Hunter Piston or Hunter PCP. What’s The Best Choice For Field Target Competition?

Hunter Piston or Hunter PCP. I’ve seen in your pictures you shoot both. Can you explain your thoughts on each?

Recently I was asked to explain my thoughts on using either a PCP or spring piston rifle in AAFTA’s Hunter Division. So, I’ll give a little rundown of my experiences shooting both classes over the years…


Shooting Hunter Piston

For Hunter Piston, it’s basically grab your seat, your sticks, your rifle and pellets and go. Sounds easy… right?

Below. Greg Shooting Hunter Piston with an Air Arms TX200.

Hunter Piston or Hunter PCP. What’s The Best Choice For Field Target Competition?

OK, it sounds simple, but for those that do and those that don’t know, shooting a spring powered rifle off of sticks is really no easy task. You need to find the right hold and the right position for your sticks in order to make accurate shots time after time. Consistency is key!

I have been shooting Hunter Piston or Hunter PCP in Field Target for 10 seasons now, and in fact I’m using the same spring piston rifle now that I started with. It’s an Air Arms TX200.

When I’m shooting my spring piston rifle, what works for me is to get the rifle set in the sticks in the same place every the time. Then I gently shoulder the rifle.

I let the rifle just barely touch my shoulder, put very light cheek pressure on the butt stock and also grip the rifle very lightly. If I do my part, I can expect the pellet to go where I think it should.

Now if I change any of the above things, the results will definitely be unexpected!

Also, as a little side note, don’t add anything to your rifle that wasn’t on there when you sighted it in just before the start of a match!

A little thing that happened to me was I had the rifle all sighted in at the sight-in range. Just before the match started, I screwed on my scope’s sun shade. Yep, that was the wrong thing to do! My pellets were going an inch and a half low and one inch right!

It took me 2 full lanes before I figured out what the problem was. Off came the sunshade and all was well!

Just put that thought in the back of your mind if things start going awry for no apparent reason. That applies to both Hunter Piston or Hunter PCP.

Below. Greg Shooting Hunter PCP with a Rapid Air Weapons TM1000.

Hunter Piston or Hunter PCP. What’s The Best Choice For Field Target Competition?


Shooting Hunter PCP

For Hunter PCP, it’s basically grab all of the same stuff from above, plus all your PCP’s life support equipment! You can just cock your spring piston gun and shoot, but your PCP will definitely need some air put in it in order to fire.

I started out shooting a PCP in my third year of Field Target. Since I started out shooting a spring gun, I still use a light hold, but it’s definitely not as critical with a PCP. Even though I haven’t seen any different point of impact change on paper, I still try to be consistent with everything I do every time.

From the above, it looks like PCP is the easiest way to go. Yep, you’re right, well at least for me.

But, it’s so enjoyable knocking down that 55 yard target with your spring gun! It’s even more special knowing that my spring gun is shooting 75 feet per second slower (with lighter pellets) than my PCPs and with a 33% reduction in muzzle energy!

That’s 12 Ft/Lbs with 8.4 Grain pellets for the spring gun compared to 18 Ft/Lbs with 10.3 Grain pellets for the PCP.

Now there are downsides to both Hunter Piston or Hunter PCP. Breech seals go bad, o rings wear out and cause leaks, springs weaken as time goes on and PCP’s need an air source!

To me, it’s more work keeping a spring gun working to it’s maximum ability over a PCP.

BUT, a PCP does require additional equipment to make it run, so it’s a trade off. If you go the PCP route, be sure you have a tank or hand pump so you can fill the rifle. This can be a significant increase in start-up cost. Also, if you decide to go the tank route, be sure you have a means or place nearby to fill it.

Below. My PCP life support system.

Hunter Piston or Hunter PCP. What’s The Best Choice For Field Target Competition?

Another excellent item to have, no matter which route you take, is to get yourself a chronograph!

A chronograph is the best item in order to determine if your equipment is still working to its’ maximum potential.

Is the velocity down on your spring gun? Might be time for a new breech seal, a spring replacement or a shim on the spring.

How about your PCP? Maybe a breach seal replacement or a hammer spring adjustment or replacement…


Hunter Piston or Hunter PCP?

Well, which way should you go? It’s all up to you and what you enjoy or feel comfortable with! Unlike the days of past, spring guns compete against spring guns and PCPs compete against PCPs. So don’t think you’ll be out-gunned whichever way you choose!

What are some other thoughts? I recently asked fellow HAM staffers, Sean McDaniel and Eric Brewer on their thoughts.

Below. Sean McDaniel Shooting Hunter PCP.

Hunter Piston or Hunter PCP. What’s The Best Choice For Field Target Competition?

Sean recently shot a few matches with Eric’s spring gun due to his PCP being out for repair. Sean said that he was told to hold it light and to just let it hang there. He shot a whole match with it and actually came in second in Hunter Piston (only 2 points behind the leader)!

He went on and shot the spring gun in a few more matches. But Sean wasn’t able to repeat his first time out. I asked why, and he said he kept anticipating the recoil (which his PCP doesn’t have) and he was pulling his shots.

Eric was asked his thoughts on PCP. He was able to shoot one of Crosman’s new Custom Shop Marauders and said it was amazing just to see the pellet hit the paper exactly where he was aiming time after time!

Yep, some time in the future we may see him on the line with a PCP, but I bet he’ll still be there with his spring guns too!

Hunter Piston or Hunter PCP. What’s The Best Choice For Field Target Competition?

Above. Eric Brewer shoots Hunter Piston.

For myself, I will continue to switch back and forth between spring and PCP. I like the never ending battle to master the spring gun, but there are times when I just want to shoot the PCP. If I had to choose which one I like the most… I can’t! They are both enjoyable in their own ways.

Hunter Piston or Hunter PCP? Pick the one that suits your budget or needs/wants. Come on out and join in the fun of Field Target!

Read the previous part of Greg’s Guide to Field target shooting here.