Airgun Q&As

If you have basic questions about airguns, Hard Air Magazine’s airgun Q&As are a great place to start! The answers here are mainly intended for those new to airguns, but even experienced shooters will find information that may help, particularly the section on accurate airgun shooting.

1. What is an airgun? Is it different to an pellet gun or a BB gun?

Pellet guns, air guns and BB guns all use compressed air or gas to shoot. They do not require a controlled explosion of flammable substances to propel a projectile, which is how a firearm works. Therefore, the guns you find in Hard Air Magazine are not firearms.
Pellet guns, airguns and BB guns are all terms commonly used for these compressed air or gas guns.

Generally airguns and pellet guns are just different words for the same thing: guns using compressed air or gas that shoot lead pellets – or now also pellets made of other materials. BB guns use the same propulsion technology but they shoot steel or copper spheres called BBs.

There are a few cheap guns that can shoot both BBs and pellets, but the vast majority of airguns shoot pellets. Hence the common description of pellet guns.
Long pellet guns that require holding against the shoulder to shoot are called rifles. Pellet guns capable of being fired in one hand are called pistols. So, pellet rifles and pellet pistols are all pellet guns.

In Hard Air Magazine, we use the term airgun to cover pellet guns, pellet rifles, pellet pistols, air guns, air rifles and air pistols.

2. Is an airgun the same as an airsoft gun?

No, they’re completely different! Airsoft guns are more like paintball guns. They shoot plastic BBs and are used for play, combat simulation and battle games. NEVER USE AN AIRGUN FOR THESE PURPOSES OR CONFUSE IT WITH AN AIRSOFT GUN! Airsoft guns often look just like real firearms, but they have a bright orange tip to the muzzle.

If you’re not sure if you have an airgun or an airsoft gun, contact the manufacturer or dealer you purchased it from for clear guidance.

3. Are airguns dangerous?
YES! These are not toys, paintball guns or airsoft guns and should be treated with the same respect as any other gun. They require responsible handling or they can cause death or serious injury. Pellet guns should not be used by unsupervised children under the age of 18 years. See our Airgun Safety page for further details.

4. Which airgun is best for me?

That’s the $64,000 question! There is no easy answer to what is the best airgun for every shooter.

Hard Air Magazine provides news, reviews and Buyers’ Guides to help you make your decision, based on the type of shooting you want to do and the budget you have available. And our RateAGun ™ score takes that one giant step further, by giving you a simple means to compare how easy different guns are to shoot.

This combination of Hard Air Magazine’s information and the RateAGun ™ score gives you the best way to select the best gun for you.

5. What caliber airgun should I choose?

The most popular caliber for pellet guns is .177.

There are more pellet rifles manufactured in .177 caliber and more types of pellets available in this caliber, too. .177 pellets are usually cheapest, another good reason for this choice. And there are less legal restrictions on owning .177 caliber pellet rifles than on any of the larger calibers.

.177 caliber pellet guns are preferred for target shooting and are great for plinking and casual shooting.

Next most popular caliber is .22. This, too, is a fine caliber for plinking and is generally preferred over .177 for hunting due to the greater “knock down” power (muzzle energy) of these pellets. There is a wide range of .22 caliber pellet rifles and pellets available. Many people like .22 caliber as the pellets are larger than .177 caliber and easier to handle. But there are rather more restrictions on legally owning and shooting* this caliber than for .177. Check all local laws and regulations to be sure that you can shoot .22 or any caliber larger than .177 where you live.

Other pellet rifles calibers include .20, .25 and a variety of larger calibers. But these are all, more or less, specialist calibers and the range of guns and pellets available for them is very limited. In practical terms the choice is between .177 and .22 cal. Most people choose .177 for their first pellet gun.

6. How do I clean my airgun?

Airguns should be wiped over with a cloth if they become dirty. And the metal parts should be given a light coating of oil to stop them becoming rusty. But – unlike firearms – airguns do not need internal cleaning after use. There’s no need to regularly clean the barrel because there’s no residue from burning propellants as you find with firearms.

Some people recommend that pellet gun barrels should be cleaned very occasionally, but others have never cleaned the barrels of their and they shoot just fine!

