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How do you shoot a springer?

When I got my first PCP, I set the springers aside for a while, except for the 300S of course. But now I am on a mission to master springer accuracy and thought it might be useful to pass on my current thinking as to best practice (pun intended), as well as to solicit tips from the resident springer experts.

For positions, I shoot mostly sitting or offhand, with some bench shooting to try different pellets, or just to relax. By and large I shoot airguns using the same techniques I would use for rimfire. I use light holds for both, and try to find a technique that lets the rifle recoil straight back, not flip off the target under recoil. The main difference is that I typically rest a springer just forward of the balance point, where I may rest a rimfire further out on the forend. The special challenge that springers present is that the shot time is very long, and to make matters worse recoil from piston motions starts well before the pellet begins moving down the barrel. This puts a premium on ensuring that recoil motion is absolutely consistent.

Standing I rest the rifle on my open palm just in front of the trigger guard, use a light RH hold, and light cheek and shoulder pressure. I line up on the target, relax, take up the trigger slack and wait for the moment when the rifle is steady, then squeeze the trigger. The key for me is relaxing, and making sure that my trigger finger is the only thing that I move when I take the shot. I have no special "artillery hold", I use the same techniques for rimfire or for the 300S. Finally, I make sure I am wearing my lucky sweatshirt.

Sitting I rest the rifle on my sticks about 3/4" forward of the balance point. The left hand lightly supports the sticks, I use very light cheek and shoulder pressure, and grip lightly with my right hand, placing my thumb on top of the stock to the right of the center line. This thumb position prevents undue pressure from the palm that can cause the rifle to jump left or right under recoil, for me at least. I use the thumb and forefinger trigger squeeze technique once I have relaxed and the sights are on the target.

For shooting off the bench, I just put a Caldwell bag in front of the trigger guard, and may or may not use a rear bag. Everything else is pretty much the same as shooting from sticks.

To finish up, here are today's groups from my TX200HC at 50 yards sitting. I got off to a good start, but kind of lost concentration as I went on. Oh well, maybe next time.



1560564210_16605463455d0451f2941145.35619965_TX200 061419 PS.jpg




So what are your favorite tips for shooting a springer? Let us know!

Chuck
 
The answer for me depends upon which springer I'm shooting. 

My HW95 is my least pellet picky rifle, shooting virtually any pellet from RWS 6.9 hollow points up to 8.64 H&N FTTs with deadly accuracy from 5-25 yards. However, it shoots heavier pellets a full mil-dot lower. Virtually any hold will suffice for accuracy.

My HW97 is a tad more picky but boy is it powerful, shooting a little high trajectory at 25 yards with the lighter pellets but accurately placing the heavier pellets on target out to 25 yards. Unfortunately, the 97 is too heavy for me to shoot it off-hand; but, I'm building up to it. When rested, this gun allows me to shoot 1/4" groups (unless my breathing foils my perfect group). 

My Crosman Venom Dusk is more pellet picky, has a troublesome trigger (but not always), and definitely demands more attentive holds. However, when rested, it's capable of superb accuracy out to 25 yards, too. 

My Gamo Swarm Maxxim is so light that I have trouble holding it steady, whether rested or not.. I finally handed it over to my father since I sort of fell out with it. It's actually a pretty good gun with a nice breaking trigger, easy cocking, and a quiet, very backyard friendly rifle. 



For me, eliminating as many variables as possible and practicing almost daily has been essential for my mastering (and I'm still not there) my air rifles. I've learned a lot and am still trying to improve. I'm interested in what others have to say.



Arch_E
 
I believe arch_e has the right of it. You have to find what hold each gun will like. However like michigander I also shoot with a flat palm altho some guns have me curling my fingers to cup the hold a bit. My back hand usually is light and the grip litterally hardly touches my hand. One thing I didn't hear mentioned was the shoulder rest. I think this is key. Dont hold it into your shoulder. I know that sounds counter intuitive but the gun needs to rock back. Not only that but it needs to rock back the same way every time. Once I find proper hold on a gun i cut out paper guides to remember exactly where my fingers were the last time until I get it memorized. Also put electrical tape between your butt pad and stock. This will prevent catching on clothing. This is especially effective in cold climate when jackets are in play. I am really confused tho. Why would you use the same hold on rimfires? I have shot 22lr my whole life and never heard of using a lose hold. Is this just your preference or is that a technique taught by competition guys? My father used 22lr to train me for larger calibers so its completely possible he just went with what i needed for 3006 and above. I shoot pennies out to 100 yards with my lrs so i must be doing something right using standard navy rifle training techniques. 
 
