Does hand position affect springer accuracy?

by B.B. Pelletier

We have a guest blog from regular blog reader and commenter Fred DPRoNJ (Democratik Peoples Republic of New Jersey). He’s tested an interesting concept that will be beneficial to all you spring gun shooters. I’ll let him tell you about it.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email us.

Take it away, Fred!

by Fred DPRoNJ

Spring-powered air rifles are the hardest guns to shoot accurately. At the top of this list are the magnum springers (those that generate 15 or more foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle). Once the trigger is released and the spring propels the piston forward, the rifle shoves back against your shoulder. When the piston stops, its forward motion transfers to the rifle, which then moves forward. This is the jarring motion that turns scopes that are not airgun-rated into castanets. Also, as the spring is uncompressing, a torque is produced which tries to twist the rifle about its longitudinal axis. It’s next to impossible to control these three forces the same way every time and obtain consistency. The pellet will strike the target at a slightly different place than your point of aim.

As long-time readers of this blog know, the trick to wringing out the utmost accuracy from a spring-piston rifle is to use the artillery hold that B.B. Pelletier has popularized. It allows the rifle to recoil as it wants, while achieving consistency in the point of impact. In the artillery hold, the forearm of the rifle rests lightly on your palm or the back of your fingers or top of your closed fist so the rifle can move how it wants. You do not grasp the forearm with your fingers. That technique is explained here.

However, additional accuracy can sometimes be obtained by positioning your hand under a different point on the forearm. There’s no tried-and-true position since each rifle has its own characteristics, and that requires experimentation. I thought I had the most accurate hold for my .177 Diana RWS 350 Magnum, which is the hardest recoiling and one of the most powerful spring-piston air rifles in my collection. Its recoil makes it one of the hardest rifles to shoot accurately. But I wondered if varying my hand position might improve the results. And that’s the subject of my report.

What I did
I marked the forearm of my rifle in four positions, shot a number of different pellets at a target, rested the rifle at each of the four points and then measured the groups. Distance to the target was 28 feet — the maximum limit of my basement target range. The rifle has an optional peep sight — the Beeman version of the Williams model 64 receiver peep sight — and a hooded front.

Williams peep sight.

I quickly found out that my arm was too short for the farthest position, which would have been at the end of the forearm, so the experiment was revised to three positions.

The RWS 350 Magnum stock is marked for three positions.

Even position one (shown above) was too far out for me to comfortably hold the rifle, and that probably contributed to the poor results obtained in that position. The rifle was rested on the top of a closed hand (the top of my fist), with my elbow rested on a flat surface. The rifle did tend to move with the movement of my body, hand and arm. [Editor’s note: The rifle will always follow the body. That’s why the stance is so important for an offhand shooter…and a baseball pitcher.] I’m afraid these aren’t one-hole groups.

Falcon pellets
My first pellet was the Air Arms Falcon domed pellets that weighs 7.33 grains. The smallest group I got with all but one pellet was with my off hand in position three, which is closest to the triggerguard. For the Falcon pellets, that group measured 0.6355 inches between centers. Positions one and two resulted in groups that were larger than one inch across.

The first three groups were shot using Falcon pellets. They’re arranged in this way — upper left from position one, upper right from position two and lower left from position three. Position three gave the tightest group.

At this point, I’d like to apologize for the wrinkled targets. Spike, my pet cockatiel, overturned a glass of water and soaked all the paper targets prior to my taking photos of them. He was sternly spoken to and told to straighten up and fly right.

Spike posed for this picture, but he tipped the glass on the targets before I could photograph them. As you can see from the look on his face, he has a mischievous streak and he won’t allow me to photograph him when he’s misbehaving! His favorite TV sitcom character is Eddie Haskell.

Crosman Premier Ultra Magnum
Next up were 10.5-grain Crosman Premier Ultra Magnum pellets, and, once again, the smallest size obtained was position three — 0.698 inches between centers. As you can see, positions one and two produced groups in excess of one inch, total spread.

Crosman Premier Ultra Magnum, 10.5 grains. Once again they’re arranged — upper left from position one, upper right from position two and lower left from position three. Position three gave the tightest group.

RWS Super H-point
The third pellet I used was the RWS Super-H-Point weighing in at 6.9 grains. The rifle didn’t like these at all. This target produced the only anomaly of the entire test – position one had the tightest group of 1.198 inches between centers, while position three was 0.125 inches larger. Perhaps, this could just be a measurement discrepancy?

The RWS Super-H-Point target was the one anomalous target in the test. They’re arranged — upper left from position one, upper right from position two and lower left from position three. In this case, position one beat position three.

H&N Baracuda
My next pellet was the 10.65-grain H&N Baracuda Match pellet. Once again, the third position produced the smallest group of 0.698 inches between centers.

Finally, with the H&N pellet, I was starting to get some decent results. Again, they’re arranged — upper left from position one, upper right from position two and lower left from position three. Position three gave the tightest group.

JSB Exact 8.4-grain dome
The JSB Exact 8.4-grain dome produced a grouping that was equal for positions two and three, with position one being roughly one inch across.

Even better results than the H&N Baracuda. The RWS 350 likes the JSB Exact 8.4-grain pellet. Groups are arranged as before, with positions two and three being identical. Position one is larger.

JSB Exact 10.3-grain dome
My last pellet was the JSB Exact 10.3-grain domed pellet. This pellet was the most accurate of the test with a best group of 0.573 inches between centers, which was almost a one-hole group.

Groups were fired in the same sequence as the others. This is obviously the best pellet for this rifle, and position three is the best place to hold

What I can deduce from my testing is that position of the hand on the forearm certainly affects accuracy. With one exception, the groupings did get tighter as my hand position was moved in from position one to position three. Position three was nearly always the best place to rest the rifle on my hand, irrespective of the pellet used.

[Editor’s note: Fred’s findings correspond with my own. Placing the off hand back by the triggerguard is nearly always the best place for a spring rifle. There have been exceptions, however, so it’s good to test all positions with every rifle.]