Everything you need to know about air rifle accuracy • Air Gun Maniac


Wyatt Earp stated:

While speed is great, accuracy is the best.

Just thought of how many airgunners are obsessive about muzzle velocity, muzzle energy.

Air rifle accuracy is something that few people care about.

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Well, perhaps it’s a general assumption that if an air rifle is fast enough, then it is accurate.

It's not only that.

I’ve come across several air rifle myths that seriously need to be debunked.

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Before we dive into the details of accuracy with air rifles, let me just mention a few.

  1. Longer barrels have a higher accuracy than shorter barrels
  2. No matter what price you pay, all pellets will be the same.
  3. When hunting, it is better to use pointed pellets instead of hollow-point or domed pellets
  4. A good airgun is not possible without a large sum of money.
  5. Air rifle barrels must be cleaned on a regular basis
  6. Buy a high quality scope to increase your airgun's accuracy
  7. Chinese, American, Turkish, German, etc. All airguns are the same
  8. You can’t recondition a broken airgun to proper functionality
  9. Air rifles won't be as precise as firearms.
  10. You can scare the animals away with a BB gun
  11. It’s impossible to find hunting permissions nowadays

I attribute this to misinformation. 

For now, let’s debunk the myths surrounding air rifle accuracy.  

What is accuracy in an air rifle?

Air rifle accuracy can be defined as the rifle's ability to shoot ammo at the target and hit it. That’s all.

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If you aim at a target, the pellet will land exactly where you expect it to. 

After all, you’ve learned how to use the open sights, or the scope, you’ve mastered the correct way to hold the airgun,

And you have great expertise in pulling that trigger – whether one-stage or two-stage. 

And then it seems you can’t just hit the target.

Sometimes the pellet may hit several inches above the target. Sometimes it hits below.

That's when it happens

  • Some blame the air rifle's inaccuracy
  • Some people take responsibility for their own mistakes
  • Some blame the forces of nature

You can be assured that all three groups are correct. Let us now focus on the second group. 

How does accuracy of an air rifle be measured?

You will need a paper target to measure accuracy. It should be preferably shaped like a darts board with the bullseye in the center.

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Now stand with your air rifle at some specific distance from the target – 10 yards, 20 yards, 30 yards, 40 yards, 50, yards, 100 yards, or whichever distance you like.

This is because accuracy-test results need to be precise about the distance to the target.

For different distances, the results may not be the same.

Aim at the bull’s eye – in this case, the intersection of the 2 red lines. Fire 5 shots, each time aiming at the bull’s eye.

You can do 10 if you like.

The pellets will strike the target paper but it is unlikely they will be in the same spot.

The pellet marks will likely be spread as follows.

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You can measure the distance between the pellet marks that are the furthest apart using vernier calipers, or a straight ruler.

Assuming this distance is ¾ inch and you took the shots standing 20 yards away from the target,

The accuracy of the air rifle can be stated as ¾” at 20 yards.

There must be some reason why all the pellets don’t hit the bull’s eye as intended.

These are the reasons. 

Inaccuracy is the main reason

1. The barrel

The barrel is the first part of the air rifle that guides the pellet's flight path when you pull the trigger.

Barrel design

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The design of the interior of the barrel – what we call the bore – can affect the movement of the pellet within the barrel.

These are the three most popular designs:

  • Smooth bore barrel
  • Rifled barrel with spiral grooves
  • Rifled barrel featuring longitudinal grooves

As the pellet flies from the muzzle, it spins along the longitudinal axis of rifled barrels because of its spiral grooves.

This allows the pellet to fly longer distances and on a straighter flight path. 

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The pellet will fly without spin in smoothbore barrels.

This causes it to lose energy after a short distance.

If the target is distant, a pellet shot out of a smoothbore can will most likely diverge from its straight flight path.

This means that rifled barrel air rifles are more accurate at long ranges than smoothbore barrel air rifles. 

Impairments in the barrel  

The bore design may not be perfect, but it could have burrs or other imperfections. This is especially true for new rifles.

This is a common occurrence in many steel products, and it should not be taken to indicate incompetence on the part the manufacturer.

giphy Air gun 101: Everything you need to know about air rifle accuracy

As a matter of fact, that is what led to the idea of seasoning air rifles after purchase – or rather breaking-in air rifles.

