Air Rifle 101 for Beginners (Part 3)
This is part three of our Air Rifle 101 series.
How to Improve Your Shooting Skillset
It doesn’t matter how good your air rifle outfit is, if it isn’t set up correctly and you don’t know how to shoot properly your accuracy and precision will be laughable. Making sure your air rifle is set up correctly and you are employing the best technique when shooting will increase your accuracy and consistency 10-fold. A good marksman never stops improving their skillset and practice should be paramount as a beginner and experienced shooter alike.
You should develop your own practice routine around your lifestyle by fitting in sessions before or after work on the weekdays and for extended periods on the weekend. By using a calendar to schedule in your practice sessions you will find it much easier to stay disciplined to a routine that develops your skillset and knowledge. If you do this, you will notice your performance with air guns will increase steadily. Try to fit in at least 30 minutes of practice per day when you are beginning and more on the weekends if you have the free time. Doing this will ensure you pick up the techniques and develop muscle memory with your rifle that will make shooting accurately second nature.
Practice makes perfect in this hobby and without sufficient, regular practice your skillset will lack, and your performance will be poor because of this. Try to stick to your routine daily and employ all the techniques below so that they become second nature. Doing this will make sure that your stance comes naturally to you every time you pick up your rifle to shoot. In the next sections, you will find all the techniques you need to take you from beginner to expert in no time.
Improving Your Accuracy Through Breathing and Posture Techniques
The marksman makes up 50% of the accuracy of a gun. If the marksman is a bad aim, then the rifle will produce poor shots, if the gun is poorly set up or of bad build quality then the marksman will produce poor shots. You can see why both the rifle and its user are the main factors when considering accuracy. If the rifle and the marksman both work in harmony, then shot accuracy will certainly not suffer.
We will first discuss the breathing technique and how it affects your accuracy. Practicing a good breathing technique when shooting will help you produce accurate shots every time you pull the trigger, and here’s why. Hold your rifle up and look through the scope at a potential target, now take some deep breaths and note how much your sight moves up and down. Now you can see why breathing is such an important part of your shooting.
If you don’t take your breathing into account when you’re about to pull the trigger you could be taking the shot on either an in-breath or an out-breath. If you shoot on an in-breath you will find your point of impact much higher than the mark you aimed for and on the other hand, if you pull the trigger on an out-breath you will find your pellet landing much lower than your mark. So how do you adjust your breathing technique to ensure you are hitting your mark consistently?
You may think holding your breath is the answer, but this is certainly not the case. You may think holding your breath will steady your aim but it’s not efficient or healthy to do so. How long do you expect to hold your breath for in a hunting situation? Our body and mind need to function at 100% when concentrating in any situation and with a lack of oxygen to the brain from holding your breath will definitely not help you achieve this. This is why it is so important to breathe while you shoot.
If you now take some natural breaths you will notice a significant pause on your out-breath, you will notice your aim become steady before breathing back in. This pause is the perfect time to pull that trigger and is a vital part of accurate shooting. A good breathing technique revolves around exploiting the body’s natural breathing and using that pause between breaths as an advantage. Below is a 4-step guide on how to get your breathing technique on-point and allow it to become second nature when you pick up your air rifle.
- Prepare: Get into a comfortable shooting position, sight your target on an out-breath and ready yourself to fire. (see the next paragraph to learn about posture)
- Take a deep, smooth breath: Notice your aim rise above your desired target point, it’s important not to readjust your aim at this point.
- Breathe out: As you breathe out your sight will move back down to your desired target when you reach the natural pause at the end of your out-breath.
- Take your shot: Once you reach the natural pause at the end of your out-breath and your target is back at the center of your scope or sight, take the shot.
Holding Good Posture When Shooting
Holding a good posture when shooting will ensure you are shooting your rifle in such a way that keeps your rifle stable throughout the shot and provides a solid structure for your rifle to fire from. If you employ good posture every time you shoot you will notice your accuracy increase dramatically. Once you get used to holding the correct posture regularly you will find it will become second nature to you, so when you pick up your rifle to shoot, you will be in exactly the same position every time. Once a shooting position becomes second nature your accuracy will become extremely consistent.
Below we will provide you with the two main posture techniques that are essential first steps in your air rifle journey. There are other techniques used in air rifle shooting however the two we will discuss will be all you need as a beginner to start shooting accurately and consistently in a multitude of situations. These two postures/ positions are the standing position and the kneeling position. So, let’s get to it, starting with number 1. “The Standing Position”.
The Standing Position
The standing position and kneeling position alike require a strong and structured base. This base is the starting to point to a stable hold and steady aim. You want to ensure your body is relaxed and you have a calm state of mind when in the standing position, making sure that there is no unnecessary muscle strain when holding your rifle. The aim here is to create a skeletal structure that is both relaxed and supportive.
