How to Break-in an Air Rifle
Breaking-in your air rifle is one of the most important things to do and will ensure it is primed and ready for shooting at its listed specification, giving you consistent, accurate shots and allowing you to properly sight up your gun. If you don’t break in your new air rifle, its accuracy, precision, and power will be greatly affected, and you will be constantly aggravated by the inconstant shots your rifle will produce.
What Does it Mean to Break in an Air Rifle?
Breaking in your air rifle is the practice of preparing it for consistent shooting once you have acquired your it. An air rifle will not shoot to its listed specification straight out of the box, this is down to a number of reasons but the main factor that prevents your rifle from shooting to its specified power and accuracy is the barrel.
The barrel of your new air rifle has most likely been factory lubricated. The combination of the heat released from the pressure of the pellet traveling down the barrel and the lubricant on the barrel walls can cause ignition or Dieseling (see more information on dieseling further down).
This reaction will cause huge power inconsistencies and increased noise output from your rifle and ultimately poor, inconsistent accuracy. Clearing this lubricant out and priming the barrel is simply achieved by firing multiple rounds through your air rifle until the power and accuracy levels out.
How do You Break in Your New Air Rifle?
The first step when breaking in your air rifle is to inspect it. When you get your new rifle out of the box it is important to inspect it thoroughly to check for any factory imperfections that will affect your rifle’s power or accuracy.
This is also the time to tighten up any bolts or screws that have been missed during quality control. Tightening any loose bolts or screws that have been missed during production will ensure you get consistent results from your air rifle.
Next, you want to start loading up and firing your new air rifle (yes before sighting it in properly), this will start to clear the lubricant from the barrel and begin to coat the inside of your barrel with graphite powder from your pellets.
Doing this will stop your rifle from dieseling and coating the inside of the barrel with the powder from your pellets will start to produce more consistent, quieter shots. As a general rule, you want to fire at least 50 pellets through your new rifle, depending on the length of the barrel and the caliber you’re shooting.
Take note of the groups the rifle is producing and be attentive when listen and watching how your rifle performs. When your rifle is producing close, consistent groups and becomes quieter this means your rifle is clearing out factory lubricant and has started to prime.
When your rifle is performing consistently, and producing accurate, precise shots this is a sign that it is now ready for sighting up properly and has leveled out to its standard specification. You can see more clearly when your rifle has started leveling out in terms of consistent power with the use of a chronograph (see the Chronograph section for information).
Once Your new air rifle’s power and accuracy have leveled out and its performance has reached its optimum range it’s time to inspect your gun for a second time. Make sure your primary shooting hasn’t loosened any screws or bolts, give everything a good hard look over and ensure your rifle is in working order. During the second inspection, it may be wise to give your rifle a bit of clean (depending on the conditions you were shooting in and how many shots you fired).
After your second inspection, it’s now time to zero-in your scope or adjust the sights on your air rifle. Set up a paper target at your desired range and get your rifle set up on a bench rest so your shooting position is consistent.
If your scope or sights are way out, then set up your target a little closer and increase the distance as you start improving the accuracy of your rifle. Once you’re ready to start shooting, fire groups of 5 shots at your target and adjust your sights accordingly, each time making sure your groups are accurate and consistent.
As your accuracy improves, start moving your target further away and fire one or two groups of 5 shots at each distance until you are happy with the range your rifle is sighted in at.
What is Dieseling?
Dieseling is a phenomenon that occurs when your air rifle has a combustible oil or lubricant on the barrel’s internals. When a shot is fired through a lubricated barrel the pressure can cause heat and ignite the lubricant thus giving you a loud shot and increased power.
Dieseling can occur when breaking in your new rifle as the barrels internals will be coated in a lubricant from factory contruction, the act of breaking in your new rifle will burn off this substance and clear out your barrel to level out its power and give you accurate, consistent shots.
Some people say that forcing your rifle to produce this phenomenon (dieseling) can increase power and give you a better shot, this is correct to some extent as the process produces an ignition, therefor firing your pellet with more muzzle energy.
Manually and forceful getting your air rifle to diesel is not recommended as the explosions that are created inside the barrel can cause irreparable wear on your internals and ruin your seals. Although dieseling gives you more power it hugely sacrifices your consistency, accuracy and ruins your hardware so our advice is – don’t do it!
How Chronographs Help With Breaking-in?
A chronograph is the best piece of diagnostic equipment any air rifle owner can have. It gives you the ability to monitor your guns muzzle velocity and ensure that it is shooting to the manufacturer’s specification.
This is especially useful when breaking in your air rifle as it allows you to see whether there are any power defects with the gun and also monitor the consistency in your rifle’s shots, thus giving you a clear picture of when your rifle has leveled out.
A chronograph is very useful when it comes to breaking-in your rifle as you can see if your rifle’s muzzle velocity is high – telling you that it is still dieseling and needs a longer break-in period and on the other hand, whether your rifle’s velocity is too low and there is a power problem with the gun (giving you an early enough sign to send your gun back without having to take your rifle apart).
If the chronograph is showing inconsistent results it usually means your rifle needs further breaking-in by firing more rounds through it. If its velocity is sitting consistently with each round then it shows that your rifle has leveled out and is ready for a proper sight-in.
A chronograph, in my opinion, is the best tool for breaking-in your rifle and offers the user detailed information on the gun’s performance, not just during the break-in period, but also throughout your rifle’s life. Chronographs don’t need to be expensive either, there are plenty of cheaper options out there that’ll give you the detailed, valuable information you need to start monitoring your rifles performance regularly, a good budget chronograph option is the Acetech AC6000 Gun Speed Tester (Chronograph).
Top Tips when breaking in your air rifle
Follow this list whenever you purchase a new air rifle and it will ensure that your rifle is working at its optimum performance and is shooting consistently as soon as possible after unboxing.
- Inspect your new air rifle
- Fire at least 50 rounds from your air rifle until it is leveled out (the more pellets you fire at this stage the better)
- Inspect your new air rifle a second time
- Clean up your gun if needed
- Sight in your new air rifle
Air Rifle Category Break in Differences
Most rifles need the same overall break-in strategy however some types of air rifles require either a longer break-in period or some other new-use care to ensure optimum performance is achieved.
Pre-Charged Pneumatic Air Rifles (PCP)
Pre-charged pneumatic air rifles use a pressurized air tank as their charging style. When breaking-in a PCP you should fill the tank fully and run at least 100 shots through the barrel to remove factory lubricant and prime it.
Fill your tank up periodically and make sure it has sufficient pressure every 10 shots or so and never let your tank drain to empty. Most pre-charged pneumatics take between 500 to 1000 shots to fully settle in however your rifle will be accurate enough for your usage needs after a good barrel break-in using 100 shots.
Some PCPs can take a while for the trigger to soften up and mechanics such as the bolt action can take a while to fully smooth out.
Spring-Powered Air Rifles (Break-Barrels & Underlevers)
Spring-powered air rifles in both break-barrel and underlever variants require many shots in order to smooth out the shot cycle. Springers can produce a very erratic shot cycle when first out the box, this is because the spring takes some use to smooth out and produce a consistent coil and release.
It is very important to tighten your springer’s stock screws when checking your rifle over before and after firing your break-in shots. This is because springers tend to have a heavier re-coil action, therefore creating more screw-loosening vibrations. Loose stock screws can greatly affect the accuracy of your rifle and may be the cause of poor consistency after the break-in period.
Gas-Ram Rifles (Break-Barrels & Underlevers)
Gas ram air rifles are very similar to spring-powered rifles when it comes to the break-in period, however, they do not suffer from “new spring syndrome”. When breaking in your gas-ram gun it is important to check that the gas-piston is producing sufficient and consistent pressure, the best way to do this is with the use of a chronograph.
If your gas-ram air rifle has a factory defect you will usually know about it within the first week of ownership, if it doesn’t, your rifle will usually last for years without failure.
Co2 Powered Air Rifles
Co2 powered air rifles (like the other categories on our list) require a break-in period to remove factory lubrication from the barrel internals. One thing to keep in mind when breaking in your Co2 gun is that you will need a sufficient amount of Co2 cartridges as well as pellets to break-in your gun, so make sure you’ve got a nice stock of disposable cartridges for use during breaking-in and also some spare for use once your gun has leveled out.
Another factor to consider which is important during breaking-in and for the lifespan of your Co2 gun is lubricating the valve or “head” of your Co2 cartridge every time you insert one into your gun. Use a big drop of PellGunOil on the head of the first Co2 cartridge you insert into your new gun (this will ensure the seals are well oiled), after that, one drop on the cartridge head will be sufficient to keep your Co2 rifle working as it should.
Multi-Pump Air Rifles (Variable-Pump)
Multi-pump air rifles require a lot of time to break-in, not because they differ much from the other rifles on our list, but because they require a bit more time between shots in order to pump the rifle. Set a good amount of time aside for breaking in your new variable-pump air rifle as it’s going to be time-consuming.
Make sure to pump your rifle up to its maximum pressure every time you shoot, this will ensure the rifle has sufficient velocity to remove the factory lubrication on the barrel internals and give you consistency when monitoring the gun to make sure it is leveling out.
Useful Resources to help When Breaking in Your New Air Rifle
Here are some links to a few YouTube videos that we thought would be helpful to anyone that is looking for information regarding breaking in and sighting in their new air rifle. Enjoy!
How to Tell if Your Rifle is Defective or Just Slow Breaking-In
How to Sight-In Your Scope
How to Sight in Your Rifle Iron Sights (No Scope)
To conclude, your breaking-in time can vary from rifle to rifle and the number of shots needed to get your rifle performing to specification can be anywhere from 100 to 500. It’s very important to break-in your rifle properly before taking your rifle hunting or out in the field for target practice. Don’t get frustrated if your rifle is taking some time to break-in, just remember all the hard work in the beginning will definitely pay off! Happy shooting!