This process is designed to shoot as many pellets possible in the hopes that these burrs will be removed by the abrasive nature the pellets.

The pellet's ballistic flight can be affected if the imperfections are more severe.

The pellet can bounce off a bump inside the bore, and may change direction or lose speed. 

Barrel alignment

Imagine that the barrel's longitudinal direction is not exactly parallel to the scopes.

This means that the barrel will point in a different direction to your line of sight.

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You don’t expect a pellet shot from such a rifle to hit the bull’s eye.

This issue can also be caused by barrels that have not been fixed to the stock. This could be due to:

  • Low quality manufacturing by the manufacturer
  • Airgun users mishandling
  • Warping and thickening of the stock due to absorption of moisture – especially for wooden stocks
  • Loose screws

When you fire a shot the barrel can move slightly from its initial position due to the reaction forces. This may affect the ammo's flight.

Muzzle damage

The muzzle is located at the top of the barrel, where ammo enters the air.

The intended flight of the pellet can be affected by any damage, corrosion, flaws, or obstruction around its muzzle. 

Air gun 101: Everything you need to know about air rifle accuracy

2. Pellets

Crosman’s Jock Elliot narrates his harrowing experience on how he came to the conclusion that airguns are as individualistic as people.  

It was a test of air rifle accuracy.

The weather was perfect, the man was nice, and the gun was amazing.

He tried to shoot groups, but the airgun wasn't just getting it right.

He tried different target distances – all this proved futile.

He used all his popular pellets – the shot groups still looked horrible.

Jock also tried some other brands of pellets as a last resort.

That worked like magic.

It’s amazing – or rather confusing – how two identical Benjamin Trail NP air rifles can fail to shoot with similar accuracy using a given pellet brand.

But that’s the reality of the matter – just like you can be a die-hard football fan while your identical twin brother has no idea who CR7 is.

The bottom line is that you can find the best pellet for your air rifle.

However, it is not guaranteed that the pellets provided with the airgun will work the best.

It is upon you to test and test and test – until you find the perfect match. 

3. The powerplant

In the airgun industry, it is a common saying that PCPs and gas pistons are more precise than springers.

While this may be true, the real culprit is most likely the air rifle user.

Springers have a higher recoil rate than gas piston airguns and PCPs, it is obvious.

Recoil can cause vibrations to shake the gun's hold. 

If you hold a springer flimsily, it is very likely that your shots won’t be accurate.

The pellet's flight path is affected by the slight movements of your airgun

4. The trigger

You will be more accurate if you are more confident about pulling the trigger.

Some triggers can be so precisely made that you know exactly how far to pull them before your airgun fires.

The pull is neither too heavy nor too lightweight.

That’s what brings accuracy.

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It can be hard to control how heavy the trigger pull is before it fires.

This is true for triggers that are too light or not crisp.

Tips to increase the accuracy of an air rifle

Air rifle accuracy can be improved by correcting the above problems.

To improve the accuracy of your air rifle, do the following.

  1. You should use a spirit-level to make sure your rifle is in a level position and not in a slanted one.
    • Some airguns have their own in-built spirit levels, but for others you’ll need a separate one.

  1. If your trigger is adjustable, tune it to a position that is crisp and predictable enough – making sure its not so heavy nor so light.
  2. Use good quality scope mounts that perfectly align the scope with  the barrel.
  3. Have some adequate eye relief when shooting – don’t place your eye too near the rear lens, or too far from it.
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  1. Before you shoot, make sure that you are as stable as possible.
    • Perhaps kneeling will give you more stability than standing – or even leaning your body against a tree.
  2. Learn how to hold your air rifle correctly and you will be able to use it for many years.
  3. You can try different types of pellets until your air rifle loves the same brand.
    • Keep at it for as long it serves its purpose.
  4. Secure all loose screws in the stock so that the point is as close to the point as possible to the point to impact.
  5. If you experience inaccuracy issues due to leading, make sure you clean out your barrel.
  6. Master your trigger control.
    • Pull it steadily – rather than snatch it vigorously.
  7. Buy an air rifle scope designed specifically for hunting and target shooting.
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  1. Don’t buy the most powerful air rifle if you are just starting out in this shooting hobby.
    • Powerful airguns produce high recoil and can last longer than other models.
    • You’ll need to be a skilled shooter to shoot accurately with them.
  2. It is best to sight in your rifle from around 30 yards, if you use a.177 air rifle or.22 rifle.
    • You won’t have accuracy problems for targets that are a bit farther or nearer by 15 yards.
  3. Don’t use junk pellets for sighting in and then your preferred pellet brand for the actual shoot.
    • To increase accuracy, you can use the same pellets through.
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  1. You can practice with your air rifle until your average target distance is 1 inch.       