The standing position is comprised of two structural lines, the load-bearing column, and the supporting buttress. The load-bearing column is the vertical line between the leading leg and the supporting hand, and the supporting buttress is the diagonal line between the supporting hand and supporting leg. These two lines meet to create a triangular structure – one of the strongest structures in nature.
Your feet want to be parallel without any twists or strains at the ankle, and the balls of both feet should be in line with your desired target. Imagine a straight line going underneath both feet all the way to your target, this will provide a lined-up shot and a relaxed body structure.
The stock’s butt-plate should be firmly pressed into your right shoulder or the left if you’re left-handed. Your shoulder should be lowered and fully relaxed to provide a firm and consistent standpoint for your rifle. Keep your head aligned with your rifle without any twist in the neck or rifle and your eye should be looking directly down the scope or open sights. Your trigger hand should be placed lightly next to the trigger and your supporting hand should be locked but not strained under the body of the rifle.
This position if done correctly will provide a strong skeletal structure without any muscle strain, this makes it much easier to stand in position for long periods of time without feeling the need to lower your rifle. Employing this position correctly will give you a great starting point for an accurate shot and coupled with the breathing technique mentioned earlier will get you well on your way to accurate shooting. To break this information down and help you understand the exact steps to take when in the standing position, we have provided a 5-point checklist for you to follow below.
- Keep your feet parallel: Keep your feet parallel without any ankle twist and imagine a line going through the balls of your feet leading to the target.
- Keep your body aligned with the shot: Keep your back straight but slighted leaned back to incorporate your rifle into your body’s center of gravity.
- Stabilize your rifle: Keep your butt plate firmly pressed into your shoulder with both arms locked while staying relaxed and not straining your muscles.
- Align your head and look down the sight: Keep your head in line with your rifle and look directly down the scope at your target.
- Fire: Make sure you’re employing the previous 4 steps and fire on your out-breath-pause.
The Kneeling Position
The kneeling position, much the same as the standing position starts with a well planted and stable base. The leg that is knelt on the ground will depend on whether you are left or right-handed, the hand that you use to pull the trigger will correlate with the kneeling leg. The kneeling leg should be placed with your toes pointing away from the body with the heal resting under the tailbone to support your weight. Your leading leg will have its foot planted firmly on the ground and parallel with your kneeling legs foot. Similar to the standing position, you should Imagine a line running through both feet all the way to your target, making sure that you are positioned toward the target without any twists or strains.
Place your leading arm’s elbow on top of your leading leg’s knee, with your hand under the body of the rifle to produce a firm stable structure for your gun to sit on. You will find a flat spot just behind the knee which will seat your elbow comfortably, adjust your arm until you find this sweet spot. The butt-plate of your rifle will sit in the pocket of your trigger arm’s shoulder with your hand placed gently next to the trigger. This position should feel natural and your body should be relaxed without any muscle strain.
Keep your back straight and your head in-line with your rifle, with your eye looking down the scope or sights directly at your target. Lean into your leading arm while keeping your back straight, this will help absorb the energy of the recoil when you fire and produce a more stable shot when the time comes to pull the trigger. We can’t stress enough that your body should feel relaxed, so if it doesn’t and your muscles are tensing, just start over and adjust yourself to find that comfortable position.
To help break this down for you a little more simply we have provided a 5-point checklist to use when setting up in the kneeling position. Memorize this checklist whenever you get into this position until it becomes second nature to you.
- Get your base right: Make sure your supporting leg is in line with your leading leg while facing the target, the supporting knee should be parallel with the leading foot.
- Create your rifle rest: Place your leading arm’s elbow atop your leading legs knee and get into a comfortable position with your rifle’s body in this hand.
- Stabilize your rifle: Place your rifle’s butt plate into the pocket on your trigger arm’s shoulder and ready your trigger hand for shooting.
- Prepare to take the shot: Lean into your shot and allow your body to absorb the rifle’s recoil, make sure you are facing the target and your posture isn’t tilted.
- Take aim: keep your head in-line with your rifle and look directly down the scope or sights at your target, at this point you can take fire on your out-breath-pause.
How to Make Sure Your Air Rifle Is Shooting Accurately
You must make sure you monitor your rifle’s performance and adjust iron sights and scopes as they come out of aim. Making sure your scope or sight is always zeroed in will ensure an accurate shot every time, minimizing the risk of an inhumane shot on an animal and increasing consistency when shooting targets.
If you are shooting targets at any distance other than close range, you will require a good quality scope for your air rifle. If your rifle is of high quality and performs well then why cut costs on a scope? Coupling your rifle with a high-quality scope will ensure you have the perfect outfit for almost any range and will increase your rifle’s accuracy potential by 50% compared to firing it with open sights. A good target and hunting all-rounder such as the UTG Hunter Scope is the perfect place for a beginner to start.