As a general rule, it’s worth cleaning the barrel once when the airgun is new and then later only if you find that accuracy is not as good as should be.

Airgun barrels have very shallow rifling, so don’t clean them with abrasive brass brushes and cleaners intended for firearms: this may ruin the barrel!

7. Can you explain all these numbers in scope descriptions?

Scopes are described basically by the magnification (enlarged view) they provide and the size of their objective (front) lens. So, a 4 x 32 scope provides 4 times magnification and has an objective lens of 32mm diameter. Zoom scopes provide a range of magnifications, shown by the minimum and maximum magnifications they offer. A 3-9 x40 scope indicates one with a minimum magnification of three times and a maximum of nine times. In this case, the diameter of the objective lens is 40mm.

Most good scopes used with airguns also will offer “AO” (Adjustable Objective) capability. This simply means they can be focused to close distances of 10 yards or less, just as you would focus a camera lens.

So, now you know that 4-16 x 50 AO describes a zoom scope with a magnification range from four to sixteen times, combined with a 50mm diameter objective and Adjustable Objective. Simple!

8. Can I use a scope from a firearm on my new air rifle?

Probably not – it may destroy the scope!

Surprisingly, scopes used on firearms – even very expensive scopes – can be destroyed by the recoil of many airguns. This is because the most popular types of air rifle, those “break barrel” guns which are powered by a spring/piston or gas ram (Nitro Piston), have a pronounced FORWARD recoil when fired, as well as a conventional rearward recoil. This forward recoil – caused by the heavy internal piston halting suddenly – will destroy scopes that do hot have suitably-braced optics.

CO2-powered and PCP (Pre Charged Pneumatic) air rifles don’t have this forward recoil and firearms scopes can safely be used with airguns of these types.

If you’re unsure about what type of airgun you have, check with the dealer you purchased it from, or with the manufacturer, before you try mounting a firearm scope on your new air rifle.

9. Accurate airgun shooting. Or, help! I can’t hit anything with my new airgun.

Yes, we know how frustrating this can be…

Firstly, read the instructions that accompanied your new airgun. The answer actually may be there.

If not, set up a large sheet of paper in a safe location with a target drawn in its center and shoot from close range (say 5 yards). You should be able to see where the pellet strikes the paper and observe how far it is from where you are aiming.

Check the sights and adjust them carefully, in small increments, to make the point of impact of the pellets hit the bullseye. Then move back to 10 yards range and repeat the exercise. Now you should be on target quite well and just need to make elevation adjustments on the sights if shooting at longer ranges.

Many air rifles come bundled with a scope and rings which need to be fitted to your air rifle, but the instructions leave something to be desired. In this case, you can follow the instructions given in these YouTube videos:
The Easy Way to Mount an Air Rifle Scope
The Easy Way to Sight In an Air Rifle Scope

Now check that you are holding the gun correctly. Spring-powered or gas ram (Nitro Piston) air rifles require a special loose hold, often known as “the Artillery Hold”. If you’re holding a spring air rifle tightly, it will be inaccurate. For an explanation of how to operate spring pellet rifles correctly, take a look at this video video Spring Air Accuracy:

Airguns powered by CO2 and high pressure air should be held tightly, just like a firearm.

Other things to check are that you are pulling the trigger smoothly and not snatching it as this will cause inaccuracy.

Finally, try different types of pellet with your airgun. Some airguns will “like” one type of pellet much more than another and shoot much more accurately with that than other pellets. This is an individual thing for every airgun, but Hard Air Magazine gives examples of pellets that generally work well in our HAM 3 Gun Full Reviews.

Now you should be shooting on target. Phew!

10. There’s something wrong with my new airgun. What do I do?

Firstly, read the instructions that accompanied your new airgun. The answer actually may be there. If possible, ask a knowledgeable friend or relation if they agree there’s a problem.

When you’re sure there’s a problem with your new airgun or other product, you will need to contact the manufacturer for repair or replacement under warranty using the information given on HAM’s Manufacturers Contact Information page. Each manufacturer has slightly different warranty coverage policies, so you will need to follow the instructions they give you.

Normally there’s no need to involve the dealer in warranty issues, but most reputable airgun dealers will help if you ask and where they are able.

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