Final words

There are many factors that can influence the accuracy of airguns.

Some of these factors concern the airgun as a whole, while others are related to the individual using the rifle.

Nearly 90% of accuracy problems are caused by rifle-related factors.

Are all these factors contributing less than 10% to accuracy problems with air rifles?

You should consider the quality of your barrel and purchase quality pellets from trusted manufacturers. 

These two things are now in order. Now, improve your shooting skills until it is perfect.  

Most Frequently Asked Questions

1. How does accuracy affect air rifle accuracy?

The following factors are key to improving accuracy of airguns:

  • The type of barrel – whether rifled or smooth bore
  • Imperfections in the bore of the barrel
  • The brand, the shape, and the weight of pellets used
  • If the air rifle was properly sighted in
  • No matter how well the scope is mounted
  • The barrel's bedding quality on the stock of an air rifle
  • The exactness of the trigger
  • The ability of the shooter hold the air rifle correctly, aim at target and make confident shots 

3. How to hold an Air rifle for accuracy

These steps are for you if your right-handedness is not a problem.

If you are left-handed, replace every ‘left’ with ‘right’ and every ‘right with ‘left’.

  • Your left hand should be under the rifle's forearm. Do not close your fingers to the gun.
  • Place your right hand in the pistol grip and your forefinger on the trigger.
  • Place the buttpad on your shoulder. Gently press your cheek against it. 
  • Now, you can inhale, exhale, and pull the trigger.

This is the artillery holding. 

Below, Tom Gaylord gives more details about the artillery holds:

An alternative to your palm, you might consider using a fixed support for the air rifle.

You can use any type of support but it is best to get a custom-made tripod stand.   

4. Which air rifle is the most accurate?

The Benjamin Marauder PCP is an air rifle that has been rated the best in accuracy.

It is capable of 1.5” shot groups at 100 yards. It is even more impressive at close shooting distances.

Great shooters have even achieved 1’ groupings at 70 yards. 

Ted, a famous shooter, was able at 100 yards to get the following shot groups using the.25 Benjamin Marauder.

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This looks too good to believe! 

=> Read Benjamin Marauder pellet gun review here

5. How to increase the accuracy of a CO2 air rifle

The CO2 air rifles offer a few more tips than the air rifle accuracy tips.

Because they use CO2 cartridges to power their main power plant.

The gas cylinder contains both a pressurized liquid and CO2.

Some of the gas released during firing a shot causes some liquid CO2 to become a gaseous state.

The pressure in the cylinder will remain fairly constant until all of the liquid is gone.

The temperature is what determines the CO2 pressure.

The pressure will drop if the temperature drops.

That means the pellet will have less velocity.

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Imagine that your gun is sighted at 35 degrees Celsius and you're now shooting it at 25 degrees Celsius.

It is very unlikely that you will reach the goal.

Therefore, the best practice is to sight in your CO2 air rifle at the same temperature you’ll be doing the real shooting.

For semi-automatic air rifles – which allow you to fire multiple shots in quick succession – it’s a good practice to allow some seconds to elapse before making the next shot.

Some CO2 is transformed from liquid to gas every time you fire off a shot.

This cools down the air rifle and reduces pressure in the cylinder.

Each subsequent shot is therefore less powerful.

Also, make sure that all seals are sufficiently tight to keep the gas from leaking.      

7. How far can a pellet gun shoot accurately?

Pellet guns with high quality are known for their accuracy up to 300 meters.

The majority of pellet guns have a range of less than 100 yards.

The weaker ones won't shoot accurately beyond 30 yards. 

8. What is the accuracy of a.22 air rifle?

Current world record for longest airgun hit is 1400 yards.

