With UK laws limiting air rifles to below 12ft/lb without a firearms certificate, it is the tool of choice for many a shooter here in England, yet the humble air rifle remains underrated in my opinion. The question "What is the maximum distance you can humanely dispatch quarry?" has been a regular can of worms to those familiar with UK air rifle forums. I've often seen websites having to take preventative measures by only allowing discussion of shots at 50yds or under.
So what is the maximum range quarry can be ethically taken? The simple answer being "How far away can you accurately and consistently hit the kill zone with your chosen rifle."
We are beginning to see shooters pushing the boundaries on YouTube channels like 'Air heads' with 65yd head shots and it's about time. Modern rifles coupled with a suitable pellet type are easily capable of kill zone sized groups at 70yds, leaving you to deal with factors like wind and your own capabilities as a shooter, so why limit yourself to the politically correct 50yds?
For those who shoot sub 12 rifles and wish to have a try, you will need a good quality rifle, a laser range finder, a ballistics app such as Chairgun Pro to help learn your rifle is handy, but not essential, and last of all you will need the best pellet for your rifle.
Testing! You cannot test enough. There are many ways to work around a rifle to get the performance you want but this is my typical routine when testing a new rifle. I set 3 card targets out starting with 25yds, then 55yds and finally 70yds. The target at 25yds is my zero range. My chosen calibre is .177 and a 25yd zero with an 8.4gr pellet at 780fps makes good use of the mildots on my MTC Mamba lite's SCB reticule.
Let's say we are testing a new pellet type. You've zeroed in at 25yds and every shot is whistling through the same hole. You drop 2 mildots and take several 5 shot groups at the 55yd card. Are you still getting tight groups? If the answer is no, it's time to try a different pellet, if the answer is yes then it's time to drop another 2 mildots to the final target. If the groups are not quite there, you can try pellet lube or adjust the rifles power to fine tune your groups. Using a scopecam is another big plus, as you can relive those testing sessions over and over.
Once the rifle is at this level of accuracy, you are left with the biggest inconsistency of all. You! Your ability to judge wind, elevation and distance in the field is something that will progress with your shooting experience. A decent laser range finder is an invaluable tool and eliminates the guesswork, giving you the confidence to reach out further and further, like this 73yd shot to the vitals.
Practice pays and never forget your quarry deserves an ethical and humane dispatch. Never take the shot unless you are 110% sure of the outcome.
Judge your conditions conservatively but above all, have fun! Take your time, enjoy your shooting and while the sky might not be the limit, about 70yds should be.
By Danny Easter