How do you know if an airgun is accurate?

by B.B. Pelletier

This question came in from Dave just yesterday. It’s a good one because it goes to the very heart of what many of us want – accurate airguns. While I won’t be able to give you a failsafe way of always knowing, I will tell you what my experience has been. It’s been right about 90 percent of the time.

I “profile” airguns and the countries that make them
Just like airport security in every country except the U.S., I do profiling. But, I profile airguns. I’ve developed enough experience with different types and brands of airguns that I can tell how accurate they will be before I test them. Let’s take Gamo, for instance. I have shot over 50 Gamo spring-piston rifles over the years, and they have all preformed very similarly. In fact, I was surprised when the CF-X turned out to be so accurate, because my experience had taught me not to expect it. But, I had also noticed earlier that the Shadow 1000 was more accurate than Gamos of the past; so, perhaps, Gamo is rifling their barrels a little better. That made an adjustment to my experiential database.

I also profile countries. China is the big one. Except for the BS4 target rifle and the SS2 target pistol, Chinese air rifles have always been disappointing. They have gotten better over the years, but not good. I remember when a Chinese rifle couldn’t keep five shots inside three inches at 30 yards. Now they are down to one inch. That’s an improvement; but I don’t expect the next one I test to be an aspirin-buster, because the Chinese haven’t shown that they can do it. I will be reporting on the Chinese B26 in a few weeks, so let’s wait and see where that one lands.

Argentina makes spring guns, and I’ve tested a few in the past few years and found them all wanting. I started with no expectations. After several tests, I’m now very suspect of any spring guns coming from that country.

This doesn’t mean I don’t test the guns with the best pellets and techniques I know. It just means I’m not surprised (most times) at the results. Am I biased? Of course! Show me a person who isn’t, and I’ll show you a robot.

What if you have no experience?
I have a lot more experiential guidelines, but enough with the profiling. What about a gun you’ve never seen before? How do you tell whether it’s accurate or not? First tip – stay off the internet and out of the chat forums! I have found people there making absurd claims about accuracy that they cannot back up with targets. One guy claimed to be shooting groups at a quarter-mile with a Crosman air pistol! That was obviously a kid trying to be funny, but what about the guy who claims to be shooting at 100 yards but is really only shooting at 50? A lot of people cannot estimate correctly, so I’d leave the talk alone and do the testing myself.

Make sure you have the best pellets and the best conditions when you test. That’s why you see me using the same pellets over and over and why I don’t use certain brands or types of pellets. It’s an experiential thing, again. I’ve tried those pellets in guns of known accuracy and found them wanting.

“What if a pellet is really bad in most guns but particularly good in an airgun that is itself usually a poor performer? How will you spot that?”

Pardner, you’ve been watching too many Disney movies! The chance that a lousy pellet will be golden in a lousy gun approaches zero. Lousy guns reveal themselves with poor groups when all the right techniques and best pellets have been tried. Anyone who says different is trying to sell something.

Actually shoot the gun
I took some criticism on the forums when I “tested” the Gamo CF-X without shooting it. I used my knowledge of past Gamo performance and look where it got me. When I finally did shoot the gun, it was better than I had expected. The only way to know if a gun is accurate is to shoot it and examine the results.

Dave, I hope this answers your question. The short answer is to test the gun, of course. Is there any way of knowing without actually testing? Well, my profiling trick works a lot of the time, but the truth is, no, there isn’t.

19 thoughts on “How do you know if an airgun is accurate?

  1. on the 19 th i asked about how to clean an airsoft gun. thanks for the great advice but one more question sombody said i should lube the hop up inside the barrel with 100% silicone oil is this true

  2. I stayed out of that conversation because that was a new one on me. I always through the hop up was supposed to be dry to put a backspin on the ball. I know you lube the seals with silicone, but this I am not sure about.


  3. BB,

    Thanks for the post. In our chosen hobby, I think equipment means airgun and pellets. I came across an article at the Civilian Marksmanship Program website that says about clamping a gun to a vise.
    I have been practicing this before but other shooters just do not like the idea of a gunvise. May I know your input.


  4. One thing I appreciate about this blog is your obvious bias towards reality. Some time ago I ran across a “Survival book” in a used book store that said a .177 air rifle was the best thing to have should the stuff hit the fan, and the reason was it shot flatter.

    I read it for comic relief only.

    I also have a question. I looked around for lead free pellets a few months back, and couldn’t find any that did not involve plastic. This doesn’t seem to be much more environmentally friendly when camping and plinking, so I have yet to take my pellet rifle with me on a trip. And bringing my pellet trap is not a fun hike. Do you know of a manufacturer that does not use either? Otherwise I might just have to break down and (sigh) buy another BB rifle for my son and I to take along:)

    Mr. Watch

  5. my friend left my gun cocked and loaded for several days without my knowledge. i didnt realize this until maybe 5 or 6 days later when i shot my gun again. it seems weaker. do you think my main spring was significantly weakened by this? and is there anything i can do?

  6. Weak Spring,

    Tom Gaylord published a maispring failure test in which four springs were left cocked for a month. The worst one lost under 6 percent. In the first week week of testing, some of the spring became a few percent MORE powerful!

    Just shoot yout gun and watch for strange behavior.


  7. BB,

    Alright, no vise. Vise only to find out the right pellets, roger on that. In that case, can you please tell us how to bench rest test an airgun properly? It would be nice to see your post with sample pictures and correct placement of equipment required of the test setup.



  8. Dave,

    I have addressed this numerous times. It’s called the artillery hold and you hold the gun as loose as possible so it can move as much as it wants to.

    Why don’t yoiu do some searches on accuracy postings. I;m sure there are 20 or more.


  9. BB,
    My Gamo viper arrived about a week ago, and i was impressed. But it did not quite perform to what gamo claimed. (3/4 inch groupings at 50 yards). Im using lead pellets and have fired about 250 rounds, i was wondering if i should clean it, and/ or use some sort of lubricant in the barrel. Finnaly i was wondering if you had a personal preferance in ammo and if so what it is. thanks SO much,


  10. Brian,

    In your position I would clean the bore with JB Non-Embedding Bore Paste. Follow this link:

    Run it through the bore on a brass brush 20 times in both directions, then remove all traces with cleaning patches. That should make an improvement in your bore.

    Regarding Gamo’s claims of .75-inches at 50 yards, I don’t believe it. Gamo is making all kinds of wild claims about their airguns these days, yet when you pin them down you learn that they really don’t understand adult airguns that well. If you could get one-inch groups at 50 yards on a dead calm day using the artillery hold you should feels very happy.

    The Viper is a springer, so no lube is required. I find JSB Exact Jumbo Diabolo pellets (10.2 grains) to be the best.


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