That’s a whopping 1.28 km!

The air rifle used was the .22 Altaros M24 – which mimics the legendary M24 sniper rifle. 

This is an isolated shot.

It can be difficult for you to get a group of measurements at that distance.

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The manufacturer claims that the Altaros M24 has a 1 MOA accuracy up to 200 yards.

Which is equivalent to 2” groupings at 200 yards. 

Other high-end .22 air rifles boast of 1” groups at 100 yards, while others claim to be as accurate as ½” groups at 50 yards.

It's difficult to get such accurate results repeatedly.

You rather set your mind to something like 1” groups at 30 yards, 2” groups at 50 yards, and 4” groups at 100 yards.

9. What is a good accuracy with a.22 air rifle

As mentioned in the previous question some skilled airgunners have achieved exceptional accuracy using their.22 air rifles.

  • 1” groupings at 100 yards is considered exceptional accuracy
  • 0.5” groupings at 50 yards is also considered exceptional accuracy

A.22 air rifle should have a good accuracy.

  • 1” shot groups at 30 yards
  • 2” shot groups at 50 yards
  • 4” shot groups at 100 yards.
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11. .177 or .22 – which is more accurate?

A.22 pellet is more likely to hit the target at a fixed distance of 50 yards than a.177 pellet.

The.22 pellets are more heavy than the.177 pellets so they are less likely to be moved by wind. 

Yet another twist is that.177 pellets have a higher speed than.22 pellets.

The.22 pellets lose flight power quicker than the.177 pellets.

This scenario makes it possible to say that the.177 air rifles are more precise than the.22 air rifles.

It is also known that airgun manufacturers pay more attention to.177 air rifles in order to increase their accuracy beyond what the standard.22 air rifles are capable of.

The.177 airguns are mainly used for target shooting competitions. 

All of these facts show that neither air rifle is more accurate than the other. 

(For more on the differences between .177 & .22 and which jobs they do best, see this post.)

12. Which.22 pellet is most accurate?

We have just come to an agreement that air rifles can be very fussy about pellets.

There are many brands that produce different results with different air rifles.

You can narrow your search by trying these trusted brands:

  • H & N Baracuda Match pellets
  • JSB Jumbo monster pellets
  • RWS Hobby pellets
  • Crosman premier pellets
  • H & N field target trophy
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13. Are pointed pellets less accurate?

Yes, in a certain way.

Because of its streamlined shape, the pellet faces the least amount of air resistance during flight.

However, round-nosed pellets may be streamlined to a certain extent.

Many pellets also have some streamlining.

The biggest difference might be if the pellets were in cube shape. 

15. Does cleaning your rifle affect accuracy? 

Not necessarily.

Regularly shooting pellets will naturally clean the bore of the barrel.

Sometimes, however, the dirt can become so hard that natural cleaning methods are not effective.

If this happens, it is possible to improve your accuracy by thoroughly cleaning your air rifle.

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The wrong cleaning can also affect accuracy.

Consider the following example: Water on a wooden stock.

Wood becomes more dense and warpier when it absorbs moisture.

This results in a barrel with poor bedding quality and an increase in accuracy.   

19. Which.177 air rifle is the most accurate?

Air Arms S510 XS Ultimate Sporter Air Rifle effortlessly delivers sub-MOA shot group at 100 yards.

With the power plant's 3626 PSI PCP power and 1035 fps muzzle velocity, this is possible.

You can get 40 shots of fully-powered shots with a single fill. This beast will cost you a staggering 2,000 USD.

Air gun 101: Everything you need to know about air rifle accuracy

The Hatsan 95 Break Barrel Air Rifle is a great option if you don't have much money but still want to be precise. 

20. How does air rifle barrel length compare to accuracy?

This article's intro section reveals that the myth that longer barrels of air rifles are more accurate than shorter barrels is false.

Air rifles with shorter barrels are more precise than those with longer barrels.

It’s rather the quality and design of the barrel that matters when it comes to accuracy.

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A longer barrel for CO2 air rifles improves the muzzle velocity as well as punching power.

This is the optimum point at which muzzle velocity and energy begin to decrease.

The barrel length can be altered in CO2 air rifles to improve accuracy. 

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