How Long Do Air Rifles Last?
An air rifle is undoubtedly going to last longer than its user due to its delightful simplicity and lack of ignition. If you enforce the correct maintenance and cleaning routines this will ensure your rifle fires exactly as it should from day 1 through to day 20,000. Look after your rifle and it will look after you.
Average Lifespan of an Air Rifle
If you look after your equipment, your equipment will look after you – If proper maintenance, use, and storage are practiced with your air rifle then there is no reason for it to break for over 50 years. In fact, if you look after your rifle correctly, chances are your precious gun will outlive you.
Most air rifles are very robust and other than a routine service and the occasional O-Ring replacement they are very low-maintenance and long-living. In this article, you will find everything you need to know about an air rifle’s shelf life and how you can take steps to prolong that.
Unlike powder burning guns, air rifles don’t get any residue from ignition when firing, because of this, air rifles don’t need as much cleaning and maintenance. They don’t wear as quickly as your typical powder burning firearm making an air rifle’s lifespan much greater than its counterpart.
How Can You Prolong the Life of Your Rifle?
Longevity really depends on the rifle’s use and how you maintain it. Whenever possible you should keep your rifle dry. Understandably this is not possible all the time so when you get stuck out in the rain or your rifle gets a splash, you should take steps to dry your rifle properly before it’s stored away.
If you’re using your rifle to hunt, it may be difficult to keep your gun out of streams, rivers and out of heavy rain, however, if you can it’s always best to keep your rifle dry and clean the majority of the time to keep it performing well and extend its life.
If you find you’re using your rifle more and more in wet weather it is good practice to remove the stock, dry out the seat in which your gun sits and then remount it, this will prevent any prolonged moisture build-up and ultimately stop any rust before it becomes an issue.
Maintaining your rifle should be just as important as taking it out and going shooting. You should always keep your rifle well maintained by cleaning your rifle regularly and lubricating moving parts per factory instruction. Make sure you use the correct oil for your gun, some oils are heavy in detergents which can make seals brittle, eventually leading to seal failure and ultimately loss of pressure and performance.
Cleaning and oiling your gun after use is essential in prolonging its life. Using an oil such as Ballistol will dissolve any existing surface rust and prevent further rust or water damage to your gun. If your rifle does happen to get wet or dirty, make sure it is appropriately dried and oiled before locking your gun away, moisture will dramatically affect your rifles shelf life!
Despite popular misconception, cleaning the barrel of your air gun regularly will not prolong its life at all. Some people believe you should clean your rifle’s barrel as when you run a patch down its bore it will come out with some black residue. Believing this residue is dirt or grime is a common misconception and removing this can be detrimental to your rifle and will reduce its accuracy. This residue is the graphite antioxidant that keeps the pellets from oxidizing in their container, every time you pull the trigger this residue is left behind from the pellet as it’s fired through the barrel. When you fire your rifle, the pellet drives excess residue out of the end of the barrel and leaves its own trail behind it, thus systematically cleaning and lubricating the bore during each shot.
Systematically check your rifle to make sure nothing has loosened up over time from general use. Screws and bolts can loosen up over time reducing performance, if you’re looking to take care of your rifle for the long term it’s advisable to regularly check things such as stock and scope screws.
It’s quite common for these to loosen up from the normal vibrations your gun produces during use, so every once in a while, check everything over and give these a tighten as necessary (this is especially true with springers as they produce more recoil and vibration during firing).
An 8-point checklist to ensure your rifle’s longevity
- Use your rifle regularly
- Replace seals and gaskets when needed
- Oil your piston seals every 1,000 shots
- Use the correct pellets for your gun (Using appropriate pellets prevents any unnecessary wear and tear on the barrel)
- Clean and oil the exterior of your gun
- Replace mainspring when a loss of power is noticed (spring-powered rifles)
- Use the correct oil and lubricants for your rifle
- Don’t cut costs when it comes to maintenance and replacement parts (buy for the long haul)
The Five Main Types of Air Rifle and their Longevity Issues
1. Spring-powered rifles (springers)
Spring-powered rifles are a classic, they take some time to master and a bit longer to reload than a PCP rifle however they offer low maintenance and easy fixing. Not ideal for the hunter that needs fast reload speeds but ideal if you want a cheap, easy-to-maintain and reliable gun.
