun pellet can be launched at and still keep its accuracy. Somebody told me recently that his rifle was accurate at 960fps, but I haven’t seen that for myself. I’d like to send my pellets as fast as I possibly could, but never at the expense of accuracy. Shooting pellets faster helps to flatten the trajectory and reduces the wind drift, so is a huge help in hitting your mark.
After years of research, I’ve concluded that a .22 at 900fps is just about the optimum set-up, although I haven’t had much time to experiment with .25 and .30 pellets yet. So, for now, I’m using .22 for my hunting. The PBR for this combination reached out to nearly 48 yards and the wind drift at 30 yards is half of the 18 ft.lbs gun, and these are really worthwhile improvements.
Easy to shoot
Because pre- charged pneumatic rifles are almost recoilless, they’re very easy to shoot accurately and are also close to silent with a moderator fitted. Add a multi-shot action, and the benefits to the modern hunter are impossible to ignore.
The two most popular 900fps setups are the 16 grain, Air Arms Field Diablo pellet making 28.6ft.lbs. or the 21 grain Bisley Magnum making 37.8ft.lbs. I prefer the lighter pellet because the rifle will get more shots per fill at that power level. Also, from my own experience I can tell no difference in killing performance between the two. Airguns kill with precise shot placement, and no amount of power can make up for a bad shot Any rabbit or squirrel getting in the way of either pellet at that speed usually drops on the spot if the placement is correct.
I hope this helps if you’re planning to go down the FAC route. I’ve tried them all and seen what works and what just isn’t worth the effort, so take my advice on the 900fps .22 and you’ll have all the performance you could want, or need.
“Airguns kill with precise shot placement and no amount of power can make up for a bad shot”
Main: This lightweight PCP delivers what I believe is the optimum FAC performance Above: A PCP gives the best performance but don’t forget to budget for a dive tank or a pump
Above: Rifles like the HW80 can have their power increased, but is that wise? Below left: 900fps is the key velocity figure for high- power rifles Below middle: These are the most popular pellets to use in highpower applications Below right: The wind...