This Beginners series has proven to be very successful and has brought quite a few new guys into the sport, judging by the really nice positive comments I’ve received, so I make no excuse for doing this series.
This one is a huge project and I even thought about putting it into book form at one time. I have Broken it down into different sections....
Anyway enough of that, where shall we start.
This part is paramount and should never be forgotten, don’t play around with these things, they are dangerous. This is not airsoft and is not meant to be used to shoot at each other. Fingers off triggers until you are ready to fire, keep safeties on, don’t go round with loaded guns and don’t cock them until you intend to shoot them. There needs to be a lot of common sense used, so please respect the gun, be aware of people around you and remember you represent the shooting community and don’t be doing anything silly that will result in greater legislation being applied to the sport where it isn’t needed.
That said, let’s start with....
What is a PCP rifle?
PCP stands for Pre-charged Pneumatic putting it simply, all airguns need air to send a projectile down range, simple really! But how do we get that to happen, well, we could get it to work by using a spring to force compressed air behind the pellet or bb or slug (we will cover this off later) it’s not unlike a bicycle pump stroke. Only faster…a lot faster in fact. This is the basic principle of a springer gun, but they get one shot per action, alternatively we could use a pre supplied power source, such as a co2 canister, which is used very successfully in a lot of guns, pistols and rifles alike. But this can give a limited number of shots per canister if using the smaller 12g items, and if you use the bigger 88g items, this can work out really rather expensive, certainly if you are looking to send pellets out at any reasonable velocity, because the faster you want to send pellets and the heavier they are, the more air you are likely to need and at around £8 per cartridge it is soon going to run away with you.
So there is a method of charging the gun up, using its own fitted reservoir with a system that controls the amount of air that is released for each shot. This can be either a simple system, or a regulated system using an inbuilt regulator, or even electronically controlled systems. But the simple fact is you carry your own air in the gun ready to use when needed. This will allow multiple shots, more shots than a springer and more cost effective shooting than a co2 gun once you have your setup.
The size and shape of these reservoirs can vary greatly depending on style and power requirements.
Whilst some people don’t like the look of these cylinders on guns, when they are on show, there are guns that have smaller capacity cylinders and these are hidden in the gun. they do however, open up more opportunities for the guns. Multi shot capability (with the aid of magazines, again we will look at these later) quick loading, semi automatic fire and even automatic fire possibilities, but these options can be very restricted depending on where you are in the world and the local laws permitting.
Whilst there are many puritans in all sports, there are some in the airgun world who are convicted that springer guns are the only way to go, but the PCP does allow for quicker loading and firing and because there are no springs moving around at high speeds, there is less or no recoil on most PCP guns, which means the gun is more still and stable when shooting, adding to accuracy, certainly for beginners.
So how do we get the air into the fitted cylinder then?
Charging a PCP
There are several methods available, some requiring more effort than others.
The three main ones are pump, air tank and compressor.
The pressures these guns run at, remove the ability to use any standard pumps or compressors, because unlike a car tyre that will run at about 2.5 bar or 35 psi, these need upto 300 bar or 4000+ psi, hence you are going to need to factor in the cost of a charging method.
Lets first look at the pump; these can cost you anywhere between around £30 uk up to around £180 uk depending on the type and quality. They will require some effort. Firstly you need to connect the pump onto the gun, usually via the supplied fitting, once connected close off the air bleed valves on the pump and commence pumping. There is a bit of a knack to this and is best if you pump with your whole body and not just your arms, especially if your a slighter individual, it will also get stiffer as you balance the pressures between the pump and the gun. Continue to Pump until you reach your guns ideal maximum fill pressure as per the manufacturers recommendation, Then stop. Release the air held in the connecting pipe by opening that air valve, once it is emptied and stopped hissing, then and only then remove the valve from the gun. You’re then good to go.
Alternatively you can use the divers tank method. Which again involves the purchase of a tank, which can range from around £100-£300 depending on the size and material it is made from. Bear in mind the bigger they are the heavier they are, but of course they hold more air for more fill ups. They come in various sizes ranging from 3 litres through to 12 litres. These will require repeat filling usually from a local divers shop and will cost approx £5 per fill up and should refill your gun 20+ times depending on the size of the tank and gun cylinder of course. This takes all the heavy work out of the pumping, but adds to the cost a little and does involve trips to the shop to get it refilled from time to time. Depending on how much shooting you do and what power level your guns are.
A sub 12 ft\lb gun may give as many as 450 shots per fill, but a higher power gun of say 100 ft\lb may only give about a dozen shots, meaning more trips to get the tank refilled.
