by B.B. Pelletier

This comes up all the time in the comments section. I answer each one and satisfy that one person who asked the question. Now, I want to address everyone. Why do you miss?

This question was asked yesterday by The.Man.

This is a little off-topic….maybe. Anyhow, are you saying it is not uncommon to miss the target (1″ circle @ 25 yards let’s say) with higher powered rifles with recoil such as the CF-X? I have to say I’ve been missing a good bit, even tho I try to replicate my successful shot, sometimes it just misses, not by alot but I end up with 1.5″ spreads in 5 or 10 shots with 3 or 5 of those being less than .2″ depending on the number of shots in the group. Of course, I have not been able to sort pellets by weight and this is my first springer so…I guess what I’m asking is how accurate should I expect to be, I have read the post you made about that but I’m still a little unclear. Just when I think I’m doing good i shoot an inch left and it drives me crazy. I have also missed both squirrels I have been able to shoot at so far 1 at 35 yards and one at 40 yards, so im not to upset about those.

Top reason for missing
You shoot a spring piston air rifle, but hold it like you would a firearm. You shouldn’t even hold a firearm the way you do, but the velocity of the bullet allows you to get away with it…but a spring-piston air rifle does not! Here, again, is the best way to hold a spring-piston air rifle. Lay the rifle on the flat of your open palm. Don’t touch the side of the stock with your fingers. With some guns, it also matters where along the forearm your hand is. I’ve found that the balance point, which is close to the triggerguard, works for many rifles. With your other hand, grasp the pistol grip as lightly as possible and still control the rifle. Let the butt rest lightly against your shoulder. Same with your cheek. Your goal is to let the rifle kick and move as much as it can when it shoots. Your REAL goal is to keep the vibration nodes the same from shot to shot so the muzzle will be in the same place from shot to shot.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that the pellet doesn’t start to move until the piston has come to a stop. Recoil and vibration are underway just as the pellet starts moving. There’s no way to hold a rifle to prevent it from moving, so the next best thing is to hold it so that it always moves in the same way, shot after shot.

Here’s the final step. Sight through the scope, then close your eyes and relax. Open your eyes and look at the crosshairs. They’ve moved off target. Had you shot, your pellet would have moved in the same direction. Adjust your hold so that when you open your eyes, the crosshairs are still on the target. When the shot goes off, do not move for another full second. This is follow-through, and it’s crucial to accuracy. After you’ve done this a few times, you’ll realize that you must relax before making the final sight alignment. Then, your shots will go to the same place, time after time.

This tedious technique drives shooters to PCPs and CO2 rifles!

Second-biggest reason reason for missing
You have adjusted your scope to nearly the extreme for either windage or elevation. The worst is when you are either all the way to the right or all the way up. The erector tube return spring is relaxed and the tube that contains the crosshairs now bounces around with every shot. Solution: get an adjustable scope mount and return the scope adjustment knobs to the center of their range.

Another big one
You’re shooting the wrong pellet! Just because I tout the JSB Exact heavy doesn’t mean it’s the most accurate pellet in all airguns. Try shooting pellets at distance. If you don’t have distance because all your shooting is done in the basement, don’t worry about which pellet gives the best groups at 50 yards.

You owe it to yourself to try as many pellets as you can in your rifle, but don’t waste a lot of time until you have taken care of the first and second problems.

Still another one
Clean your barrel! Use JB Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound to get the barrel ready to shoot. Even brand-new airguns need to be cleaned this way. Reread the November 17, 2005, posting Is your airgun barrel REALLY clean?.

My final recommendation
Sort your pellets by weight! This will decrease the number of fliers you have, because pellets of equal weight are likely to have the same balance and ballistic characteristics. It doesn’t always work that way, but, more often than not, weight-sorted pellets shoot tighter groups. Read the March 10, 2005, posting Sorting pellets for accuracy.

How do these suggestions compare to one another? The first one can reduce your group size by half. It’s so dramatic that most people think it’s magic the first time it works for them. The scope problem can be just as dramatic or even better. I listed it second only because it doesn’t happen to everybody, while the first problem does. Using the correct pellet is equally dramatic – especially if you’re currently using a particularly bad pellet. Reread my CF-X test to see what I’m talking about. Pellet weighing and barrel cleaning are fractional improvements, with barrel cleaning out-performing pellet weighing.

So, The.Man, those are my thoughts on your problem. Please try some of them and tell us what you learn.