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Airgun Power Expectations

Updated: Oct 7, 2023

Back when we used to run around with a basic spring gun or an early PCP if you had the money chronographs were not readily available. So power wasn't really a sticking point.

Fast forward to the present day, chronographs are now available for less than £100 and are accurate enough for you to diagnose issues with your gun rather than working out the exact power. Professional chronographs (over £200) are better at calculating power due to tolerances in the sensors.

With the advent of these affordable chronographs, one thing has now crept into the minds of shooters. Power...

Yes, this is a dirty word with airgun shooters in England. Designated Rifles being limited to sub 16J (12 ft/lb) and Pistols being Sub 8J (6 ft/lb) has resulted in a large number of people wanting "as close to 12 as possible". This is has become so prevalent in shooters minds that now for a number of people anything under 11.5 is no good. Well, we are here to say... Those people are wrong!

The vast majority of airgun manufacturers design their guns for accuracy, with power being next on the agenda; normally aiming for 11 ft/lb. BSA, Air Arms, AGT and RTI all state that if their guns are shooting over 11 ft/lb they are happy.

But in a country where there is a limit, why arent all guns aimed for 12 ft/lb. Well, the simple reason is they want their products to be legal.

Elite shooters know that the biggest key to the performance of an air gun is the pellet. With that manufacturers want to give you the ability to be legal with your gun. If your SMK doesn't like light-weight pellets but is shooting at 11.8 ft/lb. Using pellets it likes would make it illegal and if it was to be tested by the police (who use a varying degree of pellets) would mean it would be subject to destruction. You could then be charged with possession of a dangerous weapon.

"Each barrel has a pellet preference, that preference may also change over its life. Those who use one type of pellet for every gun are not using the gun to its full potential." - AAR

So why don't manufacturers just tune to the pellets the gun likes? Well as we've mentioned it changes and testing every permutation of pellets would be immensely difficult and time-consuming. So for the manufacturers, setting the gun in a position that upward performance is still legal is the best way to operate.

So when you use your chronograph and find your gun is shooting lower than you want just consider a few things, is the chronograph accurate, what pellets are being used, will changing things put the rifle over the limit?

Steps to fixing "Low Power" theories:

  1. Check your chronograph against that in an RFD or at your local range. Or even just a friends; the smallest disparity can be the reason you are seeing issues. SKAN chronographs are the most accepted ones and are often used by manufacturers and the police.

  2. Use Social Media groups like AAR On Air or AGF to check other users experiences with the gun.

  3. Get a sample pack of pellets and find the balance between power and accuracy.

  4. Use the gun, if it is accurate and does what it asks of it, don't chase performance for the sake of it. Professional target shooters are limited to 8 ft/lb and they do just fine.

Now get your gun and go out and enjoy it just like the old days

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