Filling the gun from the tank is pretty much the same process as filling from a pump.;
Connect the fitting, close the bleed valve on the tank, open the main valve “slowly” and then slowly fill up to the desired pressure in conjunction with the manufacturers specification. This is best done slowly to protect the guns seals and help longevity, if you do it a little too fast, you will be able to feel the cylinder on the gun start to get hot. Once up to pressure, close the main valve, then open the bleed valve to release any air in the pipe, then remove fitting and your all done and ready.
Finally there is the compressor option. This can be a very expensive option if you only shoot very occasionally, but can work out ultimately cost effective if you shoot a lot or higher power guns. They cost from around £160 to about £2500 depending on which you go for and vary in speed of fill up, quality of manufacture, power sources and quality of air they produce. Some are capable of producing breathing quality air by using a system of high quality filters, others may have no filters at all, you can even buy filters separately if required. I have completed a full review of different types and that can be seen here…
Filling from these is, again a very similar process. Connect the fitting to the gun, close off the bleed valve, start the pump and it will fill up to the pre-set level, or if no auto cut off is fitted, watch the gauge closely until the desired level is reached. Stop the pump, open the bleed valve and then remove from the gun. Again it is charged up and ready. Some of these compressors need mains voltage and other can even be used on 12v from a vehicle when out in the field. you can even use some compressors to fill a divers tank if you want the maximum flexibility . But of course that will cost twice as much. I should also mention that divers tanks are available in much lighter materials. Please also bare in mind that divers tanks have a date on them, at which point they will need to be tested and certified to be safe to use. This is normally 5 yearly. Unless you are using them to dive with, when this becomes yearly. But airguns don’t work well under water…
Why Have a PCP
Why have one? Well that could be why have an airgun or why have a PCP rather than a springer or a co2 powered gun. Well in part I’ve already covered this off.
They can be used for Small pest control, or bigger pest control if you live in countries that allow higher power Airguns, either with or without the need for licences.
They can be used for paper target shooting, a favourite of mine, which also doubles up as practice for when you are using them for pest control. It could simply be using a lower powered gun for plinking in your back garden and having fun with the family teaching them gun disciple with a safer lower powered gun and having fun in the process. And there are so many other shooting disciplines within the airgun sport.
Well as I have already hinted at, different countries have different laws around airguns and indeed guns in general and you should check out the ones relevant to your area or country first. In England for example there are some quite simple laws and I will be doing a program to show the finer points of this. But putting it simply, you need to be over 18 with ID and no personal restrictions applied to you and you can have a rifle powered less than 12 ft\lb , this being an energy figure that guns use as a power guide. Or if it’s a pistol then it has to be less than 6 Ft/lb in power, the difference is due to the fact a pistol is smaller and easier to carry or swing around or conceal, and is considered more dangerous.
It is possible of course to have higher powered items and it seems at the moment the sky is the limit on power levels, there was a time when this 100ft/lb gun was considered at the high end of available power, but there are now much more powerful guns available, predominantly in such places as the USA where in some states, gun laws are far more relaxed and they have much more open spaces available to them for longer range shooting…and of course the pests are bigger too!
Don’t forget the more powerful, the more air they use and subsequently the fewer shots you will have available from each fill.
So more power equals harder hitting and longer Range available to you. That doesn’t necessarily mean better, the phrase sledge hammer to crack a nut comes to mind. It’s more about the right tool for the job.
This can of course be managed on a single gun if the gun has a power adjuster on it as some do, allowing you to have one gun that is more capable of being used in more circumstances. Of course these can be more expensive per gun, but reduces the need for more than the one gun in some circumstances.
Types of guns
There are a whole host of different guns available to you and surely there is one to suit most everyone out there. And manufacturers are thinking up new and exciting ideas all the time, I swear they do it to keep me spending money when they make them so desirable. But that aside.... There is the standard familiar rifle shape with a simple wooden stock, a carbine rather than a rifle, basically means it is slightly shorter than a rifle, and makes it a little less gainly and easier to move around in tighter spaces. You could change the design to an even shorter folding design, that can be packed away in your bag for easier transportation. Alternatively you could have synthetic stocks for a more weather resistant and grippy feel or even combine this into a short bullpup design which moves the mechanism further back down the gun and keeps the weight further back and the length short without sacrificing the barrel length. The barrel length usually helps to dictate the accuracy. The longer the barrel the more accurate it can be. There are electronic guns which have an internal brain built in that determine the power per shot and can even make the trigger fly by wire so it is more of a switch and less of a pull type that can ultimately move the gun around as you pull the trigger.
Some of them have larger air cylinders underneath to gain higher shot counts, but this usually results in it looking like a bottle strapped to the underside of the barrel and some people don’t like this style, personally I quite like it and enjoy a much higher shot count, often up to about 400 or more shots per fill. These are just a few of the design options available and I would need a full program plus to try and go through them all.
