It would seem from the level of activity on my website that the ubiquitous ‘Google’ is pointing anyone who is curious about upgrading from legal-limit air rifles to FAC towards my earlier articles on this blog. I suspect, too, that the various airgun forums are discussing my views. As a busy airgun writer some years ago, contributing to a number of magazines, I withdrew from internet forums and for good reason. Everyone on a forum claims to be an expert, so the result is nothing but argument and conjecture.
I used to allow discussion on this blog-site. Recent contributions made me kill that two-way communication swiftly. Which is a shame. I was accused of being ‘a dinosaur’ where FAC air is concerned as it has ‘advanced significantly’ since I sold my last FAC rifle some five years ago. Significantly? Only someone seriously obsessed with air power would make a claim like that. Take a look around this website, the books I have published, and you will see that I have long advocated the legal-limit air rifle as a superb hunting tool. But my experience has also taught me that no matter what level of ft/lbs an air rifle can deliver, it can never replicate the power and accuracy of a rimfire rifle. Anyone seeking to claim otherwise is just kidding themselves.
I’m in a unique position in stating this because I’m impartial now. I don’t write for ‘airgun’ magazines any more. They have a sponsorship based agenda. They tell you all the good stuff that manufacturers (advertisers) want to hear. They will never tell you the bad stuff – such as FAC Air is an expensive alternative at re-inventing the wheel that is called ‘rimfire’. Worse still, many airgun mags have dropped the true ‘hunting’ content in favour of a repetitive monthly menu of ‘tips’. Got any of my books, written nearly a decade ago? Has anything new come along? I rest my case. Back to the point in hand. Rimfires.
The ‘airgunner’ sometimes finds that they need (probably at the request of the landowner) to expand their shooting range to deal with more distant quarry such as rabbits in horse paddocks or crows out on the seed drillings. They immediately start thinking (if they can’t get closer using fieldcraft), they need higher air power. Trust me, I made that mistake. It took me five FAC airguns (two of which were expensive modifications to legal limit guns) to realise this was futile. Forget it. If you’re confident enough to apply for a Firearms Certificate, why not just consider a rimfire? It’s the same application process.
If you just want stick to squirrels, rabbits and corvids, with a .22LR using subsonic ammo, you can shoot from twenty to eighty yards with much more certainty than lobbing a magnum pellet from a 30 ft/lb airgun. That comes with a warning though. You need a solid backstop.
Do you, as an airgunner, get frustrated watching Charlie walk by when you’re trying to protect game poults and ground-nesting birds from crows and squirrels? I did. I have. I’ve moved on. I used to deliver a ‘smack’ into a fence post or the ground close to a prowling fox. Now, knowing my fieldcraft skills are equal to a fox, I meet them head on with a .17HMR rimfire. A 17g Hornady V-Max round exits the muzzle at 2550 fps (feet per second) and 245 ft/lbs of power. It is still traveling at 1900 fps and retains 137 ft/lb of energy at 100 yards. Trust me, a fox at fifty yards away will not get up from an accurately placed head-shot. Yet this rimfire is still useful for smaller quarry such as squirrels, pigeons and corvids … at ground-level and with a solid backstop.
There, perhaps, is one of only two drawbacks to using rimfires. Backstop is essential. As it says on the bullet box, a V-max round can travel two miles unimpeded. A .22LR round can travel half a mile. You don’t fire these guns at elevated quarry unless there is a solid backstop (such as a crow on a rocky ledge or a squirrel pinned against a wide tree trunk). But then, I would argue that anyone pushing the boundaries with FAC air (I hear stories of 80 ft/lb plus) should be applying the same discipline and avoiding elevated shots.
The second drawback, of course, is noise. The supersonic crack from a .17HMR round or a .22LR high velocity round will disturb a wood for a few moments. In my opinion, not to the level of a shotgun discharge. Noise, of course, is relevant to distance and it’s not unusual to drop two or three rabbits feeding close to each other with either rimfire option if shooting out to 60 or 80 yards. With the .17HMR, distance can be increased significantly but I’m an old-fashioned hunter and prefer to get up close and personal with my quarry. It’s all part of the excitement of hunting. For that reason, I zero my HMR at a much shorter distance than many shooters would. See the reticule chart below.
This shows that with a secondary zero set at just 25 yards I can shoot out to 150 yards with little adjustment from the centre cross-hair. As I rarely shoot anything beyond 80 yards, that’s good enough for me. I don’t need a constant supply of air, I can cycle a second shot from my magazine in a second and I can be absolutely certain of a clean kill. I can select head shots on edible quarry and rely on ‘engine-room’ shots for the inedible.
If I’m rat-shooting or roost-shooting pigeons, I stick rigidly to my legal-limit PCP air rifle. Almost everything else falls to my rimfires.
Shoot straight and shoot safe.
Copyright Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, July 2020