Spring powered rifles suffer from spring fatigue once cocked so never leave your rifle cocked for any longer than necessary. A springer tends to wear more gradually with the gun losing power over a period of thousands of shots (unless you leave the gun cocked for too long).
This isn’t a particularly bad trait though as you will get a feel of when your gun starts lacking performance and an idea of when your mainspring needs replacing, this is typically after 2500 shots but this will vary dramatically depending on your rifle’s specs. As mentioned earlier check your rifle over for loosened screws or bolts as well, it’s common for a spring-powered rifle to loosen up over time.
2. Gas piston rifles
Gas piston guns offer the same problems as spring-loaded such as a slower reload, however, they do offer less recoil leading to a more accurate shot. Gas piston rifles suffer less from power loss when left cocked however you shouldn’t leave your rifle cocked for long periods either as eventually this can lead to loss of gas pressure from the cylinder.
Although gas piston rifles are becoming more and more reliable, when they do go wrong, they are more complicated to fix and, in some cases, can leave you in the field without any form of working firearm. They are much more expensive to repair than a spring-powered gun and if you do get a failure with the gas cylinder, the rifle will refuse to cock at all rather than gradually losing power like a springer.
Proper maintenance and use will increase the shelf life of a gas piston rifle but expect more regular repairs and replacements than its spring-powered equivalent and a bigger hole in your wallet when repairs do come around.
3. Pre-charged Pneumatic rifles (PCP)
Pre-charged pneumatic rifles (PCP) offer their users a faster reload rate and an accurate shot. This is great for hunters needing that extra back up shot however carrying a refill tank or pump around can be a deal-breaker for some. There are a few issues with PCP weapons although they seem to offer the best all-rounder in terms of maintenance, parts, and rifle use.
A common issue with PCP rifles is dirt in soft seals and this can produce a sudden leak in the system. The obstruction can breach the seal allowing air to pass through creating a fast loss of pressure, this is a frustrating feeling however is a cheap and easy fix and in some cases, the dirt can even be dislodged with a gentle tap from a rubber mallet.
Another issue that can affect your rifle’s long-term use is a leak in the valve system. The best way to prevent valve issues is to store your PCP with air in the tank. If pressure is kept against the O-rings, they will constantly be closed reducing the likeliness of dust or dirt getting in. Keeping pressure in the tank also prevents the O-rings from becoming dry and brittle from outside air reaching them.
A faulty or worn valve can leak air, creating a loss of pressure in the tank, less power, reduced shots or loss of fire completely. A faulty valve may not accept air making the rifle impossible to fill, luckily, these types of issues aren’t particularly common and are usually preventable with proper maintenance and good practice. Valve replacements on most rifles are a cheap easy fix and parts for most PCPs are easily accessible.
4. Variable pump rifles
Variable pump rifles offer the user varied power depending on the number of pumps actioned during reloading. With a variable pump rifle, you should take all the same maintenance measures as you would with a spring-powered or gas ram gun. You will notice less loosening on the stock and scope mount screws as variable pump rifles tend to have less recoil than its counterparts however checking any fixings on the pump mechanism should be a priority due to the regular movement needed to power the gun.
5. Co2 Rifles
Co2 air guns offer the user multiple shots with minimal reload speed however power and consistency between each shot can be lacking due to the volatility of the gas. Co2 rifles usually take a little more looking after and due to the nature of the gas, the mechanicals can take a bit more of a beating than traditional air guns. To prolong the life of your Co2 powered rifle it is recommended that a silicone lubricant is applied to the tip of the cartridge every time it is replaced, this keeps the inner workings of your rifle clean and lubricated. It’s near on impossible to over lubricate the cartridge tip as during firing the airgun will blow out any access lubricant.
Another factor to consider with longevity in mind is removing your co2 cartridge after every use (especially with the smaller 12-gram cartridges). Not removing cartridges during storage will cause unnecessary wear on seals and therefore reducing your rifle’s life span and creating completely avoidable expenditures.