This is another potential can of worms, but I will try and keep this simple. When its comes to air rifles, the ammunition has pretty much always been lead pellets, in one for or another and one calibre or another. Let’s look at the calibre issue first shall we. Years ago there was pretty much 2 calibers available .177 or 4.5mm and .22 or 5.5mm and it used to be .177 for target work and .22 for hunting small game. But with the increased number of different powered guns available, the calibrate issue has changed considerably. Now there are;
And onward up to .50 calibers, yes thats a 50 cal airgun!! Blimey.
Each calibre does have a very good use and reason and need area. The lower power guns still stick predominantly to the .177 and .22 calibre, but the .20 is a much under used calibre and does indeed fit nicely between the two original calibers.
.177 is smaller and lighter and as such travels at faster velocities and has a flatter trajectory and as such is often more accurate because you don’t need to make allowances for the arc of a heavier pellet over different distances. But the .22 because of its heavier weight retains a higher hitting power when it gets there and has more stopping power. The .20 therefore has a flatter trajectory than the .22 and yet more stopping power than a .177. so why aren’t more of them sold, because currently the pellet manufacturers don’t supply a particularly large range of pellets in this category, but maybe that will change in the future.
So what about .25, well this is becoming more popular, it has higher hitting power, but is pretty much at the stretch of a sub 12 ft/lb gun. But can be as flat a trajectory as a .177 in a higher power gun with some terrific stopping power due to its heavier weight. The same applies to the higher calibers, they simply need a higher power gun to bring out the best in them.
The calibre is only part of the story though, the design is another issue, and manufacturers have produced all shapes and designs for different needs. I have completed pellet reviews in the past if you want to look into this more.
They are made in other materials other than lead, such as aluminium or aluminum depending which side of the pond your on. These are lighter and help increase your feet per second figures and can be used where lead is frowned upon.
One of the latest type of ammunition being used is Slugs, these are simple bullet shape rather than the traditional diabolo shape and have high stopping power, but they may not suit all guns, so it is a little bit trial and error.
Most PCP rifles come without sights and require external sighting aids, so let’s look at a few options shall we.
This again is a whole subject all on its own, but this is a beginners guide, so I’ll try to touch on the basics, knowing there are loads of reviews and information available on the AAR channel.
Rails first.. on the top of the guns there is a rail to be able to fit your preferred sighting aid, these basically come in three different types. Weaver, picatinny and Dovetail. What’s the difference? Well basically width. A weaver and picatinny rail is a heavier wider rail than a dovetail. The dovetail being quoted as 11mm wide, but is often anything from 9.5mm up to as high as 14mm, but nowadays most manufacturers stick closer to the 11mm standard.
The weaver and picatinny however are 20mm wide and have a more military look to them. They have slots to help keep the scope in place in the event of recoil. The Picatinny rail is the more recent invention and has more regularly spaced, approx 5mm slots along the rail, whereas the weaver was the older design and has smaller slots often not as regularly spaced. This information is so you can then mate up the correct scope rings with the relevant gun mount. But any gun shop worth their salt should be able to help and guide you with this, if they can’t? Well you know the door you came in through, it works both ways, that’s all I’m saying.
So you know your mount, what are you going to put on it?
There are loads of options, but basically people opt for a Scope or telescopic sight, you could go for something like a red dot, but usually on rifles you are looking for some magnification to help along the way.
Again I have done full programs on scopes and the best way to set them up, or zero them as it is know and it is best to take a look at that, because they don’t just slot on the top and you can take the eyes out of a fly at 100 yards, they need to be matched up to your new rifle. Again a shop should help you and guide you through the process, if not there is always that door again. So I’m sure everyone has seen films where the sniper looks through his scope and you can see the enemy in his cross hairs, that is pretty close to what a scope does. But to that you can add various levels of magnification main tube size and glass size.
So, a typical 3-9x40 1” scope has magnification from 3 times zooming right upto 9 times with a 40mm objective lens through a 1” tube. The magnification is a personal thing and scopes can go pretty high, I have a 50 times scope here which does a great job of bringing the target a lot closer to you, but any slight movement of the gun is exaggerated so you will need to have it on a rest or the like. most hunters prefer a little lower magnification, but target shooters often go for higher magnification. The tube size and the objective lens simply allow more light into the scope so everything is brighter and clearer, especially at dawn or dusk periods. A focus ring also aids accuracy and reduces a thing called parallax error.
Which is another thing, that I have explained in the scope review I completed. Putting it simply a non focusing scope has, as you would expect a fixed focal length, this can cause the effect of movement of the reticle a little like a close up telegraph pole in relation to the far off hillside. One moves more than the other, but in a fixed scope, the telegraph pole is the reticle and the far away hillside is the target, and as you can see you finish up slightly off target. So pay that bit more for a focusable scope and this will be greatly reduced and improve your overall accuracy.