Definitely depends on the rifle. 

My Trail NP2 doesn't require any special hold, tight or loose grip, I've tried many and the pellets always hit where I'm aiming. Even resting on a bag. 

My RWS 34 likes a light shoulder and grip. It's muzzle heavy so i need to place my weak hand out farther to balance it. I always wear one of those brown jersey gloves on my weak hand so the stock can easily slide on my palm.

My HW30s i hold semi loose and my weak hand is just forward of the trigger guard. There is not much of a kick with this rifle.

Experiment to find what works best for each rifle.
 
I have a Crosman NP .177, and it does NOT like the artillery-hold at all. I found that holding it with light pressure into my shoulder (as you might hold a powder-burner) tightened my groups up quite a bit.

My Benjamin Summit NP2 .22 is not very hold-picky at all, at least not for me anyway. However it also weighs a bit more between a heavier scope and some glass-bedding I did with it (maybe 10 pounds?).

PT
 
How do I shoot a springer? The guys at my club would say, "Not very well"... All kidding aside, there is some great advice that others have posted.

I started with a used Diana 34, (177), with a Vortex kit shooting bucket and sticks. It is incredibly demanding of consistency! One of that guns pet peeves is where I have the sticks. They have to be right at the balance point. Another is how much it touches my shoulder. Having more pressure than barely touching the shoulder can change the point of impact by a full inch at 30 yards. It is the hardest gun I have ever shot, but is awesome if I do my part! It has taught me a lot and made me a much better shooter. 

Springers are more challenging, but there can be a lot of joy in that. I will always have a couple of them around. 
 
 How do you shoot a springer? Wait till it stops running! 😁

Seriously, some are better than others. I have a Walther LGU and an LGV and both are always accurate and generally very easy to shoot consistently. My HW97 and Diana 460 aren't as easy to shoot but are very accurate with more focus. I have a Hatsan 125 that is powerful but shooting it really well is usually pretty difficult.
 
I shoot my LGU and HW97 the same way. I shoot right handed. On sitting position, I balance the rifle on my left knee and hold it firmly into my shoulder. My right elbow rests against my right thigh. Left hand has the same firm hold on the rifle and my knee cap. I let the rifle recoil as straight as possible front and back. For standing, I balance the rifle on mid joint (not knuckles) of my index and middle finger and fully extended thumb of my left hand. Left elbow rests on top of my left hip bone. Right hand has firm grip on the pistol grip on the rifle. Rifle is firmly planted into my right shoulder. Again I let the rifle recoil front and back as straight as possible. Your follow through is critical. Just keep aiming until you hit the target like a spinner or a knock down field target. A lower power springer is always easier to shoot accurately for longer amount of time. I recommend keeping it under 12 foot pounds.

LGU weighs about 14.5 lbs and HW97K weighs about 13.8 lbs. includes custom stock and scope.

If you are shooting a light weight rifle, I would use your left hand and arm pull to firmly plant the rifle into your shoulder. Left elbow would be away from your body similar to shooting a shotgun.
 
@uglymike has found the magic word; consistency! Find the balance point for your rifle and a comfortable position and do the exact same thing over and over again. Trigger position, trigger pressure build-up, shouldering, the amount of pressure on the trigger hand touching the stock and the support hand must always be loose and in the exact same spot. And don't forget the amount of pressure you punt on your cheek rest with your head, and the pressure with your shoulder on your but plate. This must be exactly the same with each shot. Next, work on your breathing, pull the trigger between heart beats and don't pull or anticipate the shot! Let the rifle do it's thing. Especially with springers, you can't control the energy release of that spring or gas ram. Except that your'e not in control of that power house and just trust the rifle. This is where most people (even those who have been shooting for decades) go wrong.

I'm not just making this stuff up as I go, I'm a small bore (rimfire, 50m) and air rifle (10m) international competition shooter (the Olympic disciplines) and these are the things make take up about 80% of our training program. I train 2 to 3 times with rimfire, 3 to 4 times a week with air rifle, mostly on these particular things. The reason why learning to shoot springers gives you a HUGE advantage with any other type of rifle, is this. Because with a springer, the result of a change in hold or stance will immediately show in your group size.

