High-power Hunt­ing

Phill Price dis­cusses the pros and cons of a high-power hunt­ing ri­fle

Airgun World - - Contents -

Phill Price of­fers ad­vice on hunt­ing with high-power ari­guns

Reg­u­lar read­ers will know that I use high-power hunt­ing air­guns fre­quently, so I’m of­ten asked if the ex­tra per­for­mance of­fered by a more pow­er­ful ri­fle is worth the cost and com­pli­ca­tions of own­er­ship. That’s not a sim­ple ques­tion to an­swer, so I’ll give the easy an­swer first, which is that for me, it is. The an­swer for other peo­ple might well be dif­fer­ent. If you al­ready pos­sess a firearms cer­tifi­cate, then I ab­so­lutely rec­om­mend a high-power hunt­ing gun, but if you don’t there’s quite a lot to con­sider.

To ob­tain an FAC (Fire Arms Cer­tifi­cate) you have to deal with the po­lice and prove that you have ap­pro­pri­ate land to shoot over, the pre­scribed se­cu­rity in the form of a high-qual­ity steel cabi­net bolted into the fab­ric of your house, and fi­nally show ver­i­fi­ca­tion that you are a suit­able per­son to hold such a gun. These stip­u­la­tions are not hard to pro­vide, but they’re a big step away from just buy­ing an air­gun and go­ing to your friend’s farm. There’s also the cost of the li­cence and cabi­net to be con­sid­ered.


So, what does the ex­tra power do for you? Many peo­ple mis­tak­enly think that three times as much power must mean three times the ef­fec­tive range. I’m sorry to burst their bub­ble, but I find only a small in­crease in my max­i­mum killing dis­tance. Oth­ers be­lieve that the ex­tra power will al­low them to shoot in­ac­cu­rately and still get clean kills. I have to say right here that this makes me re­ally an­gry. I’ve seen rab­bits shot badly with .22 rim­fire car­tridges that make 100 ft.lbs., and they still crawl away to die, so no, more power is not an ex­cuse or a get-out for sloppy shoot­ing. We each have a duty to kill our quarry quickly and cleanly, a rule that has no ex­cep­tions and a lack of pa­tience or ap­pli­ca­tion from the shooter boils my blood. I’ve even heard peo­ple claim that their high-power air­gun al­lows them to shoot through leaves and twigs to get to their quarry. No, no, NO! That is ut­ter non­sense. Even deer ri­fle bul­lets that make 2000 ft.lbs. are de­flected by twigs. Only a to­tally clear flight path will de­liver pre­ci­sion ac­cu­racy, and ac­cu­racy is what ri­fles are all about.

Well then, if they’re not the magic an­swer to all your prob­lems, what’s the point of buy­ing one? For me, it comes back to that point about pre­ci­sion shot place­ment. I’ve killed rab­bits cleanly with an 8 ft.lbs. ri­fle sim­ply be­cause the pel­let went ex­actly where it was needed. Not high, not low, not off to the side – ex­actly

where it was needed. What the high power ri­fle does for me is to make me more ac­cu­rate. At 900fps, my .22 Air Arms Di­ablo Field pel­lets fly very flat, which makes my range es­ti­ma­tion er­rors much smaller, so my pel­let will land closer to the in­tended aim point if I make a mis­take. Se­condly, by us­ing such an ex­cel­lent pel­let, I ben­e­fit from its high bal­lis­tic co­ef­fi­cient, al­lied to su­pe­rior muz­zle ve­loc­ity to min­imise the ef­fect the wind has on my pel­let’s flight. Judg­ing the wind is one of the hard­est things the air­gun hunter will ever at­tempt, and there’s no doubt that high-power air­guns are af­fected less than sub 12 ft.lbs. guns.


Yes, I do shoot a lit­tle fur­ther with the high-power gun, but only about 10 yards, in per­fect con­di­tions. I’ll reach 35 yards with 12 ft.lbs. and 45 with my 29 ft.lbs. gun. Is 10 yards more reach go­ing to change your hunt­ing? Only you can an­swer that one. How­ever, please re­mem­ber that air­guns only kill with pre­cisely placed shots, which is why I value ac­cu­racy over ev­ery­thing else.

It’s true that my high-power air­gun hits harder at 100 yards than most guns would at the muz­zle, but that’s not what makes the dif­fer­ence. The only sit­u­a­tion that I would say makes a real-world dif­fer­ence is when you can ‘chest shoot’ pi­geons with the high-power ri­fle be­cause it will drill through the breast bone that would de­feat any 12 ft.lbs. gun. This means that you can still kill pi­geons in sit­u­a­tions when you can­not get a clean shot at the head. If I can see the head, it’s al­ways my pre­ferred aim point. Of course, hit­ting our quarry with 20 ft.lbs. rather than 8 will make a dif­fer­ence, but in re­al­ity, it’s not all that much.

I’m an unashamed fan of the high-power gun and use mine at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity, but please don’t think that buy­ing one will au­to­mat­i­cally make you a more suc­cess­ful hunter. You still need to get close and you still need field­craft to iden­tify your quarry cor­rectly and to un­der­stand the vi­tal aim points. Pre­cise shot place­ment is still the name of the game and noth­ing can change that. More peo­ple go down the FAC route ev­ery day and I un­der­stand why all too well, but is it for you? Only you can say.

This is my ev­ery­day hunt­ing gun.

900 fps is the magic num­ber for high-power pel­lets.

BSA’s R10 is avail­able in high power con­fig­u­ra­tion. The HW 100 FAC is a top con­tender for your next high-power ri­fle. Some ri­fles like this .303 Wolver­ine are too much gun for me.

No mat­ter how much power you have, ac­cu­racy is the most im­por­tant thing.

High-power ri­fles al­low for suc­cess­ful heart shots on pi­geons.

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