That is about as far as I am going to go into scopes at this point, but needless to say there is a lot more to take into consideration, when you get more into the sport.
Single or multi shot
As I’ve already hinted at, one of the main reasons for going to PCP’S rather than a lot of springers is the option of magazine fed ammunition, I realise that companies such as Gamo are introducing multi-shot into their already excellent range of springers, but you still need to break the full barrel, whereas on a PCP it often simply involves cocking the bolt or side lever, which can often be done without even coming off target. There are a whole range of magazines available by gun manufacturers with varying numbers of shots per magazine. Often the higher the calibre the lower the magazine volume, simply because you can get a lot more .177 pellets into a set sized magazine than you can .30 or .50 pellets. For example the standard daystate magazine comes with 10 rounds in this .20 and .22 examples, but only 5 rounds in the .30 calibre. This isn’t normally an issue because the higher calibers usually are in the higher power guns and the air cylinder will give fewer shots anyway.
Different manufacturers have their own styles and sizes of magazines.
You will also find that a lot of companies supply their guns in single shot format or supply them with a single shot tray option. This is because some people prefer to load each shot by hand and individually, mainly because it is possible to deform pellets either when you are loading them into the magazines or the magazines can occasionally deform the pellet as it is pushed into the back of the barrel. You also often find when shooters use the single shot option, they also sort, weigh, clean and lube each pellet to try to get the maximum advantage. Does it work? Yes, to a certain degree, if you are using very poor quality cheap pellets or pellets that don’t suit the gun or more specifically the guns barrel, then it is unlikely to turn it into a match grade target beating combination. So don’t skimp on pellets.
There are semi automatic options becoming available from some manufacturers, which negate the need for the bolt or side lever to recock the gun between shots. A really nice idea and great for rapid fire. BUT! Again you will need to check the laws of your own country, because here in the uk these are not allowed.
We’ve just started to touch onto this subject, and I won’t go into too much detail here, just to say you should find the barrels on these guns are rifled, which means they spin the projectile in the barrel, this then continues spinning in flight and again aids accuracy. Some barrels are twisted the full length, some are smooth to start with then twist at the end, some are also specific on the number of twists per set length to help maximise the effect to the optimum and even match the ammunition being used, such as slugs. You will find that some manufacturers produce their own barrels and designs, other will buy them in from respected barrel manufacturers such as Lothar Walther. You will need to lead a barrel in when it is new and this usually involves firing a full tin or approx 500 pellets through when you first get it home, and believe me, it will improve the accuracy once done.
Cleaning a barrel is something that needs to be done from time to time, but not the same as a powder burner, often it doesnt need doing until you’ve put 1500-2000 pellets through, and then is a simple process of using some shoot through cleaners or a pull through cleaner with a little cleaner oil . Cleaning kits are readily available and are inexpensive and should form part of anybody’s airgun kit.
I have done a cleaning video if you want to know more on the subject.
Yes, I said silencers, I often get pulled up for this, but the original patent was headed up silencer. Most people prefer to call them moderators or suppressors, I suppose because that is what they do, they don’t actually silence the gun completely, I don’t care what people want to call them, but check it out at the patent office if you prefer.
That aside, you will find that PCP air rifles are quieter than most springer airguns, because there isn’t the same moving mechanism inside, the only real sound is from the end of the barrel, so some guns come prefitted with a silencer, others come with a threaded end to the Barrel to take an aftermarket option, of which there are loads of options out there, and yes you guessed it I’ve completed comparison videos on these too. Naturally some are better than others, but if you want to know more, then take a look at the reviews I’ve completed in the past. Some guns have a shrouded barrel, which is designed to quieten the gun down, and these do work, some even have shrouds and silencers or at least still have the ability to fit an aftermarket one aswell.
Well it isn’t so much a case of where do I start with this, but where is the end? As in most sports, there are so many aftermarket product to attract people to, it is impossible to list them all here, but I will just mention a few of the ones I consider to be most important. Other people may prefer other items, but I am trying to look at this from the beginners perspective:
Pump Compressor Tank
Bag or case
Sling & swivels
Rest bag our metal rest
Levels to stop cant
These are just to name a few, believe me there are loads more, including targets, traps back stops.... Again check out some of my other videos on the subjects.
Finally lets look at costs shall we. The sky is the limit as far as the upper end is concerned, but to get you started with a good set up, you are going to need something like £500 uk, this will get you a quality PCP with a case, ammo an excellent little scope and even a pump to go with it. From here you can grow into the sport and then upgrade if you wish.
Well that has been a pretty monumental task and hopefully has proven useful to many of the new guys wanting to start into this sport.
And finally and most importantly, please stay safe and shoot responsibly. I’ll see you next
Watch the full review here: