Rabbiting: my instrument of choice is a FX Cyclone .22 air rifle (24ft/lb). It is quiet, can be easily reloaded while I continue to look down the sight and has adjustable ft/lb. It has seen a lot of action and rendered my rimfire redundant. My friend, Steve, shoots the same model but sub-12ft/lb and in his preferred calibre of .177.
I looked at my rifle and scope. Unfortunately, my scope has been removed and re-fitted to my rifle a few times lately. After the last fitting I had noticed a deterioration in my shooting. It was time to give it a proper examination.
Watching some video footage of myself, I noticed that I had started to cant my rifle, especially at night from my vehicle. Canting is an angular deviation: leaning left or right instead of being completely vertical. Due to the curved trajectory of my .22 rifle, this was affecting my accuracy, which was annoying as I was missing rabbits I knew I should be hitting.
Time spent practising shooting your rifle is always time spent well and, after looking round several game fairs, I found a cheap and accessible solution to my problem: a spirit level. I ordered one that fitted on to the top of my scope mounts. I could shoot unhindered and, if required, take a glance to see if I was square or not. I didn’t need any fancy computerised gizmos, just a plumb line. I dropped this 20 yards in front of my rifle, which was sitting in my MaxBox, thus safe and secure. The bolts were loosened — I fitted a NiteSite camera to the scope for ease of use and to aid this film — and I could see it was out, albeit only just. I then corrected the alignment and ensured the bolts were evenly tightened back up.
With the scope now corrected, and after a quick re-zero, I rechecked my rifle in the position I would be shooting, which would be from the MaxBox on the back of the truck. It is also important to marry up the right grain and make of pellet to your rifle. I was using 15.8 grain and Steve 10.34 grain. Both pellets produce fantastic results on paper, fur and feather. My rifle was zeroed at 40 yards and Steve’s at 20. I was now ready to do a comparison at varying distances between two of the same rifles, but with one being a .22 at 24ft/lb and the other a .177 sub-12ft/lb. The reason for this comparison is that I am always asked about why I prefer to use a .22 FAC air rifle and not a sub-12ft/lb .177 or .22. I had markers to aim at, from 10m
to 50m for Steve and 80m for myself, these being the distances we feel are the boundary of our respective rifles. I measured the wind using an anemometer; it was an undulating wind between 2mph to 5mph.
After we had finished our exercise, Steve’s and my opinions on the differing calibres remained the same. The .177 had a fairly flat trajectory out to its ideal range of 40 yards before dropping rapidly. If the pellet drops rapidly so does its energy upon impact. The .22 discharging 24ft/lb had a larger curved trajectory due to its increased power and pellet size. The insight we gained by running these tests was vital because, with such a curve, every metre is crucial in compensating the reticule to place the pellet in the inch-square zone. In the right conditions I consistently take out rabbits at 70 yards to 80 yards, while a friend’s 30ft/lb FX Bobcat will go to more than 100, though the averages are 40-60 yards and 60-80 yards respectively. When you know your rifle’s limitations as well as your own, you can shoot accordingly.