Maintaining your rifle regularly will ensure it is shooting at its best. A clean and well-oiled gun will function much better than a gun that is neglected and poorly maintained therefore it is essential to keep on top of your maintenance routine. This is especially true for spring-powered rifles, if you let your spring get fatigued you will notice your performance and accuracy go downhill very quickly. Make sure you replace your mainspring as needed and ensure you are employing strict cocking restrictions when using your gun.
Use the correct pellets. As discussed before there are many types of pellets for the caliber of your rifle and choosing the best type for both your gun and situation will greatly improve accuracy. If you’re looking for accuracy at range then perhaps a domed pellet is best, if you’re looking for a pellet that makes clear entry holes on a paper target then perhaps a flat head is best. Choosing a pellet that works well for you and your gun really depends on what you own and what you feel most comfortable shooting, so try a wide range of pellets before deciding what produces the most accurate shots for you.
Further Progression in Your New Hobby
Now our guide is coming to an end, we feel it would be useful and exciting for the beginner to know exactly where their new hobby can take them. Having ambition and goals set will help push you forward in your shooting career and give you the motivation to get out every day and practice your shooting techniques. There are multiple ways that you can progress in your new-found hobby and in this section, we will provide a few of them for you to strive for.
If you are the competitive type and strive to be the best in whatever you do then perhaps target competitions are something for you to work towards. You can start by getting your friends together for a casual competition and organizing small prizes or forfeits for winners and losers can make things more interesting. If you work hard on improving your skillset, you’ll be sure to leave your friends in a trail of dust. Shooting competitions with your friends can be a great way to get into the competitive vibe that more serious competitions bring and can be a great activity for you and your friends to enjoy when the sun is out.
Once you feel you have stepped out of the beginner category and develop more expertise in your shooting, you can start to enter into more serious air rifle competitions. If you feel you are ready for some competitive sport, then your local gun range or air rifle club can be a great place to start. Ask around and see if there are any competitions coming up in your area that you may be able to enter in to. From here, if you do well, you can start looking further afield and eventually enter into international competitions and maybe even Olympic events if you have a natural talent!
Once you are a have more skill as a marksman you will find hunting very rewarding. Once you develop enough skill, you can start to test yourself in many different hunting situations, increasing distance or hunting larger game. You may love hunting so much that you even decide to get into shooting traditional powder burners or bows to take down larger game such as elk or deer. Hunting brings endless progression and opportunities for you to look forward to, and if you get a kick out of hunting it can be a great hobby that both brings enjoyment and food to the table.
Once your skills increase in hunting you will find yourself wanting more power, at this point you can look into purchasing a high-powered pre-charged pneumatic rifle to suit longer-range applications and a wider range of game. Once you have a good high-powered hunting outfit the possibilities are endless and you will find your self bringing back high quality, lean game meat every weekend. This will both save you money and improve the quality of your diet, a win for the health-conscious, money-savvy type.
A plinking party can be an original way to host an outdoor BBQ party for yourself and your friends during the summer months. Why not invite your friends round for some competitive target shooting or backyard plinking on the weekend? If you’re into hunting as well, you may want to proudly share some of your game by cooking some up on the BBQ with your friends. This can be a great way to get competitive and enjoy some air rifle sport with your closest friends while enjoying their company.
Putting Everything you Have Learned Together
If you’ve read air rifle for beginners 101 up until this point, then well done. By this stage, you should be well on your way to starting your air rifle career and have the knowledge to choose your air rifle wisely and learn to shoot it effectively.
You should now know exactly what you desire to use your air rifle for and know what type of air rifle best suits that purpose. Once you have your air rifle you now know how to break it in, maintain it and sight it for optimum accuracy. After your rifle is set up and ready to go you now have the information you need to shoot it affectively to produce consistent, accurate shots. You know how to store and transport your air rifle correctly and how to ensure it lasts as long as you do.
Make sure to get yourself into a good practice routine and employ the correct breathing and posture techniques. Ensure you are shooting safely with a sufficient backdrop and you check over your rifle regularly and monitor its performance to ensure it shoots well from day 1 to day 1000. Never stop learning and along with regular practice be sure to expand your knowledge as well.
We hope this article has been useful to you and will help you select your first air rifle and know how to shoot it effectively. If you follow this guide closely you will be sure to go from beginner to expert in a matter of weeks. We know that this guide is quite a big chunk of information to absorb so don’t worry if you have forgotten a few sections. We advise giving the guide a quick look over one final time to jog your memory about all the topics mentioned. If ever in doubt, refer back to this guide any time to set you back on the straight path to shooting success.
If you put everything you have learned in this guide together you will be on a sure-fire path to success within your new hobby. If you need more guidance with air rifles feel free to check out the armory of informative articles we have located in the air rifle section of our site. You can find that section here. Good luck and happy shooting!