Once you master these things, you will feel when you hit the 10-ring even before you see it. Because all these elements come together in a natural flow of events and result in that most desired 10.9 if you do it all right. I know I sound like Yoda right now, but trust me when I say that training will make you a Jedi Master. 😉

Edit; pellets is another subject, I always start with JSB's because I found over the years that most air rifles do best with this brand. Save yourself the hassle and frustration with pellet testing. Stay away from the cheaper brands like Gamo for instance, and go right away for RWS and JSB, or if you want to experiment with H&N.
 
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pirellip

Member
Jul 28, 2015
5
0
Ontario
    CONSISTENCY whether check weld, shoulder influence, balance point, etc., etc. For me it got easier after 120-130,000 pellets downrange...

    Agreed. And as others have said, it all depends on that particular rifle.

    My experience was earned using sub-12fpe piston rigs in an FT setting, and I have zero skills shooting 'off a bench' and whenever I try to do so, my groupings are very poor (worse than when I'm sitting)

    So if you want to shoot from a sitting position, my advice would be:

    1. Get Comfortable. Do this via dry firing'exercises (the rifle is unloaded). You can be sitting in your living room even. Spend some time figuring out what works for your body type, don't try to mimic what you've seen others do, figure out what's comfortable for YOU. I've seen some strange/unconventional shooting positions that work for that shooter. So try stuff out even if it looks weird.

    2. Get Consistent. Now that you're comfortable, work on replicating that position. Stand up then sit back down. Are you in the same position? If not, why not? Again this is best done 'dry firing'.

    3. Create the Process. Now start putting pellets down range. Don't worry too much about accuracy right now, just focus on the process. Develop a mental checklist (write it down at first even) and follow it every time. After shot analysis is key. Before you even look at the POI, ask yourself "how did that feel, did it feel the same as my last shot?". Not all your shots will feel the same, we're human. Rinse and Repeat.

    4. Analyze the Result. NOW start looking at each POI. For the shots that didn't feel right, don't worry about where it landed. Only look at the ones that felt right.

    5. Adjust Accordingly. Experiment with small changes to 1 & 3 (don't forget about 2). Only change 1 thing at a time. Maybe you should hold the rifle harder/looser? Maybe the way you pull back (not squeeze) the trigger needs to change. How about your 'release point' (when the shot breaks). Do you want it to come as a surprise, or do you want it to be deliberate? Either can produce great results.

    Key Points:

    - Natural point of aim. This starts with 1. You have to be pointing towards the target the same way every time. If you're a little bit askew, you're going to naturally compensate when you look through the scope (maybe without even knowing that you're doing it) which can bugger things up.

    - Good days/bad days. Sometimes you're in the zone, other times you're not. If you're not in the zone, take a break, sometimes even stop for the day. "practice makes perfect" is WRONG. "perfect practice makes perfect" is the key. If you're messing up and you keep trying to fix it unsuccessfully, chances are you are just reinforcing those bad tendencies. 

    - My springer isn't accurate. Maybe it isn't, but don't rush to that conclusion. All springers should be tuned, if feasible. Some rifles aren't easily disassembled/reassembled. They're mass produced and designed from a manufacturing perspective, so they don't easily come apart.. 

    I won't dive into the discussion of 'best' or 'how' to tune your Springer, there are as many opinions on this subject as there are people. There is no definitive answer to this, but generally I believe 'less is more': less lube, less interference between the components. I like spring guides to be 'firm' to 'really tight' when pushing into the spring. I like a 'less interference' fitting piston seal, but lots have people have great success with tight interference seals, me included. I won't even go there when it comes to what/where lube to use.

    Some rifles are hold insensitive and accurate, some are hold insensitive but also not accurate. Some rifles are very hold sensitive, but also very accurate. Some rifles 'sound' good and are accurate, some sound good and are inaccurate. Some rifles sound really bad, but are very accurate. I don't care what a rifle sounds like, I care if it's accurate.

    A tune can sometimes change a hold sensitive rifle into a hold insensitive rifle, but not always, and it can really depend on how it's tuned. If you want to go down the rabbit hole of tuning and it's impact, especially tuning for efficiency (amount of energy put into the spring vs % of that energy that leaves the barrel) there is a very good FaceBook group called 'Lost Volume'. 

    Can a rifle with low efficiency shoot accurately? Yup. Does a highly efficient rifle shoot more accurately? In theory yes, but in reality not always. But that excess energy has to go somewhere, which usually translates into more recoil, which usually means more hold sensitivity. 

    Can a rifle that kicks like a mule shoot accurately and be hold insensitive? Yup. 

    Temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, and the elevation above sea level all impact springers - air is the medium that transfers the energy from the spring to the pellet. As that air changes, so does the transfer of energy. With this in mind, don't be surprised if your zero changes from day to day (or morning to afternoon). Learn to accept this and how to deal with it. I don't worry about a change in zero, but when the trajectory changes (the difference in clicks between your zero and your 55y POA) pay attention to why this happened. Some rifles don't change trajectory due to weather, some do. Some rifles don't seem to every shift in zero no matter what the conditions are. Don't every sell that rifle, you'll regret it.

    Also don't forget that accuracy and consistency are two different things. I'd rather have a less accurate rifle that is consistent than a really accurate rifle that is less consistent.

    Overall, if you want to shoot as accurately as possible, as consistently as possible, shoot a PCP. If you enjoy the challenge/journey/creating-a-symbiotic-relationship-with-your-springer, well then rest assured they are just as accurate (and often more consistent) than PCPs. And if you can shoot your springer well, chances are you can shoot ANY PCP REALLY well.

    ps - Don't forget your scope could be acting up. It is impacted by the rifle's recoil and the environmental conditions. Most common is that its temperature changes how it range finds.
     

    Padd

    Member
    Apr 7, 2017
    54
    0
    Indiana
      I have a TX200 MKIII Standard in .177 with an Athlon Optics 6-24x50 Argos BTR Scope in First Focal Plane. I shoot JSB Match Diabolo Exact .177 Cal, 8.4 Grains, Domed exclusively. It's a dream to shoot if you hold it right. I shoot HFT with it. The keys for me is to place the sticks at the bolt holes at the front of the stock. This is a long way from the balance point. I've tried other point for the stick but nothing is as consistant for me. My seat is only 11" off the ground which brings my knees into play for my elbows. I have tried several different types of seats but nothing works near as good as a HD Plastic Step Stool low to the ground. I hold the butt of the stock as support only with my left hand in the general area of the shoulder but not firm. Breathing is so important. Heart Rate and timing your shot is critical. This gun will shoot like no other gun I've ever shot. Every HFT shoot my score just keeps going up. 

      Update. I've moved this scope to a new TX200 MKIII HC in Walnut and .22. I've only got only 250-300 rounds through it so far. I can tell you it's not near as user friendly as my other TX200 in .177 described above. I have learned that the same hold as described above is even more critical. I haven't found the perfect ammo for consistency in .22 yet. The Crosman Premier .22 Cal, 14.3 Grains, Domed did not work very well. Crosman pellets are so non uniform. I'm having better success with JSB Diabolo Exact Jumbo Express .22 Cal, 14.3 Grains, but still not what I was hoping for. Next I have 3 tins of Air Arms Diabolo Field .22 Cal, 16 Grains, Domed and one tin of JSB Match Diabolo Exact Jumbo RS .22 Cal, 13.43 Grains, Domed. Will see how that goes. 

      On my TX200 in .177 I'm putting a Hawke Model 17410 4-16X50 FFP scope on because I want the cross hairs larger and the reticle brighter than the Athlon. I'm still waiting for my Parallax Wheel to setup this gun so I have not had a chance to tryout this scope much but already I can tell I'm going to increase my score just because of the change. Hope this helps. 
       
      Man, we need a ‘sticky’ on this, the question comes up so frequently...

      It’s all pretty much all been said here.

      ie: (can depend on the gun, consistency, quality ammo, etc)

      I would add, deliberate follow-through, avoid anticipating the shot. When benching, I try to replicate the hold/pressure points I use For offhand shooting, so my benched zero doesn’t shift while hunting/offhand plinking.

      Sounds like alot, but quickly becomes second-nature with practice, doesn’t it?
       
      i shoot from my shooting bench back yard 25 yrd range with the forend resting on a soft bean bag type rest and the rear supported with my left hand. i grip fairly light and let her jump. ive achieved some nice 3/16 ctc -5 shot groups to 1/4 if i can keep my heartbeat in check. :) sometimes just walking to retrieve targets will foil the next group. at 48 my eyes are also not so sharp anymore. bit frustrating.. :) wonderful first group by the way.. 
       

      pirellip

      Member
      Jul 28, 2015
      5
      0
      Ontario
        I would add, deliberate follow-through, avoid anticipating the shot. When benching, I try to replicate the hold/pressure points I use For offhand shooting, so my benched zero doesn’t shift while hunting/offhand plinking.

        Sounds like alot, but quickly becomes second-nature with practice, doesn’t it?

        YES! Proper follow-through is critical.