by B.B. Pelletier

We read a lot about long shots with a pellet gun, but what really qualifies as a long shot? 50 yards? 75? 100?

50 yards is LONG!
I’ve read in gun magazines about riflemen taking 200-yard shots, but whenever I visit my local gun club, the 50-yard range is always the most crowded. An examination of spent brass left on the range confirms that 5.56mm and 7.62x39mm shooters (AR-15 and SKS/AKM shooters) like 50 yards a lot more than 100 and beyond.

So, with firearms we like to READ about 200-yard shots, but we SHOOT more at 50 yards. So it is with pellet rifles; only for us, 50 yards is a long distance.

Fifty yards is 150 feet. It’s so far that you can sense the interval the pellet takes to travel to the target. If the sun is behind you, you can often see the pellet flying out to the target.

One-inch groups are SMALL
If 50 yards seems standard in print, so does a one-inch group. An American quarter is 0.996″ in diameter. So, a one-inch group is one in which ALL shots touch a quarter. Thinking about it that way puts a different perspective on things. Can YOU hit a quarter five times out of five at 150 feet?

What makes long shots more difficult?
Sighting errors are a big problem. Any cant or parallax can throw your shot several INCHES off target. Hold is another problem, especially with spring guns. Unless you hold right, you get three-inch groups. Read about the correct spring rifle hold in the April 5th post, How to shoot an airgun accurately

The wind presents a challenge
I’ve watched pellets curve several inches when there’s wind from the side.
It’s like watching through a telephoto lens as a major-league pitcher throws a hard-breaking curve ball. But the pellet doesn’t JUST go to the side! It also climbs or dives, depending on the direction of the wind and the direction the pellet is spinning.

A pellet spinning to the right will move to the right and down when the wind comes from the left. But a wind from the right will move the same right-spinning pellet to the left and UP! The upward movement won’t be as pronounced as the downward movement because gravity will offset it to a large extent, but it will move in that direction because a spinning body always moves 90 degrees to the angle of an outside force. Wind can play some mean tricks on a long-range shooter.

Last, but not least, is the effect of stabilization
When a pellet is stable, it flies true.
When it is not stable, it will flutter and move about wildly. Heavy pellets that move too slowly will be unstable and may exhibit this phenomenon. You can tell when this is happening because the hole in the target paper will become elongated. That demonstrates the pellet is not flying nose-first through the target.

Yes, 50 yards is a VERY long distance to shoot a pellet rifle. That’s not to say you can’t shoot farther if you want to, but expect to be faced with all the challenges to accuracy as